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The Empty Space, Womb of Shape

Marina Soria
  • 2.5 days (1st half)
  • All
  • EN

Most of the time in Western art the empty space is considered as background or blank space, something that is spared and must be filled in. Whole libraries have been written about the fear of the empty space, the white canvas, so how do we start when we have a blank page before us? How do we intervene the white space?

For Eastern art the empty space is the fourth of the principles of the Taoist Rules for Beauty. “Being and not being engender each other. We mold clay to make pottery, but it is in the empty space where the utility of the jug resides, therefore, we should take equally advantage to what it is, just as we recognize the usefulness of what it is not”. Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, XI

The Taoist painters treat the empty space as a positive matter, not as something to be filled in or to spare, but as the origin of form.

Considering these rules we will find new ways to work with space, to see the empty space! The balance between the use of positive and negative space is key to aesthetic compositions. This workshop will start from an experimental alphabet or a formal one with a personal twist and will work the space issues, trying to accomplish new compositions where space is not the blank portion of the paper.

Claude Mediavilla says in his book Calligraphy: “In Eastern compositions space is used in particularly surprising and stimulating ways. The surface is seldom fully occupied and seems to be waiting for our gaze to penetrate it and discover its myriad of possibilities. When we look more closely at the way in which surfaces are apparently left blank ...we find that the spaces are in fact far from empty, they are alive, they turn into the womb of shape, they create tension and give way to a broader world of imagination”.

Venture into the world of space and prepare to open your mind to a new way of perception!

Supply List

You will need to bring a couple of your favourite experimental alphabets you could have developed in some other workshop or a formal calligraphy with a personal twist. Remember that we will not create an alphabet but work with the space and composition issues.


  • Some of your favorite tools: ruling pen, cola pen, folded pen, Automatic pens, nibs and any tool you may have used to perform your personal alphabet.


  • Medium-sized brushes (# in between 3 and 6) and a thin one to draw contours or outline.


  • Bottle of black sumi or 2-3 single tubes of preferably dark colour gouaches or watercolours, of your choice.
  • White gouache.


  • Layout paper. Our final piece will be a sculpture book so we will need a good quality paper.
  • You have two possibilities, either:

1. Two sheets of Rives BFK or Arches Text Wove, or something like these two, under 140 lbs, or

2. Watercolour Paper Block

  • Characteristics:
  • Weight around 270 gsm (125 lbs) below 300 gsm (under 140 lbs)
  • Size, around A3 or slightly smaller (14” x 17” in or 9” x 12”)
  • Texture: cold press, medium or smooth surface.
  • Separate sheets not glued on all four sides or separate them before our class


  • One needle for a simple Japanese binding
  • Thread, matching the colour gouache you have chosen
  • Awl
  • Little hooks to hold paper in place while binding
  • A straight edge metal ruler


  • A portable light table would be very useful, if you don’t have one you could bring a portable easel with a light underneath to be able to trace in a comfortable way.
  • Pencil
  • Colour pencil matching the chosen colours
  • Eraser
  • Palette for mixing colours
  • Paper towels
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Good cutter
  • X-Acto knife
  • Glue stick
  • Felt pens for quick writing and contour delineate.
  • A selection of two short poems, haikus, quotes or even your own words will do and you may also bring your own music with headphones if you wish.

OPTIONAL (or stuff we may or may not use)...

If we have time we can make a mobile. We will need a meter long ribbon (39.3701”)

in matching colours with your palette, glue stick, cutter and a circle puncher 7,62 cm (3”)

Supply Fee $0.00