I have an article on Artist Strong, and it’s called: “Is Art a Skill or a Talent?” It’s one of my most visited posts on the website. Why? Because lots of people don’t understand the truth that making art is a skill based activity.
Hi, my name’s Carrie and today on Artist Strong, we’re going to break down the myth that art is a talent. There’s a book out there that I see as a bible of the art world, so to speak. It’s called, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” and it’s by an artist and art educator named Betty Edwards.
In this book, she shows amazing before and after drawings of students who have gone through her exercises that she outlines in the book. It shows that even as adults later in life, that if we put in time and practice, and we learn the skills that we need to learn, we can be skillful in drawing representationally.
There’s also a really interesting book out there I’ve recently read called, “Peak,” by Anders Ericsson. It’s a culmination of nearly 30 years or more of research on the part of this scientist. He studied the best practices of experts in fields all over across many disciplines.
He studied the best violinists in the world, for example, and found that they’re doing make choices that anyone is capable of doing. In fact, it’s a specific kind of practice that can help people improve their skills at anything that they want to do.
I really like the example that Anders Ericsson uses in an interview in a podcast that I’ve linked below from Freakonomics. It’s all about this notion of peak performance. A lot of people assume, much like drawing and painting, that you can’t improve your singing voice, that you’ll never get it to be of a quality to be able to produce an album for example.
In this podcast interview they share the singing voice of a woman who wanted to be able to make and promote an album in her home country. You hear the beginning sounds of her voice in her practice sessions, and then at the end of the podcast you hear what she sounds like. She has since produced an album, and it’s become a bestseller in her country.
The example that Anders Ericsson uses in this podcast really gets me thinking about this question of talent versus skill, and how much, when we use the word talent, are we taking away our own agency from improving the skill that could actually lead us to that so called talent?
I have my own example of this, working in a high school classroom in Dubai. I was very fortunate, I got to work with students of nationalities from all over the world. It was interesting to note that I had some students who had studied as children in Korea. When they came to my classroom in the art room, and were able to draw, their skill and level of draftsmanship was at a much higher level than their peers.
“Why?” You ask. Because the curriculum in Korea encourages and requires all students to learn drawing skills. Of course they’re better at drawing! If you have training and you go to school in an environment with a curriculum that actually trains you in the skills tied to that discipline, you’re going to be better at it.
I make this video today because I want you to have a reminder: the next time your inner critic comes up and starts to tell you that you can’t, remember this video. Remember my examples today, from the books, and from my own personal teaching experience. It’s about purposeful practice. It’s about deliberate practice, something that Ericsson speaks about in his book, “Peak.” If you’re willing to put in time and make this focused practice, you’re going to build your skill.
It’s a choice that you make to spend time on your interest, it’s not about talent. It’s about putting in that time to build your skill.
Be Creatively Courageous: tell me below how this conversation makes you feel. Has it triggered something in you? What’s your own experience with this whole paradigm of talent versus skill?
If there’s someone that you know that could really benefit from hearing today’s message, share it with them.
I’d also like to encourage you to join me for a challenge that I’ve created. I’ve started to develop a course, it’s called, “Better Drawing Bootcamp.” It’s based on this research that shows that deliberate practice can help improve your skill.
I have a free challenge for you that’s all about improving your drawing skills. If you want to get started with that, all you have to do is sign up below this video. There’s a button below. Thanks for watching guys, and I’ll see you next week.
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Thank you this is great!!!
I’m glad you find it helpful Stacy! <3
Please i need the list of items you can use while drawing.
You can use any materials. It’s about how you practice!
I do understand the practice to improve. I began drawing daily at age 10 while listening to my radio programs after school. I can see the benefit of daily practice (even 10 or 15 min.) Daily. Further, the early drawing laid the foundation for my current practice.
YES Debbie! So great. Thank you for sharing.
The drawings I do, I always look at something. I can’t seem to do things off the top of my head. Is this wrong?
I’ll see something I like. So I use that picture to go by. I don’t trace them. I’m just looking at them.
Hi Vickie, I’m curious, did someone at some point tell you working from images is cheating? We often have these internalized definitions of what art is and isn’t because of schooling, well-meaning adults, and similar experiences.
If it is wrong, then I’m also “wrong” or “bad” at art, because I use images regularly to help make my art.