Monday, February 20, 2012

Negative Space

I am an artist.  I attended school for graphic design at the Art Institute Online. In my coursework, I learned about negative space.  Negative space, for those of you who aren't artists and don't know, is the areas where the painting isn't. It's the blank spaces that divide objects from one another.  Until I took those art classes, I never gave any consideration to negative space in my painting or drawing.  Blank spaces weren't planned, they just sort of happened.

When a child, like a toddler, is given its very first piece of paper and its very first crayon, that child scribbles like crazy, covering every square inch with color.  No attention at all is given to negative space, and thus the art work is one giant splash of color with no way of distinguishing one thing from another.  A slightly older child who has done many more drawings begins to allow some negative space into their drawings.  The cat is spaced slightly apart from the house, the girl jumping rope is slightly apart from the cat.  However, there is still this tendency to want to fill the negative space with "something" and there is a lack of balance in the amount of negative space.

An artist really begins to become an artist when they learn about negative space, about the importance of artistic areas of silence and about how to be sure that it is balanced with the objects in the painting.  Negative space begins to be appreciated.  A good artist knows how to balance the negative space.  A great artist goes beyond that, manipulating the negative space to create a mood or to draw attention to someone or something within the drawing or painting.  

On Thursday, I confronted the fact that I wasn't happy.  It wasn't any one thing that I was unhappy over, although there were certainly things I could pinpoint and could have blamed, but I knew that unhappiness didn't really originate from outside of a person.  Unhappiness usually results from a kind of ingratitude - seeing something that's supposed to be a blessing as a burden, for instance.  I began to pray, and I told God the truth. I told Him that I didn't really know what was wrong or how to fix it in my life, but that I knew something was wrong and I knew He knew what it was and He would know how to fix it.  I asked Him to show me, to make it clear to me, and to give me not only the wisdom to see where the problem was and how to fix it but the courage to do whatever was needed to fix it, to change what was broken in me.

A few hours later, I was looking at an art contest, and somehow the thought came to me that what was missing in my life was negative space.  In writing, the negative spaces are the spaces and the punctuation marks that prevent words from running into one another and separate one idea from another.  In life, the negative spaces are moments of silence and reflection, moments when we pause in our daily lives to just take a breath and be ourselves.  I realized that I was uncomfortable with silence, and because of this I was avoiding it.  My avoidance of silence was not giving my brain the time it needed to create meaning and shape thoughts, to bring out the ideas and sort through them.  I was, like the toddler, so busy filling every moment of my life with some kind of noise or movement that nothing was standing out.

Inspired, I wrote the following poem, called Negative Spaces

The negative spaces
Balance Us
Contain us
Define us
Outline Us
Shape Us
Keep us from
Being forgotten
Being overlooked
                             Getting lost in the crowd

Allow us to
     Change things
           Make a difference
                 Stand out

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