Why Talent Is Overrated for the Working Artist

When art captivates and moves our very core, we often have a primal response. We ask: “Who is the master of this original creation?” We assume that the artist is a unique individual with special God-given talents. We buy into the “artist mystique.“ We celebrate the creative genius. We can’t help ourselves – we live in an American Idol culture. But working artists often contend that talent is a minor player in the creation of a masterpiece. 

At art shows, it's quite predictable for a patron to view a piece and exclaim to the artist: “Wow, you are so talented!” 

This gushing flattery annoys me because talent is so over rated. Talent is innate and intrinsic – something we are born with (or not, as in my case). It usually comes free with the price of admission to this world. It is not earned, it is given by the Gods.

Talent is actually a minor player in the creation of fine art. The truth of the matter is that brilliant art – the kind that enraptures you  – is more about work than it is about talent.

Working artists understand that their art will be only as good as the work they have put into it, so most of them have spent a lifetime honing their skills through rigorous practice and study of the arts.

There are 3 qualities that separate working artists from “emerging artists,” “hobby artists,” and “poseur artists.” Practice, Practice, and Practice.

It is the synergy between raw talent and hard work that results in artistic skill and craftsmanship. Our eyeballs can usually spot skill in a piece of art work. It is what invites us in.

Skilled artists appear to easily create something from nothing. Their commodity is wonderment.

Consider the plein air artist who brilliantly captures the quintessence of a coastal, cold foggy morning. The painting creates a virtual experience of cold. Or consider the Chopstick Drip Painter who fluidly creates the motion of a dancer, seducing our senses with movement.

Skilled artists are not born. They are made. Self made through the sweat equity of work.

When you encounter an artist who effortlessly creates sublime art, keep in mind there is no magic, no mystery. The artist is just an ordinary person who has worked in an extraordinary way to actualize his or her talent.

The art you purchase from a working artist represents all that came before the piece and all that will come after it, since every piece is connected by the artist’s journey of work.