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Thread: Talent... a lie?

  1. #31
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    If you don't believe that some people just start farther ahead of others in certain areas then you just have not seen enough of life or people. Work ethic and desire will always be the largest part of a success pie but some people will just never be able to reach the upper echelon of art or sports or music no matter how hard they work.

    The simplest example is sports. One of my best friends in grade school ran the hundred yard dash as fast as some high school track kids. He was physically lazy but could just do it. Of course he never amounted to much athletically, other than being born with a Schwartzenegger physique, because he didn't have the desire. The point is he was gifted, or talented beyond most other kids I have seen. There are a lot of Mozart like examples throughout history to support the idea of innate ability and the greater capacity for learning or achieving. Conversely I could have worked hard every day of my life and never played pro basketball. And if you think that the idea of sports and art or other intellectual endeavors are not comparable you are wrong.

    Applejacks, I can't tell you how many times I have seen students come in with little or no "talent"; students who have been drawing for years. You can choose another word but I have also seen farm kids, with no background or exposure to the arts except from the internet, come into the classroom with an incredible ability to see, process, and learn.

    You can call it what you will but some people just have a head start. But, of course, a head start is never enough in the long run if others work harder.

    People who have worked hard at something don't like to have their achievements chalked up to talent. That's understandable but doesn't mean that talent (innate ability or submit another word) doesn't exist.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    I know talent when I see it.

    So do most professionals.... They may not be able to articulate what exactly talent is, as I've attempted to do (somewhat facetiously) in my post, but they can detect it from a mile away. The overwhelming percentage of art students are weak on the talent front, in my opinion, so real talent stands out like an emerald on a plate of bread crumbs.

    I was at the Norman Rockwell museum a few weeks ago for the Blue Sky presentation. The guys from that company said that it was really rare that they looked at a decent demo reel that showed talent. They said they knew within seconds of beginning the reel if the person had talent or not. I asked them, what was it that gave away in seconds whether the applicant was "talented" or "weak." They said it was, paraphrasing here, "fresh acting choices." Almost immediately, they could tell if somebody had an art brain that could generate ideas of its own, instead of relying on hand-me-downs.

    When I was an art director at a small ad agency, I saw mostly books filled with junk. I began to postulate that most creative people who were out of work were out of work for a reason.

    Intelligence and personality inform talent to a large degree. I can tell just by looking at someone's artwork how intelligent they are. What kind of mind they have. The talent level. The work ethic. Art is phenomenally revealing, I believe.

    Talent is worth discussing because pinpointing what it is can explain quite clearly the extent of craft... one's limitation, where talent and craft intermix... or where craft boosts talent, or corrects for over-intellectualization, etc.

    Not to sound like some authority on the topic, or whatever, but I'm sure I'm not the only one peeking in on this thread that was able to draw photo-realistically from an object sitting on a table at 14 years old or so. Or was always able to imagine vividly even from an early age. This was in contradistinction to all my friends who also drew, but couldn't do the same.

    Last edited by kev ferrara; August 21st, 2011 at 08:29 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    The overwhelming percentage of art students are weak on the talent front, in my opinion, so real talent stands out like an emerald on a plate of bread crumbs.
    This.

    Just browsing the sketchbook threads, you'll be able to tell someone's talent from the first few sketches on.

    Candidly, I do have issues seeing where I stand myself. Odd, how that works. It's a bit like listening to your own voice, you can't really tell what you sound like until you hear yourself back.

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    Well, I'm still going to disagree. But yeah, whatever makes you sleep at night, I guess.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MightyApplejacks View Post
    Well, I'm still going to disagree. But yeah, whatever makes you sleep at night, I guess.
    So everyone's just bread crumbs, huh? Carrivagio? Bouguereau? Rembrandt? Just bread crumbs...

    But yeah, whatever makes you sleep at night, I guess.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MightyApplejacks View Post
    Well, I'm still going to disagree. But yeah, whatever makes you sleep at night, I guess.
    Yep!

    I think IQ's an elitist fiction as well.

    Why should anyone put so much stock in a two digit number!

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    But yeah, whatever makes you sleep at night, I guess.
    Really?

