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Building Blocks
Student Comments
"Thereís no
way your
paintings canít
improve after
this course"
"Iíve been painting on my own for a while and thought I was doing okay. Now that Iím taking this course I see so many things I can learn from that will make my work so much better. This is the stuff you canít get in art school anymore, sadly. Thereís no way your paintings canít improve after this course. Thatís how strongly I feel about it." ... Bob Akers., Crystal Lake, IL, United States

"...really superb"

"I find your courses really superb in two ways: first they are very complete and comprehensive, and second they go straight to the point, to the essentials. Both my wife and I paint and we both agree that these art instruction courses are one of the best sources of education for people who want to learn to paint in a direct or alla prima style" Bernado Martin, Alicante, Spain.

Erika is
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"This course is truly well run, professionally handled -- and I can only echo the great comments of other students: I am glad, I enrolled in this course!! I got so much out of it already -- lots of explanations, areas to study up on, other artists to learn from. AND I am not at the end of the course, yet. I am getting more and more confident and bold enough to follow my dream -- to become a proficient and sensitive artist. Erika, USA, 2009
"...already noticed
in my work"
"In my opinion, your material is the best I have found. It builds the basics, from the ground up, recognizing that there are no short cuts.....Your course puts all the right info into one package, and even more important, it gives me an organized, building block way to get these things into my head, and I have already noticed an improvement in my work," George, USA
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Building Block: Notan

Orchestrating light & dark harmony.
What is included in the Notan Building Block?
Why does a certain painting win first place in an art competition? The answer lies a lot in the harmonious arrangement of black and white in the painting. A synthetic arrangement of dark and light creates an impression of beauty, regardless of either the colors used or of the subject matter. This is called "notan" from the Japanese word that means "dark/light harmony. Notan is such a powerful contributing factor to the success of your painting that it warrants a complete set of courses to help you master it. The process may seem simple, but it is surprisingly difficult to do well.

A strong notan design is therefore the key to a strong painting. Without it, both color and line fail to reach their full impact. In fact many of the most powerful master paintings have very simple value structures, that is to say, they only use two, three, or four major values. For example, many of Monet's masterpieces use just two values. The idea is simple, but effective notan paintings are hard to do. It requires an understanding of dominant values and how to flatten values into a narrow value range. It is also very easy to waste time on excessive detail, and at the same time miss the essence of the notan design. This course will help you solve those problems.
Nothing else will contribute more to the success of your final painting than planning the notan correctly. Just about every painting that I have had win a competition, or got published in a book has had a very strong notan structure.
Some of the things you will learn:
Mass versus contour notan: why it is important to differentiate these two ideas if you want to learn how to develop more creative ideas in a shorter time
Color notan: a great way to explore alternative color harmonies
Edge notan: how to strengthen your paintings with a simplified value transition structure (like JMW Turner, and Thomas Moran)
How to put it into practice: I will share with you a series of successful paintings and how the notan structure was planned in advance
How does it work?
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  Academy membership costs $79 USD per month and gives you a private account on our system where you can access our lessons, assignments & online community. Access to the online campus means you can upload your assignments and share them with other students from across the world, as well as access to supplemental learning materials such as videos and examples. You can cancel your membership at any time.
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"The material is very well presented and easy to understand - no lengthy explanations but short and condensed paragraphs with a load of very valuable information. Along with plenty of illustrations, this makes it a fun and easy study."

What is included in each course unit?


Unit 1 - What is Notan?

This is the first of six notan units that will help you build and refine your skills in this critical topic. Nothing else will contribute more to the success of your composition than planning the notan correctly. Just about every painting that is successful has had a very strong notan structure.
The subject of this first notan course unit is mass notan. This is a small sketch that captures the notan structure of your final painting very quickly. You should do anything between two and six mass notan paintings for almost every painting you do, whether it is a small outdoor color sketch, or a large studio painting. If you do not do this stage correctly, your final painting will be disappointing. Students are nearly always delighted with what they learn in this Building Block and how it helps them.
P.S. This looks simple. It is not. You will learn:
  • the five types of notan compared and why and when to use them
  • how to create a mass notan and which are the best materials to use
  • tips, techniques and common problems you are likely to run into when doing mass notan paintings
  • the pros and cons of using graphite versus brush pens

Notan Unit 2 - Basic Notan Design

The basic concept of notan that I talked about in course unit one is fairly simple.However, the secret is in how to make the notan structure of your painting beautiful. In this course unit I explain the three major design principles that will result in a beautiful notan structure in your painting. These principles are the secret to many great master paintings.
In this course unit you will learn:
  • the key principle of dominant values and the four simple types of dominant structure you can use.
  • how to recognize masterful three-value notan structures: the most useful notan structure of all.
  • the principle of shape distinction, to strengthen your notan design.
  • how to link the lights and darks to simplify your shapes.

Notan Unit 3 - Advanced Notan Design

This course unit includes information on more advanced design techniques for improving your notan design.In this course unit you will learn:
  • how to simplify the complexity of nature by flattening the values you see into a simpler and stronger structure.
  • how to avoid a flat, poster-like look by using changes of temperature and small changes of value to add interest and form when flattening values
  • how to analyze a painting using software to see how well the values have been flattened into a few narrow bands.
  • how to paint a four-value study: the most useful technique for planning the notan structure of your painting in detail.
  • when you should concentrate on the middle values in your painting, and why.

Notan Unit 4 - Contour Notan

In contour notans you explore the beauty of line and and shape. Since this is a fairly time consuming process, learning how to differentiate between mass and contour notan paintings can greatly accelerate the process of planning a painting. By accelerating the process you can explore more design options in less time and so you will probably end up with a better painting.
In this course you will learn:

  • how to do contour notan paintings and why they take much more time to do than mass notan paintings
  • how to learn from the Oriental masters to increase your skills in notan design

Notan Unit 5 - Gradation and Edge Notans

Gradations, or systematic steady changes in value across parts of the painting,can play a major part in your abstract design strategy. A few simple transitions between the major value shapes of your notan can make for a very beautiful design. By simplifying the gradations in your painting, you make the design much stronger and add unity to your painting.
Edge notans allow you to explore these transitions in a very quick way. They take you one step past the simple two, three and four-value notan paintings. In this course unit I will show you a very simple way to do these edge notans. Once you have mastered the basic techniques, you can do them in an incredibly short time, yet they can give you a very good feeling for the final paintings. In fact these small design sketches can turn out to be beautiful paintings in their own right. Also they are fun to do!In this course unit you will learn:
  • how to use edge notans to explore fast and slow edges quickly and effectively
  • how to avoid the two most common problems most people run into when they add edges to notan paintings
  • an efficient four-step procedure for using brush pens to create edge notan paintings
  • which old master paintings you can examine to explore the edge notan concept and learn more

Notan Unit 6 - Notan Sketchbooks

This course unit includes a gallery of some of my paintings, together with the actual notan studies that were created in order to plan the painting. This will show you how I explore different designs before starting a painting.In other examples I have also converted the painting to a black and white image,and posterized it to two, three or four values so you can more easily see the notan structure in the finished painting.
Our comprehensive 4 year program of study
for all levels

The Painting Academy is designed to be both suitable for beginners and professionals alike. If you are serious about improving your painting skills, no matter your current level, and you want to become an excellent artist and you are looking for a comprehensive in-depth program of study that's expertly organized, then look no further. You will get immediate access to:
192 Lessons
340 Assignments
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