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What is Space in Art? Fundamentals Explained with Examples

Plants in vase on the table (What is Space in Art?)

What Is the Meaning of Space in Art?

What is space in art?

Space in art refers to the 3-Dimensional illusion of distance, size, and scope within a 2-Dimensional work of art. Specifically, It is the area taken up by the subject matter, as well as the area surrounding them and even the physical location surrounding an art piece.

By utilizing space in conjunction with other fundamentals of art such as perspective, placement, and shading, a work of art can trick the eye into seeing depth and dimension.

Space in art can also be used to emphasize specific subject matter or play on the positive and negative space to display a deeper symbolism or meaning. 

Space is one of the more well known but frequently misunderstood fundamentals of art – Below are the other fundamentals which any beginner artist should be aware of:

>>>>Related: Our breakdown of the specific drawing fundamentals to help you improve

Fundamentals of ArtCharacteristics
Perspectiverefers to the technique used to create the illusion of space and depth on a flat surface.
ColorThis element includes characteristics like hues, which are known as “pure” colors, the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, color temperatures like warm and cool, color value, color intensity, as well as shades, tints, and tones
Valuerefers to the tone or shade of a specific section or your drawing, the lightness or darkness or a color or tone.
Compositionis the arrangement of objects, shapes, elements in an artwork.
Linerefers to the different ways that lines can be used to create visual interest, convey meaning, and define form in a work of art.
ShapeShapes are based on two dimensions, measured by their length and width.
FormForms are based on three dimensions, namely, length, width, and height, and the well-known forms include cubes, spheres, cones, and more.
TextureTexture is sometimes described as the “surface quality” of a painting, sculpture, or any work of art, which can even imply the physical surface texture
SpaceThere are several types of space, namely, positive, negative, shallow, deep, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional, which all relate to the surrounding space in artwork
Table of Contents

    Ways To Use Space In On A 2-Dimensional Surface For A 3-Dimensional Effect

    Space can take your work from flat to three-dimensional in so many ways. And there are seven known and effective ways to use space to achieve a 3D effect which are the following:

    1. Placement: A sense of depth may be created by adequately positioning things in relation to one another by proper placement. Putting things lower on the paper puts the subject to the forefront, making it look closer to you. While placing it at the top part makes them look farther away.
    2. Perspective: Perspective in art refers to the technique used to create the illusion of space and depth on a flat surface. In this technique, objects are drawn to show how far away they are from the viewer.
    3. Size: Drawing a larger object will appear and gives the viewer the impression that it is nearer than the smaller ones.
    4. Detail: The objects that are nearer to the observer have more detail than the objects that are situated further away.
    5. Overlapping: The overlapping object gives the impression that the item that is closer or is in the front.
    6. Generating a Focal Point: By creating a focal point in your artwork, you can draw the viewer’s attention to a specific area and subject. Several techniques can do it, including the listed ways to use space here- like the placement.
    7. Positive/Negative Spaces: Creating positive and negative spaces will help the viewers identify and appreciate the main subject of your drawings (positive)  and will give you your foreground and background.

    What Are the 4 Types of Space in Art?

    There are four main types of space in art: positive and negative space, deep and shallow space, 2D and 3D space, and the close and open space. Each of these types of space plays an important role in creating a sense of depth and dimension in a work of art.

    What Is Positive Space in Art?

    Positive space in art refers to the central focus of a piece, which is often the main subject or item or the area that the subject takes up, often described as the figure in the artwork. 

    One can make positive space by using color, lines, and shapes often brought out by making it stand out from the negative space.

    Image of a woman's head

    What Is Negative Space in Art?

    In contrast to positive space, negative space refers to the area surrounding the main object or subject or the open space in your drawing, often referred to as the background. 

    However, negative space does not mean it lacks any markings or objects. It also contains patterns, textures, and other elements that support emphasizing the positive space so viewers will draw more attention to it. 

    Image of a woman's head

    What is Deep and Shallow Space in Art?

    Deep and shallow spaces in art refer to the intensity of the illusion of depth created by a two-dimensional work of art. 

    Deep space creates the illusion of great depth and space, making the artwork appear as if it extends into the distance. It displays your drawings in a 3D setting consisting of a foreground, middle ground, and background.

    On the other hand, a shallow space has a small amount of depth and appears to be flat. All compositions or areas in the drawing have less sense of distance from each other. They are more in the foreground than in the background, closely in the viewer’s eyes.

    2D vs 3D Use of Space

    A 2D vs. 3D drawing of a school building

    The use of space in the art can be categorized as either two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D). 

    2D artworks are created and produced on a flat surface. They can only achieve a sense of depth by using different lines, shapes, shading, and color. 

    In comparison, 3D refers to artwork that exists in physical space and can be viewed from multiple angles that can interact with your environment, like your sculptures and installation art.

    However, you can also create the illusion of 3D spaces on 2D flat surfaces. 3D creates deep space in art. It may be seen from various point perspectives or viewpoints, given that the proper techniques are used, such as overlapping and shading. 

    Closed vs Open Spaces

    Closed spaces are achieved when all components are enclosed inside the frame and do not extend over it. The objects are usually in the middle, and their edges are clearly defined and contained within a designated space. It is ideal for drawing your portraits or any art that you want to focus on a specific subject or setting. 

    Open spaces are defined by objects’ less defined or blurry edges. It creates a sense of openness and expansion since it is not focused on one subject and expands outside the frame. 

    How Space Is Used with Perspective

    Using space in perspective is crucial to creating the illusion of depth and distance in a two-dimensional artwork. 

    Using both positive and negative space provides you with the setting to position your subjects, allowing you to view them from various viewpoints. It will enable you to better identify and appreciate your subject from a realistic point of view by placing them in such ways and spaces.

    Space In Art Examples 

    “Paris Street; Rainy Day” by Gustave Caillebotte

    “Paris Street; Rainy Day” by Gustave Caillebotte – the space used in the art is an open space that shows no boundaries in the frame. 

    “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

    “The Starry Night” by Vincent van GoghThis painting uses open space to create a sense of depth and movement in the swirling skies. 

    “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci

    “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da VinciThis iconic portrait uses space to create a sense of intimacy and depth. The setting of the subject in a three-dimensional space, with a landscape fading into the distance, creates a mild but strong impression of depth.

    “The Great wave of Kanagawa" by Katsushika Hokusai

    “The Great wave of Kanagawa” by Katsushika HokusaiThe vast negative space created by the towering waves looming over a little boat conveys the immensity and danger of the natural world.

    “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli

    “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro BotticelliThis classical painting uses positive space to create a sense of beauty and grace in the figure of Venus in the middle of the canvas. 

    What Are the Elements of Art? Other Fundamentals Explained 

    Image of an abstract painting

    Texture in Art 

    Texture in art is the surface quality of your work. It may offer visual appeal and a feeling of depth or dimension, and it can be rough, smooth, or bright. 

    The use of multiple brushes or tools, layering of mediums, or shading can be used to imply texture.

    Value in Art 

    Value in art refers to the lightness or darkness of the colors or tones in your drawing or artwork. It is an essential aspect of visual art, especially in creating contrast and a sense of mood or atmosphere in a piece.

    Perspective in Art

    Perspective in art creates the illusion of space and depth on a flat surface. It gives your drawings the impression that a 2D picture is a 3D setting by creating a point/s in such where your lines will meet. 

    Proportion in Art

    Proportion in art refers to the relationships between the various elements of an artwork. This pertains to the sizes, shapes, and positions of the objects. 

    Accurate proportions are essential to creating balance and harmony in your work.

    Composition in Art

    The composition of an artwork is how its necessary elements are arranged. It pertains to the positioning of the items, usage of negative and positive spaces, and the overall balance. 

    Form in Art

    Form refers to an object’s three-dimensional quality, which is essential in creating a sense of depth and dimension. It is made through shape, space, volume, color, perspective, and other elements.

    Line in Art

    A line is a mark formed by a point moving along a surface. Lines may be straight or curved, thick or thin, and can vary in length and direction, all of which contribute to defining your shapes and forms.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What Is Space in Art?

    Space in art refers to the empty area that surrounds, is enclosed inside, or exists between many subjects or settings. It can be positive and negative, meaning it may contain items or remain empty. 

    It may give two-dimensional art depth, dimension, and perspective, implying movement, distance, and expressive context it creates.

    What is Space in Art? Fundamentals Explained with Examples – Conclusion

    Understanding how to use space can significantly enhance your appreciation of art. Whether using positive and negative space, deep or shallow space, or the interplay of space and perspective, artists can use space to convey meaning and emotion in their work. 

    Continue to explore and learn how space is used in art and deepen your understanding of the art we see and experience.

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