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Negative Space in a Painting


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What is Negative Space?
Negative space faces in a vase

Do you see a vase or two faces?

Image: ©2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Negative space isn't the place your mind retreats to when a painting isn't going well. Negative space is the space between objects or parts of an object, or around it. Studying this can have a surprisingly positive effect on a painting.

In her book Drawing on the Right Hand Side of the Brain Betty Edwards uses a great Bugs Bunny analogy to explain the concept. Imagine Bugs Bunny speeding along and running through a door. What you'll see in the cartoon is a door with a bunny-shaped hole in it. What's left of the door is the negative space, that is the space around the object, in this case Bugs Bunny.

Is It a Vase or Two Faces?

The classic example is the brain-teaser where depending on how you look you see either a vase or two faces (as shown in the image above). It becomes very evident when the image is reversed.

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