Focus on weaknesses or focus on strengths?
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    Focus on weaknesses or focus on strengths?

    When examining the views of masters of any discipline regarding practice, they tend to belong express two opposing views. One is to disregard your weakness and instead focus and expand your strengths. The other is to focus on and strengthen your weakness. I would very much like to know your opinion on each view and if you have any experience with it.

    Last edited by karmazon; December 3rd, 2012 at 07:46 PM.
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    Er, I'm pretty sure most people started off weak at everything. And only managed to get something they could call a "strength" after putting enough focus on them, whether intentionally or just as a means to an end based on the things they liked drawing in the first place.

    I'd assume that for most people, their "weaknesses" are just the things they never bothered with as much, possibly because they didn't feel it was necessary for what they usually did.

    It's no mystery why a person who likes drawing characters all the time might have a weakness when it comes to perspective or environments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychotime View Post
    Er, I'm pretty sure most people started off weak at everything. And only managed to get something they could call a "strength" after putting enough focus on them, whether intentionally or just as a means to an end based on the things they liked drawing in the first place.

    I'd assume that for most people, their "weaknesses" are just the things they never bothered with as much, possibly because they didn't feel it was necessary for what they usually did.

    It's no mystery why a person who likes drawing characters all the time might have a weakness when it comes to perspective or environments.
    So what is your view on each practice?

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    Focus on removing weaknesses when you start, focus on improving strength when you are established

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    Quote Originally Posted by karmazon View Post
    So what is your view on each practice?
    ...Huh? I'm assuming everyone starts from zero and only gains a "strength" from focusing on that particular area. The weaknesses are just the things left behind while your skill in the other things grew from practice.

    I have no idea what to decide on that. Clearly most people would want to get into work that delves into their strengths, which would be the things they like doing most...

    I really don't know. If you NEED a skill for what you want to accomplish, you'd better work on it if it's lacking. Otherwise...eh?

    I GUESS once you've become good enough to have a comfortable job, it's safe to become complacent about your weaknesses? It might be practical but that's not a particularly positive attitude, I think.

    But whatever.

    Last edited by Psychotime; December 3rd, 2012 at 08:32 PM.
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    Do you have examples of these masters practing either or of said practices, and quotes from them in some texts that they adhere to these philosphies?

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    How much time do you have?

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    Quote Originally Posted by OmenSpirits View Post
    Do you have examples of these masters practing either or of said practices, and quotes from them in some texts that they adhere to these philosphies?
    I'm glad you asked. Here are a few examples of the "focus on your strength" approach:

    Millionaire entrepreneur and owner of winelibrary.com:
    http://www.entrepreneur.com/video/219868

    Donald O. Clifton, the grandfather of positive psychology and author of "Now, discover your strengths":
    “From this point of view, to avoid your strengths and to focus on your weaknesses isn't a sign of diligent humility. It is almost irresponsible. By contrast the most responsible, the most challenging, and, in the sense of being true to yourself, the most honorable thing to do is face up to the strength potential inherent in your talents and then find ways to realize it.”

    Muhammad Ali, world boxing champion. He was much faster and agile than most heavyweights and therefore relied on his speed, to the point of keeping his hands down and his face unprotected and relaying on his reflexes to avoid punches:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmaHGY7BEog


    Focus on your weaknesses:

    Jerry Rice, considered by many to be the best American football player, was at first a slow runner, passed on by big colleges and football teams, he focused on his weakness and started an intense running regiment:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=ftmVLvQyZAs

    Arnold Schwarzenegger was told he was not a lead actor material, so he worked hard, took acting and language classes to become the highest paid actor of his time:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMaB6f-KSag

    Demosthenes was considered one of the best orators of his time. When he first adressed people, they started laughing at how bad he was so he retreated himself to solitude and developed his own speech training.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demosthenes

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    How much time do you have?
    I'm merely asking for a personal opinion. One way is not inherently better than the other and a synergy of both is most likely the superior path.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karmazon View Post
    Arnold Schwarzenegger was told he was not a lead actor material, so he worked hard, took acting and language classes to become the highest paid actor of his time:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMaB6f-KSag
    On the other hand, he consciously went after roles that relied on his physicality rather than acting skills (ex: passing on the "lead" role of Reese in favor of the title role in the Terminator). So, was that focusing on his strengths? It's not a simple either/or question.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    It's not a simple either/or question.
    Not many things in life are. Do you have any particular thoughts or insights from your own life about this matter Mr. Elwell? I'd be very interested in hearing anecdotes from an experienced and accomplished painter like you.

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    I try to clear whatever obstacles that are keeping me from creating the best work I can make. Whether they're weaknesses that need to be taken care of, or strengths that need to be improved, they both improve the quality of your work. It also depends on the subject matter that an artist feels he should become comfortable with or wants to become comfortable with. Subjects like creatures, characters, environments, comics. If an artist wants to work at a certain game studio, or whatever, should they not become good at the things the studio frequently will request of them? Why make your life harder by directing your strengths to areas that won't benefit you much later on? You could also argue that the artist should diversify their skills so that they'll be able to work at a game studio that takes on many different kinds of jobs. And then after landing that first job, you can start specializing. The same can go for a freelancer, who won't be able to be picky on their projects when first starting out. However, when they start getting more clients, they can(maybe) start choosing the projects they want to work on, and specializing then on something is definitely something feasible.

    Last edited by Ryan Provenzano; December 3rd, 2012 at 11:19 PM.
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    Being one still learning, I have a strong leaning towards my weaknesses. I don't yet know what I would like to specialize in, so I don't yet want to try to specialize on my strengths. Though I do personally like tone, and organic forms, I don't want to just focus on them. In fact knowing I am weak in color and perspective (as well as many other things), that has been my main artistic focus as of late.
    I do see what you mean, that by spreading out too thin, you may become only average in everything and never be able to really "stand out", but I think trying everything is the only way one might fin and be sure of what they actually like, and want to study.
    So as the consciousnesses seems to be, I'd say first raise everything from weakness to basic understanding, and then focus from there.
    I think focusing too soon could wind up with some very odd results, but being a "jack of all trades" may lead to an over expenditure of skills.

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    No craft, in practice, is black or white. To practice it so, would lead to stagnation.

    The core of the argument for either or is flawed because to find a person that focuses on the one is lacking in the other.

    It's a self-perpetuating circle IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karmazon View Post
    I'm merely asking for a personal opinion. One way is not inherently better than the other and a synergy of both is most likely the superior path.
    Gotcha - just my mildly sarcastic way of saying that there are a lot of weaknesses...and not enough time in one life to develop all of them. My advice/opinion is to work from your strengths and overcome your weaknesses as you go. The important thing is to bring all of your fundamentals up to a certain point...balance is what you should be after in your work.

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    Seems to me like all the guys who focused on their weaknesses in your example knew what they wanted and identified what they needed to do to get it. The guys focusing on their strengths also knew what they wanted and went for it. So I guess I go for the option of identifying weaknesses that stop me from doing what I want and work on them, but disregard weaknesses that don't have much bearing on what I want to do.

    I'm not going to overly worry about not being brilliant at making awesome scifi cityscapes if I actually never want to make any, but I do need to worry about my figure drawing because it does affect what I want to do. And the rest of the fundamentals.

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    If you are weak minded, focusing in your weaknesses might be a bad thing. You can get too caught up on this and get unmotivated quickly. I think it depends on the person. If you are focused than thats already a good thing.

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    Use your weakness to get stronger.
    Use your strength to reach for the sky.

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    When you try to learn something hard and become overwhelmed by the many difficult tasks or challenges you have to wade through, your weakness might be found in your foundations somewhere. The challenge then is to just focus on that ONE aspect untill you have mastered it. It can be anything.

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    I agree with Suncut. Once you find what you want to do, you make it your strength and only the weaknesses linked to it become important.
    If you focus 100% on your weaknesses you might never get anywhere. On the other hand if you only focus on strengths you might never develop outside a very narrow set of skills (that could be profitable though, look at modern art ).

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    Sounds to me like you're trying to wriggle yourself out of working on a weak point you fear approaching.
    Why would anyone want to be a technically lopsided artist, its a hindrance for growth and expression.

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    When I focus too much on my weaknesses I tend to become dissatisfied with all my work, which makes me uninspired and unlikely to make better work. On the flip side, when I focus too much on my strengths alone I cannot improve because I am ignoring my weaknesses instead of improving them. So I believe it is really important to recognize that you have both strengths and weaknesses and to work on improving your weaknesses while still being proud of your strengths.

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    This immidiately reminds me of the controversial decision whether to go with Jack of All Trades or Master of One. I have looked into that question many times and it always seems to be fairly 50/50. In my opinion, people should have strengths and weaknesses, so the world will be full of flavor. If everyone focused on their weaknesses, then everyone would be fairly good at everything. But when people narrow their focus, we will be surrounded by unique and new people, doing extraordinary things with whatever it is they do. I understand the view of trying to eliminate weaknesses, but this is just what I prefer. Thanks for the bringing up the topic.

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    I like what themegagod said, work until you have a decent understanding of all your weaknesses, then move on to a focus. But for the Jack of All Trades or Master of One question, the best possible result in being a master of one would be that you make amazing work in your one area, but the best possible result of being a jack of all trades would be that you can make almost-amazing work in multiple areas, and from there you could go on to become a 'master of one' in a few different areas. Being versatile rarely hurts, anyway.

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    It depends on what you want to achieve in your art as a goal. If a weakness exists as a hindrance to your goal in art, then you better shape up. People who ask the question, whether they should focus on weaknesses or strengths, usually have no set goal; they drift through conformity. To get a sense of your goal, expose yourself to others and the world; remember what you love. Some people paint landscape and could care less if they suck at figure painting; they live for landscapes.

    On the other hand, fundamentals of representational art is a given hurdle for any aspiring representational artist. If your weakness is of the such, then you better shape up.

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    I just focus on whatever I feel like doing at the time, if I'm bad at something required for it I just pull out my usual bag of tricks and make it work somehow. I think tricks are cheap, but I won't focus on something I see as a means to an end.

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    From the perspective of one who is not a professional, I'd say make your foundation as strong as possible any kind of weakness to that is what makes your work lacking. Anything beyond the foundation would be your ball park so you can just choose whether you can focus on getting strong at particular things be it characters, environments, expressive fine art style drawings.

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    BOTH!

    OBVIOUSLY BOTH!




    Why on earth not both? Lack of time? You don't have time to NOT focus on both.

    Focus on both and your weaknesses will stop holding you back, and your strengths will push you forward even faster.

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