Once you master negative space drawing
it will forever change the way you see the world. And it will help your drawing too.

The basic idea of negative space drawing is to draw all the shapes that ARE NOT your subject. If you draw these shapes accurately you will have in essence drawn your subject correctly.

(All the blue shapes in the image to the right are negative spaces)

 Got it? Still confused? Let’s break it down.

A negative space is the area around the subject you are drawing. Take a look at the photo below. The subject is the vase and flowers. All the white areas around the subject are negative spaces.

It can be hard to see the negative spaces or shapes at first. We have to use the Artists Eye to focus in on them. But when you can SEE them they are just abstract shapes like everything else.

Let’s try an exercise. Draw a picture plane of 6” inches x 6” inches on your paper. This will match the proportions of the image below. Now focus in on the negative shapes and draw only those shapes as best you can on your paper. Ignore the subject matter, make the negative shapes the subject matter.

Now that we have a handle on what negative shapes are, how can they help our drawing?

Negative space drawing will help your drawing in three very important ways.

  • By drawing the negative shapes you are focusing on an abstract shape instead of an object which your brain might have a preconceived image of. And the magical part is that if you draw the negative shapes correctly you have drawn subject correctly too.
  • Negative spaces are the perfect way to check your drawing for accuracy. If your drawing doesn’t look right, check the negative shapes. If they are wrong correct the negative shape and see if that corrects the drawing. In a way your subject is like a jigsaw puzzle. If all your negative shapes are correct your subject should be correct.
  • The third use for negative shape is in composition. We will look at this in more detail in a future lesson but here are the basics. Negative spaces are very important in composition. If you have a lot of interesting negative shapes you will have a dynamic composition. If you have only a couple large boring negative shapes your drawing will lack excitement. So when you are drawing pay attention to the negative spaces. If they are boring try changing your position or angle to create more interest.

The more you focus on negative space drawing the better your drawings will become. And pretty soon you will start seeing the world as a complex tapestry of positive and negative shapes.

This concludes the first section of Drawing Fundamentals. In Level 2: Basic Drawing, we will get into block-ins, comparative measurement, and some great tools to help make your drawings more accurate.

Drawing Fundamentals Level 2

› Lesson 9: Negative Space Drawing

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