41: Style as A Set of Rules
Exploration vs Exploitation, Adam Ming’s unique thoughts on Style
You can think of style as a set of rules or a recipe.
I think one of the hardest shift as an artist is to move from exploration mode to exploitation mode.
Exploration mode is when you’re discovering new artist and new media and trying it all out at a staggering rate.
Exploitation mode is when you’ve crafted that Knowledge into a set of rules that you follow. These rules let you create a predictable quality of work on a predictable schedule.
The most commercially successful artist you know, are by definition in exploitation mode. They have recipes and they serve in up over and over again making incremental improvement rather than making bold new moves.
When you’re in exploration mode embrace it, and take careful not of the things that work well for you. These are the ingredients you will being into exploitation mode. And if you are in exploitation mode, remember to take time to explore, not as much as before, but find some time to do it. 20% Exploration 80% Exploitation is a good ratio for a professional artist.
Slipping into style
Here’s the thing about making the shift, people say that style comes naturally over time, what they mean is that you will naturally start to move from exploration to exploitation mode if you practice a lot. (This never happened for me even as I dabbled in it for 18 years, but when I made conscious decisions everything clicked into place in 18 months)
Deciding on Style
Here’s one area where I have a very different point of view and it has helped me quickly go from, aspiring illustrator, to quickly signing on to illustrate 7 books in a very short time.
And this point of view is that you decide on style. You quickly move and maintain this 80% Exploitation mindset. Basing your decision on
1. What the market wants and
2. What you are already good at.
While continuing to to spend time exploring to feed your soul through exploration and make small tweaks to the rules.
Narrow the Gap
Know that having a consistent style means moving from exploration to exploitation of your talents. This can happen gradually with practiced or quickly with careful consideration and decisiveness.
If you’d like to discuss this further, email me with some question or in the comments lets us know what your ratio of exploration vs exploitation is.
I like this dichotomy of exploration and exploitation. Something for me think about as I grow my creative business.
What a great insight Adam! Thank you for sharing!
This is my first time giving comments in Sub-stack, pls allow me to make bold mistake if my comments are too naive or too bold.
In my accounting profession, i am responsible to follow certain rules and guidelines to perform my jobs in accordance to the professional standards.
The jobs varied to different scope and context.
Exploration is the key to getting the scope and context right. Exploration is imperative to defining the objectives of any commercial activity or business case. For me personally, it gives me space and freedom without worrying too much on limitation on constraints and other people biases.
Exploitation though is the key to getting things done. The 80/20 rule allows me to narrow down my focus on keeping my priority right and keeps me on track and keeps me coming back to the objectives i find in my exploration state. This keeps me aligned and focused.
I have always wanted to explore to writings and drawing children’s illustrations. I feel that i am stuck in exploration state. Your writings gave me structure to help move me forward. I wonder how do you make the jump to exploitative mode as an artist?