Why avoid talking of “negative spaces ” or “negative shapes”?
The title of Chapter 6 of my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain” is “Negative Shapes”. Some people may be surprised to find that I question the widespread use by art teachers of the phrase “negative shapes” and of its equivalent, “negative spaces“. After explaining the reasons for the popularity of its use as a means of bypassing the problems due to familiarity, I argue that it has significant shortcomings. In the light of these, I suggest that there are alternatives which avoid its disadvantages without relinquishing any of its advantages. Perhaps more importantly, these provides better ways of using drawing from observation as a tool for discovering the unique characteristics of objects in the world around us.
Examples of negative shapes
In the illustrations above, Figure 1 shows the famous face/vase illusion in which either the faces or the vase can be seen positively, but only alternately. Figure 2, shows a drawing of a chair (on the left) and a drawing made from it (on the right), using the existing “negative spaces” method. Although it comes originally from Betty Edwards, I found it on a website that discusses negative shapes and spaces, using the terms in their established meaning.
Other chapters from “Drawing on Both sides of the Brain”
- An inspirational 19th century teacher and his widespread influence on Modernism in drawing and painting
- Chapter 1: Accuracy versus expression
- Chapter 2: Traditional artistic practices
- Chapter 3: Modernist ideas that fed into new teaching methods
- Chapter 4: the sketch and explaining the feel-system.