I’m nearing the completion of renovating our family home and whilst I love having an excuse to buy and flick through the latest copy of Ideal Home magazine I really don’t go in for the suggested mood boards and tips on colour coordination. The most valuable advice I came across was an article about a woman whose only criteria for selecting things to fill her house with was that she liked them. Purely by selecting individual items which resonated with her taste the ‘style’ automatically made sense when everything came together. Needless to say that is the approach we are taking. Fortunately my partner and I have remarkably similar taste.
What if I was to apply the same approach to my career? I’m currently managing 5 or 6 different creative projects. Over the last few years this had been interspersed with short spells of studio practice and time spent running an unrelated online business ‘on the side’. As my current projects draw to a close and I start to think about what comes next I wonder about how all these things relate to each other. What is it that I do? ...the modern dilemma of the portfolio career.
‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is an idea that’s been around for a long time, and it is a concern which lingers in the back of my mind, though maybe one that I should just get over. At art college there was one tutor who was strongly against jumping from one media to another ‘…you need to choose between printmaking and sculpture’, ‘…you need to do one thing consistently in order to have a strong practice and be understood by others.’ I didn’t take much notice at the time, presenting both collage and sculpture in my final show, but it’s always stuck in my mind.
I recently attended a talk given by the director of an innovative organisation who produce acclaimed artistic projects outside the gallery, and she described feeling that she still ‘hadn’t made it’, a feeling which she suspected was a hangover of studying fine art some years ago when the only picture of success was the big solo show, gallery representation and selling your work. This resonated with me, as at times I still have a feeling that everything I do is what I’m doing before I do ‘it’.
As this year is twenty years since I graduated from my fine art degree, now seems like a good time to either get on and focus entirely on doing ‘it’, or leave behind the feeling that the other highly enjoyable, skilled work I do is somehow a compromise. Taking career advise from an interior design magazine, my main criteria for choosing the mix of projects and works I will focus on next will be that I like each of them, and therefore they will make sense together.