We creatives are curious by nature, which makes us lifetime learners; constantly trying out new things and always expanding our skillset. Everyday we find something new, some spot of life where we haven’t ventured before and usually the first thought that comes to my mind, when in such a place, is how can I understand this or that? how can I conquer this newly found interest and grow?
As rewarding and priceless as such a view on life is, it does come with some caveats, namely it brings up the question of value of such a jack-of-all-trades mentality and drive, when faced with an evermore growing number of people, who spent the better part of their life focusing on only one particular skill. Should we be master figure painters, who can produce the most stunning portrait you have ever seen, or should we be good painters who also know how to take good photographs and be kinda experienced at design and illustration?
In the small town where I grew up, there was only one painter, and he was an expert at making small handprinted idols in oil. There were probably two photographers, who were decent at their work and one designer, who long before my family moved there took up shop and opened a graphic design and printing business (more or less because he couldn’t have afforded to only do design and let somebody else only produce the printed materials). If someone talented came to that town and started to make the same quality idol paintings and also took the same quality photographs and could at the same time make decent designs from those images, well my guess is that all the other three would have been in for a steady period of decreased business and that the talented artist would soon get a strong market share of creative work in the area. Not because she would have been that much better at what she did, but because she would have had three times the market size to work with.
The same happens with big stores that open in small areas. Sooner or later the smaller mom-and-pop businesses start to feel the diminishing numbers of customers who’d, rather than shop in five different places, go to one spot to have it all (and many times for much cheaper). But even if we would consider that our talented artist would demand similar prices for her work as the other three, my bet stays the same.
But focusing on a big city like London or Paris, being a jack-of-all-trades might not be so rewarding. Because why would you go to one person to get all of your creative needs taken care of in a good or acceptable way if you could take your money to three other experts, that, looking at how big the greater London area is, would be about the same distance away as anyone who could do it all (about four clicks and a phone call or email, give or take). Would it still make sense to have a large array of adequately developed skills, trying to do as much work for one client as one is capable of, or would it be better to “just” be one of the best, if not THE best abstract resin painter in the whole city of London?
I myself have always been hungry for everything creative and can still proudly say that I know a lot about many things. But the more time passes, the more I feel that decent doesn’t compete with great and that while I am able to perform both the work I know a lot about and the work I am kinda good at, the only thing that really changes is the value I can provide in a given time period. Because if I am an expert in Photoshop, I can charge an expert fee and deliver and expert result, but if I am only a decent photographer, I can’t go running around and demanding the same expert fee for my average photography work. And still, an hour of work is an hour of work, and each of them makes up the only really scarce resource we have in life, time. The question is how to spend it so that we can do as much good as possible during the time we are here.