What does "talented" mean? How do you know if you are "talented"?

I’ve been having a great time working on an art tutorial site. It is a drawing and instructional site, mostly. (I seem to always have some sort of web page “project” going on, and this is my latest.)

One of my goals is to encourage new artists (and people who might like to start to draw, and then paint). I’m not going to give the URL to this site here, because it’s a domain site, and I am silly and paranoid about my privacy. (But if you really are curious about it, drop me a line and I’ll email you the URL.)

One of the things I preach on this site is that “talent is overrated”. Meaning, while talent is great, it’s not going to get your far without hard work and dedication. For example, my own “innate” talent would not have taken me far had I not filled a kajillion sketchbooks with drawings. I needed to practice, and learn. I’ve met few artists that have been any different. I’ve also met people with a “seed” of a talent, but because they were not interested in cultivating it, it never really went anywhere.

I sometimes encounter people who obviously think that artistic and creative people are born with “talent”, and that’s all there is to it. That either you have it, or you don’t, and if you “have it”, then it will all be easy for you. That you don’t really have to push yourself, and struggle and sweat blood and tears. It’s like “plop”! You’re “talented”! But this is rarely how it seems to be, at least from my observation. Talent means that you have an aptitude, or an inclination. You have a strength. But usually, this is not enough on its own - you have to DO something to grow, and improve. And, I’ve also seen people with little innate talent - but because they worked really hard, they really improved a lot, much to everyone’s amazement.

I am trying to encourage new artists to pursue art, by telling them that just because they don’t show a great “talent” from birth, it doesn’t mean that there is no hope for them to do something with art. There are some great books (like Betty Edwards’ “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”) that will help people learn how to draw. Even if they thought they had no “talent”.

This is my opinion on the matter. The reason I’m starting this thread is that I want to have the most balanced viewpoint about the concept “talent” for my web site, and I thought I’d ask other talented people for their viewpoints on this subject. I really am looking forward to everyone’s input!

I was debating putting this is IMHO (since I’m kind of polling here) but since this is definitely about something creative/artistic, I figured I’d put it here.

I pretty much agree with everything you say about talent so I’m just going to add this saying that says it all…
~ Nothing in the world can take the place of persistance.

Talent will not.

Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not.

Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not.

The world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistance and Dedication alone are omnipotent ~

From my own personal experience I can say that whether or not your born with talent, if there is something you want to do and have enough of a desire to study, spend time, energy and possibly money on studying, and have enough of that dedication and perserverance - anything is possible. You just have to love what you do and it will show. :slight_smile:

I think I’m moderately talented musically, in that I’ve been able to learn one group of instruments quite well, several other instruments ok, write music, play semi-professionally in a variety of settings, and so on. I started my musical journey when I was around 11 or 12, which is actually kind of late compared to a lot of people you hear about.

What spurred me on was the overwhelming desire to learn something. I HAD to learn a particular instrument, a song, get some idea in my head down. I don’t know how much talent that involved, but I think a certain amount of talent helped me accomplish those things to the point where I was encouraged to keep going rather than chuck it.

My problem, if you want to call it that, is that I work on what interests me, and then I move on. I’m driven more by inspiration than discipline. I rarely finish anything and I get bored easily. I’ve always been more interested in just playing for my own kicks rather than being an entertainer, and being an entertainer is what you have to do to have a sustainable career as a performer on stage.

Needless to say, I don’t have a career playing music. I still play and write and otherwise enjoy myself but it’s not anything that’ll put food on the table. The people I know who either are playing full time or are going for it are really working their asses off.

So put me down as a poster boy for talent not being enough to make a living at it. But I still enjoy myself immensely and for me at this point in my life (40) that’s a most valuable thing.

however, all this discussion begs the question of which is better, a drive/passion or talent?

Depends on what you mean by “better.” Better for the individual, better for society, better in what area…

Overall, I’d say drive/passion. You can get a hundred talented people together and not get a thing done until one person with serious drive come into the room. On the other hand, a hundred driven people will make things happen, even if there are no talents to be found among them.

I’d say drive/passion as well. Talent does no good without them.

When someone tells you that “talent alone is not enough”, they weren’t lying.

Make that aren’t.


Oh. Well, I’ll shut up then.


  • Tamerlane

Put me down as a “Right Side” believer.I couldn’t draw much more than a stck figure until doing those book exercises.

Absolutely amazing!

But sadly,I’m with the majority in you need the drive to get anything tangible out of it.I stopped my sketching/sculpting pursuits after about a year due to needing to make a living and the real strain it puts on your mental/ physical resources to turn out something good.

The real benefit I got from it ,tho,is a new understanding of other people’s art/craftwork.I can tell good work from "couch art"in a casual perusal,when before if the size and theme fit I’d buy it.

Wow! Thanks everyone! Such wonderful insights you’ve given!

Tamerlane: give me a break! :wink: Come on, spill it!

I agree that most pursuits in life respond to study - “practice makes perfect”.

You could define talent as having a natural ability. So talented people start at a higher level, or are able to reach a very high standard eventually.

But perhaps there are occasions when talent is enough. I regularly represent Britain at chess problem solving, even though I don’t practice. I’m much higher ranked at that than at standard chess, which I do practice.

There is “talent” in the sense that no matter how much you practice your drawing, you’ll never become Picasso.

However, I agree that practice and persistance are more important. In fact, I just saw a study somewhere that indicated that the success and renown for a musician was directly proportional to the number of hours he spent practicing. So Picasso practiced, too; if he hadn’t, he’d never have amounted to anything.