What’s you number?

Like it or not we live in a world ruled by numbers. At school and college we have target grades, at work we have sales numbers, utilisation targets,  productivity percentages and in our everyday lives we are meant to not consume too many calories/alcohol units or exercise a certain number of times a week. In short, everyone has a number. But…

…the temptation is to think the number is an end in its own right. The problem with numbers is we may think that because we have achieved them we have somehow done our work but make no mistake we haven’t. Numbers just mask or inhibit our creativity and prevent us from becoming great. Numbers just mean we have achieved a target and have therefore done good enough in the eyes of the number setter. Good enough is not the same as great however and “achieving our number” may prevent us from being great. As Jessica Hagy says here:

“If we don’t know how to make something great, we simply won’t. If we don’t know that greatness is possible, we won’t bother attempting it. All too often, we literally do not know any better than good enough.”

Numbers appeal to our logical, left-brained way of thinking. They are neat and tidy and give us a target at which to aim. By definition though creativity cannot be achieved by meeting a target. The creativity of an artist not only means not having the comfort of a number to achieve, it means you probably know  diddly squat about the thing you are trying to achieve, at least at the outset. You are starting with either a literal or metaphorical blank canvas. As a child we probably all had at least one of those books where, if we joined up the numbers, we created a picture. True artists don’t do their art by joining up numbers however, they start with a blank canvas and create something new and original.

Versatilism is about the intersection of logic (numbers) and creativity (art) and so the versatilist is comfortable with both numbers and art. The versatilist might be the person who creates the painting by numbers book, thus using numbers to facilitate the creation of art, or is comfortable with using the technology of a digital camera to create original photographs. What is your art, and how can numbers be in service of your art?

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