Working with Notan

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This course teaches you how to use the notan to locate the light and shadow patterns you see in your subjects, and how to set that pattern as an underpainting that can guide you towards completing your work under any light source.


For your study exercises, you will need your painting gear and a painting surface appropriate to your medium.

It is important that you approach your study exercise as just that–a study exercise. You are not making a painting, but you are doing a practice exercise that is studying methods for being taught in this lesson. For this reason, if your medium is oils or acrylic, please do NOT use stretched canvas for your homework exercises. Gessoed card stock or gessoed sheet canvas will work just fine. If your medium is watercolor, pastels or gouache, use the quality of paper that will give you the best results.

The size of your painting surface should be no larger than 12” x 16”. Otherwise, there will be too much space to manage to keep your attention on working with solving the concept. Beyond this, use the paints and brushes with which you are most comfortable working. Dianne’s intention is not to change your choices to hers, but to focus on learning the concept of the lesson.

NOTE for Watercolor & Acrylic painters: If you are using acrylic or pastels, for the notan, use a thin wash made from watercolor to lay in shadow patterns. For this, it’s okay to use the less expensive ones, including the pans such as Prang sets.
Watercolor painters will probably prefer working out the notan on scrap sheet or in the sketch book. Some watercolor painters (such as Mary Whyte) often will set a faint notan on damp paper in a wash of ultramarine blue. What’s important is that you have firmly found the pattern of light and shadow.

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