If you've been around here for awhile, you know that I love to ask people about quantity and quality. This project is based on the idea that quantity leads to quality. I paint every day. I get better at painting.
I've had many conversations with people who tell me that they aren't interested in quantity. They just want quality. My question is always how can you attain quality without quantity? And I have yet to find a good answer to that.
Usually what I discover is that we are simply quantifying different things. I count days and paintings. They might be getting quality by spending more time on a painting (hours). Most people agree that the only way to get better (quality) at something is to practice which can (and should) be quantified in some way.
This week, I finally ran across a way that quality was achieved without a change in quantity. Drumroll please..........a checklist! Not that exciting I know, but pretty fascinating that something so simple can improve quality.
In Atul Gawande's book The Checklist Manifesto the main examples are the checklists that are used in aviation and in surgery. Using a checklist has lead to big changes in quality which keeps us safe in the sky and improves patient care in the OR.
So how could artists use a checklist to improve quality? In the book, he points out that you can't have every little thing on a checklist. It becomes tedious. It takes a lot of work to find the right items for your checklist. You want to study the process and past failures. Then write your checklist based on those. Focus on a few simple things that will net the biggest gains.
As an artist what are the past failures that I want to avoid? Can I create a checklist that improves the quality of my art without taking away sponteity or expressiveness? I thought this was interesting challenge so I began creating my checklist today.
So far I have just two items on my checklist. Both are based on why I think my paintings often fail.
- Begin with a loose plan.
- Stop during the process and step away.
For me, going into a painting without somewhat of a plan does not get me results I like. Also too much of an idea for a painting leads to disappointment. So the first thing on my checklist is to make sure that I have a loose plan, an idea, a starting point.
The biggest problem, one that I see several times a week, is that I go too far and 'ruin' a painting. I'll often like a painting much better at an earlier stage. So the second thing on my list is to stop and step away. Perhaps I can train myself restraint.
So what do you think? Could a checklist improve an artist's quality?