I reviewed my Insta today. And it turns out my numbers over Inktober have been lower than ever. But yet I feel like I’ve improved and my creative potential is so much greater than before. It got me thinking. There has to be better ways to measure art progress.
The education system taught me a few things. It taught me about math, English, physics, chemistry and all sorts of electives like cooking and carpentry. But it also hammered into me that the only way to progress was through grades. Tests, assignments and exams were always scored between 0% and 100%. And the higher your score was, the better you’d done.
There are indeed benefits to scores and grades. It was used as a ways to compare. But it’s the mindset of using numbers to measure worth that I have a problem with. Especially when nobody points out that it doesn’t apply to creative careers. Numbers don’t work for everything.
I mean, can you imagine if we humans measured life’s progress only with numbers. Like how much money we made, and how many square meters our houses were? Imagine if everyone judged worth on these numbers and if we continued into adulthood thinking our creative endeavors had as much value as our likes and follows. What a disastrous world we’d all live in. What broken people we’d be. I guess that’s why they say school doesn’t prepare you for the real world.
I’m being a cheeky, yes. But my point stands. Life goals, careers and creative endeavors aren’t judged by numbers alone.
I already addressed social media, in particular Instagram in this post because of the effect it had on my artistic mindset. And now that Inktober’s over for another year, I find myself asking the same question I did at this point last year. How do I know I’m getting better as an artist?
Better ways to measure Art progress
So how do you measure how good your art is going? How do you measure how creative you were on one day? I don’t have the answer myself. But these are my guesses.
First things first, drop the Instagram and social media obsession. There is such a weak correlation between your art and the numbers that it’s absurd to hang so much value on them. The quality of your photo, the CTA in your comment, or the number and type of hashtags you have, the time of day, etc. etc. etc. These are all factors that play into the algorithms. Sure you can address some of these points to be consistent, but that’s social media management, and not your creative progress. Divorce the value of your art from the number of likes and comments.
Measure the effort you put into your art. And if you’re not good at that, learn about time management. Start time tracking, start a timetable. Use the pomodoro method. Whatever you need to measure your input rather than your output.
Compare your art to your art. Get off the internet and compare pieces from today vs yesterday and the time before that. Notice the improvement, or notice where you still need to improve. Then work on those. Which leads me to…
Active practice. That is, actively working on your weak areas. You know what you need to work on.
And then finally, measure your output. By output I mean the sketches, the WIPs, the stuff you never show on social media.
So are you an artist, or are you a social media manager?
What I mean is, which of these hats are you wearing at any point?
When you’re creating, you aren’t being a social media manager. And when you’re optimising for your audience, you aren’t being an artist.
You can wear both hats. But never at the same time. You aren’t the value of your social media statistics. You aren’t your numbers, just like the child version of you wasn’t equal to the grades he or she got.