The Naturally Talented Artist

First let’s define “Natural talent.”

Definition: Natural talent is an innate or inborn gift for a specific activity, either allowing one to demonstrate some immediate skill without practice, or to gain skill rapidly with minimal practice.

I have been told that I am “naturally talented” on more than one occasion. It’s a lovely compliment and I am so very thankful when anyone gives me such a compliment. But, at the same time in the back of my mind I KNOW it’s not the truth and they are mistaken…seriously and unfortunately mistaken. I get kinda sad about it actually.

Not many people know, and those of you who do are privileged, but I taught Junior High art one…single…year. The mantra was generally “I can’t…”, “I can’t draw” is always a favorite. It comes in many forms:

“I can’t draw a straight line”

“I can’t draw a stick figure”

“I can’t…”

“I can’t…”

“I can’t…”

If there is one thing I know for sure is that if you think you can’t, you’re right. (Not sure who said that first, Ford?) These were of course young kids, but this carries itself on into adulthood as “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Where these little sayings come from I’m not sure, but I know they are the favorites.

Here is something else that I know, practice makes perfect.

I am no where near “naturally talented”, that is a fact. I am most definitely “naturally passionate.” And because of that passion I practiced.

I have been an artist since I was practically in diapers. I didn’t know what “art” was or what an “artist” did, I just loved coloring and drawing. It was one of my favorite things to do. I have always drawn. Doodled. Colored. I didn’t know the words for it or the why, but I had a passion.

When I was in junior high / high school was the first time I took an art class. I wasn’t particularly good. I’d say I was a little better than my peers but I had been drawing since I was 4 or 5 or younger. While other kids were on dates, out with friends, or watching movies I was drawing. I did it late into the early morning hours. My mom would come down stairs and make me go to bed.

This is pretty much how it is now. I draw while I Netflix binge. I sit in my bed or in the living room and while other folks are knitting or texting or reading I am probably drawing.

So let’s go back to that definition of “Natural talent.”

Definition: Natural talent is an innate or inborn gift for a specific activity, either allowing one to demonstrate some immediate skill without practice, or to gain skill rapidly with minimal practice.

Notice anything here? To be naturally talented would suggest that you never practiced. You rolled out of bed one day, picked up a brush and were amazing at it. I am not that person and I seriously doubt that most of the artists you admire are either. This is RARE. I’d even venture to say it doesn’t exist. It’s like a unicorn, pretty cool idea but have you actually seen one? Most of us who can draw straight lines have done it a million times. It’s like practicing a pitch in baseball or cooking the same recipe for the millionth time…you get good at it. It’s a shame really, for so many folks to tell themselves over and over that they “can’t.”

The devil is in the details, and the researchers are still working out the interplay between all the factors that affect drawing accuracy. However, they can all be learned. “There is no doubt that practice is an important component of being able to draw,” Chamberlain said. While some may be predisposed to be better at perceptual accuracy and visual memory than others, “the rest of us use tricks to emulate this.”


It makes me think about all of the things that I have ever said that I couldn’t do. Was it true? I’m starting to wonder…

If your art isn’t where you want it to be, you need to make more! If you think someone is better than you at something or that you are mediocre and you wish you were as good as them or better, then make the choice to do it all the time. It’s worth it!

Practice. If you don’t practice, you won’t get better. You should make practice a habit. Allot a specific amount of time per day to practicing—even better allot a specific period in the day to practice. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and try new things when you practice.

  • Try things that you know that you can’t do. You can learn a lot more by grappling with things you don’t know than by repeating things you’re already good at.[8]
  • Don’t worry about how good what you’re doing is. The only way to learn new things is to experiment.[9]
  • Try a master study. A master study a type of practice wherein you take a great work of art and replicate it. It probably won’t be perfect. But you will be learning from the best.[10]


I know that I am not naturally talented. I have a great passion that drove me to work at it all the time. Not some of the time. Not part of the time. All the time! I got better. I grew and learned from my mistakes. And guess what? 30 years later I am STILL learning! And 30 years from now I will still be learning then. It’s a journey.

Don’t compare your journey to another artists’ or another persons for that matter. Pick up a pencil, paint brush, pastel and get going! Do the work.



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