Talking with Gogin last night, I said that in writing it took more time and trouble to get a thing short than long. He said it was the same in painting. It was harder not to paint a detail than to paint it — easier to put in all that one can see than to judge what may go without saying, omit it and range the irreducible minima in due order of precedence. Hence we all lean towards prolixity.
The difficiulty lies in the nice appreciation of relative importances and in the giving each detail neither more nor less than its due […] We are continually trying to see as much as we can, and to put it down. More wisely we should consider how much we can avoid seeing and dispense with.
As regards painting, anyone can paint anything in the minute manner with a little practice, but it takes an exceedingly able man to paint so much as an egg broadly and simply. Bearing in mind the shortness of life and the complexity of affairs, it stands to reason that we owe most to him who packs our trunk for us, so to speak, most intelligently, neither omitting what we are likely to want, nor including what we can dispense with, and, at the same time, arranges things so that they will travel most safely and be got at most conveniently. So we speak of composition and arrangement in all arts.
— Samuel Butler’s Notebook