Talent vs hard work – What do you need to succeed as an artist?

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Are you looking to learn how to draw, yet worried that you may not have what it takes to become an artist? You know – talent. Let’s debate what is more important to succeed, talent vs hard work, which one wins? In this post, we explore if you can learn how to draw without talent. Understand what is talent and if can you develop talent to make your mark.

We live in a world where only certain people are deemed intelligent. Who comes to your mind? I’m sure a lot of you thought of scientists and academics, right. What about people who work in hospitality or bricklaying? Are they ‘unintelligent, perhaps ‘untalented’?

When I was growing up, those of us who were thought to be misfits in the science stream went into the art field. But that was not all. Often students in the art stream were labelled lazy and unmotivated.

What is talent?

“Talent – when I use the word, I mean it as the rate at which you get better with effort. The rate at which you get better at soccer is your soccer talent. The rate at which you get better at math is your math talent. You know, given that you are putting forth a certain amount of effort. And I absolutely believe – and not everyone does, but I think most people do – that there are differences in talent among us: that we are not all equally talented” (Duckworth, 2016). As quoted from Psychology Today on ‘What is Talent?’, written by Ryan Smerek.

What is talent? is it more important than hardwork?

By this definition of talent, we are consistently challenging our current abilities and aspiring to be more. When we judge ourselves against someone else who is more talented they might see an increased rate of improvement compared to us.

But… might we not persist anyway, despite talent differences? The most important question is… do we need talent to potentially succeed as an artist?

That depends…

Can you develop talent?

We are all born with the desire and a latent inclination to succeed. Even if you don’t see it, everyone needs to overcome challenges. Believe it or not, your talent can not only be changed but improved. Some people are indeed born with greater potential but without hard work, their talent will come to nothing.

Is talent something you are born with?

The question then is, do you really need talent?

Are you passionate about art?

For most people who choose to pursue art, it’s because they feel the need to keep creating and continue to be excited about it despite failed attempts. Most of us artists continue to draw and colour even when it is not a part of our school curriculum and continue to draw into our adult years. It is like being in love and never having enough of it.

If you feel the same way about your art, but feel you don’t have the talent, I urge you to keep going. Even on days when you are frustrated, show up, do the work. It will be worth it.

Art is relative

Some people like realistic art, some abstract, others prefer graphic art etc. But who is to say which one is more important? Art is subjective to the viewer. There are going to be those people who love your work and those who dislike it. Make your art for an audience of one, yourself. Then find your tribe of others who love it as much as you do. If you try to please too many people you will not find the satisfaction and happiness that comes with creating.

Different people enjoy different types of art.

Commit to drawing daily

Or as often as you can, because sometimes life gets in the way. If you spend an hour on social media every night, consider whether it could be time spent drawing. Talent without discipline won’t get you as far as you think it will. Commit and stick with it, then watch your progress improve gradually.

Maybe you have a harsh inner critic

There are days when I feel confident in my abilities and then there are days when I believe I should quit. I am sure you have felt that way too. That does not mean that either voice is right. The only thing keeping you from achieving your artistic goals is you, so keep at it despite the negative word machine in your mind.

Harsh inner critic.

Can you learn how to draw without talent?

Drawing is a skill. As a species that needs to be taught everything, we should not expect to suddenly create a masterpiece one day. I do admit there are some who could paint with much more ease than others. On the other hand, one would not expect to drive a car based on talent. All of us go through hours of practice until we can drive. Art is no different. It is a learned ability with determined results. Any skill can be mastered given determination and dedication.

Talent vs Skill

Art is hard work. Picasso had a daily drawing routine. He was constantly aware that his talent required nurturing and daily practice. He was obsessive about this daily routine of observation and drawing. You don’t need to love his work to agree that he was a prolific artist. He created 13,500 paintings and 100,000 prints and engravings in a lifetime!

Pablo Picasso on keys to success.
Action is the foundational key to