NOTAN: EXPANDING THE SQUARE


NOTAN: EXPANDING THE SQUARE One of my favorite ways to encourage my students to think in terms of the whole paper is this exercise: Take a square of black or white paper, cut shapes from the four sides, flip them outward, and glue the ensemble onto a background of contrasting color. The result is a "positive/negative reversal", in which the two colors interlock and take turns serving as object shape and background space. I always love the creativity my own students bring to expanding the square and have wondered if it could be used to create images for haiga. Why not? Even as practice, cut paper is kinesthetically fun, and mind opening in its interchangeability of shape and shape. You've seen a digital simulation on our Flash banner when you first entered the issue. Here are some simple directions for trying your own:

1. Supplies needed: a square of black or white paper in your choice of size (I like to work with about 5" square), a larger piece of contrasting background paper, scissors and glue stick.
2. Cut a shape from one side of the paper. It can be any shape you wish, but make sure your scissors exit the paper on the same side they entered.
3. Flip the piece outward. Repeat this process on the other three sides. Assemble the pieces on a contrasting background paper and glue them down.
4. The finished square: This one was glued down with straightforward symmetry on all four sides.


I like to give the cutout an additional sideways flip, glue the pieces elsewhere in the composition, or even discard some to leave the square incomplete. It's more conducive to the openness needed for haiga—the following example, for instance, poemed with very different haiku:

autumn deepening—
the sea
beyond the reef break

Linda Papanicolaou

the cat
rolling over and over
all paws and tail

Carol Raisfeld

HOW-TO'S AND RESOURCES

Dorr Bothwell & Marlys Mayfield, Notan: the dark-light principle of design, 1968, rpt Dover Publications

Incredible Art Department, "Notan Collages Expanding the Square"

A browser search for "notan" images will also give you not only expanded squares but also an amazing variety of art works in cut paper, pen and ink, silk screen, digital photocollage, etc. Just for fun, I've put a notan haiga using photocollage in the Black and White Challenge.

<- If you'd like to learn more about notan, click on the thumbnail.
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