In the Japanese art of ikebana, perception of beauty is largely based on space, especially space as found in nature. Not enough space between the design elements removes the peace and invites the chaos of clutter. Clutter is noisy to the eye; space is serenity.
Proper use of negative space allows the positive elements in the piece to form lines that provide structure and are rhythmic to the eye, inviting the viewer on a musical journey through the piece.
("'Musical journey?' What?") Yep. Principles of floral design are absolutely musical. Leaf through any design textbook and you'll find descriptors like rhythm, tempo, and harmony (especially with regard to color harmony).
What sort of trip does your eye take through this design? My eye enjoys the implied heaviness of the stones at the base, and the terracing of the container levels, like little steps. I like the swirling of the grass loops sheltering the spider mums at the focal point, and I like following the curly willow up the right side of the tall mum and around the top of it; that branch frames the flower so wonderfully.
And then my eye lands on that adorable droopy petal! I love that droopy petal. This is wabi-sabi.
Ask an American to define wabi-sabi, and if they have heard of it, they'll likely say, "It's when imperfect things are beautiful. Like shabby-chic!"
There's an old parable about the Wabi-Sabi Aesthetic that goes a little sumthin' like this:
Does this mean the student needed to know wabi-sabi before he could learn wabi-sabi? Hm. At any rate, back to the design: I purposely left the droopy petal intact rather than pull it out, because I found it so beautiful/tiny/simple/natural. I had already decided to use the branch of curly willow to frame the tall flower, and the addition of the unexpected line of the little droopy petal to the negative space inside that frame was the perfect touch to the overall movement... just a small bit of punctuation... like when an orchestra ends a piece of music with a lovely little pizzicato from the strings.
See? Music. :-)
"Let the beauty we love be what we do."
(P.S. I created this piece in honor of a colleague who passed away this past year. She was an amazing person and I miss her sweet face.)