Accentuate the Negative

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In Chapter 6, "Negative Space as a Positive Tool," you learned how to draw negative space. Here's an exercise to help you review what you learned there.

1. Divide your paper into four equal quadrants.

2. Hold the viewfinder frame very still and frame your subject in a window.

3. Pick a "spot of space" somewhere inside your subject to start, and really see it. Close one eye and "see" that spot until it becomes more real than the subject itself. You will know when this has happened because it will pop forward as a spot of space while the subject itself will fade or recede.

4. See where that spot is relative to the grid lines on your viewfinder frame. You can also look at the spot through your plastic picture plane to isolate just where it is relative to the grid.

5. Use the grid on your paper to draw the first spot of space on the paper.

6. Think relatively and relationally. Try to see where your spot is relative to the marks on the frame, the grid on the plastic, and the light lines on the paper.

The Art of Drawing

The most important thing about drawing negative space is to stay focused on the space. Forget about the actual subject; pretend it's not even there. Remember to keep one eye closed each time you find your next spot of space. Find the shape of that spot by seeing it relative to your grid marks. Think about comparing the shapes of the negative space and the edges of those shapes. Are the lines horizontal or vertical? If they are neither, try to see the angle relative to horizontal or vertical and draw what you see. The trick to drawing negative space is drawing the holes, not the thing.

As you draw more and more of the negative space shapes, it will be easier and easier to fit in the remaining ones. The spaces around your subject will actually define your subject.

When you have drawn all the negative spaces on your drawing, check each one in turn against the subject itself. Make small corrections to the shapes of the negative spaces as you see them. You can lightly shade the negative space shapes as you refine them, if you'd like. Your subject will take turns with the space around it—one will appear positive and the other negative, then they will flip.

When you are finished, your drawing will be a very different record of seeing. Your subject will come out of the space you have drawn around it!

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