Monday, July 16, 2012

retro- throwback: new notans

step one (top), two (middle) and three (bottom)

Notans. Most people know how important a solid design in a painting can be. You may have beautiful color and strong value decisions but if your design is weak the painting will not have a leg on which to stand. The notan shows the importance of "negative" space and it's relationship with good design. When I was in Washington this year, Richard showed his new 3 step to a notan method. If you have ever struggled making your notan actually work to help strengthen your painting this post is for you. In addition for an excellent read, please check out this post written by Richard for his Pastel Pointers blog: Value of Notan.

For this method of notan making you will need your sketch book, pencil or pen and value markers. Tombow makes good ones: N65 ( a middle value cool gray 5), N75 (a light value cool gray 3), and  N15 (a pure black.) Here is a link to Jerry's Artarama. My recent fave markers are made by Faber Castell and come in a small pack of 4 "artist pen big brushes in warm grey. I bought them at my local art store but here is a link to Daniel Smith.

The Method:
First, when making a notan, work small (1" or 2" no bigger.) Rather than getting wrapped up in the luscious drawing you are instead focused on design. Mark out your format. You may experiment with many, but once you decide, you have one small drawing inside a format.
Once you have a basic drawing you like, make that drawing 2 more times. Just look at the drawing not the scene for this step. Here you see the first drawing and the beginning of my repeated drawings.
Now you should have 3 small drawings.
step one

Proceed to the second sketch (The 3 drawings are there, waiting). Now is the time to use your markers with 3 or 4 different values to mark in the important values of the landscape.  No fussing.
step two
On the last sketch you make your true  notan. Look at your 2nd value sketch and make a third sketch that shows  a strong design using only positive and negative shape- black an white. Note the changes that I had to make in order for the design to work.

step three

Good books that include good information about notan:
Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design  by Dorr Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield
Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and Color by Arthur Wesley Dow
And of course, Richard McKinley's Pastel Pointers:Top 100 Secrets for Beautiful Paintings. If you don't have a chance to work with Richard (even if you do) get his book.
You can get all these books at Dakota Pastel.

I hope this post helps!


John O'Grady said...

Thank you Loriann, this looks like a really good system in capturing values. I have been trying to simplify in landscape work and capture the essence. work in Progress. I am going to take a good look at this.

loriann signori said...

Glad you like it John! I find it immensely helpful. Not only does it help with capturing values but it also helps you make a strong design with those values. enjoy!

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

Will be trying this approach very soon. Btw, your note gave me a chuckle.. I often wonder as I work hard if I am stumbling in the right direction.

loriann signori said...

Hi Lisa,
I believe that if you work hard you will be rewarded with the stumble that takes you down the road that amazes. Keep up the good work!!