Magazine article Arts & Activities

Playing with Positive and Negative Space

Magazine article Arts & Activities

Playing with Positive and Negative Space

Article excerpt

As an elementary-school "teacher-on-call," I am often asked to teach art and provide my own lessons. I have found it quite useful to carry lessons with me that can be completed in one class session, require very little materials, are adaptable to a variety of grade levels and require no follow-up by the regular teacher. One such lesson that I have used frequently deals with positive and negative space, as well as introducing design strategies.

A fundamental part of art is learning to see things differently. Most students that I have taught had no idea that there was more than one kind of space. By introducing students to this concept, we teach them to begin looking at things in an alternate fashion. It is a step toward more complex ideas and also teaches them to observe the world around them in a different way.

I begin the lesson by introducing the idea of positive and negative space. We then discuss the use of variety and repetition as design strategies. Students think about how each strategy can add interest to a picture.

I then provide a choice of stencil shapes. These can be cheaply and easily made by tracing and cutting sets out of inexpensive plastic place mats. Students trace their stencils onto a piece of 8 1/2" x 11" paper. They are encouraged to position their stencil shapes in an interesting fashion.

Once the stencil shapes are complete, students choose two colors of felt pens with which to decorate. I limit the choice so students will focus on the design strategies we have talked about rather than color. …

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