This morning I’m creating space. My floor is cluttered with files, articles and post it notes, filled with advice, direction, and step-by-step instructions that were so indispensable a few months ago, a year ago, five years ago.
Information flows into my life so effortlessly. Every day offers new wisdom, ideas, and 5 ways to improve headlines, to sift through, make decisions about, pursue or not pursue. All chip away at my time and energy. I pick up an article and scan the contents. Will I need it? Will I ever read it again?
I stare at some more articles and think that their suggestions are just too much work, distractions from drawing, painting, writing and recording that which is remarkable about today. They clutter my mind. I pick up my pen and draw the mess on the floor instead. Drawing creates space, a quiet place with elbowroom to listen to the less analytical side of my mind.
My thoughts wander as my pen moves across the paper. Some part of me is comparing lengths and widths, analyzing shapes, aware of space and contrast and values, making choices on what’s important to emphasize and what’s not. At the same time, an earlier conversation drifts up, about grandchildren and unconditional love, about helping them recognize what they’re capable of. I think about my own grandmother.
She was a continent away when I grew up. I didn’t know her but we wrote to each other regularly when I was a child. I never thought too much about her, about who she really was, about her life beyond the information she supplied in her tissue thin, blue airmail letters. She chatted about her world of bridge games, the size of the gooseberries in her garden and visiting my aunt and other relatives and friends, mostly unknown to me. As postage was expensive, often her writing would curl around the outer edges of the paper, no space wasted. Occasionally, she would share an interesting story from her younger days.
My mother tells me that before our family left England to immigrate to Canada, we would visit my grandparents at their old house on the Isle of Man for a month at a time. She said that they’d looked forward to our visits. (Image below – my parents in front of my Grandparent’s house)
Then we were gone, 4000 miles away. My grandfather died the next year. Except for Christmas phone calls, letters back and forth, and an occasional trip we had little contact with her. It was years before I wondered about how she’d coped with all the change.
Back to Art
Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Space is the breath of art.” Intentionally creating space is an important concept, both to art and life. Positive space refers to the subject itself, the pears on the table, while negative space is what is left around and between the subjects. I’ve been working for years to pay attention to negative space in my work, to emphasize it, to make it as equal in importance as the subject.
As a born and bred slogger, trained in the skills of keeping busy and always generating results, I’m learning to create space in my life too. Space for having no plans, for experiencing staring at nature, for looking through books, for examining objects, all without an agenda of having to do or produce anything. And somewhere in that space my imagination thrives, incubating ideas and bringing about an excitement to create so different than the instructions and advice scattered on the floor in front of me.
I gather almost all of the papers and crush them to be discarded later. I feel lighter never having to think about them again.