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Friday, June 22, 2012

Negative Space

I bet you've heard the term "negative space."  It's art lingo for everything in your piece that's not your subject.

I realized after some frustration that the negative space was what I needed to think more about in the penstemon paintings from a few weeks ago that weren't working out right. Working in watercolor, I was thinking of using a dark background to make the delicate white flowers show up in the foreground but I didn't want the dark background to get too heavy, especially since the stems of the penstemon were also dark. Here's one of my sketches:

After my watercolor didn't turn out the way I wanted, I got a canvas ready to work in oils but by then aphids were on the flowers! My chance had past. But at least there's always next year...

Now the thalictrum is blooming!  Look at the purple stems!

As with the penstemon, I like the airiness and delicacy found here. Look at the airy space between the height of each group of leaves and flowers.  It's so tall it's almost comical and yet lovely.   For me it's just magic--so delicate as it waves in the breeze.

I'm puzzling about how I'd paint these to show their airiness. Like the penstemon, I would want to convey delicacy and elegance. I could use dark backgrounds to define the negative space and show up the lighter purple stalks and fronds of tiny flowers but that could make the whole seem heavy.  I'll have to keep thinking about that one...

I hope you enjoyed these photos!