2.  Less is Moremain workshop page 2.  Less is More


II. REVAMPING A HAIGA FOR "WHITE SPACE"

01


This haiga is about five years old. Still, it's worth trying to revise. I like that I didn't simply depict a summer scene with someone engaged in a book; the reader is implied by an empty chair on a sunny deck. I had played with posterizing to get the image with the image and the echo patterning on the white matt. I still like that too. Formally, the railing and its shadow ties everything together together, and there's a figure ground reversal of the white areas.

But I didn't follow what I tell my students: Part of being an artist is knowing when to stop. I should never have added the page curl and that too-cute warped text which didn't trust readers' imagination or intelligence. I've lost the master file so I'm stuck with the page curl, but I can use Photoshop to revise and simplify the text so it won't grab attention from what the poem is saying. I'll also change the perspective of the railing shadow from the left margin so the compositional diagonal focus points there.

I should also edit the haiku. 'Summer' implies heat already. Also, in the haiku principle of the fullness of things, "warm" is an adjective associated with spring because that's when we readily appreciate coming of warmer weather. "Cool" is associated with summer: the deep cool shade of trees; the cool breeze that brings relief from heat—in fact "cool breeze" (suzukaze) is a kigo for late summer. As I recall, I originally had "warm breeze" because the sun had become strong enough that I'd moved my book indoors. Now, however, I see that this is lost in the poem. Double kigo notwithstanding, there's more openness in the contrast of "summer" with the bright sunlight the image and the "cool breeze" of the haiku.

02

Not long after I'd made this haiga, I went to the 2005 Haiku North America conference and heard Jeanne Emrich's talk on white space, the basis of her "Starlit Mountain"(references: Emrich). Looking back, I can see that Jeanne's talk made such an impression on me because I was ready for it. The visual equivalent of what has been called "ma" or "dreaming room" in the poem, white space is central to haiga aesthetic. Physically it may be an artifact of haiga's origins in ink brush calligraphy on rice paper, but blank paper is still commonly white, as are browser windows when they're first loading. White is not nothing. As Jeanne said, it's the space on which we project our thoughts and imaginings, the openness of the link between image and text.

Perhaps this is not a haiga that I'd make now, but I think that my revisions have focused it formally so that it sustains contemplation. The gaze moves from the text fragment "summer reading" to the waiting chair on a sunny deck, then back to the text phrase "a cool breeze turns the pages", then to the page curl. The gutter between the inner image and the text block begins to round towards the left, and finally, the eye lands near the signature on the lower gray deck shadow, where the diagonal recession of the railing into the picture space redirects the gaze upwards and back into the picture.