    Well, I'm still going to disagree.
    With what? That Mozart wrote his first symphony before he was 9? Or that the youngest person with a genius IQ is 3? (Sorry Kev, I know you'll probably have something to say about that). Or maybe the youngest person to dunk a basketball was 6?

    What are you disagreeing with?

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    Wow! People are awfully touchy about talent.

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    Talent... irrelevant?

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    I'm touchy about anyone who disagrees with me 'cause I'm always right. Sorry, typed that up there before my morning coffee.

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  14. #41
    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    If I were applejacks, I'd be concerned about just how much I doth protest.

    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    Or that the youngest person with a genius IQ is 3? (Sorry Kev, I know you'll probably have something to say about that).
    Was the IQ test given in crayons and drool?

    Was the test hosted by Jeff Foxworthy?

    Was the test graded on a curve... namely, the Folium of Descartes?

    Does this particular 3-year old kid also happen to create "masterpieces" of abstract art, which are priced in the six figures?

    Does the kid float when placed in a pool of water?

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Someone else said that earlier ('whatever makes you sleep at night'), so I thought I could do just the same. I thought I was perfectly well entitled to considering how vague this issue is..

    Anyway, I've conceded that talent exists in some primitive form, but I disagree with it being important or noteworthy. If anything, it's just a 'different way of thinking', not a superlative way. People can change the way they think and develop their intelligence, can't they? I'm sure that's possible.

    Also I don't like how 'untalented' individuals are compared to breadcrumbs while 'talented' folks are like fine croutons. Everyone's just a differently shaped breadcrumb as far as I'm concerned- just that some start out to be a little bigger than others, apparently.

    Not to mention, there's still subtleties in nurture other than artistic training. Unfortunately you can't 'measure' these things any more than you can measure 'levels of talent' (plus last time I checked, personality in drawing =/=talent), so I really don't understand where I'm going wrong! :/ For example, those farm kids who were good at observing and drawing? Maybe they did things to 'practice' their spacial awareness ability, but for something else.

    Like I've said earlier, my real problem is with the way people use the word talent (like saying you have to have talent to have imagination). You simply can't measure talent, you don't even know how much is in a person, and at the end of the day, it's only a tiny, tiny fraction of ability potential, so why is it even an issue? Why do people look for it when it's so small? Why do you even care?

    You've got a lot of muddling factors- if a person finds they're trying to learn one way when it doesn't work for them, they're probably going to fall behind because of bad self direction, not because of 'no talent' in the area.
    I don't think they instantly know the way to learn either, at a young age it's likely they just fixate on one means that's most comfortable. That would probably 'bring good luck' for them if it turns out to be the right way, the 'talented' way.

    And there's fixating on the wrong things. Like trying to glean too much 'glitter' from popular media to develop an imaginative mind. I'm pretty sure these things that people write off as 'stuff that untalented folk will always suffer from' can be pinpointed, explained away and corrected with a little effort.

    Eh, I guess I'm in the minority here Just trying to give this another perspective, even if I did come on a bit strongly about it. I'm pretty sure this 'talent thing' isn't all innate and set in stone. That's all.

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    Talent?

    So, people were being born to play the violin before the violin was invented?

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    No, but people have always been born with varying degrees of fine motor control, manual dexterity, pitch, memory..the things that go to make a superlative violin player.

    If you can grasp the concept for basketball players, why not for watercolor painters?

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    When I was 5 years old I was drawing in full blown perspective: trains coming towards you, ships with one sail behind the other, NOT drawing a blue line at the top of the paper to represent the sky and my sun was hidden behind clouds, not a yellow disk with lines sticking out of it.

    I didn't work harder at it than my fellow 5 year olds. My stuff was in a completely different league. I was talented.

    But I wasn't any kind of artist.

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    While I don't dismiss the idea of talent, I just dismiss the idea of people obsessed over it.

    I know we can list some successful artists doing extraordinary things at a young age. However, we also had many forgotten news stories of children that had some talent and never spoken of again unless it's some kind of VH-1 type special of "Where are they now?"

