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Karen Ray (Westfield School ~ Perry, Georgia)
Kim Daniel (Maclay School ~ Tallahassee, Florida)
Art Teachers - Art Education Blog
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Thursday, May 24, 2018
Paper Notan Japanese Balance Of Dark And Light
Notan is a Japanese word meaning the balance between dark and light. It is also an art form involving paper cutting and positive and negative shapes. The Japanese artists begin with black and white paper and cut out shapes and lines to create a unique design.
Cathy Hicks made these with our lower school art classes. I think they turned out really nice!
How do artists decide where to place elements in an artwork. How do they use light and dark tones for effect? In this lesson, explore a Japanese art concept called notan and learn how artists use it in their works.
What Is Notan?
Artists use many ideas in their work. When they create images, they often think about composition, or where to place elements on their canvas. Some artists might be inspired by an idea from Japanese art focused on elements of light and dark. It's a concept called notan.
Notan is a term that refers to the Japanese idea of balanced light and dark areas in a composition. One of the most familiar symbols illustrating this concept is the circular yin and yang form from Eastern philosophy. Perhaps you've seen it before, the round image with interconnected teardrop-like shapes, one white and one black.
Notan is the idea that the elements of dark and light are equally important and need each other to exist. You can't have negative space without positive space, and vice versa.
History and Examples of Notan
Notan is an idea that's been integral to Japanese art for centuries. You can find examples of pleasing compositions using the idea of notan in the works of many famous Japanese artists. This includes painters like Kano Sansetsu, who created an image across several large screens, called Old Plum, completed in 1646. Look carefully at the dark shapes of land and wizened tree, and you'll see how they balance with the negative space (or the light areas) around them. Sansetsu placed dark and light elements to create a pleasing harmonious composition.