As an optimist, I like to keep things upbeat and positive. So what’s all this about “negative painting”? Good question.
Negative painting refers to the practice of painting around an object or shape (sometimes referred to as the “positive” element) rather than painting the object itself. The technique is frequently employed when a light subject is depicted against a darker background. But it can also be used when an artist wants to reserve an area to be painted separately, at a different time, either before or after.
You can see examples of negative painting in many of my paintings, especially those of light-colored animals or flowers. In the painting “Tree Lights” (#081104), shown above, the negative shapes between the plant quills served to define the shape of the bromiliad that has grown on the side of a tree trunk.
The plant’s quills were barely tinted with paint to suggest their local color and the light shining through and glinting off the surface of the plant.
In “Red-Eyed Hibiscus” (#090803), negative painting was used around the edges of the white petals to define their shape. Contour shading and the red of the eye were added to the petals afterward.