Do you have to be talented to be an artist?

academy stillleben zeichenkurs 01 1 - Do you have to be talented to be an artist?

What does talent mean?

Those who love the works of an artist often tend to call the artist “talented”. But what does talent actually mean, and why is this term being used in such an inflationary way, especially in art?

How talented do you have to be to be an artist? “I can´t even draw a stick figure!” that´s what many people would say while looking at some realistic drawings. But why should they actually be good at it? An artist cannot perform a medical operation or make complex physical calculations. Similarly, someone who has not drawn since childhood doesn´t know how to draw now that is an adult. Most people believe that whoever can draw well, was born with this ability. However, as a pianist needs to play the piano for thousands of hours, and like a football player needs to always train, an artist has to draw a lot to become good at it.

1 - Do you have to be talented to be an artist?
Sargent – William Merritt Chase

Talent in art works just like talent in other fields:

Certain people have a natural affinity for certain activities. For instance, some people are talented in mathematics and there are gifted musicians, but you won´t become good at it if you don´t work hard, no matter how talented you are. The same is true for art.

Training is therefore essential in art as well. If you have talent, you are probably going to make progress more rapidly than others, but anyone can learn how to draw. No one comes into the world with the knowledge of proportions or of how to stroke the brush. And without a teacher, it can often be hard to tell if you have the talent or not. Those who are on their own, can quickly interpret problems caused by poor learning resources or materials as personal “lack of talent”. Bad habits, which may be detected and trained by a teacher at an early stage, may consolidate over years in a self-taught artist and become more difficult to replace at a later stage.

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Winslow Homer – Artists Sketching in the White Mountains


Talent definitely plays an important role in the quality of an artist’s work, but you can´t just reduce all the hard work and the practice and frustration and difficulties to innate ability. Behind every masterpiece, there are fifty terrible sketches and drawings that the artist would probably never want to show to anyone.

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Rembrandt – The Artist in his studio

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