Saturday, April 16, 2016

#AtoZChallenge, N is for Negative Space

I learned to draw (well, as some would say, I'm still learning . . . ) by looking at “negative space,” the space around an object, rather than concentrating on the object itself. It's one of the methods Betty Edwards teaches in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and it really works.

Having experimented with the technique many times, I’ve grown to love negative space, and frequently find myself on the look-out for new ways to express it. For instance, studying the gaps between the leaves on a plant, or taking note of the patterns created by shadows falling into a room--negative space can sometimes be the most interesting part of a painting.

In daily life, however, negative space can sound frightening. We work so hard to cultivate the light, to stay upbeat and positive that negativity is an emotional state to shy away from. But without the dark spaces in our lives, how can we ever know what, and where, the light is?

Your art journal (or any kind of journal for that matter) can be a useful and cathartic place to take your negative feelings. Everybody needs to vent, to rant, to whine, to cry over what hurts. Some ways I like to express my negativity in my journal are to:

  • Paint or collage my feelings.
  • List my grievances. 
  • Let my Inner Critic have a field day.
  • Sit in the dark with my journal.

Once it's all on paper, I'm free to:

  • Write a gratitude list.
  • Reply to my Inner Critic’s barbs with positive affirmations.
  • Light a candle.
  • Write a poem.
  • Let it go.

And if I really want it out of my life, I tear out the page and burn it.

Something that has truly surprised me about working with my feelings this way is how powerful my "negative" artwork has been for others. Some of the pieces I've had the most positive feedback on have been created when I was at my lowest ebb. Just goes to show that a) the work we do isn't always for ourselves, and b) sadness can truly be transformed into joy with just a little dose of creativity. See you on Monday!  

Tip of the Day: The next time you're feeling down, don't turn away from negative space. Even the most trivial of incidents or slights can take on serious proportions if it's not addressed and/or examined for possible solutions. Don’t be afraid. Go into the shadows. Make your journal your friend--the one who listens and understands, no matter what you say.


Michelle Wallace said...

It's all about transferring negative space into a positive experience. I've never thought about it in this way.
Thanks for sharing.

Writer In Transit
Co-host Assistant on Team Joyful Brigade.

Susanne Matthews said...

Thanks for sharing. I've never looked at a drawing that way, but I'll try to remember this from now on.

Joanne said...

negative can be positive. I agree. It's true with poetry too - sometimes it's what is not said, and also how you space the words. Nice to meet you in blog world!

Valerie Storey said...

Thanks for the positive feedback, all! Great insights. Yes, negative and positive are just two sides of the same coin, yin and yang. Working with these concepts in a creative way is what gives literature, art, and living the depth we crave.