Monday, November 11, 2013
Quantity versus Quality
The last work posted on this blog was the in-progress view of this painting. It is now finished, and has some differences compared to the previous image. It took me a while to finish this painting, and so I have been thinking about quantity versus quality in terms of art.
In relation to the quantity versus quality thought, I have read that no one artist will ever consistently produce masterpiece after masterpiece. To produce a collection of the best work and thereby build yourself up as a master artist, it is important to keep drawing, drawing, drawing, and painting, painting, painting. After a time, when a quantity of works has been built up, one could then go into the body of work and select the few gems from the pile. This way only the best of the best work is represented and a reputation of quality emerges .
I sometimes wonder if this is where the philosophy prescribed in art schools derives. When I am working on a painting I can hear my professors' voices in my head (even now more than 10 years after my last studio course) telling me to work faster, compose the image, locate your lightest lights and your darkest darks, lay the basics in first and quickly. Then resolve your image through changes and corrections.
Working in this way will certainly result in a large number of works, but at some point is that really important? Is it necessary to continue working in this way without cessation?
I ask this because I have noticed a slow-down in my production levels. I continue to paint a little each day, but sometimes this translates into only 5-10 minutes of art making. I'll make some corrections, or I will add a wash, but sustained 1-2 hour painting sessions are hard to come by. It used to take a year for me to fill a sketchbook with potential ideas. Now, I can use the same sketchbook for 2-3 years. I've noticed these things and I start to feel guilty, and I start to question my resolve as an artist. And given that I haven't produced as many images in the past, I wonder if the gems are beginning be more and more sparse.
As I ponder these things I continue to work, albeit at a different pace. But I think that is what is most important here. To develop a pace appropriate to yourself for working, and to keep working. Push too hard and it becomes too much and can be overwhelming. Perhaps the quantity of work should not be measured over a small period of a month, two months, or even a year, but rather the entire time spent working as an artist. I know that if I piled all the images I have made since beginning my studies as an artist, several works would outshine the others, and perhaps provide a concrete demonstration for the idea of quantity versus quality. I will close with the status of my current painting, and we will see how long it takes me to finish it. Post your thoughts in the comments. What do you think about pace and quality versus quantity?