View Full Version : negative watercolor painting

06-11-2000, 07:45 PM
I am trying to learn the negative technique and can not find hardly any information on how to paint watercolors using the negative technique, can you or anyone give info on this subject?

06-11-2000, 09:49 PM
Negative painting simply means creating the form you want, by painting the area around it instead of the form itself. In other words, if you were painting a leaf, but wanted to leave it white... paint what is behind that leaf to actually shape the leaf itself.
Think I sounded garbled here....but hope you get the idea. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif Carol
WELCOME to the forums ... hope to see some of your work here too ok?

[This message has been edited by oleCC (edited June 11, 2000).]

06-12-2000, 04:07 AM
I also tried negative painting, and I found it very interesting. I read about it in the book "watercolours a new beginning, an holistic approach", I don't remember the author (but if you are interested i can look for her) and I paint trees and woods.
I layed a multicolored background wet-on-wet, and when dried, I paint the darks betweens trunks and foliage, getting a very beautiful and evocative result. I also tried painting flowers in this way, but they didn't came so well.
It is difficult the first time, but it becames easier as you begin in thinking in negative.
ciao, rapolina http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

06-12-2000, 04:14 AM
<IMG SRC="http://www.wetcanvas.com/Critiques/User/negative.jpg" border=0>
This is part of a painting by David Bellamy, you will see the trees have been produced by painting around their shape,in other words producing the tree by painting the negative space around it,

Watercolours from New Zealand (http://www.artistnation.com/members/paris/rod/)

06-12-2000, 06:41 PM
If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Naomi Brotherton, she teaches how to paint by painting the negative space. She does workshops on painting flowers in just this manner.

06-13-2000, 11:40 PM
Painting in the negative spaces was the way I first learned to do watercolor...I think its all I ever really learned...lol. I also use this with my acrylics especially when I'm doing trees and florals. The main thing to remember is to plan where your darks and lights are going to be. A thumbnail sketch will help you to remember this as you work.

Lynda Mortensen
06-20-2000, 04:29 PM
I've been painting in watercolour for about 25 years now, and although I knew what negative painting was, I didn't know the technique used to do it, and was just blocking in my background with a universal dark colour, which looked so flat and boring! Then, a couple of weeks ago I bought the book 'Watercolor Right from the Start' by Hilary Page, and in it she has a step-by-step lesson of some beautiful autumn leaves - all done with negative painting. Her instructions are very, very comprehensive and detailed, so you just can't go wrong! Go and look in your library or local bookshop - it's highly recommended.

06-21-2000, 08:19 AM
My watercolor teacher stresses negative space paintings as a technique to make us see differently. Our most basic negative study was of bottles and done in this manner:
1. Paint a medimum light wash over the entire paper.
2. When dry, draw a bottle (or a few).
3. Paint everything except the bottle with another glaze (darker of same hue or another hue).
4. Repeat 2 and 3 several more times. Each time you are painting less because you only paint the negative space - never over the bottles from previous steps.
5. The last time you do step 3 you have done the background.

We also have done this exercise with branches & leaves and also with Iris. You can splotch up the first wash with light wet in wet or splatters so that the first layer isn't so bland. Of course, at the end you can add detail if you like. I find it really helpful to do something negative every few months because it really makes you look at the background shapes your creating.
Hope this makes sense.

Mary Kay
07-01-2000, 11:08 PM
I just spent a week at a workshop going crazy with negative painting, even though i've done it for years. It is a slow process, but you get beautiful glowing results. The bottles exercise is very good. Here is another easy exercise to get the idea. You can tone your paper first, or work on white paper.

1. Pick a leaf from a tree and trace it 3 times on your paper. do not overlap.
2. paint everything but the 3 leaves in a light primary color. let it dry .
3. trace your leaf 3 more times, and you can overlap them with the first ones, but draw them as if they were coming from behind.
4. paint everything but the 6 leaves in a light primary color, but not the same color as before.
5. trace 2 or 3 more leaves, but only have sections of them peeking from behind the others.
6. paint everything but the leaves...all the backround areas. let dry.
7. You can add some dark positive shapes in the next layer, or continue the negative painting.

This is a simplified explaination of how to do negative painting...you can incorporate positive and negative in the same painting, but it gets more complex. after you understand the concept it is much easier to visualize...you just need lots of patience!!
Happy Painting!!!
Mary Kay

[This message has been edited by Mary Kay (edited July 01, 2000).]

07-03-2000, 04:20 AM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif Great suggestion Mary Kay!
I'll try tonight, i think it will be very funny and beautiful!
Thanks, http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif rapolina

10-23-2003, 03:28 PM
The memorable Zoltan Szabo did a type of negative painting I've always enjoyed. I like doing it for background leaves.

Rose Queen
10-23-2003, 03:41 PM
Welcome to WetCanvas, paintera!

Hope this helps: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=139974

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10-23-2003, 05:53 PM
There is a project on this subject in full swing right now: "Painting outside the lines (http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/Projects/index.php?cmd=view_details&proj_id=561)" I've learned a lot already!

10-24-2003, 06:18 AM
Originally posted by noreenemc
There is a project on this subject in full swing right now: "Painting outside the lines" I've learned a lot already!

I was going to mention this project. Even if you don't want to join, come over and take a look at the paintings that have been done already using the negative technique.

There is also a good discussion on how to do a negative painting, although you've had some very good suggestions posted here.

To get to the project, go to the top of the Watercolor home page and click on Watercolor Projects. When it opens, you should be able to find the one called Painting Outside the Lines

Oh, and Welcome to the Watercolor Forum.