Negative SpaceSee also: [Art Terms] [Space] [Formal Elements] [2-D design] [3-D design]
Negative SpaceFor some reason those outside of art try to use the phrase "negative space" in the same "downward-glance" way that people use "negative numbers" to mean things like "un-employment figures". However, this is of course simply wrong. Negative space (a relatively new concept art-wise) is simply what isn't there. If the tree is the thing that is there, then the space between its branches and leaves - ie, probably the B/G (back/ground) is the sky behind the tree. Thus, to see the shape of the space (in the sky) cut out by the tree is to look at to look at the negative space. Usually credit is given to Cezane for "discovering" this - the way that light played about an object outside of course was a primary concern for all artists at that time in the "Impressionists". You can see it as you look at their works in the late 1880's and you can almost trace it to particular times for each artist when this "dark and heavy" kind of painting gave way to LIGHT. Both in the sense, of less paint and in a lot lighter pallet and less darkly treating shadows and such. One of the simplest things to do is to trace your hand on a piece of paper. And now if we draw some background lines behind it, we see this sort of "poking thru" of the negative space - the lines accentuating it, and of course then in themselves becoming a new *actual* space and then a new negative space between them, etc. Now it's important to notice that in this case, i've drawn the B/G lines after drawing the hand (traced actually - does that matter? ;). But, with paint or opaque inks (eg, gouache, etc) i could draw the back ground lines, then draw the hand in, and then re-trace (bring back out) the side-to-side B/G lines. Each of these effects are having different ways that the negative space expresses itself. Of course, many optical illusions depend on our eyes and how it addresses negative space. This is also refered to as in-attention (or other-directed attention) to detail. An importnat point is that we also see those lines which we are used to seeing. It has been recently that people who live most of their lives in the plains (eg, deserts, mesas) see the objects differently and the top hat illusion for them simply doesn't exist. They see it as equal in height and width.