So I freakin’ ❤️ Sherlock, right? (As in strictly the books, although I do love Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone ❤️) And in the memoir where he introduces Mycroft, he and Watson talk about atavism~Watson says Sherlock’s gifts must’ve been the result of his own systematic training. But Sherlock says~
'…my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist. Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.'
'But how do you know that it is hereditary?'
'Because my brother Mycroft possesses it in a larger degree than I do.'
In this jillablog post, I’m taking another one of my ‘not too deep down the rabbit hole’ looks into that whole ‘nature vs nurture’ thing (or ‘talent vs training’, if you like). Are some people really just born with it? And can people who aren’t (if others are), acquire it somehow? Does it even really exist? Because there are those who say there’s no such thing as talent. I don’t know. What do you think?
Nature does count for something
Before I go any further I’d like to just put it out there again that I’m no expert, don’t have a PhD in anything or anything like that. What I do have, maybe, is not a little envy for the ‘naturals’ who must’ve just been born gifted~you know, like Mozart. And it sure didn’t hurt Paganini to be born with those hands, either.
Science does say certain, characteristics are hereditary, and that there are bases for saying something ‘runs in the family’. This article even says acquired skills can be passed on to the next generation (I’m assuming they mean skills they learned on their own instead of inherited).
I guess it’s not too far of a stretch to say that if mom and dad were into books, for instance, and both of them liked to write, you would very likely be encouraged to write, yourself. That is, even if it ‘didn’t come naturally’ to you or you didn’t ‘pick it up on your own’.
I know that doesn’t count as inheriting a skill, exactly, but the ‘environment’ would have been set up for you by the folks you would’ve inherited it from.
But say you did ‘pick it up on your own’~what made you want to? And having picked it up, what made you want to continue? Maybe it’s genetics, lol. Whatever it is, chances are it’s something inside you that drives you and makes you want it more.
Naturals don’t always want it, anyway
Take a couple of my classmates back at art school, a guy we’ll call P, and a girl we’ll call N.
P comes from a family of artists, or at least, his dad is real famous and his sister went on to become a famous sculptor in her own right, too. I remember P telling us how it had been suggested that maybe he really only picked it up because of his dad and stuff. He said that well, he did ‘want it, too’. (Last I heard he was still doing art in New York.)
I don’t remember exactly now how I met N, but it wasn’t at art school~I’m fairly sure I met her at some workshop related to children’s books or, something. Anyway, N was really good, like, technically, as in boy did I envy that woman’s hands. She had a real delicate touch (not like me, I’m a caveman hahaha), like her brushwork was exquisite.
But she quit art school after a year or two~like I’m fairly sure she didn’t do our junior year. I have a vague memory of saying what a shame it was, and in reply, she said she just wasn’t feeling it, anymore. She didn’t want it. (And last I heard of her, she was a big time editor, like I have one of her books.)
Point being, that just because you’re good at something, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what you want to do.
Wanting it makes you work for it
Like when I started in advertising, the CEO of the agency (God rest him) put me in accounts, when what I really wanted to be was a copywriter.
I found the guts to march up to his fancy Filipiana-themed office to tell him so, but not before asking him ‘Why did you make me an AE (Account Executive)?’, and before he replied, shrugging, ‘Had you in class.’ (He did~where I went to uni they got CEOs to teach classes, and sometimes if you were lucky they hired you right out of school.)
Maybe I could have been an AE (back then, anyway; definitely not now), but the thing was, I didn’t want to be one.
Looking back I think it might’ve been relatively easier to be an AE than go down the ‘creative route’~look, I’m not knocking being an AE or saying it’s an easy job. (Heaven knows it isn’t, and I’ve seen that almost firsthand.) I’m just thinking about how much work I’ve had to do to progress as a writer~and how, after a bazillion years, I still have a long way to go.
And when I think about how I’ve been writing professionally far longer than I’ve practised art, that brings home how much further I have to go as an artist LOL
I’m not going to lie, it’s been a long, hard slog~and if you’re going to slog that hard, that long, you’re really going to have to want whatever it is you’re slogging for.
