Negative Painting Floral Transformation

I am a long-time fan of negative painting, and it’s a technique that I use to rescue or enhance my paintings. One of my favorite artist instructors is Linda Kemp. Check out her use of negative painting at My favorite local instructor who teaches this technique is Maureen Brouillette. Her nationally-known father Al Brouillette wrote “The Evolving Picture: How to Manipulate Your Paints Until you Get a Painting You Like”. If you can find this book, buy it!


Recently I took an online course “Painting flowers in mixed media from imagination” from Sandrine Pellissier at and it inspired me to develop this painting. She starts her abstract design from scratch, then applies negative painting and drawing embellishment to finish the design.  For an explanation of her technique, go to

FloralTapestryprocess1Rather than start from a new abstract design, I decided to look through my extensive pile of “failed” watercolors to find a victim to experiment with her technique. It was an old flower painting that I was no longer attached to, so I decided to stick with the floral theme. The first step was to identify interesting shapes that could become flowers, leaves, a vase, or something organic. I drew my selections with a violet colored pencil, looking to create interesting shapes. The center of the flower became a shape on its own, perhaps the focal point of the painting.



The next step was the painting of the background in white (a mix of white acrylic, gesso, medium, and water). This the “negative” technique that creates the positive design. The white puts a glow back into the composition.


FloralTapestryprocess3Next I drew connecting stems to gather the shapes into a bouquet still life. For embellishment, I used purple colored pencil on the “roses” to draw a abstract contour lines. I used black crayon and green colored pencil on the leaves to draw lines. I moved traces of yellow, pink and green around the white background. I used some pink pencil in the central “mum.” I used light yellow-green acrylic to paint the implied table top and some of the leaves and organic shapes. I painted the neck of the vase and striped the body with gold acrylic ink. Then I used the gold to paint around the shapes, which had a further flattening effect on the design. Next I used black crayon on the vase stripes and signed it.

The I scanned the finished version and looked at it on the screen. I decided to paint out a leaf for better balance. So is “Floral Tapestry” finished? I’m taking it for critique.



Taking the 60th IAA Challenge!

IAA60thBRlogoI am a long-time member of Irving Art Association, which is now celebrating its 60th Anniversary with a special challenge category in the annual juried membership exhibit. The challenge entry has to relate in some way to the Irving Art Association or the 60th Anniversary. Entry deadline is May 3, 2105.


So I reviewed my old photos of IAA and selected three figures viewing paintings to incorporate into a monotype started on my Gelli Plate. I used the thinner acrylic paints from Golden (liquid and high flow) for transparency, thinned with medium. If you layer yellow, red and blue, you can almost achieve a black.

I created masks for then letters “IAA” and numbers “60” as well as the figures and rectangular painting shapes. I sequenced colors from the lightest (yellow) to the darkest (blue). Here are some illustrations of the process, which involved six layers of printing using acrylic, stencils and masks.

showing cut masks on gelli plate

showing cut masks on gelli plate

First layer of yellow - the medium picked up residual paint on the plate

First layer of yellow – the medium picked up residual paint on the plate

showing tape on the back of a mask, which were stuck to the watercolor paper

showing tape on the back of a mask, which were stuck to the watercolor paper

second layer of yellow on print

second layer of yellow on print

layer of orange (masks are still attached)

layer of orange (masks are still attached)

ultramarine layer added

magenta and blue layers added (on top of masks)

Magenta and Thalo blue layers added

magenta and blue layers added (masks removed)


This is as far as the monotype process goes. It looks like an unpromising mess, but I’ll do my best to pull interesting images out of that! The rest is alteration with colored pencil and brushed on acrylic. Sneaky negative painting techniques….

lines added to figures to start to separate them from background

lines added to figures to start to separate them from background


Transparent dark blue background layer added by painting directly to pop figures and logo. Blue and orange painted hair. Logo changed to orange.


Now comes the evaluative process…wow, I’ve got a lot going on. Somehow I decided that this would be an orange-blue complementary color combination. Unfortunately, in color field extension theory, the most pleasing combo of blue to orange is 3/4 blue, 1/4 orange (next would be the reverse). So I’ll have to make some changes — maybe I’ll paint the areas that I want to turn blue, white first, then recover them.

And where is my focal point?  Got to decide although I could contemplate going for the checkboard effect design structure first. It’s almost there.

I love these paintings where I don’t know exactly where I’m going – you can get some pleasant surprises when your paintings evolve. Or not. O well, it’s only a paint struggle, not like the major surgery I just went through.

About seven brief sessions of tweaking ...I scan and discover more is needed

About seven brief sessions of tweaking …I scan and discover more is needed

Finished? Maybe.

“The Critics (IAA 60th)” – Finished? Maybe.


This is the part where I try not to work the painting to death, but accomplish my aims. So I adjusted the orange to be a little less saturated and changed some areas to blue tones. Now there’s a lot more blue, and I’m liking it more. I’ve also added more yellow and magenta, so there’s almost a primary color effect going on. It is a little garish, but it’s happy.

I’ve stayed with the idea of the checkerboard design structure, even though the top and bottom are close to equal. And the main subject is close to the center – well, if I like it what does a design no-no matter? Tried also to improve the mini-compositions of the paintings. Contemplating simplifying even more. I have a few more days left before I have to submit the artwork for the exhibit, so things may change more.


Update: Yes, I had to meddle more with it, further define the checkerboard pattern, and repeat the chevron pattern in the mini-compositions. Plus there’s more happy blue and yellow. Stopping now, I’m telling myself. I need to work on my third entry. Not everything has to be a masterpiece, it’s really all about the process.


Finished version “The Critics (IAA 60th)”


“The Critics (IAA 60th)” didn’t win the Challenge prize, but it get 3rd place in Mixed Media at the Irving Art Association 2015 Members Juried Exhibition.

Also, I had the piece critiqued by Jane Jones, so I may follow some of her suggestions after the show is over and tone down more of the orange and intensity, going for still more blue dominance.