“When you lose your simplicity, you lose your drama.” Andrew Wyeth (from The Painter’s Keys)
Many of the greatest artists, writers, poets, and creative people in general comment on the importance of keeping it simple. For some artists, this can be a difficult task, especially for those drawn to the dramatic. Although, at times, complicated fussiness has been popular, the simple is what is more often remembered. A look at a few of the great master’s work would seem to bear this out.
Rembrandt painted a number of complicated scenes such as the famous Night Watch paintings yet he is most often associated with the soft, unique light of his many portraits. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the complicated famous Last Supper mural and many more yet is most often connected to the Mona Lisa. What could be more simplistic in subject than the Mona Lisa? Michelangelo painted the fabulous intricate Sistine Chapel. While thousands flock to see the Sistine Chapel every year, the marble sculpture, David, is the image most often connected to Michelangelo.
The list could go on and on throughout the history of art but how often do artists think about keeping it simple? The problem for many may be in knowing when to quit. There is always something more to do. A little more color here. A dab of paint there. Eventually, the simplicity is lost and some of the drama with it. Perhaps, an alarm can be installed above the easel that can be programmed to know when the point of no return has been reached where simplicity will soon be lost. This alarm could send out a resounding, “Put down the brush, and step away from the paint!!” That could work but it might be simpler to keep it simple by making a simple effort to enforce simple self-restraint. If the self-restraint fails, there is always the alarm to fall back on.
Here is a Flash Mob performance of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. What fun! I wish these guys would show up at my local mall!