When I was in the publishing business so very long ago, I enjoyed attending the graphic arts seminars and workshops. It was there my younger self learned the techniques of advertisement assembling. The rule that impressed me most was how the media experts stressed, "Don't be afraid of white spaces." It has stayed with me and I have included it at the top of my 'life lessons' list. The 'white spaces' they were referring to, of course, were the white areas on the advertisement document - those unnoticed bare and empty spots. The rule was simple, "Don't crowd the ad with unnecessary graphics and words, or as it is often said, "KISS" – "Keep It Short and Sweet" or "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
This is hard to do because time has shown me human nature likes to jam and cram as much 'stuff' as possible into documents, spaces, conversations, shelving, basements, reports and life itself. Just as some find delight in removing that perfectly baked masterpiece from the oven, my niche, my 'calling' (for lack of a better word) is in making a graphic arts caricature or image and catching the perfect shot in my camera lens. I don't like too much 'stuff' in my graphics and photos - 'stuff' is distracting. The bane of my publishing days was the thousand-word-ad that arrived with a ten-dollar bill.
As days and years have sped and fled from that time, the white spaces have taken a deeper life meaning. When I am angry, I think of 'white space' as a cooling down time, time to subdue the flaming color 'red' with calming white. When that green-eye monster creeps into my thinking, I try banishing the 'jaded' envy with pure white joy for others. When I am upset, a quiet time or outdoor walk helps fade my blues to peaceful pale hues. If I am taking myself too seriously – the white space becomes clouded, and crowded by self pity, which I have discovered can be erased and replaced with the beautiful colour of laughter. When I am in a dark mood, it means I have allowed the white spaces to become dim with gloom and doom. White space helps me focus on what is important.
Silence is also the white space of two friends side by side, not jumbled with gossip or niter natter; simply the enjoyment of being together in that moment of time. I have friends I don't see for days and months. The quiet is not a threat, it develops into the 'white space' of the time it takes to grow an old friend.
Through the years I have done graphic work for others, it has become interesting to observe the reaction to white space. It seems to me, those wanting more color and addition of things are searching for something deep in their essence, something they can't identify but are trying to fill. With no racist connotation intended, the color white represents not the absence of color, I simply look at what it is not, and that's black and dark; the things and places I never want to be stuck in. It is mental clarity, for the perception of white appears always to depend on contrast.
Shirley Erena Murray penned the words to a beautiful song that begins: "Come and find the quiet centre in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are free. Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we may see – all the things that really matter, be at peace and simply be."
I don't know if publishers and media are still advised to not be afraid of white spaces because since my editorial days, I move slower and the world spins faster and has more 'stuff' in it. Personally I have come to cherish the pale – those wonderful white spaces that make the colors of important things in my life really pop.
(*Rabindranth Tagore became the first non-European Nobel laureate by earning the 1913 Prize in Literature. In translation his poetry was viewed as spiritual and mercurial. His "elegant prose and magical poetry" remain largely unknown.)
|Clouds at sunset over our farm.|