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.”
Description of the Unit – Emphasizing line and pattern with Jean Dubuffet’s Hourloupe style
According to one of my favorite modern art history sites, the Art Story, “Dubuffet’s L’Hourloupe series began in 1962 and would preoccupy the artist for many decades. The inspiration came from a doodle he created while on the telephone, in which the fluid movement of line combines with limited fields of color to create movement. He believed the style evoked the manner in which objects appear in the mind,” (https://www.theartstory.org/artist/dubuffet-jean/artworks/#pnt_5).
Students love to learn about the origin of the Hourloupe series, being surprised at how much can be done with a seemingly simple doodle. They like the notion of trying to find hidden images within the doodle as well.
As students are shown ways to embellish a doodle with a variety of lines and patterns, we are given the opportunity to reinforce their understanding of repetition and pattern (having been introduced in kindergarten and practiced in 1st grade). To be able to identify and practice repetition and pattern is prescribed in most states’ standards for second grade visual arts.
As we observe Dubuffet’s Hourloupes, I call students’ attention to his minimal use of color, and have them comment on whether the colors are primary or secondary, and whether they are complementary. Later when making their own designs I have them also choose only a few colors, and have them think about whether they want the colors to be mostly warm or cool.
“Our Eyes” – Students take turns observing each other’s eyes and drawing them.
Activity statement –
This lesson invites students to truly gaze. Students will feel silly at first, sitting face-to-face just staring at one another, and there will be embarrassed giggles all around, but the idea is to prompt students to notice two elements in particular: the shapes they see within the features of the eyes, and the texture of the eyebrows.