Create a symmetrical notan design of a still life. Notan is a Japanese design concept that balances positive and negative shapes. This will be an opportunity to explore both geometric and organic shapes and utilize implied line to create visual balance.


In this video, you can see the process of a notan artwork being created.


  • A sheet of white paper (8X16)
  • A sheet black paper (8X9)
  • A colored pencil
  • A pair of scissors
  • X-acto knife or scissors
  • Glue


  • Consider the still life artwork you observed in the Art School video about shape. Sketch out an idea for your own still life. You may want to assemble objects in front of you for reference. You can include fruit, bottles, glasses, bowls, etc. Remember to include a horizon line (the line where the table meets the wall).
  • Draw your still life design on the black paper. Consider negative space, scale, shape, and balance. Make sure to alternate black and white to maintain detail. Lines must start and end on the same edge of the paper. Remember the image will be mirrored, so draw only half of the object you want to have in the center of the composition. Cut only from the right and left sides to create a horizontal design.
  • Cut out all the shapes you drew one at a time, gluing them on the white sheet of paper alongside of the negative shape.

Black paper with shapes removed (left). White paper with black shapes glued in place (right).

  • To place pieces accurately, you can trace the negative spaces from the cut outs onto the white paper. Remember that it should be in reverse (drawing-side down) when layering the black side onto the white paper.
  • Glue pieces as you go.


  • What did you find yourself gravitating towards more, geometric shapes or organic shapes? Where do you see implied lines?
  • Notice the interplay of the light and dark shapes. How did you balance the positive and negative shapes?
  • Look at the notan design created by others, how do they compare or differ from yours?
  • Post your notan artwork online and tag #ArtSchoolElements.