“You’re SO talented!” sigh some art show-goers as if the artist has talent but they do not. I realize it’s a nice thing to say, no doubt genuine, and the cultural norm when we are admiring someone’s work. I’ve said it repeatedly to others and meant it wholeheartedly. But oftentimes when I dig deeper into what is being said to me as an artist in that situation, I find a sad statistic.
Many (of course not all) who attend these shows admire art from a place of longing in themselves. They love art, are drawn to it, may have little fantasies in their minds about Being An Artist, and wish to have a creative twist to their life. But they feel incapable. Inadequate. Untalented. As if their lot in life sadly lacked the Artistic Gene.
Always the math-and-science kid in school, I was good at those things and enjoyed them. Therefore, I placed myself in that box and never seriously considered possibilities outside of it. My childhood best friend was “artistic”. When I watched her draw and create, I assumed that I simply could not. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I started recognizing my own creative urges.
Somewhere along the way I had bought into the notion that people are BORN artists or…. something else. You know the saying repeated whenever drawing, painting or some other artsy endeavor comes up in a conversation? “I can’t even draw a stick figure!” Yeah, I’ve said and heard that many times in life. By the way, I’m still not good at stick figures.
It doesn’t help that many artist bios read: “I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I grew up drawing everything and have done so since I was a toddler.” That definitely adds to the Born With It mystique! Some people are just that way. They know what they want to do from the get-go and have a singular purpose and passion in life.
What I’m finding is that, like me, there are many who weren’t born with a crayon in their hand. But the art bug lurks under the surface, tugging their heart and haunting their daydreams. It doesn’t matter why it hasn’t developed yet. What matters is – what would you LIKE to do in your life? Right now? If you play a movie of your “ideal self”, what does that include?
I truly believe that talent is over-rated. Of course we all have our natural tendencies. Things that hold our interest – or don’t. Things that are easy for us to learn – or hard. Artistic endeavors are no exception. If you WANT to learn them – whether for your own fulfillment or for more public purposes, it matters not – you CAN.
Consider this. Were you BORN walking? BORN talking? BORN able to read, write, perform a job or task necessary for living? Certainly not! You had to learn them. Practice them. Screw them up and try again a different way. Everything in life you had to learn and practice. Art skills are no different. You begin with the Want To.
Art is not about talent or genetics. What do YOU long to create, feel, touch, say, share? The world is enriched with your unique perspective and output. I love this quote attributed to Beethoven: “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”
Please, please do not dismiss any lurking artistic interest you may have! It’s perfectly wonderful that your attempts will come out differently than those of others. Your “wrong notes” are insignificant. Just play! That’s part of what makes humans, and art, infinitely interesting.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below – whether you’ve begun an art, or other learning, journey or not! We’re all in this together.