Like nearly everyone else, my mind has been distracted with the current state of affairs in our nation, indeed, in our world. But I’ve cut back listening to the endless stream of news broadcasts which has helped bring some peace to my mental world. This has allowed me to get back to my next series of paintings. The theme of the series, which I planned out late last year, is Breaking Bread. A bit ironic since we can’t go out right now, and only share meals with our own families or pets. In this case I searched through hundreds (thousands?) of my photos from the past decade or more.
The photos are taken in color but to distill them to their essence, I convert them to black and white, and then push the contrast of the black and white. You can do this in person by squinting at your subject or using the red gel trick that I have discussed before. I usually make quick NOTAN sketches when I’m out doing some plein air painting.
The whole idea of the NOTAN sketch is to find the best pattern for your subject. Definitely not meant for every style of painting but very helpful to establish the overall effect. As a rule, you will not want to have exactly the same amount of black and white areas in the NOTAN subject. Also, look for pleasing patterns. Don’t worry about details at this stage. As you can see, the NOTAN subjects that I’ve created here are about 5 x 7 inches, made with a Flair pen and a black art marker.
After I have created the NOTAN sketches, I then do a larger (18 x 24) charcoal sketch of the subject. The NOTAN study helps keep me on track for the composition, but the charcoal sketch allows me to add some middle tones. Most of the NOTAN sketches only take about five minutes or less. The charcoal sketches usually take 30 to 60 minutes. I sometimes do more charcoal sketches of details or to try different compositions.
After these steps, I may do some color sketches but I always keep referring back to these black and white pieces when I’m working on the final painting.
Here are some links to previous postings about using NOTAN sketches for your work.