View Full Version : One more Notan, "Spirit Ways" C&C wanted

09-07-2008, 12:22 PM

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the Notan-concept. In the latest WDE, one of the ref pics was of Spirit Island, in Maligne Lake:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/07-Sep-2008/117343-11613-WDE_Spirit_Island_sm.jpg Taken by Lorna Hannett, username Lorna12. Thank you Lorna!

Beautiful place, I thought. It's got *mountains*!!! (None where I live.)

I tried many crops, and finally settled on a rather tight one. I made Notans in my new Moleskine small sketchbook, with my new Tombow brush-pens. (Feel like a kid at Christmas with all the lovely new toys! :lol: )

First, here is the process, condensed into notan size:


I call my version "Spirit Ways", as I focused on the paths of light and dark. Unfortunately, the crop with the shapes I found most interesting was the one with the least colour...

I'm fairly detailed about describing the process (above and below), as I hope the notan-experts will help me correct what I'm doing wrong.

When doing the Notan (#2), I realized I wanted to connect the darks on the right. I wanted an unbroken path of darks, and also a stopper for the lines leading out (or in :wink2: ) at the right edge. In the ref, there was a nice little tree that solved the problem for me, I only had to move it a bit to the left so it and its reflection connects the rock and the larger landmass behind/above it.

After starting the actual sketch, I realized I wanted to open the path for the light, in the middle of the picture where there is a walk-way to the island (Compare no:s 4 and 5 above), so I flooded a part of the tongue of land. (Feels a bit like "playing God", to rearrange nature, He must have had fun creating the universe!)

This is only a sketch, and the format is too small for me to make the scene justice. I kind of like it, and am thinking of doing a larger real painting.

Size A4 (8x12")
Colourfix Australian Gray
Pastels: TL, U, R, Sch


C&C and advice on this sketch much appreciated! And I know I have the sameish purples in fg and in mountains. :) Will not be so in real painting.


09-07-2008, 12:35 PM
:clap: :thumbsup: Yes sir...you have gotten the idea. And your finished sketch will produce a nice painting. Its great that you have taken the time to study this, and added with your nack for color, you will have some very nice work in your future. Connecting the darks is a great way to have an underlying abstract quality to your work, and it makes a structure for your apinting to hang onto. Also helps you to keep yor value families in the correct places-----you can also design a work with the lights connecting in much the same way, a value plan is always the best way to go and you can use it to express your feelings about your subjects. It can be changed to compliment your ideas. Or in Plen-air, you can use it to add punch to your painting, and it will hold together! Also, this is a very nice painting so far!

09-07-2008, 12:55 PM
Really good exercise Charlie, I have that one marked to do, hope I have the time,lol...

09-07-2008, 01:05 PM
Hi Charlie! I will be following this thread to learn too! SO glad you are doing these because there seems to be many of us that are benefitting.. the notan process is interesting.. I have always used the "if it feels & looks right to me, method" :), not knowing the "rules" so this is all greek to me! But I do have one observation that is buggy me a little.. The tall tree on veiwers left that is closest to center appears to straight on the inside edge.. as if the mountain or water, has stopped you from taking it further into the painting...I would move that whole mass over to the left more so there would be more room for a more interesting shape of that tree..& still have pleanty of room for water & mountains, without it being centered.. (hope that makes sense).. I realize, this is not a finished work... & you may have already considered this. I think this will make a FAB painting with all you joyous colors!!

Adriana Meiss
09-07-2008, 02:01 PM
Seeing you taking the time to find better ways to compose a painting is rubbing off on me and I'm sure on many others.
Just demonstrating that one can apply the concept of notans to photographs is a valuable lesson. Today I was looking at some photos and realized I was taking more time to find connections between shapes.

What you did here is great. It'll make a nice larger painting, but I think that you'll still maintain unity and balance without the tongue of land projecting from the right.

09-07-2008, 02:09 PM
This looks excellent! Can't wait to see the larger painting!


