It's been a while since we had a black and white issue. Haiga originated as an art of ink brush painting and monochrome has always been central to traditional haiga aesthetic, so I've always enjoyed these issues where we forego the pleasures of color and reflect on value contrasts in its absence. A fitting way to honor the winter season!
This is a full issue, even if it's quiet in our Traditional Haiga section (there is a new painting by Mary Rodning that needs a haiku, so please take a look, start thinking, and send us your entries by 28 February 2012; our full resident team will be return for the June issue with another of our signature series of traditional haiga). What we do have in this issue are four Featured Portfolios by Aubrie Cox, Merrill Gonzales, Ron C. Moss and Detelina Tiholova, an Experimental Haiga section of "Word Cloud" poems by Carol Raisfeld, and a Haiga Workshop related to this issue's theme. More than thirty poets and artists responded to our Black and White Challenge in the Contemporary Haiga section, so you'll find a lot to enjoy there, too.
Once again, the theme developed well after the initial decision to have a monochrome issue was taken. Casting about for an idea to offer in the Haiga Workshop, I remembered an exercise with black and white cut paper that I do with my classes. It's variously called "Notan" or "Expanding the Square". My students enjoy it and I love the creativity they always bring to their designs. If you paused to watch the Flash banner on the entry page to this issue, you'll have seen a digital simulation.
What exactly is "notan"? It's often said to be a Japanese word or design concept that refers to the interaction between dark and light, introduced to American art education at the end of the 19th century by Arthur Wesley Dow. Expanding the Square comes from a widely popular book by Dorr Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield, Notan: the dark-light principle of design, first published in 1968 and today available in Dover reprint.
More than that I did not know until I began to research a little deeper into the subject in preparation for the Haiga Workshop. To my surprise, I found a fascinating story that involves a major personality in Western appreciation of Japanese art in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, and even touches matters relating to the origin of haiku as we know it today. In the Workshop section you'll find instructions for making expanded squares—and some thoughts on poeming them for haiga—plus a short article on some of the things I learned about notan in my reading.
Many thanks to Mary for the painting, to Carol Raisfeld for her much appreciated help in proofreading the issue, and to all of you who continue to support Haigaonline by sending us your haiga. I love black and white, so this has been an enjoyable issue to prepare. Happy Solstice!