Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Idle Thought of the Day

The process of artistic growth -- particular an increase in sheer technical skill -- is at odds with the desire for consistency in style and surface across an artistic work.

For shorter works, obviously, this is less of an issue -- one of the many reasons beginning writers are encouraged to write short stories. You learn a bit, finish a piece, and apply what you've learned to the next. In the idealization (almost certainly rarely if ever achieved in real life, like the straight line through the vaguely-linear scattershot of data points), each story is better than the next.

But for a longer work -- the kind that takes years to create -- it's more difficult. Here, if you get better -- and again, I'm thinking primarily of sheer technical skill here -- you get the odd situation where the ending is better done than the beginning. Oh, you can go and rewrite the beginning... but it's time-consuming, and it's a process that lends itself to indefinite extension (although the point of diminishing returns surely kicks in somewhere). Sure, if you've done a lot of shorter works first this is probably less of an issue (although I suspect that artists rarely work so long on a short scale that it's not an issue at all when they turn at last to the long). But what if you are drawn to longer works, for whatever reason? Then it's a bit of a dilemma -- or at least a problem.


DerikB said...

I have this problem with my webcomic, but I planned in change to the basic concept so it would work as part of theme. Which is kind of cheating...

Stephen said...

I think rather than "kind of cheating" I would have called it "an elegant and clever solution to a knotty problem".

I'm doing a comic to -- not a web one, it's designed for print -- and yeah, it's a problem there also. (Perhaps more of a problem for comics, given the continuity of character & the obvious differences in how they look as you go on, than any other medium?) But I have no thematic work-around as you do. It was a clever escape & you should bask in it.

Barry Deutsch said...

Dave Sim said in some interview that he just learned to see the evolution as part of the process, and part of the work.

Now, Sim obviously isn't a role model, but on this one -- especially when thinking of superlong works -- I think he's got a point.