Thursday, March 7, 2013

Negative Forms as First Structures and Minimal Storytelling (Workshop S)

Instructors: João Catarino (Lisbon) and Omar Jaramillo (Berlin)
Location: Sant Felip Neri


In the first part of the workshop we start explaining what is negative space and how one can recognize it as shapes. We explain the advantage of drawing shapes instead of single lines and why one should treat shadows and reflections as shapes.

Recognizing the negative space

Exercise 1: negative space.
We draw profiles of overlapping objects catching the whole mass and not the single object. We start with an object and then we apply the same principle to people and buildings.

Using shapes

Exercise 2: change the way you look and what you are looking first.
The first step is to approach the drawing through the horizontal shadows
projecting on the ground.
The next step is to approach what is in shadow on objects and buildings in an area.
Modeling surfaces alternating organic and geometric forms.
We can repeat the exercise considering reflections in glass, mirrors or chrome car
as a new starting point.
Do not use previous draft, going straight through the shadows and negative spaces. Try to imagine that your brush touches the surface to which you are looking.


Buildings are usually vertical. In theory that is a strong restriction for the composition of the drawing.
However there are some tricks to improve the composition and at the same time stay true to the landscape we are drawing. Use diagonals. Diagonal lines are dynamic.

Exercise 3: Creating dynamic compositions through diagonal lines.

a. Tilting the view: stop treating the page as a window. If you tilt the image you will notice that there is a change in your perception of the drawing. Tip: do it boldly, a few degrees can bring the observer to ask if you made a mistake or you did it with intention.

b. The sky as a large negative space.
Pay attention to the visual limits of the area covered by the sky and look to the forms that intercepts, as electric wires, buildings or tree branches. Choose a color to represent these negative spaces that relate to the sky with stain, and then changes color to represent only the shadows that you think most representative.
Stop making lines you dont see, the figures are expressed in contrast with the background. Use 3 different colors for different subjects such as: architecture,
sky, and people.

c. Using foreground and background: add an interesting element in the foreground to your drawing.
A pedestrian, a traffic sign, a hydrant or text. Fill it with detail and/or color.
The elements you choose should be more saturated with information. Find an element of the background in diagonal with the foreground and treat it the same way:
a window, some detail of the wall, or an advertising sign.

d. Using color dots: you can also add some dynamic in your drawing using color.
If you use an isolated dot of color in your drawing, the attention will go immediately there. However if you place dots of color and position them diagonally (it doesn’t have to be a straight line), your eyes will follow that path. For different diagonal use different colors. Red works best, however you should use it in minimal doses.

Learning goals
  • With the experience of this workshop we intend that participants have the ability to focus and stay concentrated closely with shapes that draw from what they're actually seeing.
  • Learn how to use negative space, to recognize shapes and dynamic compositions through diagonal lines.

Supply list
Pencils or water resistant pens (i.e. Faber Castell pitt pen sepia), water-brush, watercolors,
Sketchbook suitable for washes (Moleskine, Stillman & Birn etc.)

Other sample sketches

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