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Negative Painting

Negative painting is a technique used in art where the artist creates shapes and forms by painting around the subject rather than directly painting the subject itself. In this technique, the artist typically paints the background first, leaving the subject blank (or "negative"). Then, by painting around the blank area, the subject gradually emerges.

  1. Sketching: Begin by sketching the subject lightly on the watercolor paper. This sketch serves as a guideline for the negative painting process.

  2. Glazing Wash: I like to begin by adding a wash of a very light color to the entire paper. You can add any subtle color variations in you like using a wet on wet technique.

  3. Background Painting: Instead of painting the subject first, start by painting the background around the subject. This might involve blending colors, creating gradients, or adding textures to the background to create visual interest.

  4. Leaving Negative Space: This is probably the hardest part for me and most artist. Once the background is established, add minimal detail to the subject area. This creates a negative space that defines the shape of the subject.

  5. Building Layers: Using transparent watercolor washes, gradually build up layers of paint around the negative space. By carefully painting around the subject, shapes form and brings it into focus. Negative painting is all about the layers.

  6. Adding Details: As the painting progresses, you can add more detail and depth to the subject by layering colors and adjusting values. This might involve refining edges, adding highlights and shadows, and incorporating intricate textures.

I feel like the bulk of what negative painting is, is all in the head. Its a mindset that can be a great tool to you as you progress as an artist. Negative watercolor painting requires careful planning and more precise brushwork to achieve the desired effect. It's a versatile technique that can be used to create a wide range of subjects, from landscapes and still lifes to portraits and abstract compositions. By painting around the negative space, you can create dynamic and visually engaging artworks with a sense of depth and dimension.


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