Tag Archives: figure/ground relationship

Positive & Negative space

12 Nov

Today we are going to talk about positive & negative space in art, but first I’ll introduce you to the work of an artist named Maurits Cornelis Eschera01mc_escher003

He’s more well known by his initials:
MC Escher b. 1898 – d. 1972 Dutch Graphic Designer
as a child he actually *failed* second grade BUT he excelled at drawing but he was very interested in math and geometry in his art.

Here are a few famous examples of his work
a03drawing_hands a05_escher_reptiles
DRAWING HANDS:
Almost looks like a photograph! He drew in a very realistic style.
RELATIVITY: Here it looks like gravity doesn’t matter! People move in all directions
REPTILES: He’s combined 2-D flat space of the drawing with 3-D life-like space all in one image
Escher’s drawings trick your eyes and you can study them for a long time trying to puzzle out how he drew it.

Other illustrations he did are called tessellations – and you can see a piece of one in this reptile drawing. Tessellations are like tiles, fitting into one another without gaps or overlap. There’s one very common form of tessellation that you are all probably familiar with – Puzzle pieces. Each piece fits together without leaving any empty space.

Let’s look at Escher’s tessellations:
a06x13 Bird Fish
What do you see?
The images changes based on what you focus on. Here you see birds in the red areas and fish in the light areas, but they fit together seamlessly.
a08horses
And in this one you see dark horsemen facing to the right and light horsemen facing the left. Each one fits perfectly in the spaces around the others like puzzle pieces.

In these illustrations Escher is playing with the POSITIVE & NEGATIVE SPACE or figure-ground relationship in the images.

What does that mean?
(have students make a heart shape with their two hands – fingers curled, thumbs pointed down, two sides together)
Positive space is usually the main subject or shape in the image – the figure
in this example – your two hands
Negative space is the area around it – the backGROUND. Here we see a heart shape created in the negative space between our hands

Now, Escher’s work can be tricky… His tessellations use positive & negative space interchangeably so let’s look at some simpler examples of this.
This is a famous example of a figure-ground relationship called the Rubin Vase. What do you see?b01Rubin2 A vase… but look another way and see the outlines of the edges – the negative space – become the shape of two people facing each other. See how the contours of the vase shape look like faces?

(show vases of full figures)
Here is another example… a series of vase-like forms but look at the negative space around them and what do you see? Concentrate on the black shapes and you see 4 people standing.

Here are a few other fun examples of a figure/ground relationship with positive & negative space (show all and briefly discuss)

b05Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 11.59.10 PMb03feet

Now, positive and negative space doesn’t always look like tessellations or play tricks on your eyes like the vases. Often artists use the figure/ground relationship to:
suggest a story, contrast two different things, or as merely a design element.

c02x11ef8e4c211c59fa6207f8e4d1f6d287In our project today:
You will each create a series of images that show a figure/ground relationship with positive & negative space.
Like this: (show my example)
In a moment you will come get squares of colored paper – you may choose two colors.
With your scissors you will cut shapes from each of these squares
This creates a positive image (show cut square in two pieces) and a negative image, then we will glue them down on your black paper.
– positive on one side – negative on the other
– shapes are up to your imagination
When you’ve cut all your shapes and completed your grid it will look something like (docent example)

photo (23)imageDo one together
cut paper shape, glue two sides down facing each other – positive & negative
lined up straight – not wonky
should fit all 6 designs on black paper in grid formation
you may want to alternate colors

MATERIALS:
– black construction paper (9″x12″)
– 3″ squares of colorful construction paper
– glue sticks
– scissors
– pencils (for writing name and drawing shapes to cut)

Art Docent: Jen Clark
Room B-1, Grade 2, Mrs. Shimada
Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: positive & negative space, MC Escher

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