09-07-2008, 02:50 PM
lovely Charlie, i would give a CC but hey, I don't know nutin about notan, :)

Donna T
09-07-2008, 03:42 PM
This will make a beautiful larger painting, Charlie. I love seeing your notan process and thank you for sharing it with us. Cropping that photo would drive me crazy - there are so many possibilities.


nana b
09-07-2008, 04:28 PM
Nice painting Charlie! You were right on about opening up the water way, IMO. I think you are getting the notan thingie:p .
I'm trying too and just received my Tombows yesterday. Don't you think they add a lot to the process? But...I don't have a new moleskin sketch book:crying: .

Thank you showing us!


09-07-2008, 04:43 PM
I have always used the "if it feels & looks right to me, method" :), not knowing the "rules" so this is all greek to me!

Hey Maw-t, Just singleing you out here.... I think one of the great things about the notan process, or thumbnails, etc., is that you don't need to follow rules. THis really gets very quickly to the heart of what "feels right" in a very short amount of time. And when you hit on a design that looks good, it will generally look good larger.

09-07-2008, 04:49 PM
FANTASTIC Charlie! You are using all the tools available to you, and really thinking about the process. I applaud you on this hard work! I can't wait to see the larger version, and would encourage you to bring your beautiful color sense to the table here, while keeping them in the value ranges that the notan and study are in.... trust me on this. Try not to break the value pattern too much with light colors.

You are really thinking about design, and naturally wanted to leave that opening, which was a great decision. Great job!!!

09-07-2008, 05:02 PM
Hey Maw-t, Just singleing you out here.... I think one of the great things about the notan process, or thumbnails, etc., is that you don't need to follow rules. THis really gets very quickly to the heart of what "feels right" in a very short amount of time. And when you hit on a design that looks good, it will generally look good larger.

Hi ya Kim! That is what I thought..I have already "used" parts of it a time r 2 .. mentally.... thinking about the darks connecting etc..never thought about it before... I can see how the thumbnails would simplify things so one could get on with painting instead of having to consider compostion/values so much while doing so, making mistakes & going back to fix..ugh.... I think it is great and want to learn all about it! .. I have very much to learn & appreciate all the guidance from you and others here so much! :heart:

09-07-2008, 06:34 PM
.. I have always used the "if it feels & looks right to me, method" :),

T, I too single out that sentence! Exactly and precisely my method! And I've *really* tried to learn the 14 different ways of composing...

I *think* i get it with that tree. And :lol: ... my reply is, "it was like that in the photo"... I'll consider it, I promise, would be an easy fix.

Kim, IMaybe, wow, thank a lot!! I'm relieved you confirm I'm on the right track! Might not be all the way *there*, but going "there". I *really* like simple versatile concepts that are easy to remember, and to do. Learning them might take a lot of work, and 'simple' can be very sofisticated. Often it takes time to make the ole brain think in new ways, and lot of experimenting. This method, Notan, feels natural and 'organic', if that makes sense. Instead of putting together deconstructed elements, trying to make the sum greater than the parts, these tiny Notans start with the whole gestalt, and then one does what supports the idea. It is like a little seed that in its potential contains a large tree. I *really* like it.

And I'll try to find colour in the scene. :) Will be muted, still, but not as 'monochrome' as the sketch. Unless I go wild and remove the cloud. :D

Adriana, thank you! I'm glad it rubbs off. In fact, it seems contagious, as I got it from Kim and the others. We all learn from each other.
I see what you mean about the tongue of land, and I think I will lose it, kept it in mostly because it is a famous spot and it 'ought' to be recognizable... I thought. No longer think so.

Tressa, Don, Scott, Donna T, thank you!

Nana, thanks, and yes, those brush-pens really make a difference! I tried with pastels, but they are too clumsy and bulky for the small size, and don't go over each other on plain sketching paper. The pens (and the Moleskine, and the notan-sized templates I keep in its pocket... :wink2: :smug: ) are *easy* to take with me, so I can go all Notan-crazy just about anyplace!

