Negative Space

zebras by victor vasarely

Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, and not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space is occasionally used to artistic effect as the ‘real’ subject of an image. The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition. The Japanese word ‘ma’ is sometimes used for this concept, for example in garden design. In a two-tone, black-and-white image, a subject is normally depicted in black and the space around it is left blank (white), thereby forming a silhouette of the subject.

However, reversing the tones so that the space around the subject is printed black and the subject itself is left blank causes the negative space to be apparent as it forms shapes around the subject, called ‘figure-ground reversal.’ One tool used by art teachers in explaining positive and negative space is an exercise where students copy from an upside-down drawing or photograph. Because the picture is upside-down, they don’t readily recognize the objects in the picture. They are able to give equal attention to the positive and negative shapes. The result is often a much more accurate drawing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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