Project One: Positive and Negative Space, Seeing Past the Figure



To demonstrate the basic elements of seeing, attaining proper proportions and identifying negative and positive space (which is also referred to as Figure/Ground). For the beginning of this drawing you will work in a familiar fashion with graphite pencil to layout your composition based on the plant provided in class utilizing contour lines. You will then fill in these contour lines with charcoal pencil creating a positive black form in an expanse of white negative space. The second part of this project will expand your use of negative space to dictate positive form. You will utilize your pencil to layout a new contour line composition of the same exact area of the plant you previously studied. You will then use your charcoal pencils and charcoal sticks to fill in what you previously left white creating an exact opposite of your first drawing. You will be doing this to strengthen your use and understanding of positive and negative space in dictating shape, space and proportion. 




Step 1: Take an 18 x 24” sheet of paper from your sketchbook and mount it on your drawing board in a horizontal format. Then using a straightedge or preferable a ruler and mark off a 1” frame all around your drawing with a pencil (we will do this for nearly every drawing). You will then vertically split your composition directly in half with a pencil line.


Step 2: You will then find an interesting, dynamic area of the plant on the stage. I want this area to be cropped, that is to say, I want your drawing to go to at least 3 edges if not 4 i.e. zoom in. Once you have decided on your area begin laying out a contour drawing (in the left area of your paper) of the plant using your pencil to the best of your ability paying close attention to shape and proportion.  


Step 3: Once you have you plant laid out within your composition fill in the contour lines with your black charcoal pencil/sticks and use a blending tool to smooth out the charcoal to a nice flat black. 


Step 4: Move to the right side of your paper and begin laying out the same exact area of the plant with your pencil. This time I want you to stop looking at the plant itself or the positive/figure and focus on the negative/ground space around it. Try drawing the shapes created by the negative space and let those dictate the shape and proportions of the positive/figure. I am asking you to work in exactly the opposite way not to make your life difficult but to try to push the fact the we can not have positive without negative and that they directly inform one another and both can be used to make a strong drawing.


Step 5: Once you have a second contour line drawing of the same area of your plant in pencil fill in what you had previously left as white expansive negative space with your charcoal pencils/sticks leaving the plant white. Simply, you will be making something that almost looks like a negative of your first drawing. Once finished spray fix in the hall.




18 x 24” Sketchbook, Pencils, Charcoal, Erasers, Ruler

Show More

View student examples by selecting an image above

© 2020 Dustin M. Price