Positive and Negative Space

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As an Art teacher, I believe art should be accessible to all people, not just the talented or well-connected few. This “Art Smart” series was created for people who love learning about art in bite-sized pieces. Using these articles, you can learn together as a family and explore art-related topics with engaging information and useful online resources that are practical and fun!  

 Line, shape, color, form, space, value, and texture are the vocabulary used to describe any work of art. They are the "Elements of Art.” Not every piece of art contains all these elements, but at least two are always present. In the past five months, we have explored color, value, texture, lines, and form. Space, this month’s element focus, is part of any artwork.  It is the area in which artwork is organized.  The space of an artwork is usually contained within the borders of the paper or canvas on which it is made.  The main object (or objects) the artist desires you to focus on takes up what is called “positive space.”  The area around the object or objects is called the “negative space.”  In sculpture and other three-dimensional art, positive space is the area in which the object occupies; in these cases, negative space is then all the areas in between and around that object.

Simply put, Positive space refers to the main focus of a picture, while negative space refers to the background.  When used creatively and intelligently, positive and negative space together can tell a story using visual composition alone.  In other words, no words are needed.

Space lesson online resources:
1.     If your primary learning style is visual, Joseph and Elizabeth, the kids in this ArtQuest video beautifully demonstrate positive and negative space in a way no words can convey.  

2.     Cheryl at “Teach Kids Art” has been inspiring young artists for twenty years.  Using tree drawings, collages, and shadow tracing, you will receive a complete survey of positive and negative space.  Her projects have a wide variety of skill levels appropriate for all age groups.  


 3.     Kirsten Brunner created an excellent video that beautifully explains positive and negative space. It also contains a wonderful tutorial using simple art supplies you may have on hand to create your very own Positive/Negative work of art! 


Meet me here next month when the foundations of art will really "shape" up! Until then, be encouraged, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein