Art and Empty Space

The Negative Expanse Series

Art on ArcheanWeb by WM House

The human mind works beyond the level of consciousness, providing a mechanism of filling gaps in our perceptions, making the pieces into a whole. The expansive use of negative space in visual art opens the door for the mind to do what it does best, and exercise its own innate creativity. Japanese ink washes are known for their use of negative space.

The image below is an example of a work by the 16th-century Japanese master Hasegawa Tōhaku. Note the delicate use of black ink washes that fade into the background mist of pale negative space.

“Pine Trees” by Hasegawa Tōhaku (Japanese, 1539–1610). The painting has been designated as National Treasure in the paintings category. (Emuseum, Public Domain,

Of course, there is nothing magic about the negative space being white or the imagery being monochrome. The artistic concept of negative space is important for any work of art. Where portions of the image fade from the viewer’s perception, art forces the human mind to derive meaning in areas where form disappears. In essence, the artist provides partial definition, letting the viewer’s imagination add its own unique overlay to the artwork. Call the art two-dimensional, if you will, but it causes the human mind to add additional dimensions to the scene it is viewing.

Divergent Arcs

Divergent Arc DV2 (Copyright Archean Enterprises, LLC 2021. All rights reserved) Artist: WM House

Divergent Arcs started as a field sketch from beside a small river in the piedmont region of the State of Virginia, United States. The overhung tree sketch was transposed onto a black-and-white watercolor with the shoreline and three stones added as diverging arcs into an open expanse on the left side of the painting. The progression of the stones into the flat, open negative space allows the viewer’s mind to relax as it transitions between form and infinity.

Computer science and technology have transformed the art world and crypto art now offers us art with no extant presence. The digital transformation from an analog version of art has become an important part of the creative process. To be clear, this process does not necessarily make the art better or worse. It simply makes it different. The viewer’s eye may discern more beauty in either the digital or the original, but this becomes a personal preference. An image of the original watercolor for this work is shown below for comparison.

Divergent Arcs – Analog Version (Copyright Archean Enterprises, LLC 2021. All rights reserved) Artist: WM House

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Road to Buddha’s Farm

Road to Buddha's Farm
Road to Buddha’s Farm by WM House (Copyright Archean Enterprises, LLC 2021. All rights reserved)

Road to Buddha’s Farm is a composite of hundreds of roads I traveled as a child in Virginia.

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Crocosmia by WM House

Crocosmia presents a slightly surrealistic view of a summer garden as a hummingbird feeds on the Crocosmia blooms. This artwork is a digital, mixed medium creation, utilizing a hazy negative space in the background.

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Lakeside – Analog (Copyright Archean Enterprises, LLC 2021. All rights reserved) Artist: WM House

Lakeside evolved form a sketch on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. The painting uses a receding shoreline to draw the users eye into the negative space.

Ice World

Ice World – Analog (Copyright Archean Enterprises, LLC 2020. All rights reserved) Artist: WM House

Ice world was created from a wintertime sketch in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The oil on canvas technique is heavier than ink washes, but the expanse of white to light gray canvas above and below the mountains uses negative space to let the viewer’s eye flow across the painting, and imagine the frozen lake.

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Mystical – DV2 (Copyright Archean Enterprises, LLC 2021. All rights reserved) Artist: WM House

Into the Mist is a composite composition from several sketches, originally produced an acrylic wash on canvas. The scene uses a floating horizon along with ample stretches of open and undefined space.

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