Negative Shape Painting

Often when you think of something being negative, it’s not a good thing. However, in painting it is when it refers to negative shape painting. This was the subject of an art demo that I did for the Palette Club in Midland, TX.

Exactly what is a negative shape or space? It’s the space between and around a subject and not the subject itself. In simplistic terms it’s the silhouette of an object.

To illustrate the concept I used a black gessoed canvas and sculpted out the silhouette of a tree by painting the inner and outer unoccupied spaces. I did not paint tree limbs, but gave the impression of limbs by painting the spaces in and around them as the following photos illustrate. Thank you to G. Hutson for taking the photographs at the demo.

I started by painting the outer spaces leaving what appears to be a solid black silhouette of a tree.

William Hagerman negative shape painting demo

Next I move into the interior negative shapes.

William Hagerman negative shape painting demo

I continue with the interior and exterior negative shape painting, chiseling out and refining the shapes until I’m satisfied with the result.

William Hagerman negative shape painting demo

I employ this technique of negative shape painting quite often, especially with trees.
Below is a detail section from my painting titled: “An Open Door.” All the “sky holes” within the tree were painted using this method of negative shape painting.The pluses of this technique is that it strengthens your visual perceptions and enhances your painting for if the negative shapes are interesting, likely your subject will also be just as interesting. Practice this in your own painting and see how much your work will improve! To see the full image of “An Open Door”, check out the following post.

Detail section of an oil painting by William Hagerman copyright 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.