Monday, January 21, 2013

NOTAN

I've been getting a lesson ready for my watercolor students on Notan, the Japanese design concept of light vs dark.  You can Google the word and find lots of information about it.  Basically, I want to have my students do this as a way to help them see their shapes and values/tones better before painting in color.  Of course, a few good value studies would do the same but you know how we often omit value studies and want to get right into painting!

Here are some steps in the process.  

Using a photo with good darks and lights, you then draw the subject, using a black marker or black ink or dark paint.  Everything comes down to 2 values at this stage - whites and blacks; there are no middle values.



(Trumpeter Swan photo by Yvonne Carter shared at WatercolorWorkshop)

You can use your photo manipulation program to intensity the darks and lights.

But it's better to do it yourself, using a dark marker or paint to create your own version of the photo in Notan.

Next, you draw or trace your photo onto your watercolor paper and, while looking at your photo and your Notan drawing/painting.  
Then paint your subject, using only one dark color.  

This one is on watercolor paper, using Sepia (Daniel Smith pigment).  I painted with a large wash brush until working on the smaller areas of the swan.  I liked the way this one turned out, very wet and juicy.

But that's not the end.  The next step is to paint this well with colors (perhaps a very limited palette).  

I did one a while back on Tyvek using a simple mix of colors to get darks, and bleeding out the medium values.  (I did not get good darks on the Tyvek and used a staining color so couldn't lift back to pure white - so I don't consider this one as successful as the one on watercolor paper.)  

I may give the students the option of painting one on Tyvek or Yupo (because you can lift out the whites if you lose them as long as you use nonstaining colors).  

But I'll ask them to do the monotone painting on watercolor paper.


Most of the time, when I am drawn to a painting, it is because of the strong values and then the colors.  If your values don't work, it doesn't matter how great your colors are.


Instead of starting over with the swan in color, I just put color over the sepia underpainting and here is the finished painting.



18 comments:

Teresa Palomar Lois said...

I'm amazed at all that beautiful granulation of the sepia around the head, beautiful

Sadami said...

Hi, Rhonda,
Thank you for sharing the helpful methods and the process. I'd review it and use it for my art work.
Kind regards, Sadami

Christiane Kingsley said...

Great process, well explained, with excellent results, Rhonda! Happy Monday!

Studio at the Farm said...

You are so completely right about values, and the fact that most of us would just rather dive right in to the painting! This was a good post, and I enjoyed it, and your sepia swan is lovely!

RH Carpenter said...

Teresa, my dear, so good to hear from you. I was going to send you a card today - then Sweetie reminded me that there is no mail service due to Martin Luther King Jr Day. Will try to get a card out to you tomorrow or Wednesday. Late late late - but better late than never, yes? I liked that granulation, too - a nice surprise.

Thanks, Sadami, Christiane and Kathryn - glad you liked it. It's often hard to make ourselves do the ground work when we just want to see color on the page :)

Vicki Greene said...

I enjoyed reading about this process and I especially like your sepia version. Very well done!

jgr said...

This is a great lesson, thanks for sharing it.

Mick Carney said...

Excellent exposition and execution. A great post.

Sharon Whitley said...

I love the sepia swan - thank you for sharing this - would love to try it myself!

CrimsonLeaves said...

You did a gorgeous job with this, Rhonda. I like the idea of painting color over the top of the sepia.

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

Great post! I like looking at notan based paintings, this one is fabulous. You keep tempting me to try some Daniel Smith watercolours I love that granulation.

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks, Vicki, Jane, Mick, Sharon and Sherry, for your comments. Glad you liked the mini lesson - try it and see what it does for you.

Thanks, Lisa. I've always loved Daniel Smith watercolors - they do a good job and I began with those so have never seen a need to change - although I do get a few Holbein or Winsor Newton when a particular workshop instructor says they like that brand of a color. So far, I still think DS is top of the line.

http://carolking.wordpress.com said...

Really interesting post. I like the sepia very much.

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks, Carol. The granulation of the Daniel Smith sepia was an added bonus to these studies :)

renate said...

Hello Rhonda:) Thank you for sharing this information. Very interesting. I love the results. The sepia is very nice and the last one with color is wonderful!

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks, Renate. Glad you like it.

Arena Shawn said...

This is so informative! Thanks for sharing -- I am now very intrigued by the concept of Notan Study and would like to try it on my next painting of more complicated subjects, such as an animal...

RH Carpenter said...

Do try it, Arena. There is a lot of info about it online - just google the word and you'll come up with plenty to keep you busy and help you do this on your own.