Understanding Space in Painting – Pictorial Space

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Space is an essential knowledge in the understanding of design. Human beings live in space but a picture comprises only of a ‘flat surface’ with no actual space. It would be foolish to disregard this ‘flat surface’ as something insignificant in the context of Art. In fact this ‘ flat surface’ can be transformed into what is known as ‘pictorial space’. Pictorial space is a virtual space created by the artist in which the viewer is able to orientate himself to the art work.

This is no different from the space that architects and designers work with. Space is the first creative act of any drawing or painting scrawled on a piece of paper. Like an architect, a painter needs to determine before hand the manner in which the space can be depicted.

The way in which space is created tells us a lot about the painter’ s style and technique. There are several ways in which pictorial space can be composed.

1) Flat v.s Deep

Flat surface works are pretty much decorative while the invention of light, shade and shadow give art a whole new dimension.

2) Overlap

Overlapping image gives us an idea of what is front and what is at the back

3) Diminishing Sizes

The contrast in size of similar object such as a rock will suggest that the smaller piece is further away from the larger one

4) Planes

The movement of planes and the relationship of one plane to another create a powerful ‘push’ or ‘pull’ effect in which depth is instantly recognized.

5) Positive and Negative space

Within a composition, an expert artist is able to plan and handle positive and negative space effectively