A few weeks ago I was reading about all-round creative badass Minna Gilligan and came across a post she'd written entitled 'Art, selling out, and the audacity of wanting it all' - discussing some of the archaic notions that continue to pervade the creative industries - particularly in Australia. Having worked within contemporary fine art galleries for years, I have seen firsthand the strict boundaries and behaviours the field demands of everyone that works within them (not just the artists), and I strongly recommend heading over to Minnas' blog to have a read. Most interesting to me though, Minna discussed her varied creative outputs and they negative association it holds within the industry - an association that pervades all of the creative industries I've worked within:
"Another bone of contention I have become aware of in regards to my art practice is that I utilise a number of different mediums. I flit between writing, drawing, fashion, collage, confessional blog entries, painting, selfies, music, illustration... anything that I feel compelled to pick up and that I believe will be the best possible way to convey a particular idea. I have learned that this makes some uncomfortable because of the propensity to be seen as not taking something seriously and not treating a medium with the appropriate respect. I had assumed these notions were rather antiquated because of the fluidity of the internet and the increased availability of platforms for these mediums to exist, but I don't think that's the case quite yet. I still want to have and use it all, despite those who see not skill or contemporary ideologies in this practice but disjuncture and an inability to make a commitment and follow through with a single medium."
Some clients and peers assume that I am less-skilled in their specialised/niche field within the creative industries, and, often without even consciously acknowledging it, will dismiss my abilities without thought because I openly discuss my love for varied projects within varied fields. I hold a Fine Arts Degree (majoring in Visual Arts, Art History, and Music), a Design Degree (majoring in Visual Communication), have studied further in Book Design, Letterpress, Hand Lettering, Writing, Arts Management, and Public Programming; I've managed one of the most well-respected Australia commercial art galleries, and teach at the University of Technology Sydney - so why is it that it is not okay to utilize all of these different skills throughout different creative fields and mediums? My skill set is varied, unique, and (most importantly) applicable to a number of vastly different fields - often with a different viewpoint to someone who has experience within only one of these fields - so it seems a shame then to cast doubts without so much as a glance. I'm happiest and working at my best when I am doing a lot of different things, and I want to do it all: book design, illustration, murals, creative consultation, writing, pattern design, you name it.
Luckily, if you look in the right direction there are some wonderful creatives who are paving the way for multi-faceted careers: Jonathan Zawada, Mike Mills, Deanne Cheuk, Miranda July, and Mike Perry just to name a few - the latter of which has such a great job descriptions that I've copied it below for you to read:
"Mike Perry is a designer and artist working in numerous media: books, magazines, films, newspapers. He draws, paints, and illustrates. He animates. He cuts, pastes, and builds. He creates sculpture projects and installations. He crafts limited-edition silkscreen posters as well as large-scale ad campaigns. He curates books and monographs. He can be enlisted to design Mike Perry originals for display at home or office. He gets lost in pattern and wants you to get lost with him, too. He wants to mesmerize and awaken you through his constellations of line, form, shape, color, idea.
Perry art-directs, designs books, and paints portraits. He is working on children’s books and has been invited to contribute to literary magazines. He brands and has a helluva beard. He teaches. He writes the Twitter feed himself. He’s working on a cooking show. He’s made T-shirts and Nike shoes. His appetite for collaboration and creation are omnivorous. His curiosity and creative aspiration are boundless. If you want to work with him, buy something from him, commission him, interview him, then the line, so to speak, is open. He’s just like that. The possibilities are endless."
So despite the constant gentle nudges towards 'niche-ing' my skills, and 'refining' my offerings - I'm going to hold out. I'll keep on my path of multiple creative outputs, because I love what I do, and I know that I create good work for myself and my clients - whatever medium or purpose it holds. I can use my skills to transform your brand, illustrate your book cover, creatively consult a vision for a retail space, or design a refined typographic product - and I'm going to do them all.
I'd love to know your thoughts on multiple creative outputs. Do you agree/disagree? How to you manage these expectations?
Let me know in the comments below.
Portrait by Amy Whitfield.