Negative Space Assignment

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Unit 2: Shape and Positive and Negative Space

Assignment Description: Shapeand Space
Create a final work of art that illustrates the concept of positive and negative space and symmetrical balance using the element of shape to create the design.

Week of September 30 - October 4

This week we will begin our second unit of the year which focuses on the art elements shape and space, specifically positive and negative space.  Our goals for the week are to gain an understanding of the art element shape, create thumbnails that are symmetrical and demonstrate shape and positive and negative space, and begin our final designs on a large piece of construction paper.

Understand the art element shape by viewing and taking notes on a PowerPoint presentation.  View the project requirements, and begin to create thumbnail sketches for our final designs.

Thumbnails will be complete and approved in class.  From the approved thumbnail students will create a final drawing of the design in the sketchbook and transfer the final design on to a piece of colored construction paper.

Week of October 7-11

Complete the final design for the positive/negative shape project in the sketchbook.  Drawing should take up an entire page and be colored in with black marker.  When the sketch is complete the design should be transferred to a piece of construction paper.  We will begin to use exacto knives to cut out individual pieces.

Continue with Positive/Negative Shape designs.  Cutting out pieces and starting to glue in place.  Be sure you have a minimum of 15 pieces and that designs are detailed. 

Week of October 14-18

Continue with Positive/Negative Shape designs.  Continue to cut out pieces and glue them in place to create a symmetrical design.  Make sure that designs are detailed, you have a minimum of 15 shapes to cut out, and you are demonstrating careful craftsmanship in your work.

Continue with Positive/Negative Shape designs.  Continue to cut out pieces and glue them in place to create a symmetrical design.  Make sure that designs are detailed, you have a minimum of 15 shapes to cut out, and you are demonstrating careful craftsmanship in your work.

No School

Week of October 21- 25

Monday/Tuesday:  Work day to continue and finish the Positive Negative Shape project.  Demonstration on how to light and photograph your art work.  Demonstration on how to post an image to the ning in response to the critique prompt. 

You will be finishing your work this week.  We will critique these projects on Thursday and Friday.  Please post to the ning prompt for your class.  You will need to post your written artist statement and your photograph of your art work.  Part of the ning critique is that you are required to comment on three other people's posts from our class.  Please see the ning prompt for details. 

Click the link below to respond to the prompt. 

Mrs. Bjork's Ning Critique Prompt
Mr. Lamp's Ning Critique Prompt.

Wednesday:  Work day to prepare for critique and finish project.  See above for how to post.  If finished with your work you should be writing your IT's CLEAR artist statement, photographing your work and posting all to the ning.  Please also complete a grade rubric for Critique. 

Thursday/Friday:  Critique on Positive Negative Shape project.  You should have your grade rubric and artist statement finished and ready for critique day.  This is not a work day.  Make sure you've also posted your photo to the ning and your written artist statement. 

“Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in a image. Just as important as that object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition.” (1)  “The Negative spaces are the areas around and behind the positive spaces. Negative space can also be referred to as the background. It is no mystery that the shapes of positive spaces are determined by the shapes of the main subjects of the work. However, negative spaces have shapes as well.” (2)

“Figure-ground Relationship (also called positive and negative space) is used in two and three dimensional design. In its basic sense, it refers to a cognitive ability to separate elements based upon contrast, that is, dark and light, black and white, contrasting colors and “there” and “not there”. In figure/ground relationships the absence or void is as important as the filled-in or occupied areas in the composition.  More often, we simply talk about positive and negative space. An artwork has areas where something IS and areas where something ISN’T. The boundery or edge between those spaces creates a shape and that shape creates the art. In art the blank, empty areas have as much weight and importance as the areas with something in them. In silouettes, for instance, the background defines the space that you see as a positive area. In artwork that emphasizes figure/ground relationship the shapes and lines that outline and define the background are important compositional elements and lead you around the artwork and to the focal point.” (3)




Above : Graphic Design Illustration by Forma & Co.  I was drawn to this illustration by the way in which the negative space is used to create an optical illusion.  It is fascinating how the brain is programmed to instantly see the numbers, yet when you study it, it is really a painting of coloured and black areas with straight lines and curved edges.

Above: Tree drawing on Pinterest by loliminx.  I found this interesting in that the the artist has only drawn into the negative space, she doesn’t actually draw any of the tree at all, she only draws and adds tone into the spaces between the tree branches and leaves, and the area around the trunk and ground.

Above: Bike drawing (

Positive and negative shapes don’t have to be solid. Look at this very nice drawing of a bike. The positive areas that are dark are contrasted with the negative areas that are white. In other areas they effect is reversed. Positive and negative areas can be shaded or textured or of any color. The idea is that there is a contrast between the two areas that is sharp enough that we see the shapes they make.

In Patrick Caulfield’s painting of the jar above you can see how he has reversed the idea of negative space to define the subject perfectly, here the ground is actually in colour whereas the figure (or subject) is devoid of tone – Although this is a painting of a jar, he doesn’t actually paint the jar at all, the negative space gives us the form of the jar and also describes how the light from the window is falling on the subject by leaving blank space within the areas of colour.

The tesselations of Escher below also show us how he “describes figure/ground relationships in this formula: 1 + 1 = 3. This means that we not only see 2 positive objects in a picture, but the negative space between them” (4)



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