Keep It Simple!

By Linda R. Fisler September 29, 2021

We learn so much about the keys to making a great painting, a hit song or movie score, an intriguing script, or a blockbuster movie or series through our creative journeys. In each discipline, there are foundational elements necessary to achieve a very basic good product. However, to obtain stardom or excellence—creating something that makes a lasting impression on the recipients/viewer, we reach and sometimes over-reach those basic principles. The object becomes overworked. It suffers from its creator not acknowledging its completion. Other times we overcomplicate it by adding too much detail, too many notes, or too many stars.

My years of studying the creative process amaze me how all creative disciplines overlap in many critical areas. For example, I ask my students when they struggle with a painting, “What’s the star? What do you want the viewer to see, feel, explore?” Taking a queue from a director’s perspective changes the game. It allows the creator to step back and into the shoes of the viewer.

In most cases, stepping into the viewers’ shoes allows us to discover one of the most forgotten and underrated elements: Simplicity.  Why is simplicity so important?  Let’s explore this.

Emotionally, I think we can all identify with being inundated with tasks, creating lists of things to do, and inevitably determining that one job is always more complicated than we ever imagined. As a result, we end up feeling overwhelmed, and we haven’t even finished one item on the list yet. Additionally, the demands of others in your household or life can have us uttering, “I give up!”  Life is complicated, but does it have to be?  Being swamped, we don’t pause and examine what we are doing.  In other words, we don’t simplify. Please consider this as having too much in your creation (painting, song, novel, script); the viewer cannot determine what we are trying to express.  

Study others’ work and ask yourself why you like it. For example, Ansel Adams’s gorgeous black and white photos are memorable because of their simplicity.  

Ansel Adams Morning Mist, Merced River, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite

Edgar Payne carefully studied composition in nature and how certain ones lend themselves to his paintings’ eye-catching, memorable, and simplistic design.

Edgar Payne Kearsage Peaks

In the Hunger Games, we follow Katniss as she battles to stay alive and end the autocracy of Panem. So many characters, but the story follows Katniss’s journey. Without Katniss, we lose the unification and simplicity of the story.

In music, I think of the one bass line of “Another One Bites the Dust.” The catchy beat of “We will Rock You.” The snatchy phrases in Bohemian Rhapsody.  And yes, I do love Queen.  But it is true for any genre of music.  When you search for a song, as you may be doing now, there is a simple set of notes or one line of lyrics that starts us down the path of remembering.

Our work should be remembered for its simplicity tugging at the emotions connecting the viewers to the piece. But, remember, too much detail will overpower the senses resulting in a missed chance for connection.  

Make it memorable! Keep it simple!

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