[in my book], The Talent Myth, were gathered over half a century of hard-won experience as an artist and teacher. After having achieved some renown as a painter, I became challenged by the idea of teaching others what I knew. My purpose was simple and clear: to teach the traditional basic skills of drawing and painting in a way whereby anyone, with or without natural talent, could learn to draw and paint beautifully. What began as a personal challenge has become the world’s largest fine-art training program.
I and instructors trained in my methods have helped thousands begin glorious new adventures. Some students had natural abilities, but most began with little more than the desire to learn and again taste the fruits of creativity. Most were afraid and skeptical of their chances before they began, yet with step-by-step, one-on-one instruction, they have succeeded.
Only a handful of the general public knows the joy and riches artistic creation can bring, the enhancement in mental and physical well-being, the transcendent moments in a life sustained by the arts. I have seen lives revitalized when creative goals were rekindled and a missing piece to life’s puzzle fell into place.
The creative impulse, even if barred, keeps trying to break free. It doesn’t die or go away. It has enormous power. No matter how ignored or denied or betrayed, it makes its presence felt throughout a lifetime.
The Talent Myth exposes the major obstacle to artistic success—one that has caused millions to give up their artistic pursuits—and unmasks our wasteful system of educating artists, a system that actually prevents the development of talent. I then discuss the true nature of talent, the fundamentals that appear to hold true for creating all fine art, and the standards and methods I believe necessary to successfully teach and learn an art form. The Talent Myth is a guide to help anyone get started as an artist or revitalize his goals in the arts.
Although the book focuses on painting, much of the material applies to the other arts as well. Many of my students who have careers as writers, actors, musicians, and dancers have taken the principles they learned about drawing and painting and used them to lift their professions to new levels of expression and success.
I believe that knowing how to create art is vital to the care and feeding of the human spirit. Learned and used, it will dramatically improve almost anyone’s life.
The waters of the arts have been muddied for too long. Perhaps this book, this tiny stone hurled into the forbidding center of the old, stagnant seas, will spread rings of truth that will dispel enough of the murk to make the waters inviting for all.
Our Favorite Lie
Why do most of us completely drop our precious artistic dreams and leave creativity behind the gates of childhood? Is it necessary? Does it make any sense?
Ask these questions and first you’ll get pat social answers: “I don’t have the time. I’ll get to it again someday,” or “It’s too late for me.”
Persist and ask again. The veneer soon drops away and the truth comes out.
“I don’t have the talent.”
It’s never that people don’t want to create art. Most don’t believe they can.
Most of us think that in order to pursue the arts and be creative, we first need natural talent. We’ve been sold a bill of goods—the Talent Myth.
If you don’t believe me, it’s understandable. Most likely you’ve never thought it possible to acquire talent. The talent myth promotes the lie that unless one has a large endowment of natural talent, one has no real chance to develop artistically.
Look up the word talent in a dictionary and you will find that even our language perpetuates the myth about it being naturally endowed. Yet talent really just describes the ability to perform in a certain field. Ability depends on skills and any skill can be learned. The Latin and Greek roots for the word talent originally meant “a unit of weight and/or money”—something valuable, yes, but certainly not innate. Over time, the meaning of the word altered and diminished, leaving the impression that only those born with enormous gifts can succeed.
It isn’t true.
An unfortunate by-product of the myth is the notion that no real knowledge exists in the arts. You simply and magically have talent or you don’t. No basic knowledge exists, only individual accomplishment.
Yet if he stops to think about it, an intelligent person will realize that any activity can be broken down into fundamental steps and learned—even art.
You don’t have to be born with talent, you can acquire it.