The Illusion of Space in Paintings

by | Oct 19, 2011 | Blog | 4 comments

“Space…..the final frontier, where no man has gone before”. Does anyone still remember that famous opening line from Star Trek? It’s been coming to my mind lately since I will be offering a talk entitled: Transitional Space in the Creative Process.

The location venue where I will be speaking has monthly art talks, attended mostly by artists, so I am looking forward to keeping the talk open, throwing out some thoughts on the topic, sprinkling in a few new concepts, and allowing time for open forum discussion.

Here are some of my current thoughts so far on the topic:

Both “space” and “transition” are vital words for art and artists. As a painter, my work is presented in a two dimensional format of paint on canvas. Engaging a viewer by moving an image from the flat format into the experience of three dimensions is my greatest challenge. In my opinion, powerful painting expresses this experience of space, along with the potential to move the viewer’s experience from the mundane to divine. Painting then, creates the space to transition the viewer’s experience.

Space as it relates to art, can be seen metaphorically and literally; and plays an important role in art-making. From the architecture of my studio space to the objects and images positioned in my periphery, these all affect the work itself often emerging into the image like shadows. A certain mental space is required too, as I paint from both sides of my brain, alternating left- and right-brain modes with a constant flow. Space is needed to transition from everyday thinking to the inner psychological space necessary for me to do my work.

Got any thoughts on this? Then please add your comment.

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.

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  1. TJ Iams

    I am a Bend Oregon Painter and I really appreciate all of the great free tips and tricks you provide. Keep up the good work Nancy!


  2. Kerby | Brochure Printing

    Space can also be considered as the time of evaluating your strokes at every step of the whole painting process. It is a time to breath and reset your mind. It is oftentimes experienced that when you let your emotions flow freely without taking a break or space within the whole production of your painting, you will be not that satisfied of your final output.

  3. Mary Manning

    When a painting begins to flow, I notice a tension deep inside, one that creates space as it energizes me. When that delicious tension — yin-yang, positive-negative, dark-light — grows, I know the painting is unfolding as if the paints, brush, canvas and the artist are working as one. Painting and playing the flute open similar pathways to perception, and the work that emerges goes beyond linear, two-dimensional to a depth perceived in more than two dimensions.

  4. Judy Shreve

    One thing that comes to my mind when I think of 'transitional space in the creative process' is my own needed space. I find that allowing the idea for a painting mull around in my head for a while, helps my process. This 'mulling' can happen before I put any marks down or during the process of making marks. It's as if that 'space' allows my intuition to bubble-up – so I'm painting with my heart – not my head.

    When I'm looking at a painting I like there to be some mystery – so I think of that type of space as a space where I – the viewer – can interact with the piece.

    Wish I lived close enough to hear your thoughts as well as the interaction with the other artists. Great topic!


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Professional fine artist Nancy Reyner’s blog about art, painting and creativity. Her career spans over 30 years. She lives in Santa Fe in the US. Subscribe below for free tips on art and painting.

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