    Talent seems to be the excuse of those who don't want to do the hard work, and in the end even if a person had a talent, it becomes indistinguishable to someone who was successful through hard work.

    I don't believe that talent is necessarily predisposition towards a certain field, or act. I know people who still love to draw even if they're not successful as other counterparts. Nor does talent alone automatically make you a success.

    It only irritates me when people use the word talent as such, and not realize it's hard work. It's still hard to get many concepts in art, it's still a lot of mistakes. But that also goes into Art & Fear where; most of us are concerned with our process in making a piece, but the audience is mostly concerned with the result. So there's always going to be that disconnect. Even with other artists.

    So no, it's great that Jimmy can play the violin at 5 a bit better than his classmates...but what does it mean when he's 20 and will he still be doing this will his talent actually get him somewhere?

    Last edited by Arshes Nei; August 22nd, 2011 at 02:27 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bennett View Post
    When I was 5 years old I was drawing in full blown perspective: trains coming towards you, ships with one sail behind the other, NOT drawing a blue line at the top of the paper to represent the sky and my sun was hidden behind clouds, not a yellow disk with lines sticking out of it.

    I didn't work harder at it than my fellow 5 year olds. My stuff was in a completely different league. I was talented.

    But I wasn't any kind of artist.
    That's awesome. My story is the opposite, 20 years and I still have much to learn but I won't let that to stop me.

    Check out my NEW NEW NEW SKETCH BOOK and my Constantly updated deviant art too! (Don't forget to critique both! I am very eager to learn)

    "There is a right way and an easy way". I am here to do things the right way .

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    Quote Originally Posted by legendarysonofgod View Post
    That's awesome. My story is the opposite, 20 years and I still have much to learn but I won't let that to stop me.
    But the moral of my tale is this:

    From the age of about 9 to 15 I just drew and painted when I was at the art lesson in school. In my spare time I climed trees, kicked footballs, made go-karts and started taking an interest in girls. From 15 to 22 I did practically nothing art wise since I took a degree in engineering.

    Then one day, during yet another weekend spent in a hotel room on attachment with a company and sitting on my hotel bed, I made a drawing of my shoes lying on the floor...

    "Why the fuck am I throwing this talent away" I thought. I started drawing regularly and within a year I had quit engineering and was filling supermarket shelves to raise the money to get into art school.

    NOW. The important point about all this is that my abilities when I drew that shoe at 22 were no more advanced than when I left off drawing at 15.

    So clearly practice is a HUGE factor in this business of being any good at something.
    But talent is the supercharger. It's the compression on the gunpowder.

    Last edited by Chris Bennett; August 22nd, 2011 at 03:50 PM.
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    "
    Mr. Fox: Here we go. Mole! Talpa Europea! What d'you got?
    Mole: I can see in the dark.
    "


    Humans definitely have a variety of natural abilities... we are not all made the same.

    I would add that for me "talent" made me lazier. Growing up and being generally better than my peers at drawing made me think that's all there was to it. When it didn't take much effort to copy something fairly accurately, the hard work involved with growth beyond that came as a bit of a shock. Something I'm still pushing through really.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    I know talent when I see it.

    So do most professionals.... They may not be able to articulate what exactly talent is, as I've attempted to do (somewhat facetiously) in my post, but they can detect it from a mile away. The overwhelming percentage of art students are weak on the talent front, in my opinion, so real talent stands out like an emerald on a plate of bread crumbs.

    I was at the Norman Rockwell museum a few weeks ago for the Blue Sky presentation. The guys from that company said that it was really rare that they looked at a decent demo reel that showed talent. They said they knew within seconds of beginning the reel if the person had talent or not. I asked them, what was it that gave away in seconds whether the applicant was "talented" or "weak." They said it was, paraphrasing here, "fresh acting choices." Almost immediately, they could tell if somebody had an art brain that could generate ideas of its own, instead of relying on hand-me-downs.

    When I was an art director at a small ad agency, I saw mostly books filled with junk. I began to postulate that most creative people who were out of work were out of work for a reason.

