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This well-developed sculpture diorama lesson examines positive/negative space and the works of Dale Chihuly


Art, Science  


4, 5, 6, 7, 8  

Title – Negative/Positive Space
By – Angela Baker
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Science
Grade Level – 4 – 8


  • Introduce and examine positive and negative space with the use of one, two, and three-dimensional elements.


  • The student will learn about the aspects of positive and negative space and be able to determine and recognize the differences between the two. The students will apply his/her knowledge to construct a piece of art containing negative and positive space.


  • Because this lesson focuses much attention on the art of glass blowing, the interdisciplinary aspect will involve chemistry and or scientific aspects. There are certain chemicals and heats that must be used and maintained in order to be sure that a piece of glass is completed successfully, these characteristics will be discussed prior to the art portion of the lesson.

Elements of Design:

  • The one-dimensional aspect of the lesson will emphasize line, color, and possibly texture. The two-dimensional aspect of the lesson will emphasize line, color, and texture. Finally, the three-dimensional aspect of the lesson will emphasize shape, form, space, color, and texture.

Principles of Design:

  • This lesson will utilize the use of balance, contrast, emphasis, proportion, unity, and variety.

Art History:

  • This lesson will encompass the work of Dale Chihuly; therefore, the lesson will focus on the history of Chihuly’s work. The history portion of the lesson will begin by explaining what type of mediums Chihuly uses and when he began to use glass in nature settings. In addition, the lesson will contain some background information as to why Chihuly feels so strongly about using his glasswork to enhance nature. Several examples of Chihuly’s work within nature will be given and conveyed by showing the students pictures of his work. In order to give the students a vast variety of examples, the lesson will have examples from many different nature settings (i.e. trees, water pieces, flowers, lily pads, floating bulbs, etc.). Finally, because the concept of the lesson is the use of both negative and positive space, the lesson will have a brief history of where these terms originated, and why these concepts are important in many different mediums of art.

Vocabulary: Negative Space:

      Empty or void space, space around an object or form; also called white space.

Positive space:

      Space in an artwork that is filled with something, such as lines, designs, color, or shapes.


      The quality of a distinct object or body in having an external surface or outline of specific form or figure.


      Having no depth or scope.


      Having, or seeming to have, the dimension of depth as well as width and height.

Nature setting:

    To place an item in a particular position or posture using the elements of the natural world, as mountains, trees, animals, or rivers.

Teachers Presentation Materials/Books Etc.:

  • The Essential Dale Chihuly by William Warmus.
  • Chihuly Project ; Published by Portland Press; Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
  • Icicles: The Icicle Creek Chandelier
  • Chihuly Gardens & Glass ; Published and distributed by Portland Press, Seattle.

Lesson Main Points:

  • Positive and negative space can be conveyed in many different ways. The use of three dimension combined with one dimension will help illustrate the difference between positive and negative space. The positive space must be conveyed by an object or drawing taking the forefront of an art piece. The negative space is the space around an object or form; in this particular instance the negative space is essentially the background (nature). The artist is in control of what he/she chooses to be the positive space.

Studio Production:

  • Create a diorama; three walls with a drawn background and platform, and no less than one three-dimensional object within the walls of the diorama.

Student Media Materials:

  • Equal sized pieces of cardboard or posterboard ( any sturdy material that can be drawn and colored on ) to construct the walls and platform of the diorama ( enough for each student in class to have four pieces ).
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Paint ( various colors )
  • Paint Brushes
  • Wiring for framework of the three-dimensional sculpture
  • Clear sealer to stiffen the three-dimensional sculpture
  • Papier-mâché supplies to give students several options for his/her three-dimensional sculpture
  • Tissue paper ( various colors ) to go over wire or papier-mâché sculpture
  • Construction paper ( various colors ) to be used for three-dimensional sculpture or one-dimensional background
  • Clear sealer to stiffing the three-dimensional sculpture
  • Mod Podge to be used for sealing and gluing
  • Cutouts of paper, linoleum, plastic, or a variety of other flat materials to be used for the decoupage of the three-dimensional sculpture.
  • Varnish or lacquer to apply to decoupage if the students so choose to use this technique for his/her three-dimensional objects.
  • This lesson is very open to possibilities; many other materials can be used to enhance this project.


  1. The teacher will introduce the art history (i.e. Dale Chihuly )
  2. The teacher will review the interdisciplinary aspects of the lesson (i.e. science/chemistry )
  3. The teacher will allow students to begin studio production

Critique and Aesthetic Considerations:

  • The project must contain the use of positive and negative space
  • A diorama must be constructed
  • The students project must display a nature setting and a three-dimensional “foe” glass sculpture with the use of a variety of art supplies
  • The student’s final project must display grade level quality work (i.e. demonstrates that proper time and care have been given to constructing his/her diorama ).
  • The student will present his/her project to the rest of his/her classmates, explaining what nature setting he/she has chosen and what his/her three-dimensional sculpture represents.

Project Value and Evaluation Criteria:

      The project will be worth a total of 100 point; grading will go as follows:
      1) Positive/Negative space: 45 points

      • Did the student display understanding of the topic?
      • Did the student emphasize positive space?
      • Was good balance of the background and objects displayed?

      2) Diorama: 20 points

      • Did the student follow the criteria in constructing a three-dimensional diorama – containing three walls and a platform, a drawn or colored background, and a three-dimensional sculpture somewhere within the three walls of the diorama?

      3) Nature setting/three-dimensional sculpture: 20 points

      • Did the student use a setting found somewhere in nature?
      • Did the student choose a three-dimensional sculpture which ties into the nature setting?

      4) Quality/neatness: 10 points

      • Did the students work show grade level quality?
      • Was the work neat?
      • Was time and care taken in constructing the diorama?
      • Did the student use a variety of art supplies?

    5) Presentation: 5 points

    • Did the student present his/her project?
    • Was the student clear and concise in presenting his/her material to the class?

Idaho Standards Met:

  • Content Standard #2: Understanding knowledge of stuctures and functions
    • Students employ organizational stuctures and analyze what makes them effective in the communication of ideas.
    • Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

State Standards Met:

  • Standard 1: Historical and Cultural Contexts
    • Goal 1.2: Explain the interrelationships among visual and performing art disciplines.
      • Objective 1: 4-5.VA.1.2.1: Classify the ways in which ideas and subject matter of arts discipline are related. (902.02.b1).
  • Standard 2: Critical Thinking:
    • Goal 2.1: Conduct analyses in the visual arts.
      • Objective 1: 4-5.VA.2.1.1: Identify and respond to differences between art materials, techniques, and processes. (904.01.b1).
      • Objective 2: 4-5.VA.2.1.2: Construct meaning based on elements found in work of art.
  • Standard 3: Performance:
    • Goal 3.1: Demonstrate skills essential to the visual arts.
      • Objective 1: 4-5.VA.3.1.1: Acquire skills necessary for using art techniques, media, and processes. (906.01.b1).
      • Objective 2: 4-5.VA.3.1.2: Demonstrate safe and proper use, care, and storage of media, materials, and equipment.
      • Objective 3: 4-5.VA.3.1.1: Apply the elements of color, shape, line, value, form, texture, and space in artwork.

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