As artists we’re constantly told that we need to find a niche and be a specialist in a particular field. You have to be just a concept artist, just a graphic designer, or just a children’s book illustrator. You certainly can’t be all of the above. We’re told that if we dabble in too many arenas that it will scare off clients and art directors because they won’t know what to expect of us. But what if that’s false?
I argue that being a generalist is not actually a bad thing. It used to be that studying multiple disciplines was an achievement. One of the most revered artists in history, Leonardo da Vinci, was a painter, illustrator, sculptor, architect, and writer. These don’t even include his non-artistic pursuits such as mathematics, astronomy, and botany to name a few. For some reason the common phrase is “Jack of all trades, master of none” but why does that have to be the case? It wasn’t until the industrial revolution when workers started dedicating their lives to a monotonous single job that being a specialist became the standard. I think being a Jack-of-All-Trades is good for three reasons:
1. You’ll never be bored or get yourself stuck in a rut if you’re constantly creating different things, utilizing different styles, and experimenting with different mediums.
2. It makes you an adaptable artist that’s able to take on a wide range of projects and work with many different clients.
3. You become a more well-rounded artist and problem solver. Skills build off of each other and the elements of design learned as a graphic designer can help you make dynamic children’s book illustrations or a carefully composed fine art landscape.
As creative we’re told to think outside the box. So why the hell should you force yourself to conform and squeeze into a box if you don’t fit in it? To all the Jack’s-of-All-Trades out there, I urge you to break the mold and celebrate your versatility. I for one say “fuck the rules” and will continue to do all of the different things I enjoy.