Every composition is fundamentally an arrangement of abstract shapes. To truly "compose" and take command of those shapes, we must first be able to identify them. The notan is a unique type of study that allows us to explore the essential energies of a composition through an arrangement of dark and light patterns. Notan is a Japanese word that means "light-dark harmony." In the Western tradition this is called the "dark-light composition." This strict dark-light arrangement has a unique way of revealing the underlying structure of a composition, thereby allowing us to take an active role in the manipulation of the compositional energies.
With Mitch Albala, teaching artist at Gage Academy and author of Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice (Watson-Guptill, 2009). Artists retain copyright to their respective works.