Description of the Unit –
In this unit students will explore the relationship between positive and negative space via the elaboration of a Notan design using both geometric and organic shapes.
Activity statement –
Notan is a design concept of Japanese origin that plays with the relationship (what I like to call “the dance”*) between dark and light, or rather positive and negative space, and how the existence of one naturally engenders the other. Using both organic and geometric shapes cut out of a rectangle and then flipped over, students will experiment with the way shapes contribute to a dynamic relationship between positive and negative space. This unit also satisfies requirements within the California Visual Arts Standards for fourth grade, including 1.2 under Artistic Perception, “describe how negative shapes/forms and positive shapes/forms are used in a chosen work of art”; and 2.6 under Creative Expression “use the interaction between positive and negative space expressively in a work of art.”
*To illustrate the “dance” aspect of positive and negative space I like to initiate this unit with a little contact improvisation, a form of dance in which people move spontaneously in relation to one another in space. I will have a small group of students do this, and then freeze the scene so everyone can see the “sculpture” created by students’ bodies in relation to one another and to the space around them. The students enjoy this very much, and it really helps those kinesthetic learners understand what is meant by the relationship between positive and negative space.
- The concepts of positive and negative space
- How Notan design works with positive and negative space
- The difference between geometric and organic shapes
- What Notan design is
- Where Notan originated from
Be able to:
- Create their own Notan design
Choose two sheets of contrasting colored construction paper and cut out a Notan design using organic and geometric shapes.
Resources and materials –
- Exemplars of Notan designs
- 12 x 18 multicolored construction paper
- (Looking at a Notan design) What do you consider the positive space in this design? What is the negative space? Why?
- What makes a shape organic? What makes a shape geometric? How does use of color affect the design? Why?
- Understand what makes positive and negative space?
- How shapes contribute to positive and negative space?
- Recognize the difference between organic and geometric shapes?
- Create a dynamic “dance” between positive and negative shapes through their designs?
- Student questions
- Group discussions
- Oral responses to essential questions
- Elaboration and risk-taking