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The Return to White Space

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

"I need some space." Whether we say it aloud or think it quietly to ourselves, this need is a crucial part of our humanness—at least, it's part of mine. Sometimes I find myself thinking it at work when projects are flying in faster than I can refill my coffee mug. Or at home, when I crave time for quiet reflection.

The need and want for space is inherent. It's why we hang pictures on the wall just so, why we like the look of a made bed vs. an unmade bed, why haute cuisine is often more plate than cuisine.

Indeed, the white space of your walls allows multiple pictures to draw your attention without assaulting the senses.

Your bedroom looks more inviting without a pile of blankets cluttering up the air.

And the colors and shapes of your food pop against the vast expanses left empty on the plate.

In short, white space gives the main attraction room to shine.

Before diving into my art practice, I knew about and generally appreciated the concept of white space. But it wasn't until I started creating marks that I truly realized just how crucial it is. Starting out, I'd often go wild with color, filling in all that I could. The result? Images that stressed me out.

They were overflowing with tension and I felt no release, no pleasure when viewing them.

On the other hand, I've found that when I keep things simple, when I restrain my wild urges, the imagery has room to come alive and speak. And I like how I feel in these moments of creation. I absorb textural details. And the subtle changes in hue from one daub to another. It's like being ushered into zen—a place where I can physically and mentally feel unwanted tension melting away into the white space and disappearing entirely.

The attempt to return to this place time and again is a practice in and of itself. Some days I sit down, brush in hand, and disaster ensues. Chaos coils onto the page like a snake around its victim.

The magic only happens when I scrap that piece, and maybe another, or another, until I find the white space again. Both within and without. Whether I find it that day or not, it's always there waiting.