Negative spaces

You may know that the left part of your brain loves to be able to name objects. It uses our preconceived ideas of what things should look like to cause enough confusion in our minds so that we are unable to draw what we actually see, and end up drawing what we think we see. Fortunately it has no internal symbol for an empty space.

Using space is another technique that you can use to keep the left side of the brain out of the way while we draw.

The first thing to notice is that when you are drawing it is usually on a piece of paper with a certain shape. This is normally a rectangle, in either landscape or portrait orientation.

If you can imagine a box the same shape as your paper surrounding the object you are planning to draw, you will be able to see that the areas surrounding your subject are shapes in their own right.

Look at this example. To make it as simple as possible a silhouette has been used, but the same things apply to any subject.


If you imagine that the surrounding box touches the subject at the top, bottom and sides, you will be able to see that it is surrounded by a series of shapes. To make it clearer, they have been coloured in the next picture.


By drawing the shapes of the coloured areas, because they share their lines with the subject, you will be drawing the subject as well. This is the first one.

silhouette3Drawing the negative space around objects is a really powerful way of avoiding having to draw complex objects themselves. It also engages the right side of your brain.

To make things easier when you are working from a physical subject, you can make a simple viewfinder that you will be able to use to place round your subject. This will help you to identify where the subject touches the edges of the frame more easily, and stop the negative surrounding space stretching too far away from the subject.

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