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Art Prompts: Finding the positive in the negative, inside out and more.

Artists by nature are resourceful, resilient, and responsive. We are always seeking new problems to solve, asking new questions, using whatever materials, time and space are available to create something new in the world that may set us off on an unsteady and unknown course in the search for discovery and resolution. We respond to our times and to our individual circumstances. We see things in ways that others don't and find possibilities where others see dead-ends. Those traits are especially valuable at times like this. 

Here are some new prompts to practice your skills and enjoy at home this weekend and into next week. 


Finding the Positive in the Negative

This art school staple is an exercise that trains artists to see in new ways. By allowing the beauty of negative shapes to bring the positive to the surface, unity and interconnectedness are the results. We cannot see anything in isolationevery shape is connected visually and relates to its neighboring shape, whether it be a solid object or the air between objects. Try a series of drawings that are completely about the negative shapes, and discover that relationships are more positive than isolation.Stay connected! 

What's for Dinner? 

We are all spending lots of time planning, preparing and cleaning up after meals at home these days. Our kitchens and dining tables provide wonderful sources for found still life drawings. Draw things just as they are — don't set things up intentionally. Draw the preparation process, the eating process, and even the dirty dishes in the sink process. You can even journal your way through this by recording new recipes you are trying, or new carryout dishes you are ordering to try from your favorite restaurants to help them stay afloat. There are so many wonderful restaurants in DC to support, including those of our longtime student and former board member Jackie Greenbaum — Little Coco's, Bar Charley, El Chucho, Slash Run, and Quarry House. Check for take-out options — Jackie has been so good to WSS — let's be good to her now!

Inside/Out— The Window View

We sometimes talk about the four edges of the rectangle as if they were a window to the world. How do we use the entire rectangle in ways that are compositionally sound? Where do we place active areas, quiet areas, colors, values, and shapes within that rectangle? Given that windows are really important to us right now, how can we place ourselves in different locations and distances from them to frame our views in numerous pleasing ways, keeping those compositional elements and principles that we stress in class in mind? How do we use the window frame as the edges of the rectangle, and how do we see our surroundings in new and beautiful ways? By shifting your physical location to the window, the time of day of your drawing, and the materials you use, how many different variations can you come up with? 

Mixing it up with Others — Color Mixing

At least our paints can mix and mingle with each other! If you are lucky enough to have your paints at home and a place to do this, now is a good time to hone your color mixing skills and see how far you can stretch the most limited palette. Why not try just two complementary colors and white and see how many variations you can come up with. For example, alizarin crimson and veridian or thalo green, along with white, can lead to a huge range of chromatic darks, lights, neutral colors, intense colors, and hue families. When placed in different relationships with each other the possibilities feel infinite. See how far you can push yourself!


We respond to great master paintings for so many more reasons than just the literal stories that they might tell. We respond because their underlying design moves us in ways that evoke emotions and experiences. In a playful way, take a reproduction of one of your favorite old master paintings and with found colored papers (magazines, catalogues, old drawings, etc.) transcribe the painting into an abstract work that echoes the visual sensations, basic shapes, and movements of the original painting. Be bold and simplify as much as possible.


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