Before nearly every painting session, be it studio or on location, I’ll do a quick Notan drawing. Nōtan is a Japanese design concept involving the play and placement of light and dark as they are placed next to the other in art and imagery ( Notan drawings are very helpful in seeing the design concept you’re working with in terms of the arrangement of values. These are drawn on 4×6 blank note cards with a Zebra fine ball point pen. Then in a manner similar to working in watercolor from light to dark, I shade in each value using prismacolor cool gray markers. I use the values 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and black. Like paintings, they become a visual journal and so I write on them the time and place. The depiction of a lit sphere in one of the corners is the light direction or L.D. This sphere is a good indicator as to how to handle the various planes on the form in the landscape.


  1. Jolyn September 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    Ummmm, notan isn’t the same as a value study, which you describe here. Notan is only black and white. By the way, notan or value study aside, your work is incredibly gorgeous! There are a few good articles on it, one of which is on Mitch Albala’s (instructor/artist) web site at .

  2. Raymond Micallef September 11, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    I really love your light in your landscapes. I am an amateur landscape painter myself. Do you suggest a book of how to improve composition in a landscape.

    Best regards,

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *