Expanding the square

I’m beginning new stencil designs this week. To loosen up, I’m playing with paper, scissors and a glue stick, following some intriguing exercises in the book Notan: The Dark-Light principle of design.  This goal of the exercise below is to create symmetrical and asymmetrical balance by cutting shapes out of a basic 6×6″ black square and expanding them outside the boundary of the square (with some guidelines).  These exercises help develop what the authors call the “dichotomy of attention” to positive and negative space that is necessary to create Notan (think right-brain).

expanding the square symmetrically

Not surprisingly, creating asymmetrical balance is more challenging. Here is one of several iterations I tried combining a rabbit form with a kale/leaf-like form (remembering the rabbits that frequented my garden this winter). It’s easier to start with abstract rather than representational forms and see what emerges.

expanding the square asymmetrically
expanding the square asymmetrically



Author: Kit

I use the materials and techniques of the Japanese art of katazome (paste resist stencil dyeing) to capture my experience of nature. My work celebrates daily meetings with the wild birds, plants, and lake breezes of my local urban surroundings.

8 thoughts on “Expanding the square”

  1. thanks, Jude! I’m having fun w/it! I sometimes get so blocked when beginning a design … this helps me get out of my over-analytical brain!

  2. Thanks Emma – for now the plan is to make a repeat….this would allow me to create either runners, cushions, or a length of cloth to hang …

  3. Oh the rabbit and kale motif is wonderful. Do you plan to make cushions/fabric with it? I do enjoy watching your creative processes and am fascinated by the masking and dyeing techniques you use.

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