Positive and Negative Perspectives

When I do monoprints, I have to think carefully and plan the negative and positive aspects of the print slowly. Negative space is still something I have trouble with. Looking at what isn’t there is a lot harder than seeing what is there.

Negative tag

The negative space of a gift-tag cutout–the part left after the tags are removed. It also looks like a box with a bow on top.

A stencil can be positive or negative–it can leave an imprint or it can create a shape through an empty space–the negative. What you see is a matter of your perspective. And for me, it can be confusing, particularly if the image itself is open to interpretation.

The positive tags are plain, blocking color and design

The positive tags are plain, blocking color and design

The positive pieces look like gift tags–all I need to do is punch a hole in them and they are ready to go. Except, of course, I want them to have color and design, so I will punch them out of painted papers.

On a different background, the negative space takes shape.

On a different background, the negative space takes shape.

But while I struggle with the visual aspects of positive and negative space, I also realize that the same is true in real life–what I think of as a negative isn’t necessarily bad or depressing. Sometimes there is a positive twist to a negative event.

Now the tags look like a children's book being held by chubby hands. Depends on your perspective.

Now the tags look like a children’s book being held by chubby hands. Depends on your perspective.

This past weekend I was scheduled to see the Sandhill crane migration and was too exhausted to drive the 10 hours to see it. I was bummed out until a storm moved through, dumping a lot of rain on the entire length of the trip–except for the elevation in which blowing snow and ice closed the interstate. It was worse at the site–fog, high winds and blowing snow blocked a lot of the visibility.

I was suddenly grateful not to be standing in a cold wind and driving snow pre-dawn. In fact, having stayed home and gotten enough sleep and a lot of backed-up work cleared off my desk seemed like a better outcome.

Maybe my next accomplishment will be getting better at understanding how to work with negative space in my monoprints.

–Quinn McDonald knows that life imitates art.