Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You’re so talented!

I don’t mean this in a conceited way, but sometimes people say this to me. I always enjoy that. I’m only human. But I know deep down, it’s not true.

Firstly, they don’t mean in relation to Da Vinci. They mean in relation to their own drawing ability. They believe that I sprang from the womb with a natural talent for drawing noticeably better than them.

Perhaps a number of artists will agree with me when I say it is much more like a stubborn determination to draw.

Many people have a bit of a go at it. They look at their drawings and think, ‘gosh, that’s bad. I’ve got no aptitude for drawing’. I was always driven to draw and I always looked at my pictures and thought, ‘gosh, that’s bad. How can I make it better?’ It was always the (sometimes slightly obsessive compulsive) drive to draw for hours and hours and hours that improved my work.

There are a large number of artists both past and contemporary that make me feel that I’ll never meet the standard of their work. There are also those that do appear to spring from the womb with amazing technical ability (probably more to do with amazing visual learning skills). But the stubbornness remains. And instead of saying – I’m just not good enough, I continue to soldier on. Because I know from experience that the more I practice the better I’ll be. (Keeping in mind always that it is possible to practice the wrong things – and if you refuse to learn from people or be critical of your work, you can put in many, many hours with no improvement whatsoever).

What the inspiration to draw actually is, how it comes to us and what it means is a different question. But basic drawing is a skill that can truly be acquired by just about anyone with stubborn determination and some time.

And if you say, ‘I’d love to be able to draw’ expect me to be a little dubious, because true love takes time, determination and never-ending flexibility as well as a kind of joyful commitment.

It’s a little like me saying to a dressage rider ‘I’d love to be able to ride at your level.’ I might love the idea, but the reality of the hours of work put in are a little different! Similarly, I’d love to be able to play the guitar like Billy Corgan, but do recall reading that he practiced 4 hours most days for about four years and that was before becoming professional. Most people that you see with ‘talent’ are actually just extremely driven (some to the point where they become a bit miserable and have to take a step back in order to find balance in their lives). I know this is also true for the amazing visual artists I put on a pedestal.

So don’t say, ‘I’m terrible at drawing’, just say, ‘I haven’t put the time I need in to improve my drawing skills!’

NB: artists love to be told they’re talented, despite what they may know. So feel free to keep saying this to them as often as you like!

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