Symmetry with NOTAN

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With 6th Grade students, we worked on the various types of symmetry, and we made a collage creating a NOTAN with shapes in bilateral symmetry. NOTAN is a Japanese word that means “dark – light”: it is a technique that teaches how to create harmony and balance in space using SYMMETRY, white, the clear space of light, and black, the darkness.

Experimenting with the NOTAN allows you to explore positive and negative spaces with symmetrical shapes. One of the unusual aspects of this technique is that the final result is not known until the job is done. The “real” Notan should be done with a BLACK sheet and a WHITE sheet: but we have experimented with a colored background, made of a collage of colored paper and gift wrapping paper.

We need:

  • Sheet of squared paper (we need it for a test sample)
  • BLACK sheet from which to cut out a 12×12 square
  • White drawing sheet, cut out in the shape of a square (24×24)
  • Colored sheets of any type (we use them for background collage)
  • Pencil, eraser
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick

First, we did some tests with a squared paper, cutting out a 12x12cm square and working on that to understand the mechanism of symmetry obtained by overturning the shapes. You have to draw closed shapes on each side of the square, then cut out and overturn them.

After doing the test we make the background collage on the drawing paper cut out in a shape of a square (24×24 cm), using papers of all colors, except black, and cutting out free shapes.

Once the background collage is done, we prepare the Notan with black cardboard: we draw closed shapes on each side and cut them out, carefully preserving the cut pieces. We can redo the test drawings or invent others. I also suggested looking for a theme for the shapes: the sea, the seasons, nature, fruit, etc.

In a nutshell:

  • Cut out the shapes you drew and store them with care !!!
  • FIRST glue WHAT REMAINS OF THE SQUARE to the center of the collage
  • Overturn the forms
  • AFTER that, glue the other pieces

Here are our Notan!


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