Quantity leads to quality

16 Dec

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.


The internet shoves a lot of junk in front of us, and those of us who were on it before Google had a heck of a time trying to find art and stories of quality. We developed search systems, review systems, traffic statistic analysis, to really hone in on finding good stuff and make the useless stuff invisible. But ignoring the invisible role of quantity can make the thought of creating great art seem more complicated than it really is.

There was a recent discussion on the Spider Forest forums about first chapters of webcomics, which unlike other kinds of stories, tend to be written in the order they’re read. So no matter what you do, that first chapter’s probably going to be the worst until you revise it later.


Seven years of making comics later, Chu, the creator of Slightly Damned comes back to an older page at a fan’s request. Read her comic at sdamned.com!

The true value of quantity

This is why a lot of artists seem hard on themselves and say their art is junk. We all make junk. The trick is to understand the very important things that junk is doing for us.

  • It’s getting our work out of theory and into practice. Seeing your ideas outside your head will give them a whole new aspect that you cannot predict.
  • It’s making us accountable for goals and intentions and setting the tone for work to come.
  • It’s giving us the practice we need to see which tools work for us and which do not. And sometimes, these tools come in the form of classes and other side projects to teach us what we need to know.
  • It’s teaching us what we really love doing and what we just THOUGHT sounded fun. This one’s huge for me, because when you start a new project, EVERYTHING sounds exciting and fun. But when you do enough stuff, you start to learn what you really have the follow-through to do something great with.
  • It’s giving us the opportunity to iterate. Even if you don’t pick up the same exact project and make edits to it, we tend to work with the same concepts again and again in our crafts. Practicing with those will let you build a little more onto each concept or work a little more into our art to give it the tone/message we want.

So if you do a lot of work and look back on it and don’t like it, be proud, not ashamed. Quantity is doing its job.

(cover photo by Nagy Zoltán Csongor. Check out his photography here!)


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