P.W. Creighton

It's The Unanswered Questions That Haunt Us...

Defining the Absence

When any creative piece is crafted the artist must analyze and interpret a number of elements to bring their vision to life. Just as a painter or sculptor must consider the aspects that they must insert into their composition they must also consider how they will use what they will not include.


The Negative Space of a composition is just as integral to the piece as every brush stroke or chisel mark. The artist can use it to add depth to the composition, further define the structure of the piece and act as a transition between the elements.

As an artist sculpts their piece from the void they select the elements that will serve the piece best whether by insertion or omission. The negative space is not a simple void but strategically implemented space that can bring the composition to life. Sculptors often utilize the negative space of a piece to draw the shadows and light the piece with emotion much like a writer can wield implications through omitted events. That which is omitted can bring events, actions and even emotions for characters into sharper focus.

While the negative space defines the piece, the structure and shape of that space can be molded to guide the audience's perception. In the visual arts this can be done to define the focal point of the piece, while a literary perception on this can be called a theme. A specific attempt by the creator to shape a piece towards one singular point, one event, that the creator wishes to convey.

The most common use of negative space in any creative piece is it's use as a transitional element to prevent inconsistencies or detract from the piece. It is not only more powerful to bypass the 'mundane' parts to keep the piece cohesive but by leveraging that negative space a piece can enhance the emotional impact of what is crafted.

In writing, negative space is just as prevalent as in any other art. When characters are describing traveling to location and the next scene is the characters at that location the journey to that location is implied, it is negative space. When characters act according to their past history but do not explain it, it is implied even though it is omitted. These omissions in the writing are actually the negative space in the piece.

In any creative piece what is sculpted and what is omitted are equally important elements. While there is an extensive amount of attention that is given to what is crafted, it is imperative to understand that what is omitted is still integral to the structure of the piece and has its own impact.


How do you use the negative space? Do you arrange your piece with the impact of that space in mind?

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