In addition to Ma, Notan is another design principle to think about. Also a Japanese term, Notan refers to the interplay of dark and light. For artists it is something to bear in mind for composition and value. While considering the layout of a work, Notan is part of the decision to break up the space with interesting shapes, and to balance the darks and lights in a pleasing way - or a disturbing way, if that’s
what you’re after.
One way to check a composition is to reverse your image. The inverted values help in seeing in an abstract way if the shapes are interesting and if the darks and lights are balanced.
Metaphorically, Notan is a combination of presence and absence. The two, by nature of their dynamic opposition, create tension, and a mysterious, transcendent, ‘third space’ is evoked.
Mel Birnkrant's Cartoon Toy Collection
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