The Power of Negative Space Drawing with Practice Exercises

One of the biggest issues beginners face is the brain's instinctive response to classify and symbolise the objects they are drawing. Novice artists need to learn to see what is there rather than what we think is there. Fortunately, there are various techniques for deceiving the brain into letting go of the urge to classify while sketching. Thankfully, Negative Space drawing is the ultimate tool at our disposal.

What is a Negative Drawing?

Let's start with the basics, what is negative space? Negative space is the area around and between objects in an artwork, while positive space is the area the object occupies itself.

In the negative drawing, we draw around the subject rather than sketching the object itself. Observing and sketching the spaces around and between the forms can trick our minds into drawing more accurately. Complex subjects like foreshortening and perspective become much easier using this method. Your mind will piece together the intricacy of what you see once the drawing is done.

If you sketch the abstract forms of the background that only depict the shapes of space, you'll be able to observe the contours of your subject. This will lead to a drawing of the silhouette of the object you are trying to sketch.

negative space drawing of cups

So how do we use negative space drawing?

1. We can use this method to separate a complex subject into simple, achievable parts. Negative drawing provides the ability to draw complicated objects in manageable stages by focusing entirely on the white space. This method helps you piece together your drawing like a puzzle.

2. You can start by drawing what you observe and return to probable issues later. It enables you to divide the parts of your drawing into areas you comprehend and those you don't.

Drawing Exercises with Negative Space

To master the art of drawing with negative space, you need to practice. Here are a few drawing exercises that can help you hone your skills:

1. Draw from Still-Life:

One way to practice using negative space is to draw from life. Find objects that interest you and draw what you see. Instead of focusing on the object itself, try to concentrate on the space around it. This exercise can help you learn to see negative space in everything you draw.

Negative space drawing of leaves

2. Draw Without Lifting Your Pencil:

This exercise can help you learn to see negative space in a new way. Start by drawing an object, but don't lift your pencil from the paper. Instead, let the lines of the object flow into the space around it. This can help you loosen up by focusing on your observation rather than the 'realism' of your artwork.

Continious negative space drawing

Remember that negative space is not just the "empty" areas of your drawing; it is an integral part of the overall composition. Balancing 'empty' areas with positive spaces is crucial to good composition.

If you liked this article, you might like my fortnightly email newsletter. I offer advice on how you can develop and expand your artistic practise. Many of my subscribers like getting it. You may be one of them!

Feel free to use this image to practice your negative space drawing.

Reference Image

negative space of frogs

Below are the steps I took while studying the negative space while drawing the ornamental frogs. My viewing angle was slightly higher than the camera's, so my drawing is different from the photo.

Frogs negative drawing

Frogs positive drawing

frogs drawing

1 comment

  • Very helpful description of process!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.