Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drawing Studio Session 4 - Negative Space

Another Monday, another drawing session - this time with a bit of drama. Our teacher got stuck in construction traffic making her over an hour late. So we muddled forward with phoned-in instructions we didn't clearly understand and didn't truly catch what we were supposed to be doing and why until she finally arrived. It was more focus on negative space, this time eliminating all detail in the object we were drawing. Can you guess what my still life was composed of?

Once the basic outline of the still life was sketched in, and then the space around it darkened in, we were encouraged to view those spaces as interesting shapes in and of themselves. The teacher picked up mine and turned it this way and that, really liking those spaces. So you won't have to twist your head, I've rotated my drawing for you.

Have you guessed yet what it is? The composition placed in front of me was overlapping antlers with a feather threaded through the prongs.

We used the picture plane again to trace the outline before drawing on paper. This was more difficult since the plane could not be rested on the object we were tracing. In the first drawing, we simply drew the same size as the picture plane, but on the second one, we went back to drawing at a larger scale. You can see the cross hairs on my second assignment (kitchen utensils "interestingly" arranged) which create a grid like is on the picture plane to facilitate in that enlarging. I still find this very hard, so the teacher suggested I do a quick sketch to get the general shapes in position, then go back and fine-tune to a more accurate rendition. That suggestion helped a lot. As you can see, I didn't get much beyond that sketching out, so have some "homework" to do this week.

Intellectually, I know what negative space is. Yet every time I run across that term as a design tool, I haven't really gotten what it means, why it is as important as positive space, nor how I can use it for design ideas. The teacher admitted that this exercise was very simple, but because of its simplicity, it would help our brains get used to seeing the negative space on its own. I do sense that I am starting to get it, to move out of the intellectual realm as I experience "making" negative space. Something tells me that I would see it more clearly if the negative space were left white and the positive space darkened. I've noticed that my eye often see the reverse of what most people first see in images that can be viewed two ways. For instance, when looking at pictures of old quilts, the quilted motifs often look sunken instead of raised up as they truly are. I seem to see receding images. and really have to work at making the image pop the other direction. Maybe that's why I struggle with this negative image stuff. How do you see?



I agree that the negative space idea has a limited use. However, I find that if I'm drawing and it's not looking right, or I'm just plain stuck, by shutting my eyes to the shape of the thing I'm drawing, and concentrating of the shapes around or between the thing, I can often find a solution. It's just another way of gaining accuracy in drawing. As a design tool, it's also useful but not nearly as useful as an imagination and willingness to play around with anything that inspires you; negative or positive!I think you have that in bucketsful.

carrie said...

There's a good little paperback book called Notan which you might find helpful. but the 'seeing' is difficult sometimes.....

The Idaho Beauty said...

WCB - you explained this much better than I did, and this is exactly what I've been experiencing - that if struggling with the line, ignoring it and going for the negative space shape that isn't anything preconceived in my head helps tremendously. I blush at your compliment about my bucketsful of imagination and willingness to play. There are definitely days when I feel I have neither!

Carrie - thanks for the mention of Notan. I'd not heard of it, but will see if I can track down a copy of the book. In the meantime, I found this link which does a good job of illustrating it and I can see it's similar to this exercise: http://artcafe.net/?p=117