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Exploring Negative Space

Negativity is real... and negative space is a thing! And it's BEAUTIFUL!! So far we've been playing with drawing all kinds of lines and shapes and stripping out intention and then putting it back in (in more constructive ways)... and now it's time to face some negativity. It's time to realize that negativity is necessary and can be BEAUTIFUL.

Because playing with negative space is fun. It's an opportunity to break out of your habits, to see things in a different way, to recognize that what you're NOT seeing is AS IMPORTANT as what you ARE seeing.

So let's play. The first step, for comfort's sake, is to draw something in pencil. It could be a word, it could be a shape. (I suggest starting with your name, as a fun way to introduce yourself to the group!) The point is to give yourself somewhere to start. Set your intention. Say to yourself, "I want this to say the word _ " or "I want this to look like a _" and then let that be all the planning you do.

Put down the pencil and pick up a pen (I like Sharpies). The point is to use the pencil to set your intentions and then to use the pen/sharpie/what-have-you to get into that Zentangle, freedom of movement and expression, there-are-no-mistakes headspace. You can literally draw anything in all that big open space. Avoid the white space INSIDE the pencil lines, that's the negative space, and fill in the rest of the page to your heart's content. Think of this as the next step in your confidence-building, creative exploration journey. If it helps, I use make-believe botanicals (flowers, vines, leaves, etc.) because they're kind of a thing and kind of not a thing. Everyone can look at the image above and see flowers, but I had all kinds of creative freedom to invent my own flowers and nonsense. There's safety in feeling like you can create something without having to RE-create something that exists in the real world and can be... wrong.

When you're done with all the creative exploration, erase the pencil marks and take a step back. What do you see?

What's happening: The most fun part of this exercise is when you get to take a step back and see that you've literally created something out of nothing. It's sort of like those old magic-eye pictures where you can stare at them for hours and not see anything but static... until that one perfect moment where you step back to the exact right spot and you SEE it. What you see when you take that step back is a picture within a picture. Something that YOU created that has meaning beyond the literal lines and marks you made. What we're creating isn't just about the things we do, it's also about the thing we DON'T do. You didn't fill in that white space inside the pencil lines and you DIDN'T spend this time worrying about work or answering emails or getting bogged down in the same things you get bogged down in ALL THE TIME. It's easy to get sucked into the minute details with this kind of stuff (and with art... and life...), but the details only tell PART of the picture. The WHOLE picture is composed of the lines, the space between the lines, the negative space INSIDE the pattern, the negative space OUTSIDE of the pattern. It's all a part of the picture. It all matters and it all has meaning.


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