What do Monoculture and Artists have in common?
Today I thought I’d write about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I have spent the last few months studying something called Permaculture. If you know what that is, awesome, you’re ahead of the curve. If not I’ll explain it. Permaculture is an alternative agricultural method that uses earthworks, climatic factors, soil types, as well as hydrological and ecological methods to produce food without added chemicals; specifically without fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. It’s a way to work with the land instead of against it, promote a healthy diet, healthy habitat for wildlife, and many other pretty sweet things. All these things are something monoculture isn’t good at doing at all, which is why in order to make it work, you need so many added chemicals.
Monoculture is when you grow a single crop on a tilled piece of land. It tends to have a lot of problems with pests, top soil erosion, irrigation issues and fertility loss over time. Permaculture is different, it promotes diversity in planting. Because in nature you never see an area where monocultures happens, you see meadows, pasture, forests and tropical environments rich with a network of diverse life. There are never fields full of just corn anywhere naturally. Only where we’ve imposed it on the environment.
So why do metaphors about Agricultural practices have anything to do with being an artist? It’s actually very similar to think of diversity of plants or skills equaling stability in a work environment. Yes, we’re dealing with human beings and not topsoil, but having a diverse range of usable skills as a freelancer can and does bring stability if you work them right and network well. The problem is that many employers or companies tend to have a brain freeze when you tell them you can do more then one thing. They just want to know what you do, and doing many things is just something that blows their minds.
For me, I focus on a few different areas I have experience or interest in; video game art and animation, animation for commercial purposes, website building and design, character design and illustration, and branding for small companies (logo creation, style guides, typeface creation, etc). I’ve noticed that if I network with the right people even if I don’t have work in one area, something else in another skill set tends to come my way from a different company.
The biggest danger of spreading out your skill set though is that if you’re portfolio doesn’t show off your skills well, it’s going to be hard for you to get work doing those things you want. Basically, you have to be good. I struggled with the desire to do many things for years. It’s the reason I went to the college that I did. I was interested in so many different things besides just animating that I wanted to continue to pursue them. I enjoyed website programming, illustration, creative writing, design, etc. My boyfriend calls it me being prolific, but I just call it me being unable to pick one thing. This at first caused me to have a period where it was hard for me to get paying work for much at all. But having goals and grit changed that.
It’s served me well as a freelancer as I’ve moved into doing it full-time, and enabled me to pursue more then I thought possible. So if you have the itch to try something new in the creative field, I say go for it, because diversity equals stability in nature, and it could possibly mean it in your career in the long run.