How to Add Power to Your Paintings With Notan Sketches | Malcolm Dewey | Skillshare

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How to Add Power to Your Paintings With Notan Sketches

teacher avatar Malcolm Dewey, Artist and Author

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Why Simplification Adds Power


    • 3.

      It Begins With Selecting a Scene


    • 4.

      Notan Demonstration


    • 5.

      Step 1: Squinting Technique


    • 6.

      Step 2: What Are Values?


    • 7.

      Step 3: Identify Mass Shapes


    • 8.

      Step 4: Draw the Notan


    • 9.

      How Not to Draw a Notan


    • 10.



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About This Class


A major problem for artists is how to simplify a scene for a landscape painting. Nature is chaotic and you cannot include everything you see into a painting. So how do you select what is important? Then how do you simplify that object so that you do not get stuck on little details?

The answer is the notan sketch. A powerful technique that takes only minutes to complete.

  1. The notan sketch will teach you how to find the powerful elements of a scene. 
  2. Decide what to leave in and what to leave out
  3. Establish the primary lights and dark shapes
  4. Make starting your painting much easier.
  5. 889944ff

Meet Your Teacher

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Malcolm Dewey

Artist and Author


Professional artist and author. I work in oils painting in a contemporary impressionist style. Mostly landscapes and figure studies. I have a number of painting courses both online and workshops for beginners through to intermediate artists. 

My publications include books on outdoor painting, how to paint loose and content marketing tips for creative people.

