Saturday, March 1, 2014

Notan, simple as black and white.

Have you heard of Notan?
Teaching an introductory drawing class required me to reeducate myself in the basic design elements of artistic expression.  As a watercolorist, line and mark making may not take on much importance, but composition is always part of the planning stages of a successful watercolor painting.  First using a thumbnail sketch to plan value, movement and provide a center of focus, I then have a guideline to use for the final painting.  These thumbnail sketches are valuable tools for artists of all 2D mediums.
I came across a mention of Notan in looking for exercises in simplifying composition.  The Japanese term, Notan, is defined as dark-light harmony, according to Mitchell Albala, in his painting and composition workshop at  Any artwork described as having a strong or beautiful composition has as its foundation, a strong and balanced Notan.  The Notan reveals the underlying structure of a composition, the essential spirit, taking a value study to its most simplistic form, a strict black and white, dark-light arrangement. If a composition has a soul, then the Notan is the doorway to that soul.  Learning about the Notan teaches us to be better composers, to  make better choices in the preliminary stages of a work to bring greater order and power to those works.
It’s always interesting to come across a new idea in the art world, or at least new to me!  Even though  value studies are a common and necessary step in composition planning, defining the Notan takes it one step further.  Any help in creating a stronger painting is a step in the right direction.  More information about Notan can be found on Albala’s website, or at other sites about Notan.  Learn something new – it’s as simple as black and white.

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