Negative Painting, demonstration by Julie Crouch, November 1
by Angela Alvarenga
Local watercolorist Julie Crouch has had her paintings juried into several national and international exhibitions and she has earned top honors at the Valley Watercolor Society. Julie has served on many Watercolor society boards, including Watercolor West and National Watercolor Society, and currently teaches watercolor classes. In recent years she has been honing her “negative” painting skills which she shared with us at our November meeting.
Julie gave an intriguing and in depth demonstration on her negative painting technique. To begin, negative painting is a very methodical process because it is a backwards way of thinking. The artist is painting around the subject to bring the subject forward, rather than painting the subject directly (or positively). Julie begins her work using a black and white reference photograph to study the positive and negative shapes. It is important to understand the shapes because they will suggest the subject. She doesn’t copy the photo, but using the shapes to make a pleasing composition.
When beginning her painting, she identifies a probable center of interest and lays down a spontaneous and loose under-painting, usually using 3 colors, and leaving some whites of the paper. Once dry, she will draw in the shapes, those she wants to have the lightest values (including the center of interest area). Next she will paint a second wash of color, around the shapes she just drew. The paintings are not based on color but on shapes and values. When that layer has dried, Julie moves onto the next layer and repeats the process, drawing a few more shapes and painting around them with a bit darker value of color. She continues to draw more sections of shapes and paints a little darker with each layer. She avoids hard edges that may distract the viewer and will paint a minimum of three layers. At the end of her painting she may go into the “far” background and suggest more, small negative shapes to allow the viewer to “see” something in the background which also pushes the background deeper and pulls the subject closer.
This breath-taking demonstration was intricately executed and the finished painting of eucalyptus leaves was amazing. Negative painting is an interesting method which captivates the viewer while continuously challenging the artist in their craftsmanship and knowledge of shapes and values.