Does talent really exist?

“Oh, you draw/paint/dance/sing/play so well, you must be so talented!”

Do you cringe when you hear that word? I do.

When a person sees a complex work of art (I’m using “art” as “something human-made that is perceived as beautiful”), she only sees that piece. She enjoys the moment, the piece in all its glory. She would never be able to reproduce something like that, so the artist must possess something she doesn’t. Or does she?

The trick is, she could¬†reproduce something like that. Only, not now and not quickly, and you don’t need any magic “talent”. What she calls talent is actually the sum of countless hours of practise, liters of sweat and tears, dozens of “I can’t do this” moments and an equivalent count of “dammit, yes, I’m GONNA do this!”. The work of art she admires is the product of effort.

You can have a predisposition: you may possess the right kind of patience to paint a lot of little details, or you can have a good eye for composition: these things help you get started, but in the long run, they aren’t gonna make it easier. These are all skills that can be trained and improved, and if you don’t start with them, you can earn them later on.

The only thing you actually need to succeed in an artistic field is the willpower to go on, practise everyday and don’t give up everytime you see someone better than you. You need the honesty to say “yes, you are better than me at this stuff”, the humility to say “I still have a lot to learn, I’m in no way good enough” and the pride to say “I’m not good enough, but I will be!”.

I’m not saying that everyone can be a famous artist. To achieve this, you need more than effort and willpower: you need to be in the right place, have the right opportunities, find yourself in the right chances. A lot of this is luck alone. But is being a famous artist really what you want?

I don’t aim to be as famous as him (OK, probably I do. A little).

I can tell you what I want most: not partecipating in art shows, not having a lot of followers on DeviantArt or Facebook, not being an illustrator for the Sorcerer that lives by the sea (get my innuendo?). All those things I would like, but they are not my ultimate goal. My goal is to be proud of what I produce.

I just want to be as happy as this guy when I look at my stuff.

Am I? Not always. Do I feel warm and fuzzy when I look at something I painted? Sometimes. Do I feel sadly jealous of what other skilled painters produce? Yes, dammit, always. But do I actually like to put effort in order to improve? Absolutely.

Talent doesn’t exist, but effort does. Keep doing what you do, do it with pride, and please show me the results!