Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Notion of "Notan"

The Big House is a plein air oil, 6x6, by Shirley Fachilla.

Back in the late 1800’s, the Impressionists discovered Japanese art. They loved it. They were captivated by the different approach to seeing that Japanese art presented. Today for me, the love affair continues.  Thanks to Dawn Whitelaw, I’ve discovered “notan.”  The Japanese notion of notan promises to be a wonderful method to navigate the difficulties of value. [For the definition of value, see Artful Definitions.]
Notan divides a painting into light and dark. Yes, only two values… what a concept!
In the West of course, paintings with only two values are few and far between. But tweak the idea a bit (allow a medium light and maybe a medium dark) and notan becomes a compass for navigating the shoals of value, especially outdoors, by limiting and coalescing.
Dawn Whitelaw introduced notan during a class for the Chestnut Group here in Nashville and gave me, along with my classmates, a marvelous tool for seeing.  She’s presenting the idea again. at workshops given by the Plein Air Painters of the Southeast.   Dawn’s a beautiful artist and a great teacher. I’m sure those lucky students will find her class as helpful as I did.   


  1. Gorgeous greens in this sumptious mansion !

  2. I never heard of notan before--you would have thought it would have come up in one the art history course I took. I'll take a look at those links. Meanwhile I love your gestural portraits in oils, a medium I've just decided to go back to and have a lot to relearn while getting over my initial shyness. Nice to have found you at Michael Perchard's site.


Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...