A fundamental distinction all developing artists need to know
The title is a slight paraphrase of Tim Packer’s words, during one of his mentor-ship YouTube videos with Brooke Cormier. At first, it might not make much sense, however after letting it sink in for a while you will realise it is actually fundamental for any beginner or developing artist’s learning process. Tim talked about a clear distinction between an artist’s work phases and this is exactly what we will look in slightly deeper detail in this article. To enrich the text with some visual content, I will be sharing corresponding pieces of my own work below.
What is progress mode?
If you have tried making art you will be well aware that not all your art works can be equally successful. “Progress mode” is when you start working, acknowledging that your final creation won’t necessarily be a masterpiece, but it will actually offer you a few opportunities to learn and make progress as an artist. This is the phase where most of the learning takes place, since you are allowed to make mistakes, experiment, try new approaches and materials or even fail. Observing other people’s style and incorporating elements into your work in order to create your own unique style is part of this process.
In brief, “progress mode” is when you experiment and you are allowed to make mistakes in order to learn. The pictures below, are extracts of my sketchbook and show exactly this learning process.
What is product mode?
This is when things get serious. Your aim in “product mode” is to produce a finalised piece of art of the best quality you can achieve. Don’t be confused though; product doesn’t necessarily need to be something you want to sell; it might be something you are aiming to present in an exhibition or even something you are making to gift to someone. Regardless of the outcome type, as long as it is important to be of certain quality – it counts as a product.
The sketches below, come from my sketchbook too and although they are not meant to be for sale, they count as products since I tried my best to achieve good quality. (I was aiming for something good).
Why would you go into one or the other mode?
Hopefully, by this point the difference of the two modes is quite clear. You might be wondering though, why should I bother making a distinction between the two and not just try my best to create nice paintings? Fair enough, however the two modes serve two completely different purposes.
The first (ie. progress mode) is necessary for you to learn, develop and make progress. Having no pressure to achieve something awesome, you are actually free to create something new, think out of the box and break your comfort zone. It does not need to be good; but it needs to explore new boundaries, techniques and ideas. This is what will help you move a step forward and become a better artist.
Product mode is also essential for a number of reasons.
- Many people need to make a living, so creating “products” to sell is not a choice – it is necessity.
- Others, set specific aims they wish to achieve; for instance put up an exhibition, present something at university, or prepare a descent quality outcome so they can promote themselves on social media.
- Or finally, someone might want to produce an artwork of best quality, purely to test themselves and sort of prove they can make it happen. It is acceptable..!
Can the two modes be combined?
It is my understanding the two are and should remain fundamentally different. When you decide that your are in progress mode you should keep your mind clear of any concerns regarding the quality and success of the final piece. Literally, let yourself loose and allow your creativity to flow. If at the end, you are very happy with the result and it is up to your standards, feel free to sell it or use it as a finalized product. There is no harm in selling the final piece, however the creative process must be detached from the selling potential.
On the other hand, when working on a “product”, employ your knowledge and best techniques to produce something of highest quality, according to your skill set and experience. Although we always learn during the creative process, your focus here shouldn’t be new knowledge but a good quality outcome. If you want to learn…switch to “progress mode” and read the previous paragraphs again!
This is just my quick take of what I heard yesterday watching the video. I hope it helps, and although it might be going over old ground for some of you, I am sure that many still hesitate to dedicate time to self development and they only try to produce Art Products. Give yourself time to develop and soon your “products” will be of much better quality!