    Intelligence and personality inform talent to a large degree. I can tell just by looking at someone's artwork how intelligent they are. What kind of mind they have. The talent level. The work ethic. Art is phenomenally revealing, I believe.

    Talent is worth discussing because pinpointing what it is can explain quite clearly the extent of craft... one's limitation, where talent and craft intermix... or where craft boosts talent, or corrects for over-intellectualization, etc.

    Not to sound like some authority on the topic, or whatever, but I'm sure I'm not the only one peeking in on this thread that was able to draw photo-realistically from an object sitting on a table at 14 years old or so. Or was always able to imagine vividly even from an early age. This was in contradistinction to all my friends who also drew, but couldn't do the same.
    I know what you're saying and I mostly agree, but how could you possibly tell if someone who is beginning art has talent or not? Their choices can't be informed well because they know so little about art, surely they couldn't make fantastic poses or interesting compositions/stories because they don't even know the basics. Would it then be more reasonable to study talent based off of improvement? Because that would actually be more of a mix of work ethic and intelligence.

    And you drew photo-realistically at the age of 14? Holy crap! Props to you! (I'm not being sarcastic, that's good). But what about Mindcandyman? His stuff now is fantastically realistic and well done, but even a couple years into his studies at an older age he wasn't drawing photo-realistically. His improvement was fantastic, but do you think he wasn't as talented as you because he couldn't just start off drawing realistically super fast?

    I think that talent would be a harder thing to determine. It couldn't be as black and white as most people make this out to be. Some people seem to constantly improve, others have spikes of improvement, some people are less intelligent than others and surely that factors into it. And work ethic also factors into the rate of improvement and well done work, does it not? It seems like it would be really hard to narrow it down, because even if you could tell if the person in question was talented, 'fresh acting choices' is still a personal opinion and not really a determination of objective talent (aptitude).

    You also said you can tell someone's intelligence by looking at their art, but if you were to look early on at Mindcandyman's art or someone related to that improvement, would you be able to tell if they were talented or smart?

    But I agree that art is quite revealing, depending on how many years someone has been at it and giving it their best work ethic.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Deadly Hazard,

    Don't mistake me... my photo-realistic drawings at 14 were from an object sitting before me, still as a stone. The pictures I made of these things had no merit artistically, they were stiff and dead, but they did demonstrate something.

    By this time I was always drawing out of my imagination, mostly figures (and the musculature was hilarious), but the action was good. And I could draw really funny and imaginative stuff. Also demonstrative of something within me.

    No, I do not think it is possible to tell the talent level of somebody who has made no effort to improve over some length of time. Talent reveals itself with effort. If effort brings little improvement, talent might be the problem.

    MindCandyMan is the perfect example of someone who, through hard work, revealed a striking amount of talent.

    Practice is sort of like digging into a mountain. If the mountain contains gold or some valuable mineral, the digging will be rewarding. If the mountain is just a heap of rock and mud, no amount of digging will get the prospector any closer to riches.

    I see intelligence as a subset of talent, rather than the reverse. I think people who are really talented can probably do anything involved with abstract thinking and do it well. I think this is the reason why talented people have more fluidity in their ability to incorporate new information and craft into their work than the untalented. This is the reason for the "acceleration" of the talented under sound guidance, compared to the slow plodding pace of improvement of the normally gifted.

    (The Stories of N.C. Wyeth's rapid improvement in Howard Pyle's class, and Dean Cornwell's rapid improvement in Harvey Dunn's class are the classic iterations of this phenomena.)

    I have a few artist friends who, no matter what, can not handle certain kinds of information with any facility. Usually, it is the the grand abstract ideas that grind the gears... usually questions of composition and conception. It is my observation that the less an artist has facility with abstract thought, the more average the art turns out.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Aly Fell View Post
    Watching and listening to Greg Manchess talk about 'talent' is very interesting. He has some strong opinions and thoughts about talent and learning. Although he doesn't talk about it at length in this interview, he touches upon what he has spoken about at the Illustration Master Class. Worth listening to, if only to hear Manchess anyway...

    SIDEBAR INTERVIEW WITH GREG MANCHESS
    I agree with Aly. Awesome talk!

