Effective Design and Negative Painting: Tips from Linda Kemp

There’s a special, little-known park about 20 miles from my home, where each Spring I take a hiking trip. It’s completely quiet except for a handful of birds that sing in the distance. The forest floor is a carpet of flowers and greenery, ancient trees stand tall, a footbridge crosses the small, snaking creek that hides fossils and carries minnows, and horse hoofprints mark the path. It feels like a sacred space.

The nature-inspired watercolor paintings of Linda Kemp remind me of a small patch of a sandbar here, where I’ve sat many times. I think it’s because her paintings represent something bigger; they show a piece of a puzzle in a unique way that still captures the tranquil moments I’ve experienced. Kemp is known for using negative painting techniques, which she teaches in her newest book, Simplifying Design and Color for Artists: Positive Results Using Negative Painting Techniques.

Twist and Tangle (acrylic on panel, 8x8) by Linda Kemp

Twist and Tangle (acrylic on panel, 8×8) by Linda Kemp

Thinking in Terms of Positive and Negative
“A figure, bouquet of flowers or other objects in your painting are positive shapes,” says Kemp. “Often overlooked but of equal importance for the support of the design is the area that surrounds the objects, known as the negative space. Positive shapes and negative space share edges and link together to create the complete design. In two-dimensional work, the negative space is contained between the solid positive shapes and the edge of the paper or canvas as well as in the smaller spaces between objects. I call the trapped shapes ‘captured negatives.’ The trick is to see the negative spaces as shapes, not just as insignificant, empty holes.” The image below shows an example of positive and negative painting–what a difference! Want more? Scroll down further to read some of Kemp’s tips for using design. 

Example of positive and negative painting by Linda Kemp

Establishing Order and Unity: 4 Points to Remember (Click here to tweet these tips!)  by Linda Kemp
• The subject is what you want your painting to communicate. 
• Effective design reveals the subject matter.  Use visual design to support and deliver a clear expression of the subject matter. 
• Each element used in your painting needs to reinforce your message. 
• Always keep the subject or theme in mind while you’re painting. It may be helpful to jot your theme on a piece of paper and keep it in view as a reminder while you work. 

Be one of the first to get your hands on Simplifying Design and Color for Artists, so you can discover the tips and advice as well as the art projects that Kemp shares. Perhaps you’ll find your own inspiration the next time you’re outside, in a park or even on your sidewalk. I hope you do.

Warm regards,

Cherie Haas, online editor**Click here to subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and more!



You may also like these articles: