Freelance Experience: The Generalist - Fighting the Digital Darkness

Aug 05, 2016 at 08:40 pm by Warlord720

What? You thought you were the only one? Not hardly my friend. We are legion. We are the generalist that rarely does the same thing twice. Monotony... never. Don't want to go to work. Rare. Reverse engineering old project files because you cannot remember how you managed to pull it off and are now tasked with something similar? Always it seems.

Welcome to the club if you are not already a seasoned member. Even in a pipeline tasks can vary wildly with a lot of them being unique enough to wonder if you are ever going to get a handle on how things work. Why are we so constantly wondering, experimenting, poking, prodding and pushing the darkness back? When will the saturation level reach a point that you just know how to do most things instead of that nagging thought of... how am I going to pull this off this time?


Seems it's a fairly common affliction to a lot of digital artists. Particularly generalist and what I would venture to be a majority of the people reading this. Some of us even thought of ourselves as specialist until the dawning realization that specialist most likely aren't groping in the dark about a certain technique because they use it so much. I'm sure we all share some of the same traits and frustrations to some degree. In the digital age it is nothing for a generalist to do sound on one project, credits on another with a hodgepodge of tasks in-between.

An old adage rears its ugly head too... a jack of all trades and master of none but this is just what it is... an old adage. It describes a time when a trade (skill) meant a lifetime of work to become an acclaimed master. Splitting time between trades meant little chance to actually master one. Fast forward to the modern digital world and that boat doesn't float anymore. I'll not argue that a specialist is a master of their chosen tool and a lifetime of experience counts but let's get real. Our digital tools have taken us to a level where we can delve into this and that since they do the all the heavy lifting. Do overs didn't exist and resets weren't taken lightly in the trade days but we'll scrap troublesome projects in no time and move on to another solution. We'll revert to a previous file to move forward something not available to the old world trades.


Relearning and reverse engineering our own work is a fact of life for some of us because our work tasks vary. The specialist hands off their amazing work to the pipeline and in the end a generalist comes in and makes it all play nice with each other or tidies up. Maybe both and those housekeeping chores might be something they haven't done in months or even years and certainly not with the new version of the needed tool. Hence the constant need to push back the darkness... the fog of how you did it before.

So when you find yourself sitting there staring at the screen thinking... how did I do that the last time? Know that you are far from alone. Whether it's at work, dinner or the wee hours of the morning we can take at least a little comfort in the fact that a digital brother or sister out there just remembered a technique or stumbled upon one and the project moves on. Seriously... what would the world be if there were no generalist to clean things up, take out the trash, pick up the dog poop and move the project forward?

Be proud. We are legion.


M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.

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