Introduction to Notan, the Japanese word for the interaction between dark and light. Creating a black and white collage out of a simple square, and learning about positive and negative space.
1. To learn about Notan.
2. To learn about positive and negative space.
3. To use a simple square and all the negative cuttings to create a collage, which will inspire a mask.
4. To understand about symmetry and asymmetry, and the Principle of Design, Balance.
5. To understand the Elements of Art: Space and Shape (Positive and Negative).
Click images below for full size
Good design has a balance of light and dark.
Using the Notan concept of light and dark enhances design.
Craftsmanship is essential to good design.
York State Learning Standards:
1: Students will actively engage in the processes that
constitute creation and performance in the arts and
participate in various roles in the arts.
2: Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the
materials and resources available for participation in the
arts in various roles.
3: Students will respond critically to a variety of works in
the arts, connecting the individual to other works and to
respond to other aspects of human endeavor and thought.
4: Students will develop and understanding of the personal and
cultural force that shape artistic communication and how the
arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present
How the Standards are addressed in this lesson:
1. Creation of a Notan collage.
2. Exhibit craftsmanship in cutting and gluing - awareness of Japanese culture (ideal of perfection and neatness)
3. Looking at and discussing Notan collages.
4. Understanding of Japanese Notan a guiding principle of Eastern art and design.
1. Discussion of PP of Notan examples.
2. Demo of collage creation, creation of rubric.
3. Independent work on collages – students make 2.
PP presentation to introduce the principle of Notan and the
Segment 2: Demo of collage creation, creation of rubric.
Demo collage cutting:
Fold paper in half once (either diagonal or
Cut pieces out and arrange on a larger piece of white paper – ALL PIECES MUST BE USED. Discuss ways to cut smoothly and easily.
Discuss Balance and Symmetry throughout demo.
Give out paper clips and envelopes to save pieces – no pieces are to be glued until everything is cut and arranged.
Next class, demo gluing, emphasis on NEAT.
After students have worked for a class period, develop rubric with students.
Independent Practice Cut collages.
Assessment Method: Rubric
Segment 3: Independent work on collages – students make at least two.
Independent Practice After rubric is made, class critique, then finish collage. Students make 2 collages, choose one to grade.
Assessment Method: Rubric and written Artist Statement
4: Artist Statement & grading of art.
Guided Practice Go over Artist Statement, it’s uses, format, organizer and rubric.
Independent Practice Students begin work on Statement in class, finish for homework, 2 days time.
Assessment Method: Rubric
Find examples of "Notan"
(balance of light and dark in fine art). Read the article by
Sharon Himes, "Notan: Design in Light and Dark".
Find examples of art you admire and change them to high
contrast photos for illustrative purposes to show how the
artist has balanced light and dark. Examples in the article
may not be suitable for your student population.
Have students look at and discuss the examples you present.
Challenge them to find more examples (on line or in their
text books). This extension will address National Standards
4 and 5 more in-depth.
"Notan was a term lifted from the
study of Japanese design by Arthur Dow. A book written for
art educators using Notan as a major concept was popular in
the early 1900's and influenced artists and teachers like
Georgia O'Keeffe." ~ Woody Duncan. Look for evidence of
Notan in Georgia O'Keeffe's work.
Assessment: (simple rubric - this is not the rubric Lotte used)
PROJECT: Notan Masks
(What was expected)
Showed skill with media-craftsmanship
Was organized / creative
Understands pos/neg space - design concepts
Took time to complete project, good use of class time.
Book - Principles of Pattern Design - Illustrations depict repeating patterns using these shapes: square, brick and half-drop, diamond, triangle, ogee, hexagon, scale, and circle. Eye-catching pattern samples are also included
from textiles, macrame and embroidery, wrapping paper, mosaics, painting, collage, sculpture.
Project 4 3D NOTAN MASK by John Watrous:
1. Cut a perfect square of cardboard, about 12-14" square (turn the
square like a diamond)
2. Score and fold this square from corner to corner
3. Using ideas, simplified from your work with Notan activities done
earlier, but without such tight limits, make an ATHROPOMORPHIC MASK with
some movable parts.
