Monday, November 17, 2008

The magic of Negative Spaces when drawing the portrait's (profile)

Portrait of Ed Barron

Tools: 4b pencil
Technique: combined tonal shading with cross contour

Negative Spaces are perhaps your best friend and allied when drawing the figure, specially in cases of dramatic structures.

What are negative spaces?
We can safely define it as the opposite to the figure. Now, this can also be defined on different levels:
The opposite to the figure is mostly the background. The background on drawing or painting could be defined as space or environment (in other words What isn't). These abstract fellas (shapes) are produced as a consequence of figure
foreground-background effect.
Negative spaces are and could be created with one single figure in relation to space, multiple figures in relation to space, and one or more figures in relation to other figures and space. (NS are also essential when drawing still life)

Our concentration is to accomplish finding those shapes created by the effect previously mentioned. These shapes are our measuring tool and association method technique.

It is important to understand that these are abstract shapes and our use is for correction of proportions, size and finding accurate distances.

For the purpose of this demonstration we'll concentrate on the portrait's profile.
When drawing the profile negative spaces will guide you in the process of successfully accomplishing the likeness and accuracy of our subject.

First, as always your very basic foundation ( refer to: The Power of Objective Observation) which include composition, finding a point or points of reference, and making corrections.
Now, in the case of the portrait's profile we have to our advantage a primary and secondary target point. As usual our primary target point in the portrait will be the nose. In here we'll be working from the right side – then out left because of the portrait position applying the same technique as mentioned in previous posts. (don't forget your universal triangle of proportions which in this case becomes more of a pyramid)

Our secondary target is the ear. And this more than anything is an alternate target point but essentially effective. The ear, once you find the right location as part of your initial and basic shapes foundation will be a guidance starting point to verify and measure elements such as distance, association and alignment.
These elements include: finding the distance from the ear position to the top of head, line of hair, left and right side of the head, and line of chin.
Also to double verify if you have the right angles use the association method using the ear as a reference point and measure your levels (for example: see the angle from the ear to the nose and verify if the level matches to the one in real life. Use you pencil to measure)

Applying the negative spaces
After you first step which include your basic foundation and all the other elements we are ready to apply our mission. Our first negative spaces will be on the actual profile of the portrait which include: forehead, nose, lips, chin and neck – shoulder. This is a great opportunity to correct our profile using the negative space from the background. In here you will spend most of the time applying the negative spaces technique and your lines should not be to heavy, your definition should be soft.

Thinking abstract negative to accomplish positive realism
Take some time and pay close attention to the contour lines produced by the negative spaces. As mentioned before the opposite form on the background will be abstract, a form non-recognizable with organic structures. This becomes a shape itself and unique. At this point and most critical point, you are double verifying that the shape created from this space matches the one from real life or reference. And at the same time you are going back to the positive figure side to verify that you are accomplishing the likeness of your figure.
Feel free at this point to begin stressing more line definition on the profile, at the same time fill in with soft shading the negative space-background to make the figure stand out more. This will give you a sharper view of the work in progress that you've done and it also should be giving you a sign of likeness in relation to real life.
Also on the left side of the profile which include back of the head-skull, neck and shoulder another special negative space is produced, this one much simpler. Repeat same steps.

1 comment:

Earthling said...


I am very happy to be part of your education blog. It looks really great.

Looking forward to continued working together.