Time: I think I spent about 4 hours on this sketch. Playing with the photo in PS, doodling notans by hand, doing the underpainting/first layer, correcting the values of the start -- that took half the time. Two hours for painting a small sketch is rather long, but I *am* slow. But I was *free* to focus on painting, once the prep work was done. The larger painting will be realtively quick and easy to do, as most problems are solved already.

Again, thank you so much, all of you!


09-07-2008, 06:35 PM
CHarlie, really nicely done. my eye wanders thru the painting and leads me back to your beautiful mountains...

09-07-2008, 06:48 PM
Beautifully done!

09-08-2008, 06:14 AM
Jill, Linn, thank you!

Deborah Secor
09-08-2008, 09:05 AM
Charlie, I'm enjoying watching your progress so much! I agree that this painting is wonderful and hope to see you take it from here to a larger painting, too.

One thing I notice in your notan that's under-emphasized a little bit in the painting is a small medium value shape on the distant mountain range. I think it adds an interesting division of the lighter shapes above.


Very small observation, this, but I thought I'd mention it!

I'll be watching. Have fun! :thumbsup:


09-08-2008, 10:49 AM
First this is beautifully done.

2nd what is the "notan" process that is discussed? new term to me anyway.

george c martins
09-08-2008, 11:42 AM
Hi Charlie

Once more again....fantastic work and thank you very much to show your notan process...


09-08-2008, 06:30 PM
Deborah, thank you! I'm really pushing my boundaries, getting out of the comfort zone, with these Notans, so I'm thrilled with the encouragement I get from you and others who are really good at painting, and pastels. I'm taking note of your observation. I felt the mountains feel weak, as I've very seldom seen mountains, real ones, so they are not part of my artistic 'vocabulary'. I've noticed that mountains with snow on them do look *way* solid, while the white clouds around them look un-solid, and both are white... how to paint that? Another new wonderful adventure of discovery, I guess. One can never become bored with painting, as there is always more things to explore.

Ken, thank you! In this thread (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=509788&page=2), there is a very good explanation of Notan, in fact, several explanations, starting in the first post, and then from about the 18th post in the thread onwards.

George, thanks a lot!

09-08-2008, 09:13 PM
Hey Charlie, this will be a beautiful painting, the sketch is already!

09-09-2008, 11:25 PM
Charlie, great painting! You've really taken to using notons.


09-10-2008, 04:45 PM
Looks like you have the hang of it. Good going!

09-10-2008, 05:22 PM
Wow Charlie, what a neat thread. I too had no idea what notan was. I must have missed that original thread. Thanks for all of the links everybody. Notan sure seems like something that I should pursue.
Charlie, I really like your sketch. The only thing that draws my eye off is the furthest away mountain - perhaps because it is the same color purple and the shape is more rounded than a mountain at that distance. But my eyes are rather weird so I'm probably way off. I actually like the way you used the purples in the mountains and foreground. I can't wait to see your finished painting. With the way you use color, and the gorgeous sketch you already have going - its sure to be a winner.
Thanks for posting this.

09-11-2008, 02:14 PM
Thanks for the links to the Notan explanations - interesting thread... been using a similar approach (I create rough pencil design sketches before a painting ) but I didn't know that is what it was called

09-11-2008, 05:14 PM
Judy, Binkie, Sonni, Kym, Ken, thanks a lot!

Kym, I'm not sure which mountain you mean, the righmost (at the edge) or the one right next to it, supposed to be furthest away? I'm not thrilled by the one at the edge...

09-12-2008, 08:15 AM
Charlie, I meant the furthest most away one. I kind of like the one on the edge. To me, it anchors the mountains down. For some reason, my eye goes straight to the furthest away mountain, but I think that it probably shouldn't be catching my eye like that because of atmospheric perspective.
But certainly take all of that with a huge grain of salt, because I really don't know what I'm doing yet and it could very well just be my monitor calibration being off.
Actually, I just went back up thru the thread and in Deborah's black and white version, it looks just fine. So I'm guessing that I'm just seeing it incorrectly on my screen with the color. So ignore everything that I just said.:o
Anyway - beautiful painting as always!! I just love your use of color.