I teach at a painting studio that allows customers to drink and complete a painting within a couple of hours. Due to the social nature of the classes, many customers possess no painting experience. I frequently hear comments such as, "I have no talent," "I can't draw a straight line," and "I can only draw stick figures."
In most cases, I bet their statements are accurate assessments. However, what these individuals don't understand is that they can BUILD and DEVELOP their artistic talents.
Yes, there are people out there who appear to naturally possess artistic skills. I think their "natural" talents are due to their natural ability to analyze and break down what is in front of them, so that they can then replicate it. I think "normal" individuals can develop this artistic eye and learn the painting techniques to capture what they see.
In the book, "The Talent Code," author Daniel Coyle explores how talent is actually built.
The points that resonated with me as an artist and a teacher:
1) "To get good, it's helpful to be willing, or even enthusiastic, about being bad." Many new painters I work with are nervous about creating something awful. It's ok to create something awful. There's so much potential for growth in an awful painting! One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching painting is showing someone how a few simple changes to their "awful" painting makes it beautiful.
2) When learning a skill, break it down and slow it down. Coyle explains that when we break a skill into different components and do them slowly, we actually learn faster than just quickly bumbling through. This is especially true of learning to paint. In class, I guide students step-by-step through a painting. By the end of class, the majority of students usually tell me, "That was so much easier than I thought it was going to be!"
The concept of slowing down always applies to painting. During painting class, I show students a brush technique. The students who take the time to slowly practice until they get it right end up with paintings that are noticeably better than the students who didn't care to focus on the brush technique.
3) Passion is key. In order to stick with art through all of the disappointing paintings and hours of practice, it takes passion. You have to WANT to become an artist.
I believe many people want to possess artistic skills, they just don't think it's possible. They need to know that art, like an instrument, can be learned.
Sandra Bulloch, an artist who captures human emotion with incredible beauty, began painting in her 40's. In her "About Me" section, she explains that her first paintings "did not go well" and she had to struggle to develop her skills. When you look at her beautiful paintings, you would never know she wasn't a "naturally gifted artist."