Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tan or Notan

After a couple of days scouting around the North Norfolk coast it was off to the Norfolk Painting School for two days of the most intense thinking and practice that I've ever had. The title of the course was 'On Location' and was to be a mixture of working both outside and in the studio.

As is usual with Martin's courses there was to be a healthy mix of theory, demonstration and practice. We began by looking at a variety of works by masters and asking ourselves how they worked as paintings. Then on to look at ways of recording for the purposes of preparation for studio painting, using sketches by people like Turner and Constable as exemplars. Here we were urged to see the difference between Mass and Line and asking ourselves where and when each technique is appropriate. The end of this session was to grasp the usefulness of the Notan as the basis of ensuring that we had an arrangement of elements that would produce a coherent composition. We all produced a series of notans in response to a picture of a cathedral depicting how we would select a method of presenting the basic elements in light and dark to make a pleasing picture. Below are a set produced by Martin, showing a range of options in terms of lighting and shadow.

Notans - Martin Kinnear

Our next task was to give some thought to rendering scenes by applying paint in a simplified way but using the same underlying principle - outline the way the final image will be presented.

The next two pictures show different approaches to another cathedral picture.

Durham - M. Kinnear

Durham - M. Carney

Martin then demonstrated how the most complex scenes could be reduced to simple working sketches, but more of this later. It was now time to head outdoors. The venue for our afternoon session was Burnham Overy Staithe, a fascinating small village on the coast with typical Norfolk creeks, rapidly changing water levels and lots of boats. A place that would test us in terms of simplifying the scene in front of us. Our object was to produce working studies for future use. The group was small, three students, and we all produced at least four oil sketches that could be used as the basis for further paintings. Interested passers-by stopped regularly to comment on the mounting body of work being produced and laid on the grass at our feet. An intense session with lots to think about and criticise.
The two panels below are indicative of the work that I did. They show a similar view but the second demonstrates a different degree of decision making in terms of how I saw potential in the scene before me. The second will be the source sketch for a studio painting, hopefully started soon. Hopefully there is a greater feeling of light in this interpretation.

Burnham Overy Staithe 1 - Oil on MDF panel 11"x 9"

Burnham Overy Staithe 2 - Oil on MDF panel 11" x 9"


michelleFRANTOM said...

I am an art teacher in Australia and a painter myself. (well I now call myself a 'limner' because I love drawing mostly and got tired of the divisions between art forms.)

I have only been following your blog for a short while but I think it is delightful. Very different to what I do but interesting...which brings me to this. I will copy and paste this into a document for teaching if that is OK with you. I will of course give full credit to the source, but I think it is a practical and useful demonstration of the importance of considering the effects of light and composition, specifically the power of certain tonal arrangements.

Anonymous said...

Mick, thanks for sharing this. I think both of these have their merits and are charming as studies in themselves. I am an advocate of doing lots of quick value studies from life (although probably not in the conventional Notan way)…I often find, though, that when I come to painting in the studio from these…. my brain just goes crazy when I start using colour and all my learning about value goes out of the window! It will be good to see how you progress with the second one into a studio painting and how you approach it. Sounds like a really good weekend.

Mick Carney said...

Michelle - Thanks for the kind words. I am flattered that you might find some of this useful in your teaching. Do so with my blessing.

Maggie - Your studies are works of art in themselves and the ones you have shown on your blog are a great example for us. I've just entered the brain scrambling process today as I attempt to translate that sketch into a studio piece. It's a struggle. It was a great weekend, no easy relaxation but non stop stimulation.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Isn't it amazing how beautiful value sketches are?

Mick Carney said...

Mary - They are incredibly informative and often turn out better than the more considered work. Thanks for dropping by.