Spend a day focusing on ‘negative space’ and learn to grow your perception of the world around you. If you’re an artist, you already “get this”, but so many people see the world with a narrow vision both literally and metaphorically. As an artist, I try and spend every waking moment broadening my awareness.
The instructor to my first college drawing class walked in the room and said, “I am not going to teach you to draw. If you are here for that, you can leave.”.
“Uuuh…WTF”, I thought. But then she went on to state, “I am going to teach you how to ‘see'”. It took me a while to truly understand that statement, but once I got it, my life changed.
You’ve all looked up and seen shapes in the clouds haven’t you? When was the last time you saw shapes between the clouds? So many people have problems ‘drawing eyes’, as if it’s any different than drawing an apple on a table. You’ve no doubt have gazed into peoples’ eyes a few million times before…So clearly you must have enough field research down by now to be a master at drawing eyes right? So what’s the problem? Well, for starters, when was the last time you focused on just the shapes of the whites in their eyes or the shapes of the eyelids as the eyes and head move? Do you even notice the shape between the inner nose and corner of the eye?
Children draw in “symbols”…Ask any child to draw an eye and they will usually draw a football shape with a circle in the middle. As we mature as adults, most of us never learn to see beyond that. Take foreshortening for instance. Hold your hand close to your head, fingers pointing to you and draw it, or if you’re a lazy bastard, just imagine drawing it. Kind of hard to wrap your head around eh? Well, now only draw the shape of the space around your hand, the ‘negative space’. It will force your brain to actually see and not just see symbols of what we think we see.
When you’re sitting in traffic and see the car in front of you, shift your perception to see just the space around the car. See the sky around the tree branches. Really ‘see‘ the shape of the space between the table legs. Seeing and being aware of not only the obvious and ‘significant‘ will lead you to be better artists but more importantly, it will train your mind to be aware. A step towards enlightenment.
When I am painting, I am just as much focused on the negative space as I am the main subject matter. To paint the proper shape of a shadow, I simply have to paint the shape of the light around it, what is left is shadow and vice versa. When art lacks this awareness of both what is and isn’t ‘substantial’ it quite literally, lacks substance.
Use this paradigm shift in other areas of your life. Don’t know what you want from your career? Focus for a bit on what you absolutely DON’T want, whatever is left is closer to what you want. Don’t know what kind of perfect mate you want? I bet you already know by now what you DON’T want. Next time you find yourself bitching and moaning to yourself “I don’t know wanna do”…”I don’t know what I want for dinner”, stop thinking like a child and become aware of what you DON’T want and go get the opposite. 😉
Is the glass half full or half empty? Well, if you’re seeing the world as an artist, it’s always both. Spend a day doing this…Watch how your perception of your world changes and evolves your “Artist Eye”.
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle