In my recent newsletter I talked about how I was reevaluating how I use social networks. The constant posting started to feel like I was just checking off the box to make sure I stayed consistent with my “online presence.” There seems to be this imaginary pull with social networks to always produce since we are all constantly vying for the attention. I watch a lot of youtube and folks will post as much as twice a week, which if you add that up over 52 weeks, that’s 104 videos a year! For most, this is not even their full time job.
For me, once I started to feel burnt out and underwhelmed with the art I was producing I knew I had to make a change. With this shift in mindset a question popped into my head:
How many art pieces did some of my favorite artists make in their lifetime?
If I’m looking to strive for any greatness I like to look towards those who inspired me to create art in the first place, and study how they progressed throughout their careers.
After doing some quick research I found the following stats. Frida Kahlo created ~200 paintings, 55 of which were self-portraits (Source) in her 47 years of life. In contrast Basquiat, despite his life being cut short at the age of 27, created 600 paintings and 1500 drawings. He was highly productive (Source) and I would say closer to how we feverishly create today. Renaissance painters Andrea Mantegna created ~35-40 paintings (Source) and Rembrandt a whopping 600 paintings, nearly 400 etchings, and 2,000 drawings. (Source-List of Paintings).
If we were to say today’s artists and creators were on the trajectory of two pieces a week of any type of artwork and the career spanned a 20 year period, we are looking at a little over 2000 pieces of artwork, on par with the amount Rembrandt and Basquiat created. But if we applied that average 20 year career to Basquiat, he would have had to start painting his works by the age of 7!
I just want to state that art is not about how many or how few pieces you make. There is no arbitrary number that says, “once you create this many pieces you are fulfilled,” or that you’re officially some kind of master. I’m sure these artists all had like sketchbooks, failed artworks, or pieces that were even lost throughout time, but these are the ones that are recorded as finished pieces they shared with the world and their patrons.
How did we get to this place of excessive creation? Art is hard. It’s really freggin hard and to have even 100 great pieces to showcase is in my opinion fantastic, and no easy feat! Based on some of the things I see on instagram or twitter I’m not sure if social networks are making folks better artists because they are pushing themselves to practice constantly and get all those “bad drawings” out the way, but it’s a really interesting shift in creating. I think for me just creating meaningful pieces is enough, but the need to keep up with social media’s expectation of consistency is not it for me. The pieces will come as they will.