Understanding Talent

By Brenda Hoddinott

Insights into myths about art and artists

Thankfully, nobody ever told me I couldn't draw.

As an introverted child, I was oblivious to the meaning of the word "talent". Drawing entertained me for hours and provided me with something everybody needs - a sense of being special.

The respect and praise of a friend, relative, or teacher gave me a boost of self-confidence and increased my yearning to improve my drawing skills.

However, growing up in the small town of Corner Brook, Newfoundland, it was sometimes difficult to access the information necessary to improve these skills.

The small public library became a serendipitous haven. I spent many hours devouring everything I could find about art - from children's picture books, to encyclopedias with photographs of art by the Great Masters.

I was rarely without inspiration or subject material for drawing.

My greatest love was drawing faces. I thrived on the challenge of being able to draw likenesses of friends and celebrities.

Figure 1: A drawing I created at age 15 (approximately)

Figure 1

Figure 1

This early interest in faces ultimately brought me beyond the frustrations of self-education into a very rewarding and diverse career in art.

By the time I discovered that many people believe "drawing"is very difficult or requires a special talent, I was already well on my way to becoming a technically skilled artist.

"Talent"is a word often misunderstood.

Talented artists are often presented to us through movies, television, and media as magical and mysterious eccentrics. In the art world, you often hear critics hailing such things as random blobs of paint on a canvas, digital accidents, or even human excrement as "great works of art."

If you're anything like me, you struggle to understand this art. You're often left scratching your head, amused and puzzled. The critics encourage you to believe that these artworks are the result of "extraordinary talent". No wonder so many people believe that talent itself is magical, elusive, and not within the grasp of mere mortals such as us!

However, even the bizarre or zany stuff is usually great for a few giggles. There will always be artists who rely on shock value to achieve recognition. However, the general population seems to respect artists who demonstrate strong technical skills in their style of choice, whether representational, impressionistic, or abstract.

Talent is simply a process of self-discovery in which individuals acknowledge their interest and motivation to become exceptional in a specific area.

Figure 2: Drawspace Lesson 6.1.A22 (Beginner to Intermediate)

Eye on Melissa: draw an eye with a focus on accurately rendering the anatomical forms surrounding the orbital cavity

Figure 2

Figure 2

Individuals progress at their own special pace.

Drawing is as natural a human activity as learning to walk or talk.

From the ancient caves of prehistoric humans to the tombs of Egyptian and Native peoples all over the world, we have found evidence that humans used art to communicate and immortalize events and objects precious to their lives and cultures.

The creators of these ancient artworks were probably not disparaged by self-doubt - they made art because it was the natural thing to do.

From the beginnings of recorded history to modern day, prodigies have been considered to be persons who acquire a special ability with little effort, and talent is understood by many to only include these prodigies.

Figure 3: Drawspace Lesson 6.3.A18 (Advanced)

Katie The Pitweiler: render a highly-detailed, photorealistic drawing of either this mixed-breed dog or your own favorite pet using an unusual approach to drawing with a grid

Figure 3

Figure 3

However, most prodigies begin to obsessively work to develop their skills when they are very young. By continuing to challenge themselves, they discover their ability to transcend to extraordinary levels of technical competence.

Not everyone can become a prodigy, but everyone can develop talent. You are a unique individual with diverse abilities. Be patient with yourself: drawing skills develop over time.

If your dream is to be a talented artist, you need to be true to yourself. Hard work, patience and devotion inevitably challenge a mediocre artist to become an exceptional artist.

Talent must be nurtured and developed.

Sadly, the world is full of talented people who never pursue that which they love, because they understand talent to be some magical, elusive quality.

Many people arrive at the conclusion that talent is only available to individuals who were born with it. I disagree; I wasn't "born" an artist. With the help of various books, I taught myself how to draw - and you can, too! Continue to explore and nurture your desire to draw. We all possess talent.

Figure 4: Drawspace Lesson 2.2.A19 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Rhino in Pajamas: identify the value and thickness of diverse lines as you accurately duplicate the broad range of lineweights needed to render a drawing based on a work by Albrecht Durer

Figure 4

Figure 4

Most individuals are capable of developing superior skills in specific areas. Many persons, including individuals challenged by visual, physical, and mental limitations, enjoy drawing.

Luckily, I can see and have hands. Some people without hands have become successful artists by accepting the challenge of using their mouth or feet to hold their drawing tools.

If you have some vision and a way to hold a pencil, the only obstacle left is making a commitment. With a better understanding of talent and ability, you begin to recognize that drawing can be one of your special skills.

Drawing means something different to everyone. It can mean the dictionary definition, or your own nonspecific definition, such as: The applying of an art medium to a surface so as to produce a visual image.

These words, however, don't define drawing as it personally relates to you.

Figure 5: Drawspace Lesson 3.2.A24 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Bird of Paradise: employ contour hatching graduations and blending to render the textures of a beautiful exotic flower

Figure 5

Figure 5

What comes into your mind when you think of the word "drawing"? How do you define this word? Put on your thinking cap for a moment, and finish the following sentence:

To me, drawing is _______________.