Below: Nolans from Santa Rosa Junior College (Instructor: John Watrous)
Note from Woody Duncan:
If I remember my "History of Art Education" correctly, Notan was featured in Art Education text books written by Wesley Dow which were studied and used by Georgia O'Keeffe in her days as an art teacher in Texas. History does repeat itself. I would also suggest that teachers interested in Notan check out Chinese paper cutting and the Polish art of Wycinanki. http://acweb.colum.edu/users/agunkel/homepage/polxmasw.html (Archive)
Notan is a Japanese word that means "lightness-darkness." It represents one of the basic principles that help compositions stick to the wall. Notan has nothing to do with local or chosen colour. It's the ability to see things in terms of black and white, and to consequently build strength in imagery. When compositions work in black and white--they work.
Whether they put a name to it or not, artists in all cultures have long recognized the value of notan. Devices have been invented to look for and find it. The "Claude glass" is a convex, black glass used to reflect a landscape in a reduced size with muted colours and less detail. The French painter Claude Lorraine (1600-1683) is thought to have invented it. While the odd one is still seen among "plein air" painters, the more common approach is to view work with half-closed eyes--or to get way back. Another system is to view art and subjects through generally blue or green camera filters or gels. But more than anything notan is a learned skill. For those of us who struggle daily at the painting game--the enemy is "wishy-washy," and the desired object is to yin and yang with the viewer's sensibilities. In the words of Junichiro Tanizaki: "Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides."
There are two types of Wotan - planned notan and developmental notan. Planned notan is often figured out in a preparatory sketch, or is "ready made" in the subject matter. Developmental notan is where you find Wotan - indeed you make Wotan - as you go along. Notan is also a matter of degree--it can be a strong, interactive pattern with negative and positive, even an eye-fooling optical illusion. In abstract work the job of finding notan can be the main joy and source of magic. In more realistic work it can be a skittish but nevertheless satisfying pattern discovered and built during the process. Tuned-in artists find themselves saying: "This is good notan." An exercise that never hurt anybody is to simply plan and calculate good notan into a work--then make sure it stays put.
PS: "Notan is a synthetic arrangement of dark and light that creates an impression of beauty, regardless of either the colors used or of the subject matter. A strong notan design is therefore the key to a strong painting. Without it, both color and line fail to reach their full impact. Many of the most powerful paintings have the simplest value structures. That is to say, they only use two, three, or four major values." (Barry John Raybould)
Esoterica: Very often the quality of a work can slip because artists simply fail to work things out in the best order. A carefully drawn and even beautifully prepared work may, for example, have poor notan. Never forget that drawing and line can be the enemies of pattern. "Think pattern first, then drawing, then color. The character of your painting is resolved in the pattern." (Edgar A. Whitney)
(c) Copyright 2004 Robert Genn. (reprinted here with permission).
National Standards Addressed in this lesson
1. Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
2. Using knowledge of structures and functions
3. Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
4. Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what
makes them effective or not effective in communicating
ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices
generalize about the effects of visual structures and
functions and reflect upon these effects in their own work
integrate visual, spatial, and temporal concepts with
content to communicate intended meaning in their artworks
know and compare the characteristics of artworks in
various eras and cultures
Students compare multiple purposes for creating works of art
Students intentionally take advantage of the qualities and
characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to
enhance communication of their experiences and ideas
Students employ organizational structures and analyze what makes
them effective or not effective in the communication of
Students analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry
select and use the qualities of structures and functions
of art to improve communication of their ideas
describe and compare a variety of individual responses to
their own artworks and to artworks from various eras and cultures
Note: National Standard 6 could be addressed if you bring in math concepts as well - and social studies (Japan)
Submitted by:Michael Gerrish UNIT: Notan - Positive/negative shape Lesson: Notan Name Design- expanding the square