Notan is the coolest. Have you tried it? Have you seen it? Do you want to marry it? Cause I do.
The symmetry, the paper, the cleanness. Amazing.
Let’s get down to what Notan really is first, then I’ll show you some beautiful examples of Notan, and then my very beginner’s versions with bright, beautiful card stock.
Notan is a Japanese word that means “light-dark balance.” A notan uses an extremely limited range of values: in its most strict form, just black and white; in its more liberal form, black, white, and a mid-tone. source
Despite its graphic, simple appearance, you can obviously get wildly complicated with this art form. Here are some lovely examples I dug up for your gawking pleasure:
Notan lends itself beautifully to quilting as in this piece by Lynn Ticotsky.
This is impressive. (Original source doesn’t exist anymore.)
Now grab your paper, scissors (small pointy suckers if you’re getting complicated), or X-acto knife, and glue, and let’s paper craft.
This is the easiest, and perfect for kiddos or if you’re just starting out and want a quick way to get a feel for Notan.
Technically I suppose this one isn’t Notan since Notan has to do with the interplay of dark and light, but it’s March and I need color, so we’ll focus on the positive/negative space aspect here.
(Here I go breaking rules again like in my Zentangle project that is more like Craftwhacktangle.)
- Using 2 pieces of paper that are the same size, cut one piece of paper down to half its length and width. This smaller piece of paper is what you will cut your shapes out of. You can either draw shapes on this paper with a pencil, or freehand cut shapes. Draw lightly so you can erase later.
- Remember to start and finish each shape on the same edge of the paper. Cut each shape out.
- Glue the leftover piece down in the middle of the whole piece of paper, and glue down your pieces in mirror formation to where they were cut out. (You will either be seeing the backs of the main piece or the cut out pieces here, which is why you need to use your pencil lightly if you have drawn your shapes.)
- If you aren’t sure about the placement of a certain piece, just make sure the edge is lined up straight with where it meets the other paper. Also, I struggled with placing the small paper right in the center of the larger background paper, so you may want to lightly mark the center with pencil marks.
This time we cut our base paper into squares (8.5 x 8.5″), and then cut the smaller squares to 4.25 x 4.25″, which is still 1/4 the size of the main paper. Helloooo, fractions.
Start with the inner squares squared square-square or diagonally. (There was no good way to phrase that.)
We did both traditional black and white and color for this method. My 16 year old made the cool one on the top right.
This time we’re Notanning the paper in half, so this may look like the easiest method, but it takes a different approach, and of course uses more paper, so you end up cutting and placing more shapes.
You can actually make each method easy or hard depending on how intricate you get with your designs.
Use one piece of paper full size, and the other cut in half either way – depending on your preference.
You will be placing the smaller piece of paper all the way to one edge of the larger paper, so your design will be perfectly symmetrical on both halves of the main paper.
Your finished product will look better if you cut into a good amount of the paper, i.e. don’t just cut a few little shapes from the edges of the paper, or you’ll have large blank awkward chunks of paper hanging out, looking all dumb. See:
Draw out a few different ideas on paper first to get an idea of what you want your composition to be. Pencil or marker will help you quickly shade in the darker areas, and remember to draw the mirrored images on each side. If you make drawings approximately the same size as the paper you’re using for Notan, you can pencil transfer your sketch over, otherwise, it’s god drawing practice to re-draw your design. I also find that if I have to re-draw, each subsequent drawing gets better. Play around with cutting completely unrelated shapes out of each side of the paper, and shapes that might make sense all together once they are reassembled. Totally different approaches to each, so your brain will have to think differently in each case. When you are cutting shapes out, keep them in place where you will be gluing them – it’s easy to forget which piece goes where when you are working on an intricate design, or if pieces look similar. In fact, sometimes I draw a pencil dot on the backs of the pieces so I don’t get confused. (I get so easily confused.) When you are applying glue to your paper pieces, alternate using a few different pieces of paper as your surface. Glue inevitable gets onto the paper around the piece, and you don’t want it getting all over the fronts of your pieces.
Materials Used in This project:
If you adore colored card stock, you can also learn to draw with it over here. Yep, draw!
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