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Understanding Negative Space

Picture 1

In the first photo our subject - the clown - is portrayed in a normal mode - the way you'd view any photo. If you were to try to draw an outline of the clown, where would you start? That is, how would you approach it? Would you draw all the details: his multi-colored neck frill? His fuzzy hair? His hat? The triangles over his eyes?

In the this lesson, I want you to focus on 2 things: 1) the shape of the format (the rectangular frame around the whole composition), and 2) the shape of the areas around the clown, that is, the "non-clown" areas. Otherwise know as the "negative space".

Clown Photo: Normal view.

Picture 2

In the second picture here (below), I've whited out the clowns face in PhotoShop and painted the negative space, the area around the clown, with black. Now focus on the black area - start with viewing the surrounding rectangle. It doesn't resemble anything you can readily name and so your left hemisphere abandons it, allowing your right hemisphere to take over. Once you've made that shift, the task of drawing an outline of the clown is much easier, even enjoyable. (It reminds me of the "Ugly face" in Lesson 2.)

The black is Negative Space

In this next picture, I've flipped it and and colored it blue. Stare at it, observe it, follow around it's edges with your eyes until it starts looking like a complete and separate entity all by itself - like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle or the next state of the union.

Flipped and colored

Kasbohm & Company's


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