Currently Browsing: Notan 6 articles

A Day in the Life of Norman Ackroyd

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Edo Pop at the Minneapolis Art Institute

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Notan Revisited

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Thinking about Painting Sheep

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Notan-beauty in Daily Life

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Left: Portrait of Emma, cut paper, ©1998. Using a sketch of my Alaskan Malamute bitch Emma I cut out pieces of Canson Mi Tientes paper in 3 values to construct her portrait.

Getting up from the computer yesterday after writing about notan, I started walking around the studio and house doing a variety of tasks. Suddenly it struck me there were prominent examples of notan everywhere I looked. This was because I had images I’d made of my two Alaskan Malamute bitches everywhere I looked. Most people who know me are familiar with my Daily Dots project (for what was to be the last five years of Dottie’s life I drew her daily). But before Dottie (and together with her for awhile) her Aunt Emma was the graphical beast in the house. While I never drew Emma daily she was a frequent subject of illustration.

I joke with my drawing students that if they want to have a dog for a life model a black and white Malamute is their best choice. Looking around at the art on my walls I realized that my statement is much more complex than I even intended. Beyond the ease with which one can locate points of reference on a stately and somewhat symmetrically marked Malamute there is the issue of notan-beauty. They embody it.

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Notan—What It Is and Why You Need to Know about It

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Left: Spotting Notan, a diagram from Arthur Wesley Dow's book Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and Color, ©2007 Dover Publications. Click on the image to see an enlargement.

We learn and then forget things all our lives. Sometimes we learn things and they fall from the top ten useful things we think about everyday, but somehow they still impact us. Notan is one of those things for me. I grew up in a home where a mother with an artistic bent would bring in little bits of beauty (knick knacks, paintings, ceramics) and combine them with other objects to create tableaux of beauty. Because of proximity and travel many of the items that drew my mother’s attention were Japanese. My childhood immersion has created a life-long interest in line and compositional cropping which people might dismiss as, “well that’s just Roz, she designs books after all,” (images are always being cropped for cover design effect or to make interesting chapter opening pages in textbooks). It runs deeper than that. It has to do with notan.

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