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Ocean Bottega Interiors

Less really is more


There is a lesson that happens at some point in every artists' education. The lesson asks you to say the most with the least. Artists may draw and redraw a subject many times over and each time attempt to use fewer strokes than the time before. This exercise hones an artists' skill at capturing the ethereal and emotional essence of their subject as they see it. I had to do an illustration of this nature for my portfolio submission to get into art school.

I was reminded of this exercise when I was cleaning up my office. I started a year ago this past January when I could not find important papers, tools, samples and the like. Things would never quite get put away, stuff would pile up and piles would multiply as I got busier and busier. Feeling frustrated with the wasted time and energy this was costing me, the Decorator, the Organizer!, I threw down the gauntlet and made this project my New Year's resolution to get back on track.

Little did I know it would take more than a year and that my whole house and parts of my life would fall under scrutiny. Today, after a quiet day of going through things and letting go of still more stuff, I had a gleeful moment during my lovely hot and relaxing bath, my reward for all this hard work. It was a feeling of light heartedness and that all is well. As I was getting dressed I looked in my bathroom cabinet and was pleased at how few products I needed to get ready for my day; delighted at how little I need to feel good about myself. I felt energized and creative ideas bubbled up out of nowhere. Oh, how delightful!

After feeling out of control, overwhelmed and dull, this was pure bliss. While I haven't reached my final goals for my office and home I feel they are attainable as I keep chipping away at them. Little did I appreciate that de-cluttering was also about what's going on, or in this case, not going on in my head. This feeling of mediocrity, that I had no new ideas, that I had lost my creativity. The chaos in my mind had become a reflection of the chaos in my home.

It's no accident the definition of elegance, a word often used to describe well designed and beautifully appointed interiors, means the quality of being pleasingly ingenious and simple. And so it is with many a creative endeavour, math, science, The most delightful answer is an elegant one.

I once did a painting of a helicopter for an enthusiast. I stripped away all the excess detail and focused on feelings of excitement and anticipation. When the intended received the painting he remarked that he loved the incredible detail. He was able to see and feel the spirit of the object. You can always tell the master from the amateur by the number of ideas on the canvas or the objects in a space. When you remove visual clutter you can see what's in front of you, literally and figuratively. The remaining features feel like intimate details.  

Even though I have 'cluttery tendencies', "Oh, the potential!" and "How pretty!", I'm always amazed and delighted at how pleasing simple rooms can be. Rachel Ashwell of Shabby Chic is a great example of someone who is terrific at creating simple, intimate and artistic spaces. Even if you don't share her aesthetic you can see what I'm talking about.

You { ? } and I are not the only ones to suffer this modern dilemma of Too Much. There is an avalanche of material on de-cluttering and lots of professional help available if you can't do it by yourself. I called in reinforcements even though I often do this for others. It's good to have someone around who has some objectivity and can keep you moving forward in a positive manner. Taking the time to put systems in place according to where and how you do things can keep you organized and tidy in the future and is well worth the effort.

My best advice, just keep at it. Know it's a part of everyday life and Rome wasn't built in a day. As you progress it gets easier and easier to let go. I also make frequent stops at the donation centre either weekly or biweekly reducing the feeling that the task is a mountainous one and even harder to begin. Slow and steady wins the race! If I'm still using it or really in love with it then it's a keeper. If not, I remind myself that someone else needs and wants this more than I do and is ready for it right now.

I gave my Mother 26 blank canvases that I had been saving literally for years for an illustrated alphabet that just hadn't got off the ground. She began by painting the portraits of all her friend's dogs and her paintings have grown into a little cottage business. I like to think the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

The best things in life are free and don't take up space; a smile, family and friends, love, hugs and kisses, laughter, good memories and blissful sleep. Remember, we come into this world with nothing and leave with nothing. Feelings of abundance need not be grounded in material objects. Set your mind and your rooms free!

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Musings on Design

Thought for Food

If you like to draw or paint choose a topic or create a still life. Draw it fully and in detail. Now challenge yourself to redraw it using less. Less such as fewer strokes, black and white instead of colour, line instead of shade, you get the idea. How much can you strip your image back but still express something interesting and engaging? If you have another craft or skill you enjoy see if you can apply the same principle. Perhaps you're a writer, you can do this too. Take pictures along the way or keep the stages in between whatever your medium is. Take the original and the final idea and post them side by side. Spend some time looking at them. How did you feel about the journey? How do you feel about the change?