The White Room

shinji ohmaki art installation
I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit in preparation for a new project and was particularly inspired by the metaphor in this opening passage: “I walk into a large white room,” she writes. “It’s a dance studio in midtown Manhattan. The room is lined with eight-foot-high mirrors. There’s a boom box in the corner. The floor is clean, virtually spotless if you don’t count the thousands of skid marks and footprints left there by dancers rehearsing. Other than the mirrors, the boom box, the skid marks, and me, the room is empty.”

shinji ohmaki art installation

She goes on to explain that, as creatives, our white room symbolizes something different for each of us. An empty WordPress post. A blank canvas. A naked dress form. And it can be terrifying. So we procrastinate and distract and loaf until the day has passed and we return to that same emptiness, feeling a number of things: failure, regret, doubt.

I have a dear artist friend who, when faced with “artist’s block”, paints something truly horrible onto the canvas. Because then, he has a project in front of him. He has officially started, and he’s no longer faced with the proverbial white room or blank canvas. He’s no longer beginning, he is simply editing and honing and finishing. The creative seal has been broken and the flow can begin.

shinji ohmaki art installation 4

There’s a wall painted by Capetown artist Ricky Lee Gordon that reads, “Removing the greyness from the soul of the city is the job of musicians, artists and poets.” And sometimes grey looks a lot like white. Or sometimes, it looks like a jumbled mess.

But every now and then, we create something magical from that white room. Take Shinji Ohmaki, for example, who created thousands and thousands of floral motifs in an otherwise bare, blank space – all in a span of ten days. I’m sure his stencils aren’t perfect. I’m sure there are ample mistakes, a sign of an impending deadline or internal pressure or tired hands. But none of that matters. What matters is that Shinji’s room has bloomed into something colorful and radiant and beautiful, full of life and creativity.

shinji ohmaki art installation 3

What matters is that his room is no longer white.

Image Credits: Shinji Ohmaki

p.s. More multi-colored joy spreading from Koji Iyama.

  • Beautiful. Thank you.

    This reminds of these words from Seth Godin that I have jotted down in my journal, “Of course, the only path to amazing runs directly through no-yet-amazing. But not-yet-amazing is a great place to start …”

  • Thank you for another beautiful post, Erin. The Creative Habit is definitely going on my reading list. (Also, if you need more recommendations, An Absorbing Errand and The Art of Possibility have been inspiring the heck out of my summer so far.) Happy reading, and happy making too :)

  • I came across this quote by Pres. Harry S Truman over the weekend: “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time” ….and it’s been resonating, as I attempt changes where I have been stalled. Seems appropriate here too. :)

  • Lovely thought. It’s that “keep going” wisdom I’m always going on about, even though I don’t necessarily follow my own advice :) Hope you’re well, E! xox

  • What lovely thoughts and comments. Yes, a blank Canvas can be terrifying. I read a book lang time ago from an art therapist who never gave his patiënts white paper te draw on, Because that blocked them. Hè gave them scrap paper from magazines and on the existing pictures they made while new drawings. Recently I read this post from a Mother who did something similar to get her daughter over her fear of failure: with an amazing result. Guess we all need a little help to get going again sometimes.

Comments are closed.