Monday, January 5, 2015

White space

I don't know what made me think of this today but..... way back in 1988 or so, I was taking art classes at a local community college and I had a teacher named Craig Nilsen. He was tall and gangly with long, shaggy hair and his personal art was slightly off center so, of course, I adored him. He was that odd, cool guy and everyone wanted to be in his classes. He taught me graphic design, printmaking and when the first Macintoshes arrived on campus, he taught us all that the world and art were changing. He was right.

Craig was also the guy that told me that "white space is your friend". It's funny but I can't even say that in my head in my own voice - it always sounds like Craig. So much of what we were all creating was so cluttered with elements bleeding off the edges for no other reason other than that we could cram it in there. I could see the frustration in his eyes sometimes during class critiques as he tried to focus in on an art submission that visually vomited on every possible ounce of space.

The challenge, I would think, of being an art teacher is nurturing individual creativity while teaching basic rules & techniques. Most artists aren't very good with rules at all. And they probably shouldn't be. Rules, like pavement, are for the unimaginative souls unwilling to forge their own paths.

I assume that some students in the class were not on board with the whole idea of white space and never really understood its importance. I will  admit that it didn't come easy to me in the beginning. I was from the "more is better" school of thought. Slowly but surely, over years of classes with Craig, I realized that white space truly IS my friend. My art is better for it.... my book covers and illustrations cleaner... but it's more than that.

My LIFE is better because I embrace the white space of it. I can turn off the noise in the room so that I can hear the simple sound of my own thoughts and the muse whispering in my ear. I can close my eyes and breathe deep and de-clutter my list and my process. I do not - wait let me rephrase - I can not fill all the spaces in with unnecessary items, tasks, or commitments.  Of course, I need the important stuff in the middle... my family, friends, my art, my career and I need the stuff surrounding it that makes it all interesting and full of laughter. What I do not need to is to fill every nook and every cranny with the unnecessary stuff... the drama.. the negative... the stress. I have no room on the edges for excess baggage. I need the white space.

I don't know if the direction that my art has gone in would please Mr. Nilsen or not. I'd like to think he would find it at least amusing. Im pretty sure, however that he would be tremendously pleased that he impacted my life with 5 words that didn't stop at an art lesson... "White space is your friend". Thanks, Craig.


No comments:

Post a Comment