Drawing Tips, West Darmoor Art Courses News

Mapping a drawing with Negative Space

Creating an acurate depiction of a still life can be much easier if you understand how negative spaces create structure to a composition.

Today our drawing class was pretty small…well very small! Everyone gets so busy over the summer. So DPH and I had a one to one session – Thrown in at the deep end rather as it was DHP’s first session with us…… She did survive – LOL – and enjoyed herself too.

Today’s session was working with negative space and, as usual started with a doodle warm up. It is always such a good idea to start your creative session with some time out repetitive drawing. Whatever pattern you chose repeat it and set yourself tasks such as starting in a different place, changing pencil grip or drawing hand. Do this for around 10 minutes (or, if you are enjoying it keep going until you are suddenly mind-blowingly bored.

Reading through our hand out and having talked through how useful it is to understand negative space and use it to map out your composition we were ready to start.  As usual we began with a series of quick drawings to help get “our eye in”. One, two, four and twelve minutes working small on four separate drawings of the same set up really helps you assure your brain that whilst you know what a ???? looks like (in this case a pair of nut crackers) drawing it relies on making sure that each area is mapped out as a shape and not as a nut cracker!


This drawing shows how I mapped out the still life using the paper meeting points and the angles the nut crackers created as they crossed the papers to map out a negative drawing of the objects. Something that DPH soon realised was a new and slightly brain straining approach. However, with each attempt I could see how well she was bringing the idea on board; having begun to understand what we were looking at it was time to start on a longer study.

With the longer study I was pleased to see GHP critically appraising her drawing, realising that she was tending to rely on what she thought rather than what she could see. By encouraging her to really look and evaluate she was more and more ready to move lines and remap her composition.  This is a great start and possibly a difficult approach as, in general, it is so easy to try and work round parts of a drawing which you have invested time in and are reluctant to discard.

Below are some of the mistakes I was making along the way and the final layout done in around 1.15hours.