The best artists know what to leave out

wing feathers

It's not important where the angel came from, or how she broke her wing

The best artists know what to leave out. They know how much of the support should show through as the pigment is applied, what details aren’t necessary. They suggest, and let their viewer fill in whatever else is needed to make the communication complete. They aren’t afraid to work with a smaller palette, to delete excess verbiage or place rests on the musical staff, for they know that almost every creative endeavor can be improved with a certain measure of understatement. For isn’t it the silence between the notes that often gives music its resonance? What lies between the lines of the poem or story, the dialogue the actor doesn’t speak, the pauses between the dancer’s steps? The spaces can be just as important as what’s distinctly portrayed.

So it’s not important where the angel came from, or how she broke her wing. Only that she was there for Jean to find.

by Charles de Lint (born 22 December 1951)
from The Ivory and the Horn (1996)
Chapter – Dream Harder, Dream True
image – Jaimito Cartero

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2 Responses to “The best artists know what to leave out”

  1. Mark William Jackson Says:

    Completely agree; the beauty of a poem is the white space left on the page, its what happens between the notes – this is where dreams reside.

  2. E. A. Able Says:


    My ideal is to “know” what a writer means, while having plenty of space to pull on or fall into my own thoughts. The truly iconic quotes do that, seamlessly – like Alice Walker’s “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.” The reader easily relates that line to what Walker was doing with her characters, but it is not so nailed down that we have any hesitation in relating to it off-script and away from the influence of “The Color Purple.”