Quantity versus Quality.

One of the stories from the book, Art and Fear, that keeps bobbing to the surface of all the thoughts that I’ve been thinking goes something like this:  A ceramics teacher told half of his students that they would be graded on the quantity of pieces they created and completed in class.  The other students were told they should concentrate on making a perfect piece.  At the end of the semester, the group that created the most had also created the best pieces.  The students that worked on a single piece seeking perfection had not been successful at all.  Keep in mind that this is a paraphrased version of the story; perhaps altered a bit by percolating in my brain for the last week.  But, its close enough or rather meaningful enough for my purposes.

In a way, it’s a rather “duh” idea:  the more you practice something, the better you’ll get.  Depending on how you look at it, you might also deduce that if you make enough of something, eventually you’ll have a successful outcome. “Practice makes perfect” and  “If she looks long enough, even a blind sow will find an acorn”.   Common enough sayings and yet, none the less true.

The more I’ve thought about the story, the more I’ve gotten from it.  I can certainly become a more skilled artist if I spend more time making art.   I like the unexpected result…the oops moment…the spontaneous creation that can come from not thinking things through.  I often don’t do a lot of planning before starting on a surface.  But, the more I play with my materials, the more opportunities I’ll have for that magical result:  A seemingly “unplanned’ art piece that conveys a message I wasn’t even aware that I wanted to communicate.  Everything I created up to that point contributed to the magic whether I planned on it or not.

Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say.  When I was twenty years old, I wasn’t planning on who I would be when I turned fifty.  I doubt that I spent much time thinking of it at all.  I was busy being twenty and twenty-one and so on.   I lived every day and through experience, good and bad, I became who I am here and now.  Who I am is a direct result of everything that I did between twenty and fifty.  Every action counts.  I didn’t plan the details of who I would become.  I didn’t contemplate the consequences of each act.  But they all added up, literally.

I believe that making art in quantity works the same way.  I need to create every day and trust that each act of creating is building on the previous one.  I don’t need to be afraid that what I’m making isn’t good enough.  I don’t need to compare myself to others or expect perfection.  Each less than perfect art piece is valuable experience towards what my art is becoming.  I certainly didn’t want to be fifty years old when I was twenty!  I wouldn’t have been very good at being fifty without the time and experience I garnered along the way.  I can’t expect to create like anyone else any more than I can make myself into anyone else.

I committed to the daily journal page as a direct result of this story.  I knew that it would be a difficult challenge…to make a page every day…no matter what else life would throw at me.  I didn’t anticipate how quickly I would tire of a theme – that only 5 days in, I am struggling with the whole bird concept.  I am going to have to find some new materials and work out of my comfort zone on this one.  How many days in September?  There have already been more than a few pages that I don’t want to post…I don’t think that they are good enough.  Haven’t I been talking about art and fear?  Haven’t I discussed that quantity triumphs over quality when it comes to becoming a better artist?  Sometimes you “know” something in your head, but it still doesn’t fully sink in.

I believe in the story.  I believe that perfection doesn’t apply in this case.  I need to make a bird page every day in September…process over product.  No fear. I know it.

But, part of me still wants everyone to look at what I create and say, “Wow, that’s amazing.  You are so talented.”  I don’t want to fail.  I’m afraid of not being good enough.  I want perfection without the risk.

So, I’m going to make 25 more bird pages.  Somehow.



3 thoughts on “Quantity versus Quality.

  1. “Each less than perfect art piece is valuable experience towards what my art is becoming.” Wow. This is a concept I have difficulty living out.

    I am finding that the longer I’ve been blogging, the harder it is for me to get a piece out. I didn’t really know what was up until I read this. “I want perfection without the risk.” Sums it up quite nicely. I shall have to rethink things. Thank you. I needed to hear this. 🙂


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