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Updated by Rosalie Galvez on Dec 03, 2020
Headline for Elements Of Space In Art
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Elements Of Space In Art

One of the fundamental aspects of art is space. It concerns the distance between or the area around and within shapes, colors, forms, and lines. It includes all types of grounds such as background, middle ground, and foreground. It can be positive or negative, open or closed, two-dimensional or three-dimensional, shallow or deep.


What Is A Space

A space in a work of art plays a significant role in its success, be it positive or negative.

For a novice or an intermediate level artist, it is important to understand the concept of positive and negative space, because it would enable them to:

• Get better at designing unified concepts.

• Become successful in connecting the audience with the story using visual means.

• Get ideas about the significance of the underlying meaning of a piece of art.

According to Frank Lloyd Wright, an American architect, “space is the breath of art”. What the great artist implied was that space is one of the basic elements of art that is found in almost every piece of art ever created.

In every piece of art, there are two types of spaces that always exist. Positive space refers to the actual objects and or shapes within the picture, whereas negative space defines the space or area between or around these objects.


Positive Space

It is the main focus of the painting as in still life painting, it could be a vase of flowers, a fruit basket or a flickering candle; a shy young maiden in a portrait; a building, trees, or hills in a landscape.

In essence, positive space is the area occupied by the object that a painter wants to highlight. When masterfully tuned and contrasted with negative space, it adds depth and focus to the main object and induces interest in the viewers.


Negative Space

It is the empty area that surrounds the object of interest. It plays a key part in defining the object, gives it some room to breathe and prevent the canvas or the medium of painting to be too crowded. There is no denying that negative space hugely impacts how a painting is perceived and presented.

An astonishing thing about negative space is that you can use it to hide subtle things that can enhance the story in the positive space and make it more memorable when compared to the renditions that do not have such details.


Importance of Negative Space

Some of the points that highlight the significance of negative space are as follows:

  1. When aptly used and manipulated, it can be an effective instrument to lure the viewer in and get more attention for your piece. By striking the perfect balance between the two types of spaces, the painting could become whole and get the extra viewing time from the public.

  2. There is no denying the fact that good art engages the viewers or readers. So, by giving them space to define the painting for themselves, you include them in the art piece itself and they become more closely invested in a painting when they find hidden, subtle details that were only possible because of the masterly use of space. It makes it more intriguing and the viewer wants to know more.

  3. There is a room in the composition where eyes can rest because essentially there is nothing there, only if you look closely and come up with your own interpretation. Negative spacing is one of the most important factors that contributed to the timeless popularity if renaissance painting because there is too much to see when you stop looking.


The Uses of Space in Art

There many cases where new artists do not acknowledge the importance of space in painting or drawing, which results in the piece to be flat, crowded or the objects seem to be floating and not concrete.

Fortunately, it does not take years to use space smartly in the artwork. There are certain ways in which you can easily accomplish this feat.



This is the simplest application of space in the book. Essentially, it means that the object that is closer to the viewer in the piece will prevent the view of the object that is behind the primary object.


Placement on The Paper

There is illusionary power to space when it is used to manipulate the placement of objects in the picture. The common perception is that objects appear to be further away from the viewer when they are drawn at a higher place within the picture plane.


Direction & Perspective

The drawing technique that is employed by artists to create an illusion of space on a flat surface is called the linear perspective method.

The direction is important to set the tone as well as the suggested movement in a picture. In two-dimensional designs, there are four basic types of direction:

• Vertical

• Horizontal

• Radial

• Diagonal

Now that you have gained insights about the use of space in paintings and art pieces, you should observe the works of great artists. It has the ability to distort reality which can be observed in the works of M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali. Most importantly, space can convey any concept that the artist wants to portray by adding emotion, movement, etc.

Read more about the Element of Space