The positives of negatives

This portrait is part of a promotional series I’m working on which recently got me re-obsessed with negative space. This was just going to be a straightforward pencil portrait of Gandhi, but as I started drawing, I remembered how difficult it is to draw glasses. They’re perfect shapes—circles, no less—which are really hard to do freehand.

Source: Wikipedia. I had to guess at some of the detail in his eyes.

I began the portrait in pencil. While the glasses came out okay, I was in hyper-obsessive mode and decided I didn’t like them. So when I brought the image into the computer, I made some perfectly round ones in Illustrator and slapped them on. This combination of flat and three-dimensional lines was very appealing, so I pushed it further by blanking out his robe. For some reason, the idea of negative space with Gandhi seemed to match. Something about nonviolent protest, the dignity and power of restraint—all these felt related. But mostly, it meant I could cover up those lop-sided glasses.

After I dropped in the portrait and the map, I felt like I needed another element, so I went with doves. I knew they would look super cheesy if I drew them, so voilá! Negative space to the rescue once more!

I found a bunch of dove images online, and then traced them in Illustrator to make these silhouettes.

Silhouettes transformed into brushes

After finding several bird images online, I traced their shapes. While I could have used these as-is, since I’d gone to the trouble of doing several, I went ahead and made some Photoshop brushes for future use. You just never know when you’ll need a flock of doves.

I love Photoshop brushes. Check out these cloud brushes. Boom! Clouds.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying the idea of quiet spaces and the implied shape of things. I love using negative space in writing to suggest oblique connections by way of imagery, or by writing dialog that reveals more about the characters by what they don’t say versus what they do. Sometimes it’s those places between things, the gaps in the conversation, that make the biggest statements.


Feedback, comments, & questions appreciated!

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