If this, then…
I may have mentioned this professor I had back at art school in previous posts, who said (among other things) that he actually ‘wasn’t that talented’ or ‘not talented at all’~ he just ‘worked hard’.
Because those of us who don’t have talent are without the advantages that talented folks have, we end up working extra hard.
This ‘extra hard work’ on our part begs a few questions, for me:
And what about training (or nurture)? ~ Some people do go in for classes (like I did) to acquire or sharpen the skills they need for art (in whatever form that takes). But many people don’t have formal training or didn’t go to art school ~ but they love art and are always creating amazing things.
I don’t think this makes their art any less *legit* or good. I’m not sure if this counts as nature or training~ I guess it’s self-training, and being self-trained or taught is still training, I guess.
This reminds me a little bit of a few galleries I’ve applied for shows at that asked me where I went to art school. I remember asking myself whether it mattered and whether that was fair to truly talented artists who just didn’t go to art school.
It’s not ‘either-or’ ~ it’s ‘and…but’
I think most people who’ve expounded on this subject say that talent, no matter how much one might have, doesn’t mean a rat’s patootie if one doesn’t apply oneself. Talent is fabulous, to be sure, but it doesn’t negate the need for hard work.
Diamonds in the rough are great, but they don’t look like much until they’re polished, and all that (unless you’re into them as status symbols or something ^^). Ergo, it’s talent and training, not or.
But, *if* I had to choose between nature and nurture, I’d pick the latter. Nurture, which I use here very broadly to also mean putting yourself out there, fighting various demons, overcoming obstacles and so on~will always trump nature on its own. Put another way (if you can stomach another jilliteration), guts will always win over gifts.
So I do agree with most people on this; in fact, as one of those who’ve had to work extra hard and is a big believer in hard work and discipline myself, I couldn’t agree more.
Butbut~ it’s just there’s something about nature I can’t quite put into words (I told you I still had a long way to go as a writer LOL). It’s like, cooking something and you followed the recipe to the letter and yet, it’s missing something that gives it a little kick or that extra oomph that makes it the best thing you’ve ever eaten.
Work done by naturals (or geniuses, if you will) have that something, something that really sets it apart and makes you stand up and cheer. Like, there’s good~ but there’s also great. What makes it great? I can’t say that I know, although I’m pretty sure there are professionals out there who do.
What I can say, just like anybody, is that ‘I know what I like when I see it’~ or, rather, I can ‘taste that little kick or extra oomph’ when it’s there.
I’m not saying my taste or opinion or judgment is better than whoever’s. I’m just saying that more often than not, I either experience it in the work of naturals, or I end up saying that the work (whether it is by ‘someone with talent’ or not) is by someone who is one. And I’ll go out on a limb to say it’s like that for other folks, too.
What do you think?
This post is pretty inconclusive, I know. I guess it’s natural to feel, well I won’t say envy, exactly, but more like, ‘wow, they make it look so easy’ and ‘I wish my stuff would come naturally to me like that without having to work so hard’. For lack of a better, single term, I call it ‘being happy for them, and sorry for myself’ XD
Butbutbut~ the operative phrase here is ‘look so easy’. Naturals may make it look easy, for sure, but just as sure as Beauty and the Beast, even they had to work real hard, too.
Happy are those who have both the talent and the training~there are those chosen few, too. Like ballet dancers~maybe they have the genetics to be lithe and graceful (maybe their mums were ballerinas, too). But take one look at their poor feet and you know they had to make so many, many, painful sacrifices to make it look effortless the way they do.
I guess the natural conclusion of this post is to say there really is no shortcut on this journey of an artistic practice.
Whether or not you were born with it, whether or not you have every advantage (although there’s no denying those help), even if those advantages include the use of AI or what have you. There’s just no real substitute for putting in the work, putting yourself out there, paying your dues~ whether you paint, sculpt, Photoshop, write poetry, plays, play the cello, the flute~no matter what your art is.
I don’t think I can ever say there’s no such thing as talent, just as I’ll never say there’s no such thing as unicorns ^_^** But I will say there’s no such thing as great art without great effort. And the only easy thing about the entire process is to get discouraged and to give up. If you could use someone to talk to about talent, training, nature~or nonsense, even~I’m here for you.