Talent is a conceptual cage. I don’t believe it exists

I was out drawing a tree during today’s snowfall. About halfway through, a woman who lives in my apartment complex approached. I hadn’t met her before, be she was very kind. She was fond of the tree I’d been drawing and mused, “I wish I could draw things like that. I used to love to draw, but I don’t have any talent, so I stopped.” I told her in response, “I don’t have any talent either. But I still draw everyday and practice. I mean, it’s really all practice, nobody starts off being able to paint or draw or illustrate well. It’s all technique and skill. Anybody can learn if they go at it hard and long enough.”

To my surprise, she almost seemed offended. That wasn’t my intention at all, as I merely wanted to suggest that you should never not do something you love because someone tells you you’re bad, or you think you’re bad. In fact, I firmly believe people pointing out mistakes or inconsistencies in proportions has been extremely constructive for me. 

After a pause, she asked, “How on earth do you think you aren’t talented. That tree looks better than the real tree!” She laughed at little there, “I mean sure, nobody starts great, but I can barely draw a straight line.” I laughed there.

So, to demonstrate, I flipped the page I was drawing on, loosened my grip and tried to draw a straight line. It wasn’t terrible, but it was nowhere near straight. Below that line, I demonstrated how I draw lines in drawings. I made small and swift movements, combining multiple small lines into a relatively straight line.

Then I said, “I actually have rigors, my hands shake. I quite literally can’t draw a straight line. So that’s how I outline my contour. Then, later, I improve the line quality while shading. Since it’s in ink, you can cover up pretty much any small mistake if you know how. I’m really not talented, and I don’t want to be. Believing you’re talented makes you complacent. You stop researching ways to improve, you think you’ve hit a perpetual ceiling in your ability when that’s the opposite of the truth. You’re never done learning, especially with things like drawing. On the flip-side, if you think you have no talent, you stop doing something prematurely even though you love doing it. I bet if you started drawing again, you might surprise yourself. The worst thing that could happen is you have fun drawing.”

To my dismay she looked even more upset. I still don’t understand why. 

She said, “Well, I’ll see you around.”

And she walked inside. It was cold out, I don’t blame her. I just hope I didn’t inadvertently say something callous or discouraging, as I was literally trying to do the opposite by encouraging her to do something she said she loved doing. 


I understand the frustration of not being able to pull off a drawing the way you really want to. It’s one of the things that drives me to improve, so that one day I can draw anything I want, using any medium I want. It’s a passion of mine. It’s incredibly engaging and keeps me sane while I struggle through this degree. I’ve had people tell me when I was just starting off that I couldn’t draw. And I couldn’t. But I wanted to, so I did, and now I can draw a lot of things. There are still far more things I can’t draw, though, and I want to be able to. So I’ll learn how. It’s really that simple. Don’t be discouraged by others or yourself or your failed experiments because you learn the most from those.




4 thoughts on “Talent is a conceptual cage. I don’t believe it exists

  1. Gosh! This is extremely encouraging! Thank you for this share!

    I agree mostly but… LOL!

    Blue … you ARE talented. You’ve just been perfecting it.

    Also tenacity, persistence, determination are rare talents which you seem to posses in great abundance!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. I appreciate the kind words, Mel. That’s an interesting take on the concept that I hadn’t considered. I never took it to mean specific traits like tenacity before now.

      Anyway, thanks for making me think!

      Liked by 1 person

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