Florida painter, Everglades, Marco Island, artist Jo-Ann Sanborn


Negative Spaces

Orchids, Jo-Ann Sanborn
Acrylic on Canvas, 36"x24"

Generally I try to avoid negative people, preferring the upbeat attitude of the positive around me.  But negative space in painting is a whole different thing. I welcome it, and find it's something every painter should consider when composing a painting.  

Positive space is generally the objects we are painting, in this case the orchids.  Negative space is the space between the objects.  Negative space can greatly affect the composition of the painting.

In the painting above it was the negative spaces that drew me to the subject.  I loved the way the blooms rose high above the leaves.  The negative spaces between the thin flower stalks and their supports and the thick, powerful leaves below jutting into the negative spaces around the basket could provide interest and variation.

I'm not sure this painting is done, and the photo above crops it a little too closely, however, here are some things to think about regarding negative space:
  1. Negative space should always be considered in the composition of a painting
  2. Negative spaces can contribute to shaping a positive object in the space.
  3. Negative spaces can help you define space and distance in landscape.
  4. Negative spaces should vary in size or shape within a painting.  (Exception is the stylized face becomes vase type of use)
  5. Negative spaces can be used to help define hard and soft edges in a painting.

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