Since I’ve started my design school adventures, friends have mentioned things like, “You’re so talented,” and “I wish I could draw,” and similar comments. (I’m not bragging — just setting up for my social observation!)
Around the middle of my first term, Brent asked me how much I now think of art as an inherit talent vs. learned skill. I 100% believe that art and creativity is like any other skill set: it can be learned, it’s something that is developed over time, and ANYONE can do it. Like anything else, it’s a matter of dedication and investment. I kinda cringe when I hear comments about talent and envy because I get the impression that people are inhibited by … something that prevents them from seeing that it just requires some time to do the same art as me! I’ve gotten soooo much better in the last seven months (has it only been half a year!?) because I’ve been working my butt off, practicing nonstop, failing along the way, but learning sooo much as I do.
I think we often handicap ourselves when we begin to think that we’re inherently born with or without a skill. I grew up being told that I just wasn’t good at math, I never was, and that it was just part of my identity. Consequently, whenever I did poorly on math tests, I would think, “Well, I’m just not good at this, and I never will be.” When we define ourselves by the LACK of inherit skills, we often consider it a failure of our IDENTITY rather than a skill to improve upon. Similarly, “talent” implies that one is born with a knack for a skill, that they do it effortlessly and with ease. In some ways, it might diminish the amount of hard work that was put into developing the skill. One of my close friends mentioned before that she dislikes when people say she’s smart because people don’t see how much time and effort she puts in. She’s one of the “smartest” people I know, but she is most definitely one of the hardest workers I know.
Does any of this even make sense right now? I don’t know where my grammar and writing skills have gone. Moral of the story: approach life like The Sims. The Sims have skill set bars that progress when they spend the time to work on drawing, speaking, working out, etc. None of it gets unlearned — it only progresses as one grows up. When’s your next level up?
Proof that art is a learned skill:
Week One: A couple of my “good” paintings from the second week of oil painting class. Gosh, I’m embarrassed to even post these online. I’ve never touched oil paints ten weeks ago, let alone have any idea what the heck I was doing when I started using the medium. I didn’t know how to control it, how to make the paint move, I don’t even think I knew how it was supposed to LOOK. That, coupled with my shoddy figure drawing abilities, kinda made my early paintings look flat and without form. They looked more like contour/outlines rather than shapes with volume and weight.
Week Two: I started to get a feel of painting on canvas, and how to mix darks to lights with just one color. I thought this was pretty good when I painted it, but my instructor noticed I needed to learn more about head structures. In retrospect, I totally see what he means. This was good in helping me learn mixing values, but the painting doesn’t show the thickness and complexities of a human head.
Week Three: getting better at head forms! Compared to the previous painting, this one has so much more depth and form. I learned how to see a bit more of the darker values within shadows, and got better at using the medium. Big jump in progress here!
Week Four: mastercopy of Rembrandt’s Johannes Wtenbogaert portrait. Another big jump for me!
Week Five: adding in color!? But but… I JUST figured out how to paint with just ONE color!! I didn’t know nor feel comfortable with smacking down highly saturated reds and pinks into Johannes’ face. Mine came out a lil desaturated and not so lively as a result. Good practice, nonetheless.
Week 8: in-class painting with full color palette. Learning how to paint values in colors, how to mix them accurately, and loootttssss of trial by error learning.
Weeks 8-10 Leyendecker mastercopy progression:
Finished! Mastercopy of J.C. Leyendecker’s “Carousel Ride” after muuuuchhh much work. I feel so much more capable with oil paints!!
Things that make me happy #7: working my craft :)))