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Underspecialization September 17, 2009

Posted by thejinx in art, life.
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Most people understand that to be good at what you do, you have to focus on one thing – whether it’s creative, handy, physical, what have you – and specialize in it.

I have never managed to follow this philosophy.  I draw.  I write.  I take photographs.  I dabble in various crafts.  I’m learning to play guitar.  Even within these areas, I don’t specialize.  With writing, I’m not so bad.  I have my voice and I mostly stick within the same genre, or subset of genres.  But with the others, I have no focus.  I’ve played with making clay figures, beaded jewelry, chainmail, and other things.  I still have not successfully written any music, mostly because I don’t even know what genre I would want to compose.  I take landscape and macro photos, shots of animals and machines and architecture and flowers, quick and simple shots and carefully set up long-exposure shots.

My art is the worst culprit.  I enjoy and want to emulate so many different styles of art that I’m always trying new things, always making different types of art.  I experiment with various different media.  I try out different art styles to varying levels of success.  I am always inspired by new art and try to incorporate elements into my own work.  I do have a certain style that I generally stick to for casual work, though I am constantly changing things up.

Consistency is attractive in art.  It makes an artist’s work recognizeable, and when you see an array of similar art in front of you, it’s easier to take it in and admire each piece on its own.  One of my neighbours in the artist’s alley at Fan Expo recently sold her art, which was all very consistent in style.  In particular, a large part of her table was devoted to chibi fanart bookmarks.  The colours and the characters were different, but aside from that, they were all pretty much the same.  Her work drew in a lot more people than did my table, with its scattered styles and subject matters.  I did get some more meaningful comments from passers-by who admired the technical skill of my art, the ability to draw in so many different ways, which did not carry over to my neighbour.  But, on the whole, she seemed to receive a bit more attention than I did.

I could just draw a bunch of similar pictures, perhaps exclusively to sell at conventions.  But I don’t want to.  I love so many different art styles and I don’t want to limit myself to just one, even though I’m not as good at any of them as I could be at only one.  I’m just interested in all these different things, and it’s not something I’ve been able to give up yet.

Maybe it’s bad for my development to continue doing so many things at once.  But, it’s a part of who I am.  Jack of all trades, king of none.

(At least I’m starting to allow the idea of selling homemade jewelry to fall by the wayside.)

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