Below is an example of a recent piece called Game of Chance Part II: Bone Dance. The piece itself has three layers of painting, a carved frame, and two sections of 'Narrative Panels' (the most legible and topmost imagery).
Game of Chance Part II: Bone Dance started life as a completely different piece back in 2000 called Temple of Assimilation. It has had three different incarnations prior to what you see here. I'll throw in a couple of sketches so you can get a peek at some of the idea/image development process.
The top image is a sketch for the topmost layer of painting, and the bottom is a preliminary doodle for the narrative panel.
When I cut out a narrative panel, I found the scraps -the negative shapes, to be quite interesting in their own right. The interaction between the positive shapes and the negative shapes form a visual tension that helps fuel the piece. So I have been saving the negative shapes and reusing them on other canvases (turning them into positive shapes in the process). Below are several examples of negative shapes (scraps) from other projects that will become positive shapes on future canvases.
The positive shape for this piece originally appeared on a piece called Nursery Rhyme. For this example, the black shape is what would be called a negative shape, and the fabric-wrapped cardboard -the white shape, has now become the positive shape (the physical thing). Originally, the white part was leftover scrap, and the center shape is what you see here in Nursery Rhyme (down in the lower right).
So here are a few other examples of how the positioning of the positive shapes changes/affects the negative shapes they create.
In addition to changing the negative shapes around them, the positioning and proximity of positive shapes helps create a visual tension. In the series of images below, I simply moved two shapes closer together. During the progression you can see how their proximity changes the relationship between them. At first they have minimal interaction, and as they get closer they approach a 'sweet spot' of high tension, and as they get even closer, the tension dissipates and almost morphs into intimacy.
Too far for much interaction...
Close to the 'sweet spot'.
Too close. It has actually moved from being 'intimate' to almost suffocating.
Closer to the 'sweet spot' with the added bonus of some diagonals to create movement and tension.
When the interaction between the positive and negative shapes is really tight, you are left to scrutinize which is the positive, and which is the negative. Or to phrase it differently, are these blacks shapes on a white background, or white shapes on a black background?
If you really want to see their relationship tighten up, hold your finger up to the screen and cover up the left side of the image above (just one finger's width).
That's enough egghead art jargon for awhile. I will close with the pre-painted/pre-line work beginnings of Squishy Rumba (originally featured back in the 'Studio Mayhem!' post). The completed Squishy Rumba will debut in Merican-Tastic! this August.