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The War on 'Talent'

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I’m going to go on a little bit of a rant here so bare with me or just stop reading now if you don’t want to waste the next few minutes of your life reading my drivel.

START RANT!
I hear the word ‘talent’ thrown around a lot whether directed toward me or the myriad of other skilled artists here or any of the other places artists like to hang out. I’ve always been of the opinion that there is no such thing as talent but rather the drive and determination to do something you love and the aptitude to keep working at it to get better and better. To say someone is talented(to me anyway) is to suggest that there was one day when we just decided to pick up a pencil or a paint brush and were able to draw or paint well. I feel it downplays the years of hard work, Squalored living, and rejection we put in to get to the level we’ve achieved. I don’t know about you but I sucked the first time I decided to take drawing seriously and continued to suck for years. I worked my ass off and gradually (very gradually) got better and better and continued to learn and grow. Do I think I was born to be an artist? I like to think so and don’t think I could be as successful at anything else even if I put the same effort forward but it still came as the result of years and years sitting in my room and filling sketchbooks with crappy drawing after crappy drawing. I knew I wanted to be an artist and I wanted to do very little else. It’s an aptitude perhaps but even then it comes after a lot of hard work.
I challenge you; strike the word talent from your vocabulary. Stop downplaying the effort put forward by others or the effort you’re putting forward yourself. It does a disservice to us as artists and becomes a crutch to those that can’t draw and gives them an excuse not to even try. I hear “I can’t draw. I have no talent” or “I can’t even draw a stick figure”. Well, maybe you can’t but it’s only from a lack of trying and not from the inherent ability to not be able to draw. Find your favorite artist here on DA and take a long hard look at their work because you can be just as good if not better. They aren’t supermen and everything they’ve accomplished artistically can be a realistic goal for everyone else. They didn’t wake up one day being able to draw and neither will you. Once you fully realize this ,embrace it, and start putting that pen to paper for hours at a time I think you’ll find that all your artistic goals are in reach.
So the next time you see a really skilled artist and want to compliment him or her don’t say that they’re ‘talented’. Congratulate them on all the hard work they’ve put in to get that good. It’s only a few more words and I think you’ll find it sets you apart from everyone else.

END OF RANT!

Just to illustrate the point and for giggles I’m posting up a side by side of a drawing I did when I was 14 and one I did just a few months ago for Ultimate X-Men. While the recent drawing is far from perfect I think it illustrates the leaps and bounds I’ve come in the last 20 years. And believe me when I say that there were literally 1000s of drawing done in between. Some decent and some downright horrible but every single one getting me one step closer to being a better artist.

Hope you dig!
-Mark

My Myspace page: [link]

ADDENDUM: WOW, I absolutely love that this is causing such a powerful exchange of ideas and opinions. Whether I agree or disagree with you I love that everyone who has stated their own opinion is saying it with kindness and the need to be heard and not the need to yell their opinion or make others feel stupid. There's so genuinely great ideas and opinions being expressed in here and I encourage anyone else that comes along to please not only read my rant but read some of the responses especially the ones with opposing view points to mine. This is a discussion that is long overdue and I'm so stoked that there are people that feel as passionately about this as I do whether agreeing or opposing. Thanks guys!

ADDENDUM 2!: Just a slight observation. I've been reading all the posts and love the thought that's going into them so rather than respond to the dozens of posts individually I thought I would kill 2 birds with one stone, so to speak. Throughout all the posts, through those that agree, disagree, or fall somewhere in between, everyone seems to post their idea of what "talent" is but I'm absolutely amazing by the varying thoughts. "talent" has become a self defining word based on the user and, while all art is complete suggestive, I think the terms we use or expect others to use will help define us as artists and garner us the same respect that creative people in the music or acting word receive. Visual art is the forgotten creative medium mainly because we are harder to define to other creative areas. Some say it's a born aptitude while others say is based on determination and others say it's something all together different. This is kind of the point I'm trying to make and everyone (both agreeing and disagreeing) seems to be making my point for me. The word "talent" has become a catch-all word to describe what we do as artists and, because of this has lost it's meaning or has been perverted to suggest something like god-given ability without hard work. 'Aptitude' is a much more appropriate word since it implies a born ability to be good at something but still implies hard work and diligence to achieve it. That's why I want to strike the word from our vocabulary, at least for a long while so it can gain the power it once had and imply laziness or give people an excuse to try new things or work hard at something that might not always be easy to achieve. As always, these are just my opinions and I love reading everyone elses. Thanks to everyone that's replied and I look forward to hear more of what you have to say!DUKTIG!!!
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Zer0Potential's avatar
I strongly disagree. I’ve been practicing away all of my precious time for 5 years and my content is just as bad now as it was when I was a kid. Calling your feat at 14 “hard work and determination” as opposed to talent is really insulting to me, a person with no talent, assuming I should be able to do whatever the Hell I want just because I can believe hard enough. The world doesn’t work that way. You’re just one of the lucky ones.
AbsentMindDeviant's avatar
No, from what I see, you are talented, how come you draw like this when you are 14, I'm 14 and I can barely draw that good, I work, work, work all the time with no use, why?
The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft." - Will Smith

