Posts Tagged ‘negative painting’

A Song of Hyacinths

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

I was reminded recently of a poem, “Hyacinths,” various versions of which I have seen credited to John Greenleaf Whittier and to Sadi.  I favor one of the variations from the latter:


“If of thy earthly goods thou art bereft,

And from their meager store

Two loaves alone to thee are left,

Sell one, and with the dole

Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”


The specific version of the poem seems immaterial when we consider the theme—that even in difficult times, when our spirits are low, it is more important to maintain our hope and positive outlook than to stress out over our circumstances.  Hyacinths are spring-time bloomers, representing renewal and hope.  The point is that we should seek out beauty even in the midst of loss, and cling to hope even in the worst of times.

“Blue Hyacinths”  by Charlotte Mertz (10”x8” watercolor, 180208w)

“Blue Hyacinths” by Charlotte Mertz (10”x8” watercolor, 180208w)

Such beauty may be found in a flower, the sparkle of sunlight on water, or a favorite scent.  It may be heard in a bird’s song, the purr of a cat, or in an encouraging voice.  We can find comfort in memories, or find hope in dreams for the future.  Just as a hyacinth’s scent fills our nostrils and our lungs, the sense of hope refills us with energy to face whatever challenges we have to overcome.

In the painting of “Blue Hyacinths,” above, I used a “negative” technique, painting around some of the petals to bring out their shape.  Because sometimes we appreciate the little things more because of the darkness surrounding them.

What hyacinths are feeding your soul today?



Negative Painting

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

As an optimist, I like to keep things upbeat and positive. So what’s all this about “negative painting”? Good question.

081104 Tree Lights

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.

Red Eyed Hibiscus

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.