We may all know someone like a friend, a colleague or a family member, that we would describe as “talented”. Or maybe the talented person it’s yourself. That individual may have some sort of natural ability in perhaps drawing, music, singing, dancing, storytelling or it can just be anything.
After many years, especially during adulthood, how many of those people are using their “talent” to actually do something with it? Do they all become artists? musicians? dancers? public speakers? Is that “gift” determining the long journey? Does it influence life and the state of Mind? Does it change the profession?
Let’s take drawing for example. The common beliefs are: “I can’t draw, don’t have that artistic talent” or, “I can’t be an artist, no one from my family is”, “I can’t learn art, I’m not talented”, or my favorite “I’ll never be good enough without the talent.”
How much talent do I need? Can I learn drawing?
Talent can be defined as the natural ability and skills in doing a certain work. Is the ease of creating stuff without any struggle whatsoever, because you’re just having it, right? You’re born with it!
Lots of studies from different areas such as neuroscience and psychology are looking into the skills and capacities of the human brain. Trying to figure out where the talent is coming from, is it inherited or built up? Do all humans have a certain gift? Does it really matter which side of your brain is more dominant or not? Is there a way to bring out the genius within all of us?
The fact is, there are indeed people that possess a certain level of talent or inclination. There are people who have a strong visual memory or some people that have extraordinary numeric memory. It seems, these individuals possess the abilities in learning and adapting new skills much more easily than others.
Neuroscience believes it’s connected to the brain’s neural connections which may be stronger and faster, and there’s less noise in the brain; these factors contribute a lot in the differences of life performances. However, even scientists and psychologists agree that an individual may develop the so-called natural aptitude if exposed to a certain medium or context. If that aptitude is nurtured and maintained through actions, it does become the so-called talent.
Talent from the science standpoint
Science (there’s a study conducted by NASA) is saying that most kids have genuine make-up for creative genius. Humans are genuinely born with a certain level of creativity and expressivity. It’s part of our human condition. It’s part of our so-called brainpower. This is what makes us different from all the creatures out there.
Unfortunately, this fundamental aspect it’s being lost along adulthood. Why? That’s a different post but in short, our brain gets altered when we grow up; we get aligned in life by the same standards of thinking and doing like we are all the same nature.
Think about it, the greatest geniuses of all time: Aristotele, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Einstein, Darwin, Tesla, Mozart, and many others; they were all saying exactly the same thing. It’s not about talent! It’s about the mastery of the craft through over and over again work, through continuous curiosity, and continuous learning.
“Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” – Albert Einstein (genius, Nobel prize, physics, philosophy)
Hard work becomes a talent
So, getting back on the drawing, if it’s not the artistic talent, then what? Let me put it this way.
Drawing can be learned, with and without artistic talent! Each time you study or practice drawing or any artistic skills, you are basically telling your brain to install and create neurological hardware to actually think, act, and feel like the artist you want to be in your future. Sounds very fancy, no?
The trick is, if you keep building and using those networks in your brain, let’s call it muscle memory, it will eventually become a more automatic process of learning and practicing.
In the long run, “practice” becomes the “familiar”, which then becomes the “skill”. And if you continue practicing the skill it will eventually become second nature, it becomes the “talent”. The key is, the more you practice your skills, the more experience you gain and the more knowledge you build up. Eventually, you’ll reach artistic wisdom!
So as you can see, the talent it’s just part of the equation since it’s built up in time through learning and practicing!
(Knowledge + Practice) x Time = Skills
(Skills + Experience) x Time = Talent
Learning process of drawing
To become an artist is not necessary to grow up in an artsy-family, or to take an art school. It comes from anywhere, in different ways, because it’s in our nature. You just have to desire to be an artist. Is the desire that moves things forward.
As I was saying, drawing can be learned!
Keep in mind that there are levels, there’s a progression of learning a creative art such as drawing. And you can only evolve and progress if you understand the foundational steps along the way, to put all the experience together to create something personal and unique.
Here’s my suggestion on how to approach the learning process into 4 levels of action. It’s very important to understand that learning how to draw means more than just drawing itself.
- Level 1. Observation. Observe and be aware of things around you. You’ll see that there’s harmony in everything, from space to forms, to texture, to light, to colors.
- Level 2. Research. Research and study a bunch of visual references. Look at real-life references, at other artists and build up your own visual library that inspires and motivates you.
- Level 3. Imagination. Let your mind wander with curiosity. Ask yourself the ‘What if?’ question and be the scientist of art. It looks for various solutions, from different perspectives.
- Level 4. Creation. Create your own work through trials and errors. Create your own stamp of authenticity and be aware that not everything you create has to be a masterpiece.
I strongly believe that talent is a mixture of nature and nurture. It’s not just about the individual or the brainpower, it’s about life opportunities, resources, and attitude.
There are lots of people with an inherent artistic talent but, this doesn’t mean they will become artists. Nor successful artists! Many of them won’t even follow their artistic inclination. Maybe because they weren’t encouraged? Or, just couldn’t visualize themselves as artists? Or, they don’t just have the commitment? Who knows …
And if you do have some inherited artistic talent don’t make it a shortcut of your progress, you still have to work hard!
If you ask any successful person, artist or business figure, what’s your secret? How do you do it? they all say the same thing … It is not about talent. It’s about hard work and perseverance.
“Hard work will become a talent if talent doesn’t work hard.” – Jim Kwik (world expert in learning and speed-reading)
Lastly, getting back to Einstein’s quote (1%talent + 99% hard work). I would ask something like: why focusing only on the 1% when there’s all 99% at your disposal, to consciously control?
- Katherine Hurst – Does ‘Natural’ Talent Exist? A Practical Guide to Self-Improvement.
- Simon Woral – Where did Picassos’ Genius come from.
- David Litchfield. TEDx – How doing a drawing a day changed my life.
- Coert Engels – We are born creative geniuses and the education system dumbs us down.
- World Science Festival – The Genius of Einstein: The Science, His Brain, the Man.
- Dr. George Land. TEDx – The Failure Of Success.