White Space in Brush Painting

Testing Paper Reminds Me of An Important Lesson

We found a new exciting batch of vintage mulberry paper. It should be ready for sale this Friday. To test the quality of the paper, my father did some simple paintings. I was immediately struck by this landscape painting.

I asked myself, "what makes this painting my favorite?" As I was considering this question, a memory of sitting in my father's class immediately came to mind. He was demonstrating a Camelia painting and as he was painting the leaves he said, "many times when I am painting I am not thinking about strokes, I am thinking about interesting ways to divide the white space of the paper."  

Yes! The reason why this painting captured my attention was its interesting use of white space.

This little change in mindset made a huge difference in my feeling of freedom while painting. When I was thinking about strokes, I put pressure on myself to do them perfectly. Thinking about using the strokes to divide up the white space in interesting ways made painting more fun and refocused me on a goal that seemed easily achievable.
 

Practical Tips

  • When studying compositions or lessons, pay attention to the white space in between the strokes
  • When painting, take the pressure off by thinking about using strokes to divide white space
  • After you soften or rinse your brush with water, dry the brush by stroking the brush against a paper towel
  • Once your brush is dry, reload just water only 1/3 of the way up from the tip, then load color from lightest to dark. This will allow strokes to fade and transition pleasantly into the white space. 

5 comments

Evan Yeh

Evan Yeh

Gracias Francina por tu comentario

Francina Bousan

Francina Bousan

Me encanta esta pintura de trazos libres
Espero poder probar pronto el papel.
Un afectuoso saludo.

Evan @ OAS

Evan @ OAS

Thank you Jari and Barbara for the comments! We are happy that you found the article useful. Send us pictures of your paintings reflecting this new understanding of dividing the white space! We’d love to see them!

Jari de Ham

Jari de Ham

Thank you for offering this tip! As a westerner, I tend to cover the whole paper with tint forgetting how important the white space is.

Barbara Hackworth

Barbara Hackworth

This painting has such free fresh feeling I am truly intrigued by your use of the white space. Thank you for sharing Barbara.

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