There are a lot of questions artists need to answer about their work once they reach the professional world. Specifically, what value do they bring to their art career? It’s a complex question and deserves time spent thinking about your value as an artist. No one can speak to your value better than yourself so don’t be afraid to sing your praises.
It’s easy when you’re young and haven’t yet figured out your place to not recognize what you bring to the table. The world of art is vast; do you draw, paint, or work with digital artwork? There’s no right answer since every artist is different. Art school is a great place to explore your talents and start figuring out your value, but what happens after that?
It may be frustrating not to have specific guidance on how you should run your art career. If you find yourself struggling with the question of what your value is and where your specialty should take you, keep reading for some advice to help you grow and succeed as an artist.
Should You Specialize In One Artistic Area?
Especially when you’re in school you often are advised to learn as much as you can. Teachers like to tell you not to get too narrowly focused, this gives you the chance to figure out where you excel while gaining all sorts of new skills and exposure to new techniques. A broad education is an excellent foundation for a career as an artist.
However, once you’ve left full-time education you may find yourself drawn to a more specific area of art. The common wisdom even dictates that this is the way to go. Maybe you prefer to storyboard or to create characters over other opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with specializing in one area of artistic pursuits if it is where your passion lies.
If you can become the name synonymous with your technique or talent, you could carve out a niche market that makes you the go-to artist. People will begin to see you as an expert in the area and that will give you a voice of authority. There can be a lot of power associated with being in demand as an expert, which can certainly help you feel valued.
Be A Jack-Of-All-Art Trades?
If you are someone who likes to know a lot and to be able to pitch in where you’re needed, that’s great. There is nothing wrong with being a jack-of-all-trades. Generalists may not become a foremost authority figure in the art world but they can have stable and steady careers working in an area they love. And isn’t that what most people want from life?
Building your life as an artist with a board range also opens you up to many possible career paths. Being able to take your character designs directly to the storyboard process yourself can help you along the way. And even more importantly, being able to work with other departments and being knowledgeable in your discussions can help grow your reputation as well.
Generalizing in the arts can help you become easy to hire but also isn’t likely to lead to burnout as quickly since you will have a wide variety of tasks and places to shine. Plus when you dip your toes into many areas, you won’t feel forced to choose a favorite area. You can excel wherever you go!
What’s Better? Specializing or Knowing Different Types of Art?
Okay, so specializing can be great because you can narrow your focus and work on one thing only. Becoming an expert and the go-to person is awesome. You get to stay in your lane and your job responsibility is easy to define. That sounds pretty good. And when you think of your artistic heroes, most of them have found a specialty right?
But a generalist can pitch in wherever they’re needed. You can follow your artistic desires and mold your career as you go. The freedom of a jack-of-all-trades artist can be thrilling. Being able to have a portfolio of work in different styles and mediums could get you hired in unexpected places.
So what’s better? Should you specialize? Maybe you want to attempt a more generalized career. How can you become the most valuable artist possible? Perhaps you want to work for a team or company. Or do you prefer the life of an independent artist? There are examples of success on any path!
There’s No Right Answer, You can be Great at Either.
The truth is it doesn’t matter whether you decide to specialize in your career or not, as long as you are marketable and hirable. That’s it. Maybe that seems vague or lackluster, but there is no one right answer for everyone in the art world. Everyone’s artistic journey is going to take them in a slightly different direction.
Every employer is going to be looking for different things, some may prefer you to come in with a wide range of skills and the ability to jump in and help out wherever needed. Some companies are going to expect you to be an expert on one special skill set. As long as you are bringing value to a project, you can expect to be successful.
One thing to consider is not to force yourself in any one direction. If through the course of your career you find yourself leaning towards one specific area and that brings you joy and a stable career, then congratulations, you have found yourself a specialty. Own that title for yourself!
But if you’re content seeing what every job brings and using different artistic styles is making you happy, well then don’t fix what isn’t broken. Every artist is going to have a different solution and career path that works best for them, don’t feel forced into a box you don’t fit in. If your art isn’t making you happy then don’t be afraid to take a chance so that it will!
You mustn’t be using your jack-of-all-trades decision as an excuse to not work hard. A good general artist can be exactly who people want to hire, but if you’re not up to the task you could burn bridges. You need to make sure that you’re giving every job your best effort no matter what route you plan on taking.
Be An Artist In Demand
The most important thing as a professional artist is to stay in demand no matter if you’re a generalist or a specialist. There are many ways you can go about keeping up the demand for your work including making sure you give it your all when you’re working. When you consistently work hard, people will want to work with you.
Stay up to date with your knowledge. If everyone is learning new technologies and techniques it may be time to learn them yourselves so you aren’t shut out of potential opportunities. Some fields require continuing education for their professionals. While this isn’t the case for artists, it really should be.
Taking an art class can help expand not only your abilities but also your creativity. While you’re learning something new and working on building up different skills you’ll also be making new connections with your teacher and other students. Since part of success is networking, taking classes can be an excellent way to meet other artists.
Classes don’t need to be a major time commitment, unless you have a true desire to go back to school full time. Taking a class that meets once a week won’t add much to your schedule. But the benefits of a class can help you in more ways than you can imagine.
Art classes also open you up to get more feedback. Feedback and criticism may not be your favorite part of creating art, and it can be scary to open yourself up and be vulnerable to a critique. But this is one of the best places to learn in a class.
Not only will you be able to learn from constructive criticism but you can practice defending your choices. You will be able to discuss your thought process in a safe and controlled environment. Art is very personal and so criticism may seem as though someone is attacking you personally. Learning how to take feedback well is a significant learning step forward and one that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Never stop learning and trying to better your artistic self. Whether the class helps you take a break from your specialty or gives you more to reflect on as a generalist, taking art classes and working hard is something everyone should be doing. And building up your resume with more classes can also help you stand out and get hired.
You Decide Your Artistic Value
As you are trying to figure out where you can be the most valuable you need to remember that you alone will determine your value and self-worth. If you believe that your specialized career in cartoons is what will be the best course of action for you, you need to own that decision and show others how valuable you are.
Have some core beliefs and values that you want to be sure not to sacrifice with your artistic integrity. When you have values, you will automatically become more valuable. Your work is the best representation of what you stand for. Be unwilling to make changes you don’t feel reflect your art’s best interest. (So long as you aren’t going against a company’s values as well.)
Don’t accept limits that others set for you if you find your art to be valuable, keep working until others see what you have to offer and can appreciate your work. Every artist has the potential and ability to be valued for who they are. Keep learning and working hard for what you want!
If there is a demand for you to work with people it doesn’t matter whether you’ve chosen a specific path or not. You need to stand out and own your role in art. Your unique perspective will determine your value and your measure of success. It really won’t matter what the other artists are doing when people are longing to work with you.
A Final Thought
What truly matters is the value your skill brings to a project. Whether in a specialized manner or a more generalized artistic contribution, you determine your own value and career path. Keep working hard, and keep making time to take classes so you can become the best artist possible. You will be one who is valued and appreciated no matter how specialized or general your talents.