Volume 7, August 2020
Painting Tips from the Aureolin Art Studio

In Painting, Shapes Matter
I often say that artists are shape makers, and there is a lot of truth to that. After all, we take shapes of various sizes and put them together to make an image. How well we place and paint the shapes will help determine a painting’s success.

Learn to See Shapes

 Shape is a element of design. Shapes are any forms of a mass that has heights and widths. Shapes can be angular, curved or rectangular. To have a successful painting you must get your positive and negative shapes to work well together in your painting.  
What are positive and negative shapes? A positive shape is the image that is deliberately added into a painting. Most of us pay a lot of attention to this shape but ignore or overlook the negative shapes—i.e. the shapes that are formed by the space left around the positive image.

For example, in each of these pictures, the tree is the “positive shape,” because it is the image itself. Everything around the tree (i.e. everything in the picture that is not part of the tree) is the “negative shape.”
Most people tend to concentrate on the tree without thinking about the shape around the tree. This is a mistake, as both play an important part in creating a good design and composition. There are many things you can do with the negative space to make the image more interesting and appealing.

Here are some things you can do to learn to see shapes:
  • Squint at your subject to see the shapes. Look for masses in values of dark, medium and light shades. To Learn more about values, take my free course!
  • Turn the painting upside down  and look closely at your positive and negative shapes.
  • Hold your painting up to a mirror and look at your shapes to see how they’re working together.
The Nude: Here the negative shape around the nude woman breaks up the background into a strong and interesting design and composition. This painting would have been very stark if I had simply left the negative shape white.

Using Shapes in Your Compositions
Not sure if your shapes are working in your painting? Be sure to:
  • Take time to plan your painting. Think about your positive and negative shapes. Be sure they are working together before you start painting.
  • Use a variety of sizes of shapes, from small to medium to big. This variety will add interest to your work.
  • Use hard edges, soft edges and lost edges when painting your shapes.
  • Add fun and exciting textures and colors as the last ingredients to make a strong painting.
Finally, make adjustments as needed to become the best shape maker you can be!

Ready to do some painting? Take my NEW course on Fun Easy Way to Paint a Rooster.
Enroll In Rooster Course!
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