Minimalism, Art as the Process of Simplification

I’ve always yearned for a minimalistic approach to art in which I use the fewest words or lines to produce a final creation. There is a famous story of Picasso scribbling on a napkin in a cafe. A woman hurries to him and says, “Please, how much for the napkin?” “Excuse me,” he replied. “I want to buy the sketch on the napkin.” “Twenty thousand” “What!?” “Twenty thousand,” he repeated. “But it only took you two minutes,” she said. “No, ma’am, this took me 65 years.”

It will take time and sacrifice. T his story illustrates a message I fail to communicate to anyone,  though I try: somehow it just feels like I’m always learning even if I’m not trying. The more I do it, the more I understand, the more focus and attention and analysis I put in, the better I become, even if it’s a simple line. It’s as if every inch of that line held a year each. That line couldn’t have been drawn without those years and an intensity of concentration (years alone guarantee nothing but decomposition).

The process was all the time the one of simplifying, of sacrificing many conceptions good in themselves for one that is better and more universal.

But nevertheless, I feel guilty about waste. I often feel, when I’m creating, the question  “Why am I doing this? For what? ”

A good workman can’t be cheap; he can’t be stingy about wasting material

We need the reminder that there is no such thing as waste. My enjoyment matters; my thoughts and my voice matter. Each is valuable. I can never get better if I never try. Anything less than perfection feels shameful but it’s less human anyway. In this way, we need the connection. It isn’t perfection we need but the need to tell truth—truth for us, truth that is true for now—and for support. We never which of our pieces will resonate with one reader. Maybe one sentence will connect and our reader will whisper “me too”. Yes. Yes, I feel like that. I get anxiety in being wasteful. Yes, I feel like this is all for nothing? Why write.

Quoi faire d’autre?

When I read this short excerpt of Cather’s essay, she denotes two types of writing: functional and artistic. The latter is described as “something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values. To her, intrinsic is simplistic minimalism. The intrinsic is the universal and individual; the standardized is realistic and social. The magnitude within you is unique and irreplaceable: write it; dance it; sing it; just do it. Express yourself.

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