Sunday, August 26, 2012

Positively Negative

Are you familiar with the term, Negative Painting?   It is something that I have tried off and on during the course of my painting career, but never with much success.  My brain refuses to cooperate and let my paint brush paint outside the lines, so to speak.   There are times when painting this way can be beneficial.  Such as inside a flower; painting the negative space around the stamens etc instead of painting the flower parts themselves.  Also in backgrounds that have layers such as trees or other vegetation.  
A few years ago, I purchased a DVD on the subject of negative painting, but I had never watched it until this weekend.  Having no particular thing in mind to paint while at the gallery, I picked up the DVD as I headed out to work.  This video, "Painting Outside The Lines, a positive approach to negative painting" was produced by Linda Kemp, a well known Canadian watercolorist.  

Most of the exercises that I performed and are depicted on this blog are from her video.
I was amazed to watch her do entire paintings using this technique, and what was more amazing is that she never drew a line, which you will notice, that I had to do.

Here are some exercises to try.  How does your brain cope with "seeing" in a different way?

Negative painting means painting the spaces around the subject
to form the subject.
Here I have painted a light blue around the 3 circles, which are my subject.

This is an example of positive painting.  I have created the circles by painting them
and leaving the area around them white.

To add layers, that is, putting objects behind my first subject,   I painted the objects behind
my subjects a light blue, then painted the background around all the subjects a darker blue

This demonstration shows the positive way to paint layers

In this exercise, I took the negative layering one step further

Lets try something that you may be able to relate to better.
I started by wetting my paper and dropping in a little yellow ochre and
some cobalt blue.  I let the colors mingle on the paper.  Then I dipped a stiff brush
in both colors and used my finger nail to spatter the specs of colors on the paper.  This would be called an underpainting.
When my underpainting was dry,
 I sketched in 3 trees and painted the spaces around them using the same 2 colors.

Here is the same thing done in the positive, tho I did not
make an underpainting here, (tho I could have). I simply painted the 3 trees.

Back to the negative tree painting, I added another layer of trees,
and using the same 2 colors painted the spaces around them.
Now we have a forest of trees that has depth.

Here is the positive approach. I added the "grass" and spatters last.
I could have painted the background entirely, or I could have used a frisket to
"save" my trees, painted the background, removed the frisket and then painted the trees.
Thanks, Linda Kemp for this DVD.
Perhaps, with practice, I will be able, in the future, to use negative painting in my creations 


Barney (The Old Fat Man) said...

Negative drawing was easy to me but negative painting is almost impossible for me. But it is fun learning and trying.

Mark Johnson said...

I like your negative forest!