If it weren’t for Elizabeth Fluehr, I wouldn’t be in such a state.
I did a search for negative painting on YouTube, and came across a series of three videos on the subject which she did. The first one is pretty simple – it explains what negative space is, and what it is not. Very clear explanation. The heart of the matter is in the second video, all done with a pile of pickles. The third is the actual painting, time lapsed a bit because of the time needed for paper and paint to dry. Check out her website as well as her YouTube channel. You will see some lovely work at her website.
As Elizabeth defines it, you are painting a defined edge, and painting away from it. You can have a lot of edges, or a few. A whole painting may be made of negative space, or integrated inside a painting with positive space. Her suggestion is to paint what is closest – in the video’s case, and in my practice sample, the pickles on the top of the pile. Then work to the next layer, on down, until the very bottom layer is done. She explains, too, that in a landscape, it would be the object closest, such as a barn, and the last painted would be the horizon. I think that would apply for a landscape done entirely in negative painting, which might be worth a try, and could create a really interesting abstract.
For me, negative space is a hard thing to address. Working in sumi-e, one does some work with negative space, but its handling, from my perspective, is a bit different. Partly this is because of color, which for me is altogether a big distraction. However, Elizabeth Fluehr’s pickles are a great exercise, and one which I intend to follow up on with more paintings.
And while I was doing the pickles, in between I tried a bit of a still life, painting around the flowers in the background, and some of the edges, working wet-into-wet. Not a nice painting, but the practice was the purpose.