Do You Need Talent to be an Artist?

How often do you look at a friend’s art and wish you had their talent?  Some people just seem to make drawing and painting look so effortless. But how much of that is in fact talent and how much can you learn?

I don’t think talent is a myth.  Just as some people are better at certain sports, or have a better voice for singing – others are more naturally gifted in drawing or painting.  But just as an athlete and singer will need to practice and develop their skills, so will an aspiring artist.  The fact is that many skills can be learned and are not necessarily innate.  No child will be able to instinctively do a 1.5m high-jump until they are taught the technique.

Skills in art that can be taught include (amongst others) techniques in drawing, colour theory and composition.  Quite often just being made aware of how to really see the world around you will already improve your skill.

I will shamelessly use myself as an example here.  Prior to pursuing my love for drawing I was a full-time photographer.  I photographed weddings, families, babies and even food and venues.  Most of what I knew in photography I learned from Youtube – from posing people, to using natural light, my camera and even editing.  Initially I would read a tutorial and (for example) not understand the colour casts and temperatures photographers were referring to.  Slowly, as I practiced, not only my skill in photography but also in really seeing progressed.  Soon I was able to see those casts and temperature differences in light – first in photos and later even before taking a photo.  It was as if someone opened my eyes and I could finally see the way grass created a green colour reflected under a chin, or how a red shirt could create a cast on skin.

This learned skill really helped me in my art too – I noticed gentle shifts in colour and light, but I had to then learn how to recreate what I saw in my drawing.  My drawings were very flat initially, until I learned – through practice and study – how to create more depth.  I read about different blending techniques, how to layer more effectively, which colours worked better to create shadows and slowly I could see my art improving.

Henriette van Staden Horse-vs-Horse-Sketch Comparison
Horse vs Horse Sketch Comparison

This is an image of the first horse I attempted and a horse I drew a year later after many hours of practice and work.  The fantastic thing about art is that there is no age limit – one can continuously learn and evolve.  The trick is to stop comparing to others and only compare your own progress and take into account that practice is key.  I challenge myself often to redraw a subject and measure my own progress and this is what drives me.

Watch out for a blogpost on online learning resources – sharpen those skills from the comfort of your couch!

Leave a Reply