I find it interesting to hear people profess their lack of artistic ability so readily. When I ask how many classes they have taken, almost always I hear, “None” or “Not since childhood.” When a talented pianist signed up for a beginning watercolor class with me I found out on the first day that she had practiced for 2 weeks prior so she wouldn’t look ignorant. I asked her if she’d done that with piano lessons and of course she shook her head. Somehow it is believed that “Talent,” with a capital “T” is the reason some can paint, or draw or create. Furthermore you should be able to do all of it well with no training at all.
This is easily observed in the elementary classroom. The children somehow assign the title of “artist” to one of their peers and then back away as if they should not excel themselves. The assigned artist accepts the title happily. On the day I demonstrated for my sister’s 2nd grade classroom, I watched the interaction of the children when I gave them an assignment. When I complimented others than the chosen artist, they were tickled but the boy who considered himself the only artist in the room got a grumpy face. Sadly, the community at large believes that at birth some are given the “creative gene” while others are not and that’s the end of it.
Sorry…wrong! Drawing and painting and design proficiency are gained the way all other disciplines are…by work and repetition and tenacity. Are some more inclined to do art? Probably. Just as some are more inclined in other areas it is true here. That interest and inclination or encouragement lead to practice that is completely enjoyable. And practice leads to competency. Simple as that.
I knew this internally and then stumbled upon an article published in Fortune on CNNMoney.com. Geoffrey Colvin wrote about, “What It Takes To Be Great.” I have read portions to countless classes and watched their self-inflicted boundaries expand.
The article can still be accessed on the Internet by typing in the title and author’s name. It explains the scientific study behind the conclusion that targeted natural gifts don’t exist. Nobody is great without work. It is a fascinating article well worth the time it takes to read. And it is encouraging to those of us who will never be “great” but want to expand our horizons with the time we have.
I always think of Dwight Strong, my friend who began painting at 69 years and became such a wonderful painter that when he died in his mid-80s, he left a huge body of work. And this work was collected by some of the artists whose workshops he had taken. He was single-minded and focused on his goal. One time he told me that he had taken 50 workshops. When I exclaimed over the number he told me, “Judy, I don’t have any time to waste!” I am fortunate to own several of his paintings.