Negative space might sound like a science fiction phenomenon, a Doctor Who concept or something from Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy but to be totally honest it’s not.
Negative space is the concept of space surrounding an object, if you where to draw a car, then that car would be positive space but the surrounding area around it, would be negative space.
As you can see below the surrounding area, known as the negative space, still depicts the outline of the car and can be just about recognized as a car, making this an example of how negative space can be used to depict an image, that is not actually there.
The example below will help you understand this better, I am sure.
The space around an object, is important and deserves consideration, as it can be used to suggest objects, when they are not even there, saving you a lot of time because they are only used as outlines, saving you the time of rendering the detail.
MC Escher provides, probably the most celebrated examples of how negative space can be used, to great effect and below is an adaptation of his ideas, for illustrative purposes but best seen in his own work.
The image above taken from Day and Night 1938, with the original being made from a woodcut print in black and grey, printed from 2 blocks and another image Sky and Water II, which is another woodcut of the same time, both mashed together.
These are just two pieces of work from a vast collection of work by MC Escher, that convey the use of both positive and negative space, the same image in both spaces creating a clever illusion, which can be seen in many other examples like, the Chinese, Yin and Yang, which is another very popular example.
In its visual form, the Yin and Yang concept is conveyed as opposites, of equal size and proportion, where each contains some of the other, represented by the opposite neutral tones portrayed as, black and white dots in its opposite portion.
The use of negative space to convey, other double illusions, can be seen in the images below, where the use of simple outline cutouts, portray a similar image to the main figure, on the same theme of popular culture and music.
The example above takes contemporary images, to convey them in both positive and negative space, through the use of outline cutouts.
Below is a further development, using outlines as silhouettes?
When drawing an outline of something, as like, when you are constructing a drawing, what you are trying to recreate is the line, between the positive and negative space, for this reason, it is important to be able to see that line, distinguishing the two.
The point where one stops and the other begins is the outline.
The official MC Escher site: http://www.mcescher.com/ is a place to look if you would like to see, some of the very best examples of negative space illusion, as MC Escher was/is the grand master of optical illusion and negative space.