notan, part one 9.10.2020

Earlier this year I bought a book titled Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design. Notan, a Japanese term, involves the concept of dark and light; black and white; positive and negative. It’s a small book of 80 pages, but it’s jam packed with great information. As a life-long student, I was pretty excited to discover the book included exercises that I could study and practice:) Here are the first two exercises I practiced.

Exercise One was to create a design that’s asymmetrically balanced, arranging five black shapes on a white background. Then I was to look at those shapes as black holes, or as not a thing. And finally I was to see them as black rocks in water, working to balance the positive and negative space, or the black and white shapes. The rocks and water should be seen as equal entities.

Here’s my first attempt. I like the shape of the black forms, but they’re too packed together, with no room to breathe and no room for my eyes to wander around.
After reducing the size of the black shapes and moving them around a bit, I was satisfied with my final design. My eyes can move around and the white is as important as the black.
This photo isn’t a Notan exercise. These are the trimmings, and I adore these shapes. I’ve always loved the uneven line and the spiral, and these trimmings are lovely to my eyes. I’ll keep them as future design possibilities for paintings or ceramics!

Exercise Two involved negative shapes with positive reversals in an “expansion of the square.” I started out with a 6-inch black square paper and a larger white paper. When I cut a shape in the black paper and folded it out, it created the same shape as negative white space. I was to try and find balance and to maintain the order of the black square shape.

This final piece has balance and movement. The white negative spaces are shapes of their own, and play with the black positive shapes.

I’ll make another post when I work through the remaining exercises of this book.

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