Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why Talent is Just Not Enough [for Most Artists]

Self Taught Artists 
The term of "self-taught artist" makes me cringe. Most of the artists that describe themselves as self-taught have art that has potential but just seems to fall flat. Looking at the art makes me feel incomplete in some sense: composition, color, balance, or materials. The art could be so much better, so much more, but the self-taught artist cannot see the possibilities because they refuse to come out of their world and explore the work of others, take lessons, read books, watch videos, etc. Even during less technological times, artists still taught themselves and learned from other artists. Talent is not enough, whether it is in art, sports, business, etc

Talent is Not Enough
Talent is something most people consider as you either have it or you don't. Talent is something that makes a skill a little more special - like the difference between me trying to be graceful on a bicycle and someone who just takes the bicycle and makes it look like they are dancing. I might have the skill to ride a bike (Andy calls me "Lacking Grace) - but you can tell that I struggle. I have the skill, not the talent. Andy rides rings around me while waiting for me to catch up to him...he has a talent for body movement and the skill for riding a bicycle. Switch gears: give Andy a paint brush and he might struggle if asked to draw while using a paint brush is easy for me. Skills help bolster talent. Skills and techniques help someone express themselves, whether it be in art, sports, business, etc.
Art in progress with artist's feet ©2011 by Angeline

Make Talent Shine
I am a self-taught talented artist (hope you think so, too). I enjoy learning, stretching, reading, and getting critiques about art. Skills and techniques in my arsenal help me express my feelings, stories, desires, needs, frustrations, and imagination. Without those techinques, what I draw may inspire me, but what is drawn may not express the inspiration. 

A mom friend recently wrote me an email that included "[my daughter, age 5, is] learning  technique and would rather draw whatever inspires her at the moment, but she's learning that technique is the foundation so she's quickly coming around [sic]." My reply was to encourage to use technique when she draws whatever inspires her!!! Both inspiration and technique work together to create a better skill set and make talent shine.

Podcast about Fine Art Degrees
There was a podcast about the difference between artists who obtain degrees in art and those who "self-teach." If you care to listen, click here. The link will take to Art Heroes, and there is an "explicit" sticker. If you don't mind an occasional, well placed curse word, the hour will cover my opinion. I may not have an art degree, but Andy and mi Mama can tell you that I am constantly trying to learn more art techniques, art history, and skills. Maybe I am teaching myself, but it is a form of education. 

Your Turn: 
Do you think there are categories of "self-taught" in the art world? What about in other worlds such as writing, sports, and photography? What is something you have taught yourself?

Angeline Marie of
Angeline Marie Fine Art


Talon Dunning said...

When I was in college, I realized that there are basically three types of artists in the world: those with talent, those will skill and those with both. It's possible to get by on just one or the other, but almost invariably, you'll find that it takes both to be really successful. That said, remember that art is a very unique and individualized form of expression. You really can't make sweeping generalizations. A few of the world's great artists were entirely self-taught, including Henri Rousseau (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Rousseau) and my personal hero, illustrator Adam Hughes (http://www.justsayah.com/). You also have to understand that "art" is no longer determined by the viewer, but the artist himself, which means anyone can literally do anything and call it "art." This has lead to self-taught art or "Outsider" or "Folk" art to be accepted as a true historical art movement unto itself. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-taught_art) I had to study it in college, which I found to be rather ironic. The truth of it is that how much you can rely on talent alone depends on exactly what it is you're trying to do. If you want to be an illustrator or paint realistically, then chances are, you will need to be taught how by people who are experienced in that style of work (even Adam Hughes has worked his ass off to learn everything he could about art, he just did it on his own as opposed to attending school). If you just want to fling paint at a canvass and call it Springtime, then, training is less important than a good sense of visual expression.

Jason L. Eldridge said...

Great post Angeline and a great comment Talon.

It works that way in photography as well. Many believe that if they just buy the best equipment and master the technical then they are set. I have known so many photographers that just try to make it on their own with no regard for the works of others or for "continuing training". They just get out there and click away never really going anywhere.

Being an artist is a journey. Amidst the training, study, reading, writing, and practice you will find your own voice to be unique. It is okay to stand on the shoulders of the masters and learn from the mistakes they have made.

You need both the talent and skill/technical aspects of art. They can work in tandem with one another; the strong helping the weak to become successful.

Angeline-Marie said...

Even the artists you mention must have gotten guidance or mentorship some where - perhaps not a formal class, but from someone or some where. I can see the history in folk art, etc., and the movements in the art. I just dislike those who refuse to go out learn from someone or take a look around the world.
For instance, at times there are people who attend Baruj's painting studio class and refuse to listen to Baruj's guidance. They don't see how much their techniques could improve because they are so busy trying to be "right." They say they want to learn from someone more experienced, but then they act like know it alls.

You got the gist of what I was trying to write: "I have known so many photographers [insert artists here] that just try to make it on their own with no regard for the works of others or for "continuing training". They just get out there and click away [brush away] never really going anywhere."

You got it. Yuck to them and their attitudes. Yay to those who are always trying to learn and improve!

PS: Mom chimed in via email. She says the only thing she was ever able to teach herself was how to sing. Even then, she had guidance!

JJ said...

A-M: Tough question. I think I agree with your assumption. I love to draw, but I would never call myself a visual artist. I am a writer, but I am never happy with my writing, and I have been studying the art for a zillion years. I know there are people born with more talent than I could ever hope to acquire, but that is irrelevant. My goal is to improve whatever talent I possess - and that is quite satisfying.

Judy Wood said...

Always an interesting point of discussion. I'm big on learning in general, wherever and however it happens. Sometimes all you learn is "that's not what I want to do", but it's still part of the process. None of us exists in a vacuum, and it's self-deluding and a bit pretentious to think that we have nothing to learn from the past and/or from other artists. I think resistance to exposing oneself to a wide knowledge base might come from fear as much as anything. With all the resources available on the internet, there really is no excuse for an artist or photographer to limit themselves in the acquiring of new knowledge and technical information.

Jason L. Eldridge said...

Well said Judy!

Rosie Brown said...

Great topic. I can relate to this because I consider myself a self-taught artist in watercolor. By self-taught I mean lots of reading and lots of practice. I have taken a few classes lately and can see that there is so much more to learn from an experience person. I also see that there are some extremely talented people that can do without formal training.

In my opinion, without talent, creativity and an open mind, all the training in the world will not get you far.


Angeline-Marie said...

With all your efforts, I KNOW you are a better writer than all of those who just rely on their talent!

Totally agree with you! Learning from other artists, those who enjoy art, those who are BETTER at something is valuable! I dislike those who don't want to come out and play...=)

The books read about encaustics help - but only so much. As a former teacher and a constant student, it is extremely valuable to learn from someone in person. Agreed that there are some extremely talented people - but disagree about not needing formal training. Dancers are a perfect example of people that can be extremely talented, but need formal training and techniques to be outstanding.

Oh, yes, without an open mind, forget learning anything!

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