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You’ve probably heard of using negative space as an aid to drawing accurately. In this short article I explain what it is, why it’s so useful, and how to use it.
What is negative space?
Negative space is the air around an object. It’s the shape formed between a teapot’s handle and the teapot. It’s the shape formed between the slats on the back of a chair. It’s the triangle space formed between a bent arm and the hip it’s resting on.
Why is using negative space a good way to get a drawing right?
We all have preconceived ideas of what things look like. We try to draw things as we THINK they are, not as they are, and overcoming this is one of the biggest challenges to any of us – to me, to you, to everyone. If we didn’t, our drawings would always be perfect, as we drew just what we saw. That’s why art teachers have developed lots of tricks to get over this (and it’s why some people whose brains are wired differently and have an unusual perception of the world, such as some people with autism, can draw with complete accuracy).
One of these tricks is looking at the negative space that surrounds an object. Why? Because it doesn’t have a fixed shape. Move the subject, or your viewpoint, and its shape changes.
How To Use It
Decide on the subject you are drawing. I’ve chosen a rocking chair with a cushion on it.
However, if you find yourself in a situation when you just can’t get your shape to come out right – then pause, and carefully try to appraise the shape of the “air” around the subject you are sketching.
Good luck – and as usual, if you have any thoughts about the exercise please share it with me in the comments section.