My goal is to help people start painting and encourage them with excellent lessons that they can use for years to come.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: hello and welcome to how to add power to your paintings. Um, Malcolm, Dewey. And I'm really happy that you've joined me on this short course. Don't underestimate the power off the lessons in this course because they had a profound impact on my own painting. And I want to make it available to you so that you can get to the foundation off your painting right at the start. And in that way you build bulled up a painting that has impact that grabs attention and that will say what it is. You really want to communicate in that painting. And it comes down to the effect of light, the contrast between light and dark and woman cool color. Now we're not going to go into the whole dimension off painting. In this course, I'm going to rather focus on that critical start how to make the strongest and most effective started your painting goes. Everything, of course, progresses from a good start. Now beginners struggle tremendously with picking out what is important in a scene. Nature and ALS. The details we see just looking out the window, I can see 1000 and one details straight away. It's overwhelming, and nobody can be expected to paint everything. But that, unfortunately, is what happens. We don't know what is important, and we try to paint everything and they lies the problem. We end up overwhelmed with a painting that lacks vitality and is just not conveying the impression that we saw. So it all starts in the beginning. And using what is called a No. 10 skitch, you can start straight away and isolate the big mass shapes, the biggest shapes that really form the backbone off that scene. And that is what is getting your attention. So by focusing on that right at the start, with a No. 10 sketch you can go into, you're painting with more confidence knowing that you've got the foundation in place, painting everything is never going to be the answer. And as artist, we've got to learn how to simplify to the essentials, the essential essence off every scene. Whether you painting from a photograph, a painting outdoors, this little course is gonna have a really big influence on how you see nature and how you communicate that in a little painting or a big painting doesn't matter. But to get that vast nature down onto a relatively small space. We need to become masters of simplification and observation, and it starts here. So work through the course step by step. I'm gonna show you each individual step from selecting your seen toe, isolating shapes and getting that down into your sketchbook. And you can go around with a little sketch book like this and pick any subject off your choice, and you will be able to isolate what's important and get that down onto your painting. Now let's get stuck into the course and remember, it's practical. So practice everything. I'm showing you in this course many, many, many times, and you will see a profound improvement in your painting. Let's get started. 2. Why Simplification Adds Power: So let's see how we can add power to your painting with simplifying the scene. Why simplified? Well, it adds impact to the painting, which is great for you and your collectors. So how do we go about this process? The object is detained, the chaos in nature, and we do this by isolating the mass shapes in the scene and looking for the light and dark shapes. The No. 10 skitch helps us in these various ways. Let's look at this example of a painting by Paul Cezanne noticed the powerful, simple shapes, the light and dark contrasts, and the dominant shapes carry this painting. Compared to this other example. Is this perhaps less powerful in the Cezanne painting? This painting by Carro says, strong, lightened or contrast. It's not just about color, as we can see in this black and white photo, so we can use this approach to add power to your paintings and the snow. 10 Skitch helps us simplify the scene, so let's begin with an example 3. It Begins With Selecting a Scene: in this list. No one to talk about scene selection very often. A beginner artist will make a fundamental error when it comes to seen selection. Let's take for an example. You go down to the beach standing on the beach, looking out at the ocean, and you think that is a lovely scene. I want to paint this scene, and what happens is you may take out your camera, take a photograph, hit off back home and start painting. Pretty soon, when getting into the painting, you get stuck. It's not the place or and it's not the scene that you saw down at the beach. The reason for that is when you don't at the beach, you have all sorts of ST three things going on. There's the sound of the waves, the sun on your face. Maybe you can year Siegel's The Smells of the Ocean, and it'll combines into a beautiful experience. But the actual scene itself as a painting subject leaves a lot to be desired. It is, in fact, on the hardest things to paint. Now, why is that? If you consider that image off the photo of the sea out there, what you end up with is a Siri's off horizontal bands off something. There's the sky is the ocean. Maybe there's the beach or fairly static, not much, actually, to get to grips with as a painting. So you get stuck very quickly and frustrated. Let's take another scenario. Where you in the countryside, Maybe you're looking out over the countryside is trees. Some fields, maybe a mountain or a hill in the background and in the sky once again looks beautiful. You take a photograph, get back to the studio and you have pretty much the same thing, a fairly static and uniform kind off scene at a distance, and difficult to translate that into a punchy and powerful painting, especially when you're starting out and you get stuck pretty quickly and frustrated. Another example is the old sunset situation. Beautiful sunset, but we're not trying to paint it. It ends up as also a Siri's off bands off pretty uniform color, and maybe even with there's some object that looks like it's been stuck on as a silhouette , however, an orange sky so all leaving you feeling a little flat on a bit depressed on. I know exactly how that feels I've bean through that myself. So let's look at another situation and see if we can improve on this. Let us say you back down at the beach. But instead of considering the scene, just as I'm having a beautiful time on the beach and this must be good Instead, take a more considered approach and True's your seen more carefully. Consider looking at perhaps a different direction and picking out something else in the example in the video, just by looking off to my side as saw a completely different scene where there's some rock faces and a