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Negative painting technique for a flower still life , a step by step painting tutorial

If you like drawing and painting, this could be the technique for you as this is a way to add patterns and draw some shapes on top of a painted abstract background. Painting from imagination can be difficult to do if you start from a blank canvas, but here we are going to use an abstract background as a way to get your imagination going!


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Here are the steps you can take to paint a flower still life using a negative painting technique:

1- painting an abstract background

prepare a few solutions of fluid acrylic inks, water and gel medium

To apply the technique of negative painting, it will be easier if you  start with a visually textured background. One way to do this is to prepare a few solutions of fluid acrylic inks, water and gel medium that you will pour onto the canvas. I added water to the gel medium because I wanted a texture a bit more fluid. Adding more than half water to the mix would cause the acrylic to loose its binding properties so I recommend just adding a bit of water ( about 25%).

pour the acrylic mixes onto the canvas

Next, pour the acrylic mixes onto the canvas.

pouring 3 different colors of acrylic on the canvas

I did mix 3 colors, yellow, blue and brown. Once the colors are on the canvas, rotate the canvas in various directions and angles so the layer of acrylic is evenly distributed.


the acrylic will mix wet into wet

You can rework that layer after it is spread all over the canvas, for example here I am adding a few drops of yellow fluid acrylic as I find the background to look a bit too dark.

the acrylic poured on canvas add time to dry

Once dried, the canvas looks like this. It is fine but I am looking for a bit more texture and contrast so I will add a layer on top of that paint, using a different pouring technique.

spreading gel medium onto the canvas

This time, I am not diluting the gel medium and I am spreading it on the canvas with a painting knife.

adding drips of acrylic inks on to of the gel medium

Then I am adding drips of fluid acrylic on the medium and spread them around with a painting knife. This time I used only yellow and white acrylic.

abstract background with visual texture once dry

The canvas once dried looks like this, it is a bit more textured and has lighter colors.

2- Outlining shapes on the abstract background

Now is the fun part, try looking at the abstract patterns to see shapes that could work in a composition. Usually those shapes will look a bit “weird” or whimsical, but this is what is fun about this technique.

the shapes you find can look a bit weird or whimsical

3- painting the negative space with white acrylic paint

Use a chalk pastel to outline shapes you see on the abstract patterns, that way you can add and take off as much as you want until you are satisfied with the composition.

painting the negative space with white acrylic paint

When you are happy with the composition, start the negative painting process by keeping only the inside of the outlines shapes and covering all the rest with white acrylic paint.

4-Adding details and patterns to the flower still life

adding patterns with white sharpie marker

Once the layer of white acrylic has dried, start to draw patterns on some of the elements like the leaves.

drawing a leaf pattern of the vase

You can look at zentangle patterns to find inspiration for your designs.

glazing over flowers with acrylic ink

You can rework some areas with  a layer of  watercolor, like here where I am applying red watercolor on some of the flowers to have a bit more variation. Watercolor is nice here as you can remove it with a wet tissue if you don’t like the result.

mix an orange color from acrylic inks

You can also paint on top of the white background, like here, I am mixing an orange tone of fluid acrylic that will be used to paint the next background layer.

The background has been glazed with acrylic inks

I did paint also on top of the vase. I am letting this very fluid layer dry flat.

the painting looks like this at this stage

At this stage the painting looks like that.

4- Adding details and patterns to the flower still life

adding details with sakura pigma micron markers on canvas

You can use waterproof acid free markers, like Sakura pigma  micron markers to add designs on various places in your painting.
drawing stripes in the flower petals with marker on canvas

whimsical patterns on flowers

painting the negative space with white acrylic

For the last step, I am re-painting the background in white letting some of the red watercolor show around the edges. You could leave your background colored but I wanted a bit more contrast in that case.

mixed media flower still life painting from imagination

The painting looks like this at that stage. I now want to differentiate the vase from the rest of the flowers.

adding leaves patterns to the vase

So I am painting over it with the white acrylic I used for the background, a bit more diluted this time. I am also going over the white patterns once again as they became very faint after the white acrylic paint layer. I am adding an extra layer of designs with the red marker, on the white background this time.

drawing with a marker on canvas

Keep on adding layers of designs and painting over various areas on your painting.

layering acrylic on canvas

Stop from time to time to assess your painting and think about what you could add or modify or if you should stop.

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At that point, I feel the composition is missing something so I try a layer of my orange fluid acrylic mix on the lower part of the painting to anchor the vase.

drawing lace inspired patterns with a white oil sharpie

I am adding knitting inspired  patterns on that layer with my oil based sharpie pen.

mixed media flower still life painted from imagination from an abstract background

The finished painting:
Still Life in Red
Acrylic and mixed media on canvas




Negative painting technique for a flower still life , a step by step painting tutorial
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