    It's unfortunate that particular lecture isn't available outside the Illustration Master Class.

    I think a lot of people in this thread would completely reconsider their views on the existence of 'talent' after they heard Greg Manchess speak on it. I did.

    He goes into a lot of detail on how the brain learns a task on the cellular level as well as why guys like Mozart might be considered 'talented' when that's not really the case. -- I'm not doing it justice, but it really is an excellent lecture.

    I feel very lucky that some of my first art and music teachers were ones who didn't believe in talent and said anyone could learn if they wanted to. I was well into my stubborn teens before I met one of the "this isn't your talent" ones.

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    Kev's just beat me to it. But I can add a little to what he's already put so well:

    It seems to me that talent is not so genre specific as is often assumed.
    It only seems that way because of the path it takes to leak out of an individual. i.e. If you're tone deaf, a particular tunnel leading to an outlet in music will remain blocked to it.

    What we think of as 'talent' is really something to do with the ability to see connections between things processed at a deep abstract level. And this ties in with what I think Kev is referring to when he was talking about its relation to intelligence.

    'Talent', or more accurately, 'species of intelligence', operates independantly of the means to express it. But it can only be communicated by a means.

    This intelligence or 'talent' is really an inbuilt propensity to take life's input into the organism and orchestrate it. But the evidence of it within an individual will depend on an outside agency, a transducer which is contingent on the physical characteristic of the individual:

    So if you are 'talented' but tone deaf, unmotivated, can't process shapes as equivalents to observational experience... but very sociable; you will probably find you are a big success at parties. This is because 'talent' has found a way out of least resistence: People find you witty, 'in tune' with them and possessing the ability to gather up the mood of the situation at any instant and turn it always to advantage.

    Last edited by Chris Bennett; August 22nd, 2011 at 05:50 PM.
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    The world isn't fair. Everybody is better at some things than at other things. Some people are better at some things than other people are. Some people are much better at some things than most people are.

    So...

    What are you going to do about it?


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    Ilaekae you're a solid, solid man. That's a great explanation of talent.

    The main point is guys. Why let something that no one can prove stop you from trying?

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    If we replaced the word "talent" with "aptitude" what would happen? Would we even be discussing what "aptitude" is?

    Nah, probably not. They forgot to sprinkle that word with pixie-dust because it goes hand-in-hand with practice and effort...

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    Kennygeeze - Ha ha... need I mention 'myelin sheathing'? In point of fact, I don't necessarily agree with everything Greg said, but he put his points well, with the first hand research to back it up. Personal experience suggests certain people have an 'aptitude' for particular disciplines and skills. But aptitude, or 'talent' if you so wish, is the raw material some people have that has to be refined and built upon to develop into something rather special. As AndreasM puts it so more succinctly: "Talent is a good start. The rest is hard work."

    Edit: Alesoun- you got 'that' word in first!

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    Quote Originally Posted by alesoun View Post
    If we replaced the word "talent" with "aptitude" what would happen? Would we even be discussing what "aptitude" is?

    Nah, probably not. They forgot to sprinkle that word with pixie-dust because it goes hand-in-hand with practice and effort...
    I take your point. But aptitude and talent are not the same thing.

    In terms of the metaphor in my last post; 'aptitude' is the facility possessed by the individual to enable 'talent' to show itself.

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    So, Chris, if "aptitude" is the springboard for talent, isn't it the bedrock for developing skills? Perhaps without "aptitude" talent simply wouldn't exist.... which just might make aptitude more important than talent. Maybe it's the skeleton that prevents an artist of any description resembling a jellyfish when they practise their skills

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    Quote Originally Posted by alesoun View Post
    So, Chris, if "aptitude" is the springboard for talent, isn't it the bedrock for developing skills? Perhaps without "aptitude" talent simply wouldn't exist.... which just might make aptitude more important than talent. Maybe it's the skeleton that prevents an artist of any description resembling a jellyfish when they practise their skills
    Talent seems to be a more intuitive approach to art, where as aptitude is the technical aspect of applying what you have gathered effectively. I think when they feed off of each other equally you get great artists like the old masters. Pieces that endure on museum walls.

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