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What's Your Wheelhouse?

Wheelhouse photo - navigating your art career

As a working artist, are you all over the place or are you a specialist?  Will you attempt anything in a jack of all trades approach, or do you have a wheelhouse?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but there is good ways to go about both and advantages.

Being a jack of all trades might mean you work in multiple mediums and subject matters and therefore you offer or have creative flexibility. That has a lot of upside to it, but the downfall anyone can make is thinking they actually are good in all of these areas. So, while you do many things, you actually shouldn’t be doing many things and rather concentrating on fewer directions. If however, the signs are there that your versatility is really assisting you and your clients, well then, go for it.

On the other hand, you may be or wish to be a specialist. The advantage is being known for your specialty and directing all of your energy to be the best at what you do. The disadvantage is what might happen if what you specialize in falls out of favor? It sort of leaves you stuck. Also, if you do specialize and you are commissioned, you better damn sight be good at what you do! Don’t just think you are, it’s imperative to know you are.

I would say personally that I’m a bit of a hybrid in this area. On one hand, I’m known by most to be a landscape painter. Most would think I specialize in this area and to be honest, that’s likely the case. But my commissioned projects are vast, as are my services. I’m currently on the tail end of hanging more than 150 framed items in a client’s home, which range anywhere from large mirrors to paintings, photographs, memorabilia and performing design services. In the process of this, I’m working on an automotive painting, while negotiating a massive corporate landscape commission, this, while writing for 3 publications and my book. No, I am not superman!! But I am versatile!

As you look at yourself in trying to figure your own best direction, I recommend knowing you and who you are. What makes you happy? Many of us will get involved with projects that we shouldn’t, just because it isn’t a good fit. But once you obligate, there you are, stuck. If you have a specialty it certainly should be a good fit, one you are happy to be known for and don’t mind doing for years to come.  A specialty is easier to market than versatility. Painting portraits, or still life, or equestrian or pets, or cartoons, or animation, is easier to get the message out over doing many things. It is not impossible to market versatility though, just more challenging.

Most important of all though is to make sure you are enjoying yourself. That’s why you chose creativity in the first place!