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