Seeing the Negative as Positive


When we set out to sketch, we typically draw the positive shapes we see before us…leaves, stems, vase or planter. This is normal and natural and we do well to follow the contours of these things. But we can also look for, and draw, the negative shapes, the space in between all the positive shapes. In doing so, we learn more about the relationships of the positive shapes to one another, and how the in-between stuff informs the overall picture. We can even make an entire drawing of only the negative shapes, thus rendering them as the positive shapes.

Life also allows us opportunities to see negative shapes as positive. Our days are usually filled with the stuff that occupies our time: spouse, kids, work, family, friends, hobbies, etc. Every now and then something we view as negative comes along…health issues, strained relationships, loss of a job, surgery. Our tendency may be to try and skip over these, gut through them to get on the other side of living with our positive shapes. But we will miss something if don’t have eyes to peer into the picture of our lives and really study those negative spaces.

I’ve been eyeing a plant given to me back in June when I had surgery #2 in the saga of Ulcerative Colitis. As I eat breakfast and lunch at our small table, I’ve been staring at the large mass of greenery broken only by the negative shapes in between all the leaves and stems. One day recently, as I peered inside these shapes, I realized my youngest daughter was on the other side and I could see her lovely face through the foliage. Had I only looked at the plant, I would have missed the real beauty that sat just on the other side.

I’m going in this week for a third and hopefully final surgery to resolve issues that have been plaguing me since June. I so want to get it over with, be on the other side of it to heal up quickly and get back to my life. But I’m reminded that I want to view this negative shape as a positive one…to really peer into it and see what beauty lies inside for me. I know it’s there. I just have to train my eyes to see what’s in-between.

This isn’t an attempt to put a plastic smile on what will be painful, lengthy, and have enduring realities to live with. It stems from a desire to embrace all of life as a gift– something which is given to strengthen and shape me. And even something which will, at some point, catch my breath with the beauty I’ll see in the negative. Perhaps, at the end of our lives, looking back down the corridor of our days, it will be these negative shapes that are seen as the positive ones…the ones which stand out in our memories as places of deep meaning and richness.

My pen is ready and my eyes are peeled. Bring it on.

*Note: I have a few lighthearted posts ready to go out to you from the hospital and days recuperating at home. I hope you’ll return throughout this busy holiday season. I so appreciate each of my readers here on Drawn2Life!!

0 thoughts on “Seeing the Negative as Positive

  1. Kay says:

    You’re amazing Jennifer. I feel like I’ve just had coffee with you for a couple of hours. You’ve shared so much in so few words. I appreciate your sharing

  2. Sheryl says:

    That was well said. Thank you for reminder. I just fell 25 ft of stairs and have sore body and splint on drawing hand. Not as bad as surgery but frustrating.

  3. simply painting says:

    I just found your blog, and I’m amazed at how beautifully you portray life not only with painting, but with words. Praying that you will have that quick healing you desire and that you will see goodness in the seemingly negative. My mother has come to live with us with advanced dementia. I’m struggling too, to find the positive in the negative. Part of it for me is knowing that my heart reactions are coming to the surface, and they are not always pretty. So I offer them up to the Father. Hopefully I can reflect this somehow in my paintings…I have an idea in mind. It has helped me so much to see what you’ve done here. You are an amazing inspiration!

    • jenpedwards says:

      This must be a very hard season of life for you! I wish you all the blessings of our Father on you as you care for your mom! Thank you for your kind words about my art and writing on this blog!

  4. freebirdsings says:

    It’s the 16th Jennifer. I am hoping you are doing fine with recuperating and that you have come home or will in a day or two. Still praying for you. Love the view of your daughter throught the plant. Very nice story about this perspective that tends to elude me.

    • jenpedwards says:

      Hi Timaree! I am home now and doing the hard work of recuperating. Indeed it feels like hard work when pain is involved. I’m sure each week will get better and better. I hope you are enjoying the holidays with your family!!

  5. Dr Cornelius Snorter says:

    Hello Jennifer. I’ve not been around much lately – hopefully things will change sometime in 2015 🙂
    I’m so sorry to hear that you are still having problems with your illness. Are you still in hospital? I hope you are out for Christmas. I was supposed to be having my operations over Christmas but looks like that won’t happen now so hopefully we will both be home for Christmas 🙂
    Get well soon – I’ll be thinking of you and hoping this is the final operation!
    Good grief…that painting is wonderful.
    Oh…and thank you for taking a look at my drawings/blog 🙂

  6. jenpedwards says:

    So great to hear from you Stew!! Yes, I am home, in the recovery process which I find to be as hard if. It harder than the surgery itself. But it will get better! And I too am hopeful this is the last surgery needed for a very long time! I do hope you will reach a pint soon where surgeries and chemo are a thing of the past for you! And then you will be free to draw and paint more! Thanks for visiting here and commenting! -Jennifer

  7. Dr Cornelius Snorter says:

    You are right about the recovery process being hard. I suffer more from post treatment than the actual cancer (of course, I wouldn’t be here today without chemo, radiotherapy and operations).
    Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year…and keep drawing and painting 🙂

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