Pretty much all of us have folded up scraps of paper and made snowflake designs, right? These snowflakes go a step further and incorporate the idea of positive and negative space based on the Japanese concept of Notan.  A super small supply list, a graphic finished product, and little elemental art knowledge make this project a win!

These snowflakes look super intricate and fancier than they really are.  They do require some scissors skills so scale the difficulty level up or down based on your kiddo’s age and developmental level

What is Notan…

Notan is a Japanese concept that relates to the play of light and dark.  The positive shapes (main objects) in a work of art should balance or complement the negative shapes (the empty space around the main objects.)

In our case we’re going to create cut paper snowflakes that use all the paper, thereby balancing light and dark.

That pretty background…

You might notice that we’re working on background paper that has a life of it’s own!  I won’t go into the details in this post but if you’re interested the background here is number two in this list of nine watercolor techniques perfect for kids!

I love layering steps and techniques when working with even the youngest artists.  It helps create a really interesting finished product while not requiring more than what they are developmentally able to do!

Start with circles…

Grab your compass and make a few circles in a variety of sizes on plain copy weight paper.  Don’t get too tiny unless you’re planning on getting into teeny tiny details with a craft knife.

Cut out your circles and fold into fourths.

These snowflakes go a step further than old fashioned ones by incorporate the idea of positive and negative space based on the Japanese concept of Notan

The cutting…

The idea is to cut two to three shapes out of each snowflake and use those cut out shapes as part of the design, balancing the positive and negative.

I would recommend doing a “trial” run together with your kids before they get too serious.  Here’s how.

These snowflakes go a step further than old fashioned ones by incorporate the idea of positive and negative space based on the Japanese concept of Notan. 

Want the printable PDF version so you can try it together…..

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Start by cutting into the open, rounded edge and coming back to that same rounded edge.  You want to cut out a shape in one nice cut, not shave it out little, by little. The piece that falls out will be used. 

It is easiest if each shape cut out of a single snowflake is distinct.  Maybe one is very straight, one has a curve, and one shape is tiny.  These are just suggestions.  Start together till your kiddos get the hang of this!

Cut only one snowflake at a time.  Cutting more than one will be disastrous.  Seriously.  Don’t do it.

These snowflakes go a step further than old fashioned ones by incorporate the idea of positive and negative space based on the Japanese concept of Notan

The gluing…

Glue the larger center piece down so you have a reference point.  We used a glue stick. It’s okay if the snowflake goes off the paper but be aware that the pieces will extend past the original circle shape. 

Before any more glue is used position all the small cutout pieces in their coordinating spots.  They will mirror the spot from which they were cut.  If it helps students can fit them back into the original circle, like a puzzle, then flip them out.

Glue down every pieces before moving on to the next snowflake

These snowflakes go a step further than old fashioned ones by incorporate the idea of positive and negative space based on the Japanese concept of Notan

Finishing Notan touches…

If pieces of your snowflake extend past the edge of your paper now is the time to trim them.

Whether you choose to do these Notan snowflakes on this textured watercolor paper (find out how here) or on a solid color the results will be striking.  We used blank notecards to make some really beautiful notecards (above) that will last through Christmas and beyond!

These snowflakes go a step further than old fashioned ones by incorporate the idea of positive and negative space based on the Japanese concept of Notan

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