Creative process paradox: The power of less being more

In writing about what makes an effective painting, Canadian artist David Milne said, “The thing that makes a picture is the thing that makes dynamite – compression… It isn’t a fire in the grass, it’s an explosion. (1)

It’s the ability of knowing what to leave out.

Milne‘s work generally featured a limited palette with the subject matter of his painting being represented with a minimum of detail. (2)

Creativity in “the arts” can indeed often be more powerful when it is a form of intellectual shorthand, making its point with a strong focus on a core message instead of scattering its impact with a lot of detail.

For example, T.S. Eliot’s landmark poem, The Waste Land, was a much longer, and presumably, less impactful work, until Ezra Pound removed great swathes of words from Eliot’s original manuscript.

Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg Address of 1863, is remembered through history whereas the two-hour Gettysburg Oration by Edward Everett, has largely been forgotten.

But making a creative work economical, or in some other way minimalist, does not necessarily guarantee its success. The artistic ability of the work’s creator remains the most important factor.

But it is an interesting principle for us to remember as we explore the creative thinking and creative process concept.

(1) Quotation from the book, Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art, The Canadian Centennial Publishing Co. Ltd., 1966

(2) To get a quick idea of Milne’s work, Google David Milne paintings, and then click on ‘Images” on the search results page.

—Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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