With interest, patience and commitment, you can become as good at drawing as you wish. The most important thing is that you are actually drawing, making art, and communicating through and nurturing the artist within.

The joy of drawing is in the process, not the product.

Learning to draw adds a new and exciting activity to your life. The joy and personal satisfaction of creating a drawing is both your incentive and reward. The process of discovering this ability is enriching to all aspects of your life - as a means of expressing yourself, the language of art is a relaxing, stimulating and productive method of communication.

Your drawings illustrate your personal perceptions.

Drawing challenges you to translate what you see into a non-verbal language.

With only a few supplies and some basic skills, you soon find yourself taking pride in your new achievements.

Figure 6: Drawspace Lesson 3.1.A30 (Intermediate)

Shade an Apple with Contour Hatching: render a realistic drawing of a shiny McIntosh apple by using blending to smooth out contour hatching graduations

Figure 6

Figure 6

Drawing is seeing.

Through your own eyes, as an artist, you appreciate everything around you from new perspectives, wherein you visually explore with a whole new purpose: discovering drawing subjects!

Drawing is more than simply rendering a specific object - it's also visually defining your choice of subject from your own unique perspectives. No other person in the whole world is exactly like you.

Figure 7: Drawspace Lesson 3.1.A27 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Realistic Petals on a Flower: use a chisel point on nine grades of pencils to render a detailed drawing of a flower with a focus on shading light and shadow

Figure 7

Figure 7

The act of drawing produces a physical reward: art.

It really doesn't matter why you draw or who sees your drawings. Maybe you hope to one day publicly exhibit your drawings. Or, you may choose to only share them with family and friends. You also have the option of keeping them all to yourself.

Figure 8: Drawspace Lesson 2.1.A24 (Beginner to Intermediate)

Sketch Figures from Life: the process of sketching clothed and unclothed people from life - from setting up to completing a detailed sketch

Figure 8

Figure 8

Your drawings serve as a journal of your artistic journey. Have you ever thought about writing a book? Why not use your own drawings to illustrate your literary art?

You can also use your drawings to decorate your surroundings with your own personal touch. Have some of your drawings framed and hang them in your home or workspace.

Family, co-workers, and friends easily become quite fascinated by artistic creations. Don't be surprised if they soon request some of your drawings for their own homes. Of course, this is a good time to encourage them to take up drawing themselves.

Draw in a way you really love.

Every artist seems to have a unique approach to drawing. Some love big, bold, loose drawings; while others like little tiny drawings with lots of intricate details.

Deciding which style label applies to a specific drawing is not easy. Many artists choose to not label their drawings at all. Your personal style evolves each time you attempt new and diverse methods of drawing, so keep an open mind while carefully noting which of your drawings you prefer. Styles are neither right nor wrong,they just are. With time, your style(s) develops automatically.

Figure 9: Drawspace Lesson 3.2.A26 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Beverley's Stained Glass Butterfly: employ high key shading, blending, and erasing to render the textures of a realistic stained glass and metal butterfly

Figure 9

Figure 9

You have already taken the first step!

Just by reading this, you are already on your way to becoming an artist.

Perceived personal limitations are not obstacles; your only challenge is making a commitment.

For most of my adult life, I have chosen to share my love of art with both children and adults by teaching art.

Whether it is your desire to learn the very basics of drawing or to improve the drawing skills you already have, my tutorials will hopefully have something of interest to you.

Art has become very accessible in recent years.

Galleries, the Internet, art books, and your own community provide vast art resources.

Figure 10: Drawspace Lesson 5.1.A30 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Nuremburg Woman (Albrecht Durer): use various grades of graphite pencils to recreate a pen and watercolor drawing of a beautifully-dressed female figure

Figure 10

Figure 10

By carefully observing the drawings of other artists, you gain invaluable information which you can apply to your own drawings.

Take time to examine and appreciate a diverse range of art and artists.

Figure 11: Drawspace Lesson 6.2.A20 (Beginner to Intermediate)

A Zebra Named Spot: draw a zebra's striped pattern, furry texture, and exterior anatomical forms

Figure 11

Figure 11

Investigate and participate in some of the wonderful drawing e-groups where international artists share tips, critique one another's work, and openly exchange various art techniques and resources.

Check out your local community-based educational facilities and recreational centers for drawing programs in your area. You can always benefit from drawing classes and workshops where you'll meet others within your community who also want to improve their drawing skills, techniques, and styles.

As you uncover local art resources, you'll meet diverse artists and have opportunities to become involved in art groups. Many art groups organize incredible workshops taught by prominent artists, and the camaraderie and enjoyment is well worth your time.

With an interest in self-expression, you CAN develop exceptional drawing skills.

Figure 12: Drawspace Lesson 3.2.A15 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Dewdrops on a Tulip: employ contour hatching graduations and blending to render a realistic drawing of dewdrops glistening on the textured surface of a tulip