Notan Studies

This week we are working on notan studies. My inspirations were Halloween, Vermeer, and Michael Kenna.


My first encounter with these simple, two-value studies was in Mitch Albala’s plein air landscape class where he taught us to make three or four┬áthumbnails with a sharpie in order to quickly explore compositional alternatives before starting on a painting. I find notans to be powerful images in their own right, but they are worth doing because they teach us so much. Notan studies are great for

  • Learning to simplify
  • Seeing primal shapes and masses
  • Experimenting with composition and balance
  • Designing effective support for lost edges
  • Understanding passage (one edge passing behind another)
  • Demonstrating how little information is actually necessary to convey the essence of a three-dimensional scene.
  • Using light and dark to model three-dimensional shapes
  • Learning to read subtle visual cues

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *