Artistic direction – Scatter gun or single element?

Ask this question to any artist and you’ll get different answers as it seems the debate between adopting a scatter-gun approach of art production or concentrating on refining a single element or theme is a longstanding one. This discussion touches on fundamental questions about creativity, productivity, and artistic development.

How do you like it? More, more, more!
The scatter-gun approach, akin to casting a wide net, is based on the premise that the more work an artist produces, the higher the chances of creating something truly impactful. This method is supported by the “equal-odds rule,” which suggests that quantity yields quality. The more pieces an artist creates, the more opportunities there are for a work to stand out. This approach encourages experimentation and risk-taking, allowing artists to explore a wide range of styles, mediums, and subjects. It can be particularly beneficial for emerging artists seeking to discover their voice or for those looking to innovate within their field.

These days the flood gates are open at every level to creating and sharing art, enabling artists to produce and distribute their work more freely than ever before. This democratisation of art production and distribution can be seen as an argument in favour of the scatter-gun approach, where the emphasis is on prolific output and the exploration of diverse creative avenues.

Just the one please?
Conversely, the focused approach advocates for deep engagement with a single element, theme, or medium. This method is rooted in the belief that true mastery and innovation come from a deep and sustained exploration of a specific area. Concentrating on a single element can also show confidence in an artists work, potentially leading to pieces that are more coherent, impactful, and recognisable.

This approach aligns with traditional artistic training, which often emphasises the importance of mastering foundational skills and values before branching out. Learning the ropes on specific elements such as line, colour, shape, texture, and space enables artists to develop a centred visual language and to express complex ideas with clarity and depth.

Less is more is less is more …
While the debate between these approaches is forever ongoing, it’s important to understand they are not mutually exclusive. Many successful artists navigate between these two poles, producing a large body of work while also dedicating significant time to refining specific themes or techniques. Taking the hybrid approach allows for both the exploration of new ideas and the deepening of artistic practice.

The choice between a scatter-gun approach and focused concentration may depend on various factors, including the artist’s personality, career stage, and the specific demands of their chosen medium or genre. Emerging artists might benefit from the freedom and experimentation encouraged by the scatter-gun approach, while more established artists may find deeper satisfaction in the focused exploration of specific themes or techniques.

A little from column A and a little from column B
In the visual arts, both the scatter-gun approach and concentrated focus offer valuable routes to creativity and innovation. Artists should look at both of these routes not as exclusive but considered as complementary forces that can be balanced and integrated into their practice. By remaining open to experimentation while also dedicating time to refine their craft, artists can navigate the complex landscape of creativity, producing work that is both prolific and profound.