Linda Kemp – Artist (Negative Painting)

December 19, 2013 by Diane Marcotte

Over the years since I’ve been painting I have come across some excellent artists. They are not just talented in the rendering of their art but they have a gift of imparting their knowledge to others, either through the written word, i.e., their books, websites and blogs, or visually through their DVDs, workshops and online videos.

As I imagine you already know – there is more to painting than producing a technically perfect piece of art.  What emotion does the painting evoke? Does the viewer’s eye move about the painting and want to linger?  Is there a music-like rhythm to the piece?  It is to these artists that I dedicate my blog.

I recently purchased Linda Kemp’s new book “Simplifying Design & Color for Artists”.  I have long admired Linda’s work and in 2007 I was fortunate enough to take a week-end workshop with her is Mississauga, Ontario.  I became hooked on “negative painting”! Linda describes negative painting “as an intriguing, alternative approach in which the subject is established by painting around the object rather than by painting the object itself. Most painters work in the positive, typically adding one shape on top of another. If, on the other hand, you carve out your shapes, you are taking a subtractive approach: constructing in the negative. So when images such as leaves, trees, flowers or rocks appear in negative paintings they have been created by painting the spaces around and between simple, distinctive shapes (symbols) that represent these things.”

 Even though I do not paint constantly in the negative as Linda does, I am always on the lookout for negative shapes in my paintings.  Do they have a pleasant shape?  Are they too big (or too small) in relation to the positive shapes? Painting “negatively” can have a surprisingly positive effect on your art.

 In her book, Linda suggests that you “concentrate specifically on exploring color and design concepts as the objective or subject of the painting. You can still paint your favorite subjects, but they are no longer the point of issue of the painting.”  Her book has no strict rules to follow (isn’t that a relief?!) but concentrates instead on recommendations that help you think like a designer and colorist.  Linda has included numerous exercises to try and projects to paint – all with an ample supply of photos and diagrams.  In fact, I would wager there are more photos than text! 

Simplifying Design & Color for Artists

Look inside Linda’s new book at

 I also highly recommend Linda’s first book “Watercolor Painting Outside the Lines” and the companion “Painting Outside the Lines” DVD. As Linda explains – “The intent of this book is to demystify negative painting for both beginners and accomplished artists alike.  No matter what style you paint in, adding this alternative approach will allow you to see in a more focused way and thus expand your artistic repertoire.”

 Interested in knowing more about Linda and seeing some of her amazing paintings?  Check out her website.




  1. Doris says:

    Hi Diane,

    You really pique the interest of the reader.

    I loved your line “Painting “negatively” can have a surprisingly positive effect on your art”.

    I’m looking forward to your future posts.

    • Thank you Doris for taking the time to comment. We often think the word “negative” denotes something as being bad or wrong in some way. But it really just describes the opposite of “positive” and in the case of painting “negative” definitely does not mean bad. 🙂


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