Notes on Paucity

Robert Genn, a successful artist, instructor, writer sends his “Twice-Weekly Letter” to artists the world over. In his September 2, 2011 letter he talks about paucity. This letter is particularly meaningful to me both as an artist and writer. His letter is reproduced here with his permission.

I was putting the title The Red Canoe on the back of a painting when my friend Joe Blodgett walked in and said, “Nice painting, too bad about the red canoe.”

After a couple of single malts I was looking at the painting through Joe’s eyes. I was pleasant enough when I urged him to go down to the smokehouse to get our smoked salmon, and while he was gone I took off the final varnish and hauled that canoe out of my picture.

 Yesterday, Katharina Keoughan of Friendship, Maine wrote, “In your last letter you mentioned ‘the principle of paucity.’ What is paucity, and why is it good to have in one’s work?”

Thanks, Katharina. Paucity means “the presence of something in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity.” In our game, it’s one of the main principles. Apart from “His criticism shows a paucity of tact,” or “His resistance to Scotch shows a great deal of paucity,” most significant is the presence of paucity in our work.

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything,” said Voltaire, and he wasn’t talking about his girlfriend, Emilie du Chatelet. A painting with paucity is one that tells you just enough to arouse your interest–perhaps leading to another excellent word–mystery. Unless the viewer is an engineer, give him too much info and he will yawn and go over to the wine and cheese. In some paintings it’s best to have viewers launch their own canoes.

 Overwork, overstate and over-busy are three of the top boo-boos. We come by them honestly–from our innate human desire to give more. Sometimes it takes another person’s eyes to see there’s too much going on. Sometimes it’s painful to remove stuff. But art very often needs lines that disappear, it needs subjects that are suggested rather than told, it needs incomplete areas so viewers can complete for themselves. Our work does not have to be a seamless stream of cleverness.                                                

The same is true in writing. Passages are almost always better when cut back. Writing is rewriting.

 We eventually shipped my non-canoe painting. Through the magic of acrylic covering power, nobody knows what’s under there. Somewhere out in the Diaspora there’s a canoeless scene called “The Red Canoe.”

Thank you Robert for your words. Robert’s words are indicative to my driving points in the Victoriana series about clutter.

You can subscribe to Robert’s free Twice-Weekly Letter anytime. His pearls of wisdom are inspiring.

Have you ever looked at tree holes (sky holes) between branches? Are you inspired by what’s not there to write, to dream, to explore? As Robert requests of his readers, I request as well, read this letter and give us your input on the value of leaving things out.

WHAT DOESN’T VICTORIANA LOOK LIKE?

WHAT DOESN’T VICTORIANA LOOK LIKE?

Phlip Johnson

Philip Johnson Glass House Contemporary Interior, New Canaan, CT

 

 

 

 

Please note the clean, contemporary, organized space in the Philip Johnson Glass House.

All images are from Victoria Lyon Interiors www.victorianlyoninteriors.com.

This week’s blog is about space, order and design and has nothing to do with taste. Taste is ambiguous and personal. You can apply your taste to any of the basic concepts discussed.

The images above are vignettes of traditional design.

Old world elegance mixes with modern colors and textures to create the master bath/dressing area for the lady with very discriminating tastes. Designer Victoria Lyon says her space “evokes the casual elegance of an English country house,” but also brings in modern touches that “let us know that the lady of this manor definitely belongs to the 21st century“.

The dressing area features sweeping curtains, a feminine skirted dressing table and a plush chaise. Old world fixtures, a free standing burnished metal tub and a sparkling marble shower create a bathroom with character and class.

The image below “Traditional Country” is an uncluttered, well-organized, well-designed space. The soft, warm color on the vertical planes (walls) is comforting and pleasing. Warm deep colors have vibrations, move forward into the room and take up visual space.

traditional country

Traditional Country www.victorialyoninteriors.com

Crowding can cause conflict in a life, in a mate, in a child. All this talk about beauty, function, good design, what does it mean? If you like lots of stuff around you, okay. But how is it arranged? Is there order? Is there negative space, meaning quiet space? A place of peace?

Function … what in the world? Clocks have a function, cars have a function, computers have a function. So what has function got to do with space? Space has to provide a place for you to stand up, lie down, sleep, wake.  And all the activities in-between. Where do you write your checks, where do you write your stories, where do you play? If you have any, where are the kids, where do they snack, where do they do homework, where do they play?

Here are a few examples of functional items. Clocks, clocks tell time, what would we do without time? Cars are constructed to take you from point a to point b, computers output and input information. If we take a look at the world around us, everything we need is organized in some way.

You may like contemporary, you may like traditional, you may like the American style (mixture of both), it doesn’t matter. The images above are well-designed, well-organized, functional spaces.

Nineteenth century Victoriana had no specific order. The more stuff squeezed into a space, the more it supposedly displayed great wealth.

Order is important for our well-being.

Thank you to Victoria Lyon interiors for her gracious participation in this blog. www.victorialyoninteriors.com.

Come back next week for more Victoriana surprises. Remember to post your comments. I especially enjoy your inquiries and challenges.

What about you, your home, your office, your play space? You love clutter. OK! But is it organized?

 

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