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About Notan Drawing

Notan is a Japanese word meaning dark-light. The principle of Notan is the


interaction between positive (light) and negative (dark) shape.

The idea of this interaction in Notan is embodied in the ancient Eastern


symbol of the Yin and the Yang, which consists of mirror images, one white and one
black, revolving around a point of equilibrium. Here the positive and negative areas
together make a whole created through a unity of opposites that have equal and
inseparable reality. In the Yin and the Yang symbol, as in Notan, opposites
complement, they do not conflict. Neither seeks to negate or dominate the other,
only to relate in harmony. It is the interaction of the light and the dark, therefore
that is the most essential component of Notan drawing. The Notan concept is to
develop positive white designs into black shapes and then reverse the artistic
process. Ideally, the finished artistic work should be 50% light and 50% dark
creating equilibrium and balance. The Western culture thinks in terms of opposed
dualities and attaches the moral values of good to the positive of bad to the negative.
Or we seize upon the positive as the only reality and dismiss the negative as invisible
and nonexistent.
We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that
the utility of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that
the utility of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
and it is on these spaces where there is nothing that
the utility of the house depends.
Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, we should
recognize the utility of what is not.
-Lao Tse 600 B.C.

To understand Notan, therefore, requires a special effort on our part; it


demands a totally new orientation to seeing. Nevertheless, the effort is well worth
the while if it enables us to see Notan -the basis of all good design -as it exists all
around us.
About the Series
The following pen and ink drawings were produced
in Mr. Tiner’s Art 1 program At Laguna Beach High
School. The art students developed these drawings with
a design emphasis on the interaction between positive
and negative shapes. We studied design aesthetics from
Japanese woodblock Notan studies of the eighteenth
century and 8th - 9th century Cambodian Khmer design.
The class took a nature walk around the high
school and selected plants and leaves to use in a life
drawing Study. Contrasting organic with geometric
shapes, they drew white plant designs into a Negative
black background and then reversed the tonal scheme.
The students incorporated lessons of design techniques
including static, dynamic shapes, and A-symmetry
placement of shapes. Infusing art history and design
principles together makes a great lesson in art, culture,
and design.

List of Student Artists


Aaron Fusco Mariana Mesa Acevedo
Natasha Cook Hana Link
Clara Ross Carly Savage
Kendall Cornell Katharine Barton
Sadie Drucker Zach Burkey
Melissa Lenker Thea-Marie Sauca
Lucas Lacy Celestina DeLeon
Jackson Yamasaki Katelyn Walsh
Tiffany Lupu Bryn Valaika
Sarah Sampson Katrina Carras
Peter Tiner, Teacher