Painting Negative Space: Part II

by Lisa Larrabee

16" x 20"
Richeson 75 International
Landscape finalist 

This tree is in my backyard, and I take a lot of satisfaction in watching the light and colors change as sun sets through it at the end of the day. Although the composition is the same as Fiery Pine, I had no intention of painting the same piece twice.  I want to include this process to show a different technique for approaching a painting through the negative spaces.

Instead of beginning on a warm background, I drew a somewhat detailed picture on a white canvas.  After cutting my paint with a slow drying oil medium, I thinly covered the whole surface.

I began to block in some darks, then decided against it.  The negative spaces (light areas) were lifted off using a combination of paper towels and clean brushes for details.  This was actually quick and a lot of fun.

Completing this tree was far less fun.  To be honest, it was a struggle and it spent lengthy periods of time "drying" in an open closet.  I had begun experimenting with glazes and had to learn to stop when layers got sticky.  If you look, you can also see branches that come forward by painting the negative space showing the green boughs behind them.  In the end, the layering built up to create some very delicate color transitions that I am happy with.

~ Lisa


Painting Negative Space: Part I

by Lisa Larrabee

Fiery Pine
Oil  20" x 24"
artist Lisa Larrabee

In my art classes, I often encourage painting the negative spaces.  As a technique, it is incredibly useful. However, it can take some mental adjustments to be able to define an object, not by painting the object itself, but by painting, in essence, around the object.  I love to do this, and continue to experiment with variations of painting negative spaces.

In this example, the tree was blocked in very loosely over a warm background. 

This is where the negative space painting begins.  I very deliberately painted around the branches (painting the sky behind).  While doing this, I also transitioned the color from a blue-violet on the right side to a red-violet.  As I watched the sun set through the tree, I tried to be very observant about the colors of the edges.  The shift from warm to cool was what I experienced.

The final stage stage involved painting around all of the edges again, and filling in the background color.  The trick is to allow for that color energy to show along the edges.  Also, don't just retrace around what you initially painted.  Additional branches were added by painting around them.  I simply left space where I wanted a new branch to be.  It adds depth to a tree that is really quite stylized.  Finally, yellow and orange accents were added to emulate the light catching needles and branches.

More to come about painting negative spaces.

~ Lisa