Exploring Space...Negative Space

Have you seen the movie, "Karate Kid"?

This kid wants to learn karate, and Mr. Miyagi says he will teach him and sends the kid out to wash and wax cars and paint a fence. The kid goes along for a while but eventually demands that Mr. Miyagi teach him karate. Turns out, the exercises were teaching him karate skills and he didn't even know it!

I Mr. Miyagi my art students sometimes.

I have them do things that will help them later, but might not make that much sense right away.

Today was one of those days.

I had them draw negative space around objects, not the objects.

This will help them in their art in several ways. First, it helps them to draw what they really see, not what they think they see. For example, if you set out to draw an elephant. You think, "Elephants have four legs that are each the same length." So you'd draw an elephant with four equally sized legs. But that won't look right because two legs are going to be further away and therefore they will be smaller. The elephant might be moving, so some legs will be bent differently. He might have more weight in one leg, and that will change the shape of the legs. You have to look at the lines and angles to draw an elephant and put the idea that all legs are the same out of your head.

So, drawing the space around the object helps students put the object out of their head and really look at what they are seeing.

I brought in some objects from my kitchen...

I also encouraged my students to bring objects out to the edge of the paper. This creates forms out of the negative space. This can really energize a composition. So hopefully, whenever these students arrange a new composition they will compose the object and thoughtfully compose the negative space as well.

I also brought in some lovely things from the woods. Ginger plants made the room smell nice. (Inch worms and ants were a little distracting.)

My class felt a lot like the karate kid. They found it a little frustrating. It is kind of like doing a tongue twister for your brain.

We also used soft pastels which make a mess and aren't as precise as a pencil. At first they found the pastels frustrating, but then realized that you can draw on your friend's face with them, and that led to some unplanned art fun!