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Foundations of Drawing
Illustration by John Hersey

Introducing negative space


From:

Foundations of Drawing

with Will Kemp

Video: Introducing negative space

One of the first things that I look for when I'm So, let's have a look in more detail at negative spaces and how important they So, instead of tuning in and looking at the actual subject, which When you first look at this Vermeer painting, it If we look at this chair down here on the And then we start looking into the painting.

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Foundations of Drawing
2h 24m Beginner Apr 28, 2014

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Anyone can learn how to draw. Success comes down to three things:

Shape: By focusing on the shapes of the objects (and more importantly the shapes between the objects) you can view subjects with a whole new outlook and focus.

Simplicity: You'll get better results by concentrating on simple subjects and drawing techniques that will still prove powerful when used together.

Structure: A structured approach makes drawing easier to master.

Each chapter in this course is built on these three principles, combining drawing theory and practical examples with worksheets and drawing assignments. Will Kemp brings his passion for teaching and infectious love of drawing together in these lessons. You'll learn about line, value, tone, negative space, and perspective, and come away with the confidence to start making drawing a daily practice.

This course was created and produced by Will Kemp. We're honored to host this training in our library.

Topics include:
  • Materials you need to draw
  • Drawing theory
  • Framing your composition
  • Using the picture plane
  • Creating contrast
  • Using negative space to create more powerful compositions
  • Creating form from shadows and light
Subjects:
Design Drawing Design Skills
Author:
Will Kemp

Introducing negative space

One of the first things that I look for when I'm assessing a scene to draw is the negative spaces in the scene. Negative spaces is just spaces between two objects which form an interesting shape for us to look at. It can really help to balance to actual composition. So, let's have a look in more detail at negative spaces and how important they can be to really transform how you view the world and how you view your drawings. So, instead of tuning in and looking at the actual subject, which we feel is the most important part of the drawing, I look for the spaces around the subject, to make it easier for me to draw it, ensure the drawing works well as a composition as a whole.

When you first look at this Vermeer painting, it doesn't look to be full of negative spaces, but the more you look, as with most things, the more you'll start to see them kind of hidden away. If we look at this chair down here on the right, you'll see there essentially is a very flat colors. There's very little detail there. You just use these shapes in between the chair, then the negative spaces to actually create pause of interest and to actually help you draw the subject. And then we start looking into the painting. You can start, there's loads of examples of these shapes.

Like here, by the globe and the cloth. And when you've got these shapes and you're just concentrating on trying to draw them, it's a lot easier than you're thinking, I'm trying to draw a globe. I mean, how can I make it look spherical? How to make it look like a globe? If you just concentrate on the shapes, you'll be amazed at how you create what is there in front of you. The more you look, the more you find them. When you are looking for these shapes, because they are so abstract, you're not interested in trying to label the actual subjects. In this Caravaggio painting, notice how in between each of the subjects, you've got these little negative shapes.

And they're so key in helping to balance the viewpoint, balance the composition, so that things aren't on top of each other. You'll see that there's all these little gaps and in these little gaps that make a difference in the painting. So, here within this painting composition, you can start to see how these elements throughout the entire painting will have used negative space just to space the actual objects. Take this fig here at the edge up the cup. See how there's a space there and how they've arranged it next to the glass. I've made sure that these two areas don't join, so there's a space in between the two.

All these spaces help a viewer's eye to move around the actual scene. Again, even this little area here, there's a triangle in between those figs. I'm always looking for a variety in the shapes. I'm trying not to get objects that are butted up to each other, but create a space for your eye to move through them. So, here's a little space, it allows your eye to go through there and move all around the painting. Also, with your drawings you're trying to create a nice flow throughout the composition. When you first draw a negative space drawing, it can take a while just to get used it.

Because you're focusing on what isn't there. So, here's an example of an image of something similar to how your next drawing will look. A negative space drawing. You'll have form and shape so you can tell what it is, but there won't be any details, there won't be any line drawing to join it together. It's just a complete white space, and we're going to shade in the actual background part of it to create the piece.

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