Without sunshine, there is no shadow. Without sadness, happiness cannot be recognized. We live with our own shadow–the negative side of our personality, we could not choose to see the positive, to decide not to give in to fear, but be courageous instead.
The Japanese art of notan (rhymes with so-wan) uses black paper on a white background to create positive and negative spaces. But it does more than that. The figure above shows a zig-zag cut-out, and while the spaces where white meets black look like they are intact, they are not. The illusion is created by leaving the corners intact. Our eyes fill in the rest.
Each section is cut out, then turned down, edges matching. The effect is mesmerizing. The process is simple, the result is complex. Just like the decisions we make in our lives, the ones that change the shape of the future.
–-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who helps people discover their creativity and set it free to play in their lives. She also delights in seeing the invisible, visible world, where creativity holds the oracles that make our lives interesting.
Notan is a Japanese paper art that plays with light and dark. “Notan” means “light-dark harmony” in Japanese. There are guidelines, of course, and as I usually do, I stuck with them for the first go-around. After this, I may bend the strict rules a bit.
I used a square about 5 inches (13 c.) on a side. I used black art paper because construction paper is too soft and tears too easily. Canson makes a good black paper. So does Arches.
Notan 1. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.
The idea of playing with balance, with light and dark, is intriguing. We all have a dark side, which means we all have a light side, as well. Art imitates life, again.
Here is a video for complex shapes.
Here’s another one with more explanation of symmetry and positive and negative space.
I started simple, because I have some spatial relationship problems. And I like understanding where I’m going.
- Keep the cut-out portions limited to the side of the paper you are working on. Don’t go beyond the middle of the square.
- Don’t cut off the corners of the square. Because this art requires dark and light to mirror each other, your eye needs to “see” the line completed.
- You can use scissors, but a craft knife will be easier once you get better.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, a poetic medicine practitioner, and a creativity coach.