Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Notan collage

My friend Steph runs a group on Swap-Bot called "Cut & Paste"
and let me tell you, she is a bottomless pit of good ideas.

I'd never heard of the term "Notan" until she used it as a theme for a swap last month.
(and for those of you living under the rock with me, it's a "Japanese design concept involving the play and placement of light and dark as they are placed next to the other in art and imagery.")

Notan paper cut outs explore positive and negative spaces.

(borrowed images)

Deceptively simple - I started out cocky and was quickly humbled.
I ended up with two modest postcards and a desire to explore this further.

There's something about positive/negative that paralyzes my brain.  I just can't see it in my head, or figure it out without manipulating it and making mistakes, and starting over, and thinking I've got it right this time, and then realizing I've got it backwards again.  You should see me try to carve stamps.  "Wait a minute, which part do I need to cut away?  Oh *#&!  not that part."

So this was a great, if challenging, exercise for me and an example of why I keep signing up for swaps even when I swear I'm not going to anymore.  It's never about the actual swap (it really doesn't matter what I get from my partner) it's the challenge with a deadline that keeps me coming back for more.  It gets me to try things I'd never try otherwise, which ultimately help me grow as an artist.  How about you?  What do you do to push yourself?


  1. I hear you on the positive/negative thing. It is a constant struggle for me as well. Love the new word!

  2. That's it Karen----the challenge and the deadline! I swore to myself I would do more of the Notan, have I??? Not yet!

  3. Nice work, I think you have captured it well. I have trouble conceptualizing just from seeing, I need to experiment with it too! xox

  4. I made a few postcards of this for MMSA black/white swap I think though I didn't know it had a real name. It IS challenging but can be very rewarding when it works right. I have to say, it's nice to see you posting regularly again. I know we all need breaks, but you were missed!

  5. Since I am severely cut and paste and spacial relations challenged, of course I had to try this immediately. not perfect, but not bad either, felt like a kid cutting paper snowflakes!

  6. I too have a positive-negative 'blindness' - which was an interesting problem to have when I was a Fingerprint Officer at New Scotland Yard, haha!

    I have never heard of Notan, your results are very interesting (although I suspect slightly beyond me).

    I have a love/hate relationship with challenges. I LOVE that they get me motivated and arting. But then I moan because I don't have the time to do other arty stuff - so I don't take on more challenges but them don't get motivated to art enough, and just do boring house chores instead. It's a vicious circle :/


  7. You said it perfectly, Karen. It's not what I get from swaps, it's the challenge with a deadline and trying new things. And I didn't even know there was a name for my inability to cut stamps correctly the first time. See? I learned something new!

  8. Thanks for sharing. Very cool. Negative space is so important in any composition. This is a great way to become more aware of it!