Why negative painting is always a good idea! :)

So, that’s leaves season in the northern hemisphere! ☺️ I admit that this is one of  my favorite subjects, as it’s colorful, with an interesting shape, no ! So many different impressive shapes!… And I can make a cocooning sketching session with them, at home, when temperatures begin to lower. 😁😉

This morning, there were some red leaves waiting for me on the sidewalk, just in front of my house. I found them, going for the mail.


I sketched them in various ways and, of courses that isn’t new but this made me think, once again “who, definitely, negative painting is always a good idea!! Don’t ever forget it again!!”. 😝  

So negative painting is when you let a part of your subject white and you paint around it (whereas positive painting is painting the shape of the subject itself). 

In this first version of my leaves, I didn’t let any whites because I wanted to use a strong color for my leaves! I always fall in that pitfall for colorful subjects… 😳 You want your color so bold, so bright, so strong that it becomes too dry, too dark…

I like the color variations and the running water effects in the to leaf but the sketch seems a bit dull for me, even with some string dark shadows (I went for hard edges shadows today). 

For the fun, I made this other sketch, “drawing” the outline and nerves off the leaf with my brush first (on cheap paper). This time, the leaf was in a stronger sunlight and I tried to pay more attention to the light and shadows. 

So, I used bolder strokes for the cast shadow of the leaf (purple) and for the form shadow on it (red). The shiny lighten parts of the leaves renewed white.


Don’t you think this sketch make “whooooo”, by comparison with the first one?! 😃

Even if there is, actually, no white part on the leave, this version shows a lot more depth, thanks to the strong contrast. It even looks more realistic (even if this isn’t my goal).

As I am not used to use lines in my watercolors (but maybe I should?!) (Please note that the left side of the leaf, above, is outlined with a line), I decided to make another version on watercolor paper, using negative painting.

So, instead of tracing a line to outline the lighten part off the leaf, I painted a soft background to define it. 


The same way than before, I let the lighten areas white, just drawing a few nerves, and painted a colorful form shadow and a darker cooler cast shadow.

Doesn’t this sketch strong and lively?! 😆

So, why keeping some white in our subjects and using negative painting is technically always a good idea?

That’s because of the strong contrast. You may have already read somewhere that’s it’s the best idea to use a string contrast to make your subject pop, whereas other elements and the background can be softer. That’s what Marc call the gradient of interest.

So, always use the stronger contrast possible for your subject. As a strong contrast means the bigger gap possible between the lighter areas and the darker areas, the only way to get a strong yourcongrats on  subject is to use almost back and almost or real white in it.

With your dark strokes just near the white areas, the contrast looks even bolder.

The white little areas I kept in these blackberries make all the difference. With the dark strokes not far from it (especially on the blueish ones), they have the stronger contrast of the whole sketch.
If you estimate the white is too striking for your taste or your subject, you can always “break” it by a really light wash, painted at the beginning theout at end but the resultant contrast will end up a bit lower.
So, once again, don’t let the colors fool you like they did to me this morning! Always search for some areas when you can keep the paper untouched to make your subject pop. 😀

7 thoughts on “Why negative painting is always a good idea! :)

    • Thank you so much Youanna!

      Yes, white is so important…
      We can never pay too much attention to it… ☺️

  1. Vraiment génial! moi aussi j’aime ces feuilles!! Je vais me souvenir de cette idée ! Je vais faire une visite à Quebec bientôt et j’espère trouver beauCoup de feuilles d’érables!!!!!! Rouge et mauve! Violet! Bonne idée !!!!! Est ce bleu!!! Le mauve très très foncé????

    Merci

    Danielle

    • Merci beaucoup Danielle pour ton gentil commentaire !
      Les feuilles d’érable sont tellement fascinantes !! Intégrer les arbres dans les croquis urbains donnera des aquarelles hyper chouettes, aussi !

      Est ce qu’il y a une question dans ton commentaire, au sujet du mauve ou violet ??
      Pour les ombres portées, j’ai mélangé du Quin Fuchsia et de l’Indigo, je crois.

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