I was in Alcone the other day buying some post fashion week organization containers when I bumped into Angelina Avalone. In catching up with each other on work we had an in depth conversation that most artists I think would find absolutely fascinating, though to us it's the norm. The conversation was about being "a jack of all trades" in your industry, and how important it is to have a ton of skills underneath your belt, and how if she and I did not, we might be up shits creek with our careers.
Now I know you are probably thinking "but what about the second part to that saying? "Jack of all trades, master of none?" While there is a lot of truth in that statement, there's also some key understandings that make the difference between being an expert in your field, or a wandering nomad with no focus.
Let's examine the intention of that saying, and the truth that lies within it. In this industry people have a mega short attention span, and the ones doing the hiring are looking for someone masterful at developing whatever specific vision they have. If we aren't a specialist, we'll be passed over for someone who is. That's why it's not wise to have too much going on with your website and promotional material, too many genres of makeup. It will seem unfocused, and in a sense that you are a "Master of None".
So why is it still important to be a "Jack of All Trades"? In mine and Angelina's case, where we do very specific makeup (theater and creative), there may only be a very small pool of demand for what we do. As a result we get some really amazing jobs, but they maybe be few and far between. Most people think I am a "Body Artist", and an "airbrush artist", or a "creative makeup artist". I am all of these things of course, but I am so much more. I am an fx artist, a beauty artist, a props and backdrop fabricator and painter, and on the other end I am an educator, mentor, and coach. Right now I am flying to Paris to be a guest instructor at the MUFE Cite du Cinema to teach for a week while also coordinating two MUA Leadership Programs.
My point is in the case where my "creative makeup" jobs are not coming in, I cannot have the excuse that there is not enough work out there for me - that is a small box to live in. I am the master of my domain, and the captain of the ship that is my career. If I do not steer myself into the water to find and conquer new frontiers I'll just get stuck in the harbor, while my ship rots, my booty runs out and frankly I'll just be a cranky old pirate. (No idea where that analogy came from but I just went with it). So over the years I have made sure I keep learning and developing new and old skill sets. I sit in on colleagues workshops, I assist them on fx and hair jobs, I take classes in photography and pay close attention/ask questions of the photographers I work with. You just never know what request will come down the pipe. As a result I get to be the fx artist on a WOLVVES music video, AND do a beauty Halloween makeup for Martha Stewart. I can be the fx artist for a Flaunt Magazine story, but also do a beauty airbrush campaign for Temptu.
So how do you become a Jack of all trades but not appear to be an unfocused "Master of None"?
Good question! The answer is about staying connected to who you are as a brand. Allow your online presence to be strong in your voice and specialty. If you are an exceptional bridal artist, then let there be no mistaking that in your online message. Same goes for if you are an fx artist, a body painter, a high fashion editorial artist - these are not who you are, this is what you specialize in. The trick is to have a hidden portfolio on line to show your other assets. Consider keeping two separate websites to show certain clients based on request, and be vocal on the job about what you have done and are capable of doing. Keep pictures on your phone/iPad ready to show in case your alternative skill set is exactly what your client is looking for; people see the advantage of working with someone they know already. Also, surprising people with your main portfolio by saying "I also did the hair for this" Or "I also painted the backdrop for that" will astound them and make you a top-of-mind artist.
Just make sure you represent your alternative skill sets well - make sure you seem proficient at it, otherwise it may backfire on you. Joanne Geir is known to be an amazing body painter, but she is also and exceptional beauty artist. Pat McGrath is one if the top makeup artists in the world, but she also is also is amazing at product development. Kabuki can do insane avante garde creative looks but can also do very clean "no makeup" skin looks. My own dear friend James Vincent is known for his mod rocker looks, but he can airbrush, do fx, tattoos and more if he needs to. Or he'll just call me if he doesn't feel like it, lol!
Joking aside, this is actually another option. If you do not feel comfortable promoting yourself in an alternative skill set, then have someone in your back pocket who can do it well. There is nothing wrong with partnering with another artist so people seek you out as a package, or will constantly come to you because if you cannot do it, they know you can confidently refer someone who can.
So what does all this mean for you? Same thing I always say:
- Save up and invest in education to expand your skills.
- Keep doing tests that push your comfort zone.
- Continue to stay true to your brand but be the person that also gives a little something extra.
- Create relationships and partnerships with other talented artists in your community, especially ones who have different skill sets than you.