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  Examples of the Second Pattern

Patterns of Artistic Output

Here's an interesting thing I've noticed that nobody seems to talk about. When an artist (actor) produces works over a period of time, it's easy to assume that the quality of the works is constant, but it's not so. Not only does the quality vary, but it often follows one of two common patterns.

In the first pattern, all the creative energy comes out in a single burst. The first work is by far the best, and later works, if any, are of successively lower quality. The artist has something to say, something that's built up over time, and says it in a burst of inspiration, but once it's said there's nothing left over. The artist, unfortunately, often doesn't realize this, and keeps trying to reproduce the original success when the material isn't there. Occasionally, the bits that didn't get said in the first work will lead to a decent second work, but even that is quite rare.

On the other hand, sometimes the artist does realize the inspiration is gone, and quits while ve's ahead. I consider this a variant of the same pattern.

In the second pattern, the quality of the works exhibits a broad peak rather than an exponential decay. At the start, the works are not the best, but they improve over time, often quite rapidly. For a time, then, the artist is at the peak of vis powers. Eventually, however, the quality will start to decline. The decline can be caused by any number of things, and can be quick or slow. I imagine the whole typically looks something like this.

To get a complete characterization of an artist, one needs to know not only the pattern of artistic output, but also the scale—that is, not only the shape of the curve but its absolute height. Those artists that follow the second pattern and, at the height of their powers, produce great works, I think of as the masters.


  See Also

  Examples of the Second Pattern
  Where's the Music?

@ August (2000)