the real purpose of negative painting is to build depth and volume with a full range of values.
Using the white paper, we build a watercolour painting from light to dark - there really is a limit to how much one can paint “positively”, in other words subject shapes. This method becomes dissatisfying as we realise the limitations of painting only in “positives” or faced with a compositional error.
The problem many of my students face with negative painting is simply the technical terminology, they are put off because they think that a technique with a technical label must be difficult when really, the terminology was created to simplify the description and process.
A good way to start painting negatively is to choose a simple “repeating” subject, for example foliage. Create a small pencil drawing with your repeating shapes and “wash” in a light value, all over but working around whites and light value shapes (see figure 1).
next using value #2 or 3, work around your light values shapes with a slightly darker value, then, another darker value around 1, 2, 3 and 4 and so on - e ecco!!
A key element is to use edge variety as you go, soften some edges with your kneadable eraser and let some darker values “spill” into your light values.
OK now it's time to break out your watercolour paper, create a quick “nasty” sketch of some sort of repeating pattern and follow the same process using a mid or dark value pigment and diluting to create lighter values as you usually would. Progressively increase the amount of pigment on your brush and reduce the amount of water. For example, if you are using a natural bristle brush, you might only need 1 "brushful" of water for the whole doings.
Avoid temptation to leave hard edges all through your painting and let spatter and soft edges work their magic for you - even with your pencil sketch. Of course you can alter values where necessary by either lightening or darkening a value.
Have another go with a non repeating pattern and then change to a limited palette of 3 or 4 colours.
let me know how you get on, email me here with questions!!
ciao cari amici!! xx
Amanda Brett Watercolour Artist
Paintbox Tips, thoughts, scribblings and doodles on art, my life as an artist, travels and musings!! www.amandabrett.net