Art is Not About Talent

Art is not for only a select few

Female artist working in studio
Betsie Van Der Meer/Taxi/Getty Images

Artists will often send images of their work to people they don't even know and ask for their opinions. It's a very common thing to do. What it boils down to is that we are basically asking, "Do we have talent?" And often that means talent sufficient to be a professional artist, or at a minimum, are we good enough to pursue this thing called painting or are we just wasting our time?

It's the wrong question. In fact, if you are asking some master artist to confirm or deny your talent, you already are in a heap of trouble because it means you are not getting it. It's not about talent. Talent is a dirty word because it assumes that only a few are able when it is quite the reverse.

We Are Born Artists, It Isn't a Question of Talent

Now, this is not to say that some people are not blessed with abilities that others don't have. Nor is it to say that if we were to judge someone's work, we would not draw conclusions about the work being lousy or pretty good. Rather it is to say that we are born as creative, daring creatures. All of us. Each of us possesses all the natural gifts that we tend to assume are the province of only a talented few.

We are born as artists. You, at this moment, have this creative force churning within you. You know it as an urge. Your challenge is always the same: it is to risk being you.

This means that the task of the teacher is to teach you a method that enables you to become more of who you already are. It is in effect to release your gift by teaching you how to know your gift. And in those moments when you realize your abilities—what many artists have called a state of being, you will get a thrill, you will be moved, and your work will move others. It will be good.

What You Lose by Believing in Artistic Talent

If, on the other hand, you believe that only a few can make art and this requires talent, you will always be trying to paint like, to meet some external standard outside of you in an effort to gain validation from someone else—the gallery, the sale, the award. You will always be correcting yourself, instead of being yourself. You will be asking some master painting, "Do I measure up?"

Yes, it takes time and work but realizing more of what is inside you is what it is all about. Do you value your feelings? Do you value growth over some external measure? Can you let the thing go and move on? Can you peel back all those layers that now enshroud childhood wonder? Do you know it is about getting into a "state of being" more than it is about demonstrating skill? If so, there is good news: you are already there. Show us. Show us what moves you. Drop the talent question; you were born with a gift. Find it. Reveal it. Then let the master take a look and ask, "How can I be more of who I am?"