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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > Nov-17 > Interpreting space

Interpreting space

Penny German advises on how to use negative spaces to improve your drawing and painting

Peonies, oil on board, 8x8in (20.5x20.5cm).

Here negative spaces define the individual blooms

Long ago, at art school, I remember returning to class after lunch on a hot day to embark on our ‘drawing’ lesson with the late Colin Moss. A collective sigh went out as we spotted the large pile of stools and chairs stacked on top of one another in a big pile and established that they were our subject matter for the afternoon, not left there by the cleaner after mopping the floor. Oh no, all those legs and crossbars, how will we ever draw those! It turned out to be a well-used art school staple, a lesson in negative space, and we were tasked with making a study of the set-up by drawing only what wasn’t there. It was the best drawing lesson I ever received and it opened my eyes to negative spaces in the world around me. I no longer looked at branches of a tree but the shapes of the spaces in between. I was often guilty of zoning out of conversations with friends: I was studying the negative spaces that defined the distance between their features rather than concentrating on the subject in hand.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our November issue in which our highly talented, experienced artist-tutors challenge you to re-think your approach to complementary colours in watercolour, draw a sight-size self-portrait, capture an autumnal scene in watercolour, dramatise your skies, try graphite techniques, use negative spaces to your advantage, paint a light-filled interior in impressionistic style and master perspective for successful coastal scenes. And that's just for starters! Artist-judge in BBC1's The Big Painting Challenge, Lachlan Goudie, shares his experiences of painting Scotland's shipyards ahead of his forthcoming exhibition, Nick Poullis offers tips on setting up your own gallery, Julie Collins advises on colour choices for yellow, Michele Del Campo test reports Winsor & Newton's Artists' Oil Colours, including his top tips for oils painters, and Peter Burgess takes a practical look at materials for painting and how best to store them. Enjoy another inspirational issue packed with ideas and advice for all artists!
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