Exploring Positive and Negative Space

This project is another great way to use up some of the decorative painted papers that kids artwork produces. I’m accumulating an ever higher mountain of these – they are so beautiful I can’t bear to throw them away, so I’m always looking for ways to use them, in addition to their usual use as wrapping paper, which I don’t think I will ever need to buy again!

The papers I used for this were those which we created using bubble or foam painting. Whenever I look at these I see pictures developing from them – rather like seeing pictures in flames, and I’ve never been quite sure how to bring them out. Using them to create forests, seas and skies seemed a good way to go. The technique also has the added benefit that you get ‘2 for the price of one’.




I chose what I felt were the most evocative and appropriate sections of the paper for what I was trying to convey, cut them to size (a little smaller than the black card it was going to be applied to, so that there would be a border) and traced a simple design onto the bottom of it. I then used a scalpel to cut the shape out of the paper – where I was creating a landscape I tore the ground line rather that cut it, to get a rougher texture, making sure that I tore the area I was discarding away from myself so that I didn’t have a white line on the edge.

The paper was then glued down onto the black card so that it provided a silhouette effect created by the negative space where I had cut the paper away. I was then left with a corresponding positive shape of decorative paper, which I was able to glue straight onto another card in collage style.





As another variation on a theme, I cut out a town scene from black paper and stuck this over some decorative painted paper, in a reversal of the technique.



It works just as well with white card for creating snow scenes. I used some of the snow paper which we created last year for this.



If you want you can then add some further embellishment, (though on the whole I think less is more here and I like the simple, rather minimal effect that allows you to focus on the decorative paper). I added some acrylic jewel eyes to my birds, and drew in the legs of both the birds and the sheep. I also added a gold metal leaf sun to one of the landscapes.



This project is a great way to exercise creative skills and imagination – choosing what you want the paper to evoke, how best to exploit it, and exactly where to place the silhouette or cut paper elements all involve plenty of creative decision making, and although I didn’t do this activity with my kids,  I do think it’s a project which could be adapted for use with children either by using very simple shapes, or even by pre-cutting some black paper shapes for them to choose and apply onto the decorative paper themselves.

For another project which uses cut paper and children’s artwork, check out my Valentines card from last year.