Giorgio Morandi (Italian, Bologna 1890–1964) Usually when people draw, they draw a thing, and then that thing floats in a kind of nothing space called the “background.” But what would happen if you didn’t draw things? What would happen if instead of things you drew the space between things? What would it look like to draw the air or the blankness surrounding all the things? You might end up with something like this: The space around an object is called “negative space.” This term was popularized by Dr Betty Edward’s invaluable book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. According to Edwards, when we draw the space between things, we are drawing something that doesn’t have a name, which short circuits the language center of the brain. The language and logic center (bluntly called the left brain) labels, categorizes, and makes preconceived assumptions about what things are supposed to look like. When our dominant logic and language center is shut down, our quiet visual observer is able to operate more keenly. We become more observant, curious explorers, taking in new and interesting information. When we draw the spaces between things, we see shapes and relationships more accurately. We are able to see what’s really there. I find this naturally curious, observant, and non-judgmental head space wonderful to be in. This head space is the reason that I draw. Now what if, instead of things surrounded by nothing, the scene was one shape pushing up against another shape, like two friends sitting shoulder to shoulder. What if you drew the line of soft pressure where the two friends’ shoulders met? And…. what if instead of two shapes pushing against each other, it was one shape pushing into the air around it, and the air pushing back? It sounds absurd for physical life, a house would just fall over if it was pressing against still air, but a drawing is just graphite on paper. How would you draw still air, as it presses into a bottle, or a building, to hold it in place? In this way, instead of negative space, you can imagine that everything in your drawing or painting is holding every other thing in place. Fran O’Neill calls this “the yogurt holding the blueberry.” See how this idea that shapes are held in place by each other changes the way you look at lines and shapes within a composition. Not all shapes push back equally. Some shapes press harder than others, some feel inactive and empty. They don’t hold the other shapes as much. Take a look at these studies by Morandi, and see what you think. Did you see how shapes held space for each other? Did you see how lines became boundaries between air and object, and sometimes both air and object were equal like the yogurt holding the blueberries? What happened to the drawings where this was active? Did it hold your attention in a different way? And aren’t you hungry?