Thursday, March 10, 2016

Nik and Nora Notan

In my recent class with Roz Stendahl, she introduced us to the concept of "notan."

This is the Japanese concept of patterns of light and dark in design.

Roz recommended that we look at a book by Arthur Wesley Dow entitled Composition:  Understanding Line, Notan, and Color.  I am waiting for my copy to arrive at my local library through interlibrary loan.

In the meantime, I practiced the notion with my black cat, Hattie, and my Dutch Shepherds, Nik and Nora.

#1 I used the Pental Aquash light black brush pen on my cat, Hattie.  I wanted to try this because this pen is a light and translucent black, and so you build it up by glazing, rather like watercolor.  This was the first time I'd used the pen and I like it very much.  I wanted to work on how to capture all black (or black brindled) animals, and this pen made it easy for me to improve on capturing values and showing form.

#2.  My dogs, Nik and Nora, bored with "art time," came in to wrestle in my presence (because wrestling in human presence, even in a small office, is way more fun than doing it outside or in a bigger room...).  So I decided to do gestures of them during their fast movements.  Just fast and loose and energetic scribbling.  For this I used a Pentel color brush pen, black dye based. I noticed what I felt was a big improvement in my speed and my visual memory compared to the first gestures I did of these dogs playing a few weeks ago!  Also, I noticed I was able to employ some more patience, and they returned to various positions as they played.  This was a good loosening up for me.

#3.  Nik fell asleep, so I worked on some slower sketches, focusing on values, even though he is mostly black.  Of course, he kept moving around.  I lost the values in the lower left sketch, when I tried to get more of the varieties of black in.  Too dark overall.  I find it easier to achieve values in black by glazing with the Aquash pen, than by pulling from darks as I did here.  In the other sketches on this page, where I only colored the darkest of the black areas, the modeling is a bit better, though I don't think the sketches "read" like a black dog.  I am particularly fond of the feet on the top one and the shading on the center one on this page.  This is the same Pentel Color Brush with black dye ink.  I liked how it worked with the water brush.

#4.  I went back and looked at the gestures again and, intrigued by the shapes, thought again about the Notan idea.  Inspired by what Roz showed in the webinar about how she uses tracing paper to correct some of her drawings, I thought I could do something interesting with these gestures.  So, I turned to a new page and, using a Kuretake 33 fat soft brush pen, redrew some of the gestures inside boxes, in solid black with white highlights, so I could better see and examine the shapes and negative shapes.  That was SUPER fun!!  Since I didn't capture highlights in the gestures, I put them into these drawings both from memory, from the dog lying beside me (the light is mostly the same), and from the sketches in #3.  

All of that was super fun and full of aha moments. 
These pages truly are scribbles--fast, loose, experimental.  

They are a kind of "what if?" drawing.   And it's a drawing that helped me see more than I've ever seen before!

I noticed the delicacy of how Nora holds her front feet and the tilt of her head when she is relaxed but attentive (breakfast was occurring and she is ever hopeful).

I noticed light and dark.  Just something that basic.  Light and dark.  There it is.  Patterns everywhere for all of us to see and enjoy.  But wow, I sure don't.  But I did for the few minutes it took to capture this drawing, and it changed me day.  Heck, I'm still talking about it now, a few weeks later!

What else, I wonder, is there, everywhere, for us to notice, if only we would?

Love my scribbling practice!

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