Negative spaces are the spaces between and around the subject, and the observation of those spaces makes up the second of Edwards’ five basic skills of drawing.
Edwards provides an example of work by one of their students students, showing their struggle to draw an object they know and their inability to break away from calling on symbol language, and compares it to the same subject drawn by the same student using only negative spaces, and the difference is night and day.
Since edges are shared boundaries, the edge of any object is also the edge of the negative space. By drawing the negative shape, we free ourself from what we think we know and are able to draw what we see. A particularly useful trick when drawing foreshortening.
Composition is the way components or the drawing are arranged. Key components include positive space, negative space and format (canvas size), and are arranged with the goal of unity in mind.
When starting from life, inexperienced artists often fail to grasp the boundaries of their picture and by addressing this, the most egregious flaws in composition rectify themselves.
A child has a full awareness of the canvas when they draw, says Edwards, but this trait drops off in adolescents as young artists concentrate on individual objects at the expense of the whole. The subject becomes the most important thing and the background becomes an afterthought.
“You can never have the use of the inside of a cup without the outside. The inside and the outside go together. They’re one.”Alan Watts
On sighting, Edwards says: “All proportions are found by comparing everything to the basic unit”.
The basic unit is a distance based on something within the scene – a head-height, the width of a door, or the length of a gap, for example (note the inclusion of negative space) – that everything else is measured from. If a head is one unit, a body might be seven and a half units tall.