Negative Space in Figure Drawing, with Heather Clements

August 26, 2010 in Figure Drawing by joanvienot

Negative space is the space surrounding the “subject”.  Negative spaces which are bounded by the subject are called negative shapes.  The boundaries of negative shapes also can be the edge of the art piece, or the edge of another shape.  Heather showed examples of negative space, and we spent the entire 2½ hours finding and filling in negative space, from warm-ups through extended poses.  Well, there was one pose where I just couldn’t stand any more ignoring of the form, and I quickly drew a rough approximation of the light on the form, below right.  Otherwise, in each drawing, the positive shape was drawn, or rather, not drawn, as a silhouette.  Our model was very cooperative, positioning to create empty spaces in his pose.  When negative shapes are interesting, they can be very helpful in defining the form.  We recognize many things by the silhouette of the shape.  So even though the interior of the form was not developed, anyone looking at these drawings can tell that they are depictions of a male figure.

Sometimes our studio workspace is overflowing with people, but on this night I was the only student.  I am so grateful that Colleen Duffley, owner of Studio b., continues to provide this creative opportunity through thick and thin.  And Heather Clements, the instructor, talked to me as if I were a whole classroom of students.  She is such a professional.  She drew along with me, practicing the same exercises.  Later she showed me examples of Egon Schiele’s work, pointing out how he used negative space to make his figurative work even more interesting.   Such intense focus on negative space is sure to make me more aware of it in my compositions, even as I have been “seeing” more negative shapes in my ordinary daily activities today.

Interior form developed at right...