Painting Project: Negative-Space Vase of Flowers

Negative space is the part of a painting around and between objects and parts of an object. Thinking about negative space rather than the object itself requires a shift in mental gears, ignoring the “interesting thing” to focus on the “empty space”.

This painting project is about using negative space to create the outer edges of a subject. It’s about reversing your thinking and focus, finding the shape from the background not the subject. it’s a technique that works for all sorts of subjects, including figure painting and portraits, but for this project we’re going to use negative space to turn a chaos of brushmarks into a colourful vase of flowers.

You will need:

  • A sheet of watercolour or mixed media paper
  • Masking tape, to divide the sheet into two or four or six, depending on the size of your sheet of paper. (Doing multiple little paintings together removes some of the stress of getting it ‘right’ as it gives you several attempts.)
  • Your favourite colours. If you’re using watercolour, you’ll need some white gouache or acrylic to create an opaque colour. While I have done this with acrylic paint, the technique works with pastel too.
  • A mental image of a bunch of multi-coloured flowers in a ceramic vase with a strong single colour

What to do: This video explains it

What I enjoy about doing multiples on a sheet of paper at the same time is that every one is different. Here are the six little paintings in the video, and below this the six I did before recording the video.

Although in this video I’ve created the layers of random colour before painting the negative space, it’s also something you can do with a sheet of paper where you’ve brushed leftover paint from other paintings. Wipe off excess paint from your brush and over time the layers will build up until you’re in the mood for using it for a negative space painting or a warmup exercise. Here’s one I did in 2016:

REMEMBER: If you’d like personal help with creating your project painting and/or a critique on your finished painting, this is available to all my project subscribers via my Patreon site. Have fun, and do send me a photo of your painting for inclusion in the project gallery for us all to enjoy or share it in the Community Section of my Patreon site.

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