Focusing on The Negative Creates The Positive

Focusing on The Negative Creates The Positive post image

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But I’m not talking about how to deal with life situations here 😉

This is about a concept to keep in mind when painting with watercolor.

Do you feel unsure of what it means to paint a negative shape?

Negative painting is simply painting around a shape instead of painting the shapes of objects like a flower or an animal.

This concept can be used effectively when creating a painted image as we define a shape not by painting the shape, but by painting the shape of the areas which surround it.

Watercolor is indeed one special practice where focusing on the negative will help us create the radiant results we want, and that we admire in the work of other wonderful artists.

Composing an image is about ordering and organizing a shape, or an arrangement of shapes, on the surface of a piece of watercolor paper within the boundaries of the image frame.

How this is done depends on the personal style and practice of each artist, and I’d like to share what works for me.

The most effective way I’ve found to build an image is to develop a composition by giving the shape of negative spaces equal attention as the positive shapes of individual objects.

Check out the example I prepared for you in the following video tutorial.

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By composing a picture in this way, from the ground up, I can see more clearly the relationships between the shapes and their respective values in the composition as a whole as each layer of color is laid down on the paper.

To build a watercolor in terms of negative and positive shapes:

  • Work in layers and with each layer focus on the negative space as a shape.
  • Use a pencil to lightly pencil in the shape of each layer
  • Add new shapes and values with every layer applied.
  • Look ahead. The color used to paint around a shape will be the value of the shape of the subsequent layer.
  • Don’t rush. Let each layer dry properly.

In the context of creating your watercolor compositions, I’m positively certain that you will see the benefit of looking carefully at the negative.

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