How to Draw Accurately (Part 3): Negative Space

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Steven Wayne

    May 4, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    That was really useful. I’m walking around looking at the holes in everything now!

    • Róisín Curé

      May 5, 2018 at 7:14 am

      That’s great Steven. Some people find it hard to grasp the concept of negative space so I tried to keep it very simple! It’s a useful way to see where you’ve gone wrong.

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