Interesting Use of Negative Space in Illustration


Most often white space, sometimes negative space comprises another colour such as black. In many ways, picturebooks are like film, but negative space is not an option in most kinds of films, where there has to be some kind of backdrop.

Negative space is advantageous because lack of setting means a story may not date so much. Although crisp white backdrops in picture books feel contemporary, we can find many examples which are really pretty old.

Dream boats and other stories 1920 by Dugald Stewart Walker
Dream boats and other stories 1920 by Dugald Stewart Walker
Retold by Edward Holmes Illustrated by Ronald Embleton houses
Retold by Edward Holmes Illustrated by Ronald Embleton
Hike by Pete Oswald
Eyvind Earle (American Painter 1916 – 2000)
Kiyoshi Saito (1907-1997)
AWAKENING
AWAKENING
Dorrie and the Blue Witch written and illustrated by Patricia Coombs (1964)
Nancy Ekholm Burkert, March from ‘A Child’s Calendar’ by John Updike – first published in 1965
M. Mayofis - Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Lazy Hans negative space
M. Mayofis – Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Lazy Hans
PICCOLI CONCERTI DELLA SERA (1980) Josef Palecek
PICCOLI CONCERTI DELLA SERA (1980) Josef Palecek
Fun for the Shut-in in Childcraft vol 11 by Carl Yates. First printed by Field Enterprises 1964
DIE WEISHEITEN DES HERRN APRIL (1963) Vladimir Fuka tobacco
DIE WEISHEITEN DES HERRN APRIL (1963) Vladimir Fuka tobacco
André François cover design for LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (Jan. 1966)
André François cover design for LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (Jan. 1966)
Alone Together, Toonerville Trolley (1921) Fontaine Fox
Alone Together, Toonerville Trolley (1921) Fontaine Fox
Photo Magazin No 2 1956
Photo Magazin No 2 1956
Mirko Hanák birds negative space houses
Mirko Hanák
Barbara Cooney (American, 1917-2000) 'Chanticleer and the Fox' adapted from The Canterbury Tales 1958
Barbara Cooney (American, 1917-2000) ‘Chanticleer and the Fox’ adapted from The Canterbury Tales 1958
Animals from the Bible, part 1, all Kinds of Birds and other Creatures Fritz Hug 1960 mice
Animals from the Bible, part 1, all Kinds of Birds and other Creatures Fritz Hug 1960
The Hypocritical Cat. Heath Robinson. 1937
Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) Chas. B. Slackman soft city
Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) Chas. B. Slackman soft city
ANIMALS AT HOME THE BEES (1967) Iliane Roels
ANIMALS AT HOME THE BEES (1967) Iliane Roels
A Children's Garden Of Verses,1966 , Robert Louis Stevenson,illustrated by Brian Wildsmith
A Children’s Garden Of Verses, 1966, Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Brian Wildsmith
Nicole Claveloux, Animaux étranges, 1993
Nicole Claveloux, Animaux étranges, 1993
Albert Dubout (1905-1976)
Albert Dubout (1905-1976)
Niroot Puttapipat - The Red Fairy Book white space
Niroot Puttapipat – The Red Fairy Book
Niroot Puttapipat - The Red Fairy Book
Niroot Puttapipat – The Red Fairy Book
Salvador Bartolozzi, 1923, Little Red Riding Hood
Salvador Bartolozzi, 1923, Little Red Riding Hood
The Painter by Kaho Nashiki illustrated by Iku Dekune 2014
Le peintre by Kaho Nashiki illustrated by Iku Dekune 2014. Interesting that the French edition has an entirely different character (design?) on the cover.
Kritters of the Kitchen Kingdom by Aunt Jo and Uncle George 1922 Kritterkraft Books (left hand side)
Kritters of the Kitchen Kingdom by Aunt Jo and Uncle George 1922 Kritterkraft Books (right hand side)

Interesting examples of negative space can sometimes be found on the back covers of hardbacks, under the dust jacket.

Abraham Lincoln lithographed on stone in five colors by the authors and printed by offset lithography in the USA 1939 back cover