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My First (Finished) Negative Painting

Dragonflies Among the Lilacs

Dragonflies Among the Lilacs

Last year, I attempted a negative painting (painting the negative space around subjects in layers) but abandoned it because it hurt my brain, being so against my usual way of painting. And in my current watercolour class, another negative painting project was proposed and I vowed no matter how much my brain hurt, I would finish.

The process for this project was to first apply selected pigments wet-on-wet to the paper, spray more water on it, and let it spread where it may. After it dried, we were to self-apply a type of Rorschach test – what did we see in the resulting colours and shapes. I saw dragonflies, lilacs, branches, leaves… and I started pencilling in objects I saw in the lightest tones in the foreground. The next step is to paint around these foreground elements, let it dry, and discover what is now in the lightest tones in the background, draw and repeat the painting technique. Gradually the painting gets darker and darker. I’ve struggled with the “seeing” and trying to still keep the foundations of composition in mind.

Even after finishing this work, I am no closer to being comfortable with painting entirely this way and look forward to doing some more in order to keep stretching. And I greatly admire my teacher and others that have adopted it as their preferred way of painting – check out the links because their work is so beautiful.

Dragonflies segment

Dragonflies segment

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5 replies »

  1. I love your negative painting! I have also tried it and been somewhat successful. I love the look of it. I first learned the technique from Linda Kemp. Who is your teacher? I’d love to more of it.

    • Hi, Arja:
      Thanks for your kind comments! My teacher is Jayne Cangemi. She teaches watercolour in Mississauga and Oakville. Her site is linked on the post. I’m always amazed at watching her demo these techniques because it appears so effortless!

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