I have a very wise friend, the kind of woman who makes everyone around her want to be better, and though she’s constantly trying to see the best in everyone and everything, one thing she hates is the idea of talent.  I know, to some of you that sounds like a weirdly petty thing to hate, but I bet some of the artists already know where this is going.  And I bet in your head it sounds something like, “Gosh I wish I was talented like you.”

Specifically and most intensely, she hates the idea of talent as it’s sold in children’s shows.  Find that one thing you’re great at, the thing you love and shine at, and you’ll be set for life, right? ‘Find your passion’, not ‘carefully cultivate the things you care about’.  ‘We all have something that makes us special.’ ‘Everyone’s good at something.’ 

No, we don’t, and we’re not, and ‘talent’ is an incredibly thin branch to build on.  It will never be enough without work.  But if you think that ‘talent’ is the be all-end all, then you risk the trap that a lot of people fall into–either you obviously don’t have it, in which case why try, or you clearly do have it, in which case–why try?

As a person with a lot of ‘talent’, that is, innate ability in certain areas, I think I have a slightly different viewpoint than my friend (I think she, absurdly, sees herself as one of those with no innate talents), but ultimately I end up in the same place.  I am good with words.  I always have been.  That makes me a natural at writing.  But I will never be the writer I truly want to be without work, and lots of it.  And the constantly hovering idea that I’m just naturally good at things, beaten in by a lifetime of children’s shows and public school self-esteem initiatives and loving family members, is a massive barrier to that.

Compare my beadmaking to my writing:  with beadmaking, it’s all new territory.  I have no expectations of myself.  I readily grasp that to get better, I must make near-daily effort, concentrate fiercely, research, and keep. fucking. trying.  But I write a thing, find that it’s not amazing, and then sulk for three days, because after all, I’m talented.  If I don’t automatically excel, I’ve failed.

Yes, of course, some people are physically and mentally well-suited to certain skill-sets.  Some people receive early learning that helps enormously later on, and others don’t.  Not everyone is capable of being equally good at a given activity given the same amount of effort.  People are not the same, and that’s fine.  But no one becomes a master on talent.

The idea of talent is not, I think, useless.  Parents, for example, should certainly watch for and support the things that their children excel at.  But the idea is so tangled up in this bullshit culture of ‘some people are just good at some things and some are not’ that really–fuck talent.  If you want something, work.

October 26: Teaching Myself to Draw

There is so much more I could do on this piece; I’m not that happy with the eyes and the cord around his neck could use some more detail work. But over all I am happy with it. This is only my second full profile, since I began doing these more rendered portraits, and it is my first one in color. I probably should start doing them more and maybe doing some eyes studies as well. It’s also my first try at this type of lighting. So while there is a part of me that is looking at all the mistakes (and thinking about all the set backs that took place while painting), there is another part of me that is quite proud of this piece.