You need to start focusing on the negative! But not how you think!!! Negative shapes are our friends. In my opinion, they are much easier to see than the positive shapes. Fun to look for and with a little practice can really enhance your painting experience. I can’t emphasize enough how important negative shapes are in my own painting. For me, it’s ALWAYS easier to paint the negative than the positive. It’s just how my brain works. The positive being the shape of the dominant object itself, in this case the red stool and the negative spaces are the spaces between and around the object.

If you aren’t in the habit of seeing the negative shapes, it’s a good idea to develop this skill. Doing contour drawing is a great way to practice. Refer to the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards to get some great ideas for contour drawings.

So, how does this translate to painting? Well, I’m doing the same thing when I’m creating the shape of a foliage mass for instance. I’m using the sky to create the shape of the foliage. It’s an advantage to work this way as it doesn’t require painting product over product which is something I try to avoid. In other words, I don’t paint the sky and then the foliage as another layer of pastel over the top of the sky. Painting on a toned surface or an under-painted surface is an advantage when using this technique. In this photo, I’m creating the shape or contour of the golden tree with the surrounding or negative shapes.

Pretty fun!

With Warmest Regards,


Painting Minilessons
with Marla Baggetta

These “mini-lessons” grew out of my blog. I love sharing my experience behind the easel, so these are free. I write a new one every two or three weeks, so please feel free to share with artist friends.

​These lessons are mostly written text with graphics…short but useful tidbits from the foundations of painting that touch on subjects such as aerial perspective, simultaneous contrast or using negative spaces. I guide you through different aspects of painting and art that will get you comfortable with using pastels. You’ll gain confidence to attempt work that you might have otherwise been timid about.

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