Is your background crimping your success?

Perhaps your drawings just don't seem to come out as well as you envision.

Or maybe your paintings fall flat compared with the hopes you have for them.

You may be tempted to feel you just don't have enough talent for art. You may blame these "failures" on being too old or too young or too something.

Or you may feel that life has kept you away from art too long to overcome the time lost.

In truth, one reason for your dissatisfaction may be much simpler than you imagine. And more easily corrected.

I'll explain more in just a bit.

This whole question recently burst into my thoughts like an unwelcome guest. It happened as I was preparing to comment on a piece of art. 

You see I've recently become more active on

I thought it could be a good way of helping spread the word about and reach a wider audience.

(I'd really appreciate it if you'd help me spread the word as well.)

I've posted a couple pieces of my art on and gotten some very nice comments.

And I've begun to offer advice to others when I feel I can contribute something meaningful.

It was while I was preparing some comments that I noticed this problem of backgrounds.

By that I don't mean your ethnic heritage, where you grew up or the religion you practice.

I am referring to what is your background, in art often called negative space.

If you look at my two little pen and ink drawings above, it's pretty easy to pick out the star of each picture. The star of the picture is often called positive space.

The space around the star (the background) is the negative space.

The problem I noticed is that sometimes beginning artists will treat backgrounds like the Rodney Dangerfields of art.

Backgrounds often "just don't get no respect."

Through inexperience aspiring artists will sometimes handle the background as more of an afterthought.

Rather than as an important part of their picture. Which it is.

Everything within the borders of your art is important.

When you treat one part of your art as an afterthought, or no thought, you detract from the rest of it.

Crimping the success you could have.

Best Wishes,
Gary Gumble
Founder of
(Without art the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable. George Bernard Shaw)

P.S. I didn't originally do the two pen and ink drawings above for this blog post.

Last week I suddenly had an urge to pick up my Rapidograph pens again after they had gathered dust for many, many, many years. 

The drawings became a part of a multiple drawing montage for the Measure Proportion Like an Artist page of That's the page where you learn how to simplify drawing accurately with my Mastering Proportion and Learning to Draw DVD.

There are two things I would like you to notice about my pen and ink drawings.

First, while I found reference photos for both subjects, each drawing is my interpretation of that subject. I changed both the flower and the frog to what I wanted.

And second, I took pains to make the backgrounds – the negative space - in each drawing interesting.

But how and why I did what I did are subjects for another blog post.

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