I know I'm late to this conversation, but I have always said I have an acquired skill, not a talent, my talent is persistence, it's what im ingrained with. If you look at the definition of talent and skill, it is pretty simple, one is born with, one is acquired with work.
ph-valadares's avatar
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Loved it.
nebezial's avatar
preach on brother, preach on!
rambocambo's avatar
My thoughts exactly! You wouldn't say a doctor or Lawyer was talented because we consider them to have acquired knowledge and skill. I guess people just don't see the effort that goes on behind the scenes to acquire the knowledge and skill to draw well. This false perception of required talent held me back from drawing for the longest time. I eventually realized that its just like every other field of human endeavour, it requires effort to achieve mastery.
3SticksIllustration's avatar
Came across this from the Masters of Anatomy update. I like the cut of you jib Sir. I agree and hope to fulfill my goals. Keep an eye out for TFNN in a few years ;)

I say a few because I have lots of work ahead of me and have been working hard to improve :)
SiKai-Sung's avatar
Thank you for the great rant! It gave me an inspiration as an artist. I am currently in second year of university and begun to think this is not what I truly want to pursuit and decided to drop out the program and practice on my skill of drawing.
But I never thought of not use word "talent" as my objective. Rather, I should consider what urges and drives me to draw.

Again, thank you very much for your rant. Also, congratulation on your hard work you've put up to now :)
Ambris's avatar
I completely agree with your general statement.

However, I will say that's a pretty damn good drawing for a 14 year old.
BluDrgn426's avatar
Solidarity, brother!
Chrisele's avatar
I never thought of drawing as a talent.  As a kid, I just loved drawing.
Just last night my friend and I had this talk over hot wings and horrible loud audio in a Bar.
She has always been against the idea of such a thing as talent existing, and me,I have always had the idea that there is people that might go beyond our reach.
We will never agree on this, but we reached common ground on defining things as follow:
(As if we live in an RPG)
Aptitude is your class, what are going to be your strong areas.
People achieve skills that go in hand those aptitudes by investing time and effort on them. (+EXP!)
Sometimes you'll find foes that have levels that seem beyond our reach and amazing stats that make them seem unbeatable.

Which made us re think talent.
Talent is subjective to the person. There is always people with higher stats than the last one you saw and so one and so on. You'll always compare talent with YOUR current level since there is not such a thing as a general parameter.
Talent is subjective to time.
Perhaps that person has the set of skills required for a certain quest in a certain period of their life, but they exceed and excel the minimum requirements to pass it. Meaning he might have acquired better stats than a certain percentage of people in a certain period of time which leads people to believe in genius and talent in different context.
Talent is subjective to our insecurities.
Sometimes we want to believe talent exist because we doubt our set of skills, we wonder how did they level up so fast and if we will ever be able to do the same.

Nice and interesting rant you had there I really liked it :D! Keep up the hard work!
FransMensinkArtist's avatar
Well spoken! And very true. I have said in the past that I could teach anyone to draw but not if you think it shouldn't take more than, roughly, a week. It's hard work, takes determination, endurance and stamina and that's what separates the actual artists from those that paint something now and again. Also, "I have artist's block" is imho just an excuse for being lazy. I never had such a thing because I don't think it really exists.  
GeoNeo1's avatar
Hey Mark, this is a subject I have been toying with in my own head for a ages. I wrote something up a while ago, but kept it private, your rant has encouraged me to to publish mine. You can take a look at it here - geoneo1.tumblr.com/post/677475…

It would be interesting to hear your feedback.

Thanks, Geo.
SleeplessSouls's avatar
Wonderful anatomy, this is inspiring! *^*
ikarus1969's avatar
Forget to mention: great that you joined the Kickstarter "Masters Of Anatomy"!
ikarus1969's avatar
Thanks your your rant and the addendums! That reminds me that someone once said to Paganini (the marvelous violine-player) after a concert: "I would give my life if i would be able to play the violine like you!". And Paganini answered: "That's what i did..."
JohnWilyat's avatar
This guy knows what being an artist is all about. Kudos sir.
Skipomir's avatar
Thanks for those words. They encourage me to keep going. I know it's a matter of time, persistence, experimentation, and practice.
DreadedFluffernutter's avatar
This was very inspirational to read. I agree completely with your opinion. I have been trying for a very long time to become a good artist. Over the years it has been thrilling to see improvement in my work and only drives me to become better. Yes sometimes I do get discouraged when seeing other artist who are seemingly better than me it also makes me want to try that much harder. Seeing this picture has given me the drive to try that much more. Thank you for posting this.
I believe your "rant" has extreme potential to become the pinnacle of inspiration not only for drawing arts, but all other arts as well. This belongs not just here, I believe, but all over the internet and elsewhere being quoted with the proper respect I think it deserves. Trust me when I say that's a LOT of respect. Thank you for saying what I've been trying to prove to others and use as inspiration to go on for myself. May you rattle the world of arts.
ashai76's avatar
I agree with you, everybody have talent, but perhaps not the courage to affront the critics.

A real artist needs to learn from their own experience, to fail is normal, in fact from those errors is where the success begins; but as you clearly express the path to achieve the quality is trough constant effort, to practice every day to endure and live for it.

By the way, I really like your work.
kafel88's avatar
I'm totally agree with you:]
RogueOne17x's avatar
I like your stance on that.. it's a good point of view.. keep up the awesome work :)
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