1. My method for laying down the foundation for a negative painting involves a lot of water.
The paper, with a clearly defined drawing (doesn't show in this photo), is wet down with a spray bottle, leaving some random areas dry. Paint is dropped and splattered on the paper, flowing in pleasing unpredictable patterns. Dense droplets of paint are spread into lightning bolt shapes by using a straw to blow them around into areas of dry paper.
The resulting swirls and starburst patterns give the painting a sense of movement.
Undersea World - watercolor demonstration of negative painting
3. The piece progresses by painting around fish that are behind the foreground fish. Each layer is darker than the last which gives the illusion of depth. Within each character, the eyes, fins and gills can be emphasized.
The end result isn't about what color the fish are. It is the visual impact of the color and value patterns, and the shapes of the fish that command attention.
2. Now comes the part that is difficult, but looks so simple. For artists like me who enjoy painting in a realistic style, I am inclined to always try to paint "the object". Painting the negative space around objects reveals their shapes in the lighter value. It requires some "reverse thinking" and is not intended to look realistic.
The fish and seahorses that are on the forward plane in front of other fish, are painted around first. I try to use paints in the same color family as the background splashes. This helps keep the colors more intense.
A negative painting technique is perfect for this whimsical and colorful underwater scene of goofy fishes and seahorses.
I got the idea for this painting when I saw fish-themed Christmas ornaments hanging on a display in a gift shop. I took photos of all the different styles. Using Photoshop, I cut out the shapes I liked, dragged them into a blank document and arranged them into this layered pattern. I used the placement of the fish to create the drawing for my painting.
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