what does artistic/drawing skill talent distribution look like in general population?

I know that nobody has been giving systematic drawing instructions and drawing standardized tests to millions of people (the talented, the normal and the “draws like a hen with her paw” guys) for decades for us to get some hard data. Nevertheless, I was wondering if there is some anecdotal info or beliefs about this matter in the community of artists, school teachers of art etc.

Well, so suppose we make it our goal to teach people to draw basic portraits or nature scenes. This is the sort of stuff where it’s relatively easy to grade on pass-fail basis - no matter how ugly, a portrait is either recognizably a picture of a human or not.

Suppose further we design a systematic instruction course for beginners for one of these basic types of drawing. Maybe 20-50 hours of systematic instruction, or how ever long it is believed to typically take. And we will assign a decent financial reward for doing well to make sure that people do their best.

Ok, so I was wondering, what sort of results will we get when putting through randomly picked people through such a class. Will there be a big percent of people who will fail the class repeatedly, e.g. never mastering the basics even after 100 or whatever hours? What percentage will prove to be “naturally talented”, maybe mastering basics in 20 hours and being capable of being taught to improve their skill, essentially transitioning into a “professional in training” category? What percentage will master the basic skills and have the same sort of appreciation for the whole procedure as a typical not-too-bright kid browbeaten into finally barely memorizing algebra? Will there be other interesting, distinct categories of people that we are going to discover along the way?

Well, so again, I do realize that absent the studies I cannot expect any real scientifically-supported numeric percentages. So perhaps what I described above is closer to a description of a potential study that could answer some of these questions. Nevertheless, I am guessing that professionals in this field might have some hunches, personal observations, folk beliefs and evil / totally unsubstantiated prejudices :slight_smile: about the situation that they could share.

I guess not.

Anyone can be trained to draw - if they have the patience to learn. IN my art 101 classes, no one emerged from the class without the ability to reproduce a clear drawing.

Few can be inspired to create art.

The problem with obtaining such numbers:
More people can draw than graduate with art degrees. I was an Art Major for two years but my degrees are in business and computers.
Of people that graduate with art degrees, many do not make their livings as Artists.

I’d venture as much as 1/4 people can doodle well enough to create semi-realistic line drawings. 1/10 can create an image using shading. 1/100 has enough talent to draw a comic strip. 1/1000 has the talent to draw a comic book or create desirable paintings. 1/100,000 can make a living doing so.

I have read comments from art teachers that anyone with the coordination to write can learn to draw. It does take a reasonable amount of effort. Most people aren’t that interested.

I’ve taught a few art classes and I agree that if someone makes the effort, they can learn to replicate 3D objects in 2D fairly accurately. So to answer the OP directly, I think that the majority of the population can be taught to draw.

Teaching the other aspects of Art such as composition, color balance, etc is probably not possible. Either you have it or you don’t - that’s my “anecdotal info”.

If you would like I could forward a copy of your question to my cousin, whom I am quite proud of, he may be able to shed some light for you.

Some of his stuff:


A Mike Mignola fan?

I am an artist, and so were both of my parents. The ability to draw is basically the ability to critically see. From an early age my mother used to take me to the art museum, and teach me how artists dealt with things like composition, lighting, anatomy, color, and many other things. As a result, I pretty much always knew how to draw . . . meaning that I knew how to look at things critically and transfer what I saw onto paper.

I still have a drawing that I did in 1st grade (age about 6). We were told to draw a picture of a “fairy godmother.” Mine looked like an anatomically-correct Peggy Lee. Having seen nude paintings in the museum, I just naturally gave her realistic boobs and pubic hair.

In spite of having artistic parents, I don’t believe I was born with any kind of “gift.” I simply had someone to teach me how to see. I believe this is something that just about anyone can do.

what percent of the population have the “coordination”? Are there lots of people who don’t have it?

EDITED: oops, this question is stupid, I did not read what you said carefully :-). Obviously pretty much everybody can write on paper more or less legibly.

I don’t buy that those are unteachable. For one thing, I’ve taught myself a great deal about the subject. I take very few photographs, but even my minimal training on the subject shows up. People are always complementing my vacation pictures for composition and I can assure that I had to learn that.

I mean, surely you don’t believe that the master artists of history were born knowing composition and color balance as infants?

These are somewhat subjective elements and the best artists are often the ones who break the rules intentionally in a way that we admire (as opposed to the amateurs who break the rules accidentally in a way that we dislike). You learn a lot of it by trial and error and by simple observation rather than a formal course of study, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t learned or that it can’t be taught.

OK, I’ll amend my statement. Yes, to some degree these things can be taught. But in my opinion, only in a general way - color theory, golden rectangles, etc. I have a friend with an MFA and she knows the theory of all that stuff much better than I do. But when it come to creating art, she has not been so successful.

“I mean, surely you don’t believe that the master artists of history were born knowing composition and color balance as infants?”

-No, but once taught the fundamentals they were able to use them to create “art”. It is possible for a painting to have good draftsmanship, good color and composition and still suck at being *art. This is just my opinion.

[sup]*And, yes I acknowledge that art is subjective[/sup]