Seeing and Drawing Negative Space



To create an interesting composition, by paying close attention to negative shapes.

To use pattern/texture to emphasize the negative space.

  • the edge of one shape determines the edge of another shape.
  • to refer to the “Rules of Composition” posted in the room.
  • to look at and draw the negative shapes, try not to name the positive ones—try to simply look at the relationships between shapes: placement & size/proportion.


  1. Begin by choosing one of the four still-lifes in the room.

  2. Divide a 9 x 12 sheet of paper in 4 by folding the paper in half and then again in half.

  3. Using a view finder, look at the negative space around your still life and find compositions that you think are interesting and compelling to look at.

  4. Sketch 4 of these possibilities in your small rectangles. A sketch is a quick drawing to get the placement of objects where you want them; it is not a detailed drawing. (Artists sometimes refer to these as “thumbnail sketches.”)

  5. Check in with your table mates to see if you agree on the composition that has the most potential.

  6. Move to the 9 x 12 white paper and look again at the still life. With your viewfinder, find the chosen composition again and draw it on your big paper, lightly with pencil.

  7. Brainstorm and experiment on white scrap paper, different types of marks that create pattern/texture.

  8. Fill in the negative space of your drawing, using a black felt tip pen. Please do NOT outline the positive/negative space.

  9. The negative space should be what our eye is first drawn to; you will need to use a value method that is relatively dark. Your method of “fill” should come right up to the edge of your positive, helping cover your initial lines of the shapes.