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Figure Drawing with Positive and Negative Space

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Observing Negative and Positive Space in Figure Drawing
Figure Drawing with Positive and Negative Space
Ed Hall, licensed to About.com, Inc.
When considering the elements to be included in your drawing, it is very important to think about balance. The negative shapes can help you to do this. Just as we considered the three main elements of the figure as small-medium-large (i.e. head-hips-chest), you can think of the negative shapes in much the same way. Look for one large or dominant negative shape, a medium sized negative shape and then a smaller one to help round out the composition. This small-medium-large relationship is directly related to the Golden Mean or Divine Proportion as described by philosophers. In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean was the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. Between the two lies balance. Also, three elements denote an asymmetry, which is indicative of the figure.

Moving the Viewer's Eye

By concentrating these forces of nature within your drawing you have a certain amount of control, and the ability to move the viewer’s eye through your composition. Remember small-medium-large is always more interesting than small-small-small, medium-medium-medium, or large-large-large. Vary the size relationships within your drawings and you will see them take off.

Bleed and Interconnectivity

Another factor to consider when setting up a negative space drawing is bleed. Bleed can be described as when two shapes of the same value (whether they are on the figure or around the figure) connect to form one larger shape. Again, the best way to see these is to squint. When you squint at a figure that is bathed in a harsh light, you will be amazed at how many planes, shapes, and objects slide or fall into one another. Also look for where the figure “bleeds” off of the picture plane and where shapes can connect to create larger, more interesting shapes. This creates interconnectivity within the drawing and when combined with a variation of line weight can produce some very striking effects.
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