Monday, August 4, 2014

Is talent learned, or in DNA?

This past Christmas at our family dinner, we were discussing my 13-year-old niece's beautiful Christmas card design, which was sold to a local bank for use as their holiday card.  The discussion turned to whether talent was genetic or learned.

My younger sister, who is a professional artist, believes that the Plympton family has an artistic gene that gives us a natural talent for making art.  I hear things like that a lot, that some people were born to be great artists.

However, I believe that's a bunch of bull propagated by jealous people who wish they could be artists, or want to believe that they could have been, if only they'd had the right parents.

As for myself, sure, I was good at creating art in school - but that was because it made me happy.  There was something very magical for me at a young age in putting the pencil to paper.  It entertained me.  Also, I really enjoyed the newspaper comics and TV cartoons, so naturally that's what I drew.  Plus, since I lived in the rainy climate of Oregon, I spent a lot of time indoors, drawing.

So, if there was any reason for my "natural ability to draw", it was all connected to those things - not any kind of artistic "gene".  But beyond that, I had ambition - I wanted to be a success and to live in New York City.

I had a number of artist friends in school who were, in fact, as good as or better at being artists than I - yet they never became successful artists.  One of them is a check-out clerk at a drugstore.  I believe they lacked the ambition or will to keep up the rigorous routine needed to become a great artist.   Not just to draw all day, but to study and push oneself and totally be immersed in art.

It takes a whole lot of dedication to be a great artist.  Picasso, when he was drinking and womanizing, painted all day - and not because he needed the money, but because it's what he loved to do, it was his passion. 

I sometimes create 200 drawings a day, and after a full day like that, I feel so satisfied and exultant.  It's like I was having sex all day long.  And that's what drives me to create art - not some creative gene hidden somewhere in my DNA.

So, all you fledgling artists, don't blame your parents - get out there and draw!!!

--Bill Plympton

1 comment:

  1. I concur. The artistic muscle is no different than any other. The best athletes become the best by putting in the most hours from little league to the big leagues. Perseverance is always key. That's one thing I learned from experience during art school, not from the curriculum. It's too bad that hard work seems to be a secret to success when it should be common sense to more people.