cliff with a nice diagonal line leading down to the see. There's also strong darks, contrasting with strong lights and a lot more interesting shapes. There's the rocks, there's pools, waves breaking against the rocks, and so on. A lot more interesting things, but more detail. A lot more value contrast. K so I can work with it, and I can find dominant shapes and dominant mass various and use those for a powerful painting. The same can apply almost in any situation. You may just have to crack down and go for the detailed image and interesting part and leave a lthough flat and boring stuff out. So you consider things like composition, composition lines that signals try and break. This horizontal is maybe with a vertical line. Is there a figure that you can put in there, A telephone pole where ever you maybe look for those things. If you can't find them, try and look elsewhere and find a subject that you can really get to grips with. So this is all part off giving yourself an excellent chance to make a strong painting. Okay, now that you have found what looks like the ideal subject with a lot more going on great lines, interesting bits and pieces going on and a good strong mess, shape and value contrast, you can go back to the studio, prepare thumbnail sketches and no 10 studies or do them on the scene. If you planting outdoors, and from that point on, you can be assured you're setting yourself up for a great start. 4. Notan Demonstration: now when we confronted with a scene, It's full off shapes full of lights and darks and details. And it is especially all the details that catch us art. Beginners will try and put in everything. Instead. The simple way is to look for the mass types. NYSE, I've said in No. 10 study is going to be your starting point. So let's jump right in and have a quick look at what another 10 study is and how our draw one of the materials to Chris. You're No. 10 painting, simple notebook and a black marker. This is a Windsor and Newton Marca. It has a witch one end Andi appointed shape on the other and really need the point of one. Just get a black, which shaped marker and with jump right in. So, for example, yes, I seem off a path little road going into the country market. Print all those details trying draw those details, but instead that would be misdirecting myself. The first time I've got to do is start that No. 10 and look for the mass ships, and first stop the dark mess. So what I do is simply like a little square or landscape crime. And then do my No. 10. Andi, I just go straight in. No AARP lines just massing the dark ship from the scene so these would be the trees in the fade and shadow go across the road, so that is a simple to value. No time the black representing the dark mass shape on the light of the paper. The light shapes. Now you can go further with us adding another value, But you may be asking yourself, What am I talking about when I'm talking about values now, I go into the same a lot of detail in my main course, called to learn to paint with impact in essence values or simply the lightness and darkness off the shapes, some very dark, some in between, some very light. For now, all I want is to be able to see the darkest mass shape and put that in with the markup in. And then the white paper shows the lot mass ships, and this is step one in the process of simplifying the chaotic nature and getting some control on how we can paint that in an effective and strong way. But don't worry, I'm going to show you a few more examples off No. 10 studies coming up. It's ever look at my notebook, and there are many examples off No. 10 studies, little things like that under plenty of them. That may not be immediately a parenti of what I'm trying to show, but each No. 10 study helps me with creating more painting and our full up little notebooks like this with these kind of studies. So some, as you can see, I've got 1/3 value, a gray. As I said, I get into that in going to paint with impact. For now, we're focusing on identifying the doctors mess and getting that blocked in so they would go . Let's have a look at a few more examples and learn how this method is gonna add more polity or painting 5. Step 1: Squinting Technique: Okay, if you just looked at that demonstration, you may be wondering what is going on there. I'm still not sure how to do a no tense kitsch, so we're going to break it down into step by step. And the first thing that I told my students to do when they're looking at a scene is squint , and it just means closing your eyes slightly. So you're looking through your eyelashes at the scene, and you'll notice immediately that the details, uh, disappear. And the light and dark contrasts between shapes becomes a lot clearer to see. So that little technique looking at the scene, squinting down a little until the shapes become flatter and mawr clear to you. And that is all it takes. And then you can look at your sketch pad and quickly getting those board shapes. Or in fact, if you painting outdoors, for example, you can then have been yours and look atyour canvas paint away. And then, when you look at the scene, squint down a little to just get those big shirts clarified. So squid, too, is step number one to make your No. 10 drawing or No. 10 painting a lot easier to do. Let's test that art first photograph with lots of detail as you see it normally and now squinting down, you conceal the details disappear and the Latin dork becomes much clearer to spot. 6. Step 2: What Are Values?: Okay, The next thing that we're are mentioned in the demonstration. WAAS failures basically what our values for years and artist. It's the degree of light and dark off the shapes. My nature. There are many, many varieties and shades of light and dark. So we've had to simply fire that and someone did it for us and developed what is called the Manzo Value Scale, which is basically taken the lights and dogs and put that into a tin bracketed, uh, values starting from what through two black ends in the middle, the middle great value and the Manzo skull looks something like that. You can print that out. I've attested as an annexe za to the project and you can print it out and use it yourself. And basically, what you need to do is look at a shape and compare it to the very scale and aside what degree off, light and dog that particular shape is. And then you can mix a color to that value. But for the purposes off this listen, you only need to consider the extreme lighten extreme dark value. So on your No. 10 you'll be using a black market pin to black out the darkest dark shapes. So no need to worry too much about all the other parts of the value scale. But just be aware off what it is and how you can use it and print out a copy for yourself to use later