Notan structure with ink

The notan is a Japanese term which means ‘light dark harmony’ and it is not to be mistaken for light and shadow structures. THe second one merely collecting data from the subject and it is rather a scientific approach. The first one on the other hand conveys an impression that represents beauty.

The good notan structure neglects details, simplifies and grows in power.

A notan can be 2 or 3 value composition. The 2 tone arrangements are really hard to create. Shows a compressed, also complex knowledge of the artist’s ability of seeing.
The most powerful black and white arrangements of all times the ancient symbols of human history.

The secret of these designs is to concentrate on the arrangement, not on the correctness. While you are drawing you are interpreting the subject in a very broad way. Select, reject and only keep the essentials, instead of struggling with the details.

Clear white against the black often delivers some kind of harshness.
Therefore our ink notans -shown here- are 3 value compositions. A step easier than the one mentioned above. Out of the 3 values one is the colour of the paper itself.


These 15 min ink studies were made by the students of the drawing on the right side of the brain course. The purpose of it was to loosen up a bit and find an original composition for the longer self portrait study that was delivered after this fun exercise.

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