I came across an old watercolour I did of a decorative corn on a wooden board. I did this for a distance education course in art that I took many years ago. For some reason, and to the dismay of the instructor, I did not paint the background. I left it white. Her exact words were
“Why did you leave this white? It’s part of the picture!”
Well …not sure I can answer that one. Artistic liberty maybe. It was years ago. Sometimes I don’t remember why I did something yesterday.
If you’re an artist ( no elitism intended) you’ve likely heard of “white space” or “empty space”, that is, the space that surrounds an object. In other words instead of focusing on what was drawn, painted or designed you see the surrounding ‘blank’ space as real and as important to the design as the thing painted,etc.
‘Guess I was so focused on the corn that I neglected what I didn’t paint.
Our lives have “white space” as well. There is that time that surrounds our activity that seems wasted. Negative time. Time that is spent staring at a blank canvas or milling through myriads of photo files and folders looking for inspiration. Often we face a day where it seems like no paint was placed on the canvas or no new words placed on a page. Sometimes the day turns into a month and God-forbid, a year! Then we exclaim like I just saw posted on my facebook newsfeed, ” I can’t believe I’ve wasted so much time!”
What do we do with such damning thoughts?
Let’s not deny the fact that a thing can be wasted. Otherwise the word itself would never have been invented by definition or need. We live in an age of growing post-consumerism. Therefore our understanding of waste is coming into new light. Consumerism is still with us and taints our view of waste. Consumer based ideology demands constant forward motion by measure or in other words, “tomorrow I will have more than today; done more than yesterday”. This is a hard act to follow and sooner or later we hit the wall of failure/ depression -falling short of our own expectations.
Negative time is part of the process.
Just like the white space that surrounds our painted subjects or the secondary,blurred objects such as trees or mountains, for example, they/it are all necessary in the overall creation. The time you spend thinking about what to paint or researching photos or even day-dreaming is all part of the process. My writing, I hope, is not wasting time in which I could be painting. No one is immune to ‘down-time’. It is not, however, necessarily wasted time. Is sleep wasted time? A rhetorical question , of course. Sleep, just like white space or blurred objects define the focal point, helps define the day ahead. These days, there seems to be less sleep to go around.
I do agree with the instructor that the painting would be improved by actually painting something in the white space. In fact had I left out the grey board and only painted the corn-on-the-cob it may have turned out better. In this case more white space may have helped!
We need negative time in this sense.
It allows us to recharge our creative batteries. It seems as if we are accomplishing nothing sometimes but in life there is a natural ebb and flow or a rhythm in Creation. We, too are not above that since we, too are creatures of the earth.