on. 7. Step 3: Identify Mass Shapes: okay. The next thing to consider is what are mess shapes when we're looking at a scene As an artist, you want to isolate mess shapes, not individual details, and we try and paint those mess shapes to get the composition correct and the most important and powerful elements in the painting on the canvas. So we take those mess shapes from the scene, and as it suggests, you have not simply fired a complicated scene full of objects and details into simple mess shapes. So, for example, if you look at this painting this line off the trees would not be individual trees on tree trunks, twigs and leaves. We would take it as one mess shape. When you're No. 10 sketched for you know, 10 painting, you would paint a solid shape, which would encompass more or less this triangle off trees, and that would be a dark mass check on your no time. So if simplify all of this information from the actual scene itself and turning it into a simple flit mess ship, which we will put on the No. 10 painting. So when you're considering your scene, the object is as using the previous technique of squinting a bit is to be able to see those big mass shapes and decide which ones we're gonna put in And what you gotta leave art and a big step in the simplification of the scene has just being achieved that way. 8. Step 4: Draw the Notan: right. Let's have a look at the steps to draw the No. 10 effectively, so you get the most benefit from this particular technique. So the materials required very simple, very low tech. A black felt took marker, the kind of the mass broad Phil took the witch show, not the Rondell pointed version US flat, which shape is best and a basic pay. Five size skitch paired Good sauce. Easy to carry around, and you can just take it off looking at a scene, for instance, and just do a quick No. 10 on you can see. I've done one year off road. I'm going through landscape scene and small quickstudy. But let's have a look at the technique, actually drawing it to get the best value from this approach. Okay, so let's have a look at a quick demonstration. That's the scene we've seen looking at. I've got my which they mark a pin, and I do it a small rectangle in the format that I want to paint the scene something like that. Squinting at the scene, working out the dog shapes that a once these trees and the shutters come first, so I just go straight in to that dog should not really stopping. I'm not trying to color something in. I'm doing the mess shapes like that. And as I'm squinting, I'm seeing the another dog mess that I'm gonna put in the trees on the left on and distance . I'm not too worried about Bits and pieces and little shapes are interested in the large tapes. Now, I will look at it and refund as I go. Maybe one mystery, but bigger on And okay, so there I have the extreme lot which is going to be represented by the color of the paper itself and in the extreme dog. And as you can see, I've left the road. What? Because that is a lot. I've lived the scar what and a few other bits of extreme light I'm not worried about On the telephone poles and details of the house. I'm leaving that art on focusing on the road and the trees, and that's going to be my scene and twigs and small details on the cross. And what have you not interested in that? What I want is the big dark shapes isolated and get that done in a to value. Noting and I can see immediately that this is going to be an interesting painting with dominant dark shapes that will get a lot of attention against all of the extreme light, sunny areas. So that is it. I'm no bits and pieces. It is solid, flat, dark shapes, no little white but showing through and we don't want this. And ah, heaven outlined the picture person in colored it in off just constraining and mastered in with the last thick felt mark Because that is the approach you gonna use with your paintbrush just pulling in the shapes quickly and getting a strong composition straight off . 9. How Not to Draw a Notan: right. Let's have a look at how not to draw. A No. 10 for the first of all, is always used a frame and draw it in the format that you want to do the painting. So if you want to do a square painting, do a square frame in your notebook and do the No. 10 study within that format, so it's easy to transpose it to your canvas. Late run. Not like the bottom left. Example here was just shapes that don't relate to anything. Second tip is remember, you want to get Lord mess shapes, not bits and pieces as we see here. We've got lots of dark shapes all over the place, but we're not sure what they're all about and that the No. 10 drawing ready doesn't read as anything. It's very confusing. Get the big soaps in, as we did in the demonstration, and at a glance you should be able to read what's going on. We're so don't want shapes floating around and unrelated to anything else. So, as in this example, or these clouds, or is something floating on the sea? What's going on way? Do these shapes relate, and ah or they fixed to anything, So join the shapes up with shadows and, um, surface area, something to help you read it correctly. We also want a clearly dominant shape, either a dominant dark shape or dominant light shape, in this example. Again, the volume of Latin daugher pretty much the same on. And let's try and look for a scene where something is going to dominate clearly. And then ultimately, is it all interesting? If you put these shapes into a painting, would there be some interest? Or is it just a flett shape, maybe a square in the foreground, and that's supposed to be a house. But if you just did that in a painting, is it going to be enough to make it ultimately interesting to the viewer? Or is it going to be dull and aesthetic? So assists those things. It's a bit of objective and some subject of elements, but the No. 10 is gonna help you figure that out for yourself. 10. Conclusion: Okay, so there we have it. How to do it. No. 10 in two values that is gonna help you simply fire scene and make a much more powerful and impactful painting. Now, this whole technique looks extremely simple, but I guarantee that it is something that will make an immediate change to your painting. If you've been struggling with flat and uninspiring painting, this will make a big difference. And I know this from personal experience that using the No. 10 approach made an immediate impact to my painting because I knew what was lacking in a new way. The power and energy could come from using strong value contras and strong simplification of a scene. And the No. 10 was an easy way for this mindset to change and to see that potential. So try it for yourself and let me know Onda. There's a project that you can do that will help you put these lessons into practice.