Black Door in center of photograph, bush in lower left corner. A diagonal shadow is cast on the adobe wall.


School and Youth

Learning Activity: Positive and Negative Space

Grade level: K-6


The composition of a work of art is determined by the use of positive and negative space. Positive space is the area that is the focus or subject of the artwork. For example, in Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ritz Tower (1928), the building itself occupies the positive space—the area of interest that draws our eyes. The negative space is the area around the building: the clouds and sky.

Materials:  Drawing paper, drawing utensils

Create your own composition using the principle of positive and negative space. Think of something you want the viewer to focus on, while also giving thought to the areas around it. In a second drawing, try drawing just the negative space and not the object.