Thinking in Terms of Negative Space

Artists often talk about "negative space" when analyzing or creating paintings. It struck me that negative space is a useful metaphor for anything. In basketball, negative space may mean cutting away from the ball and setting picks across the court. In business, it may mean thinking about the little things on the edges of an idea which, when tweaked, turn the idea from foolish to brilliant. (See my post about thinking 1 degree differently.) Painting says:

Negative space is very useful when confronted with ‘difficult’ subjects, such as hands. Instead of thinking about fingers, nails, knuckles, start by looking at the shapes between the fingers. Then look at the shapes around the hand, for example the shape between the palm and the wrist. Laying these in will give you a good basic form on which to build.

And to wrap it up with a visual:

negative space - is it a vase or two faces?negative space - is it a vase or two faces?

1 comment on “Thinking in Terms of Negative Space
  • There is an acting exercise called “negative space” too. Two people take turns finding the negative space in each other’s body movement. So, if I lift my arm up, my partner could move his body through the negative space created under my arm. The purpose of the exercise is to 1) increase awareness of the body 2) increase awareness of other bodies 3) become “in tune” with a partner and establish a non-verbal connection 4) become comfortable with close body contact. Outstanding work in this exercise leads to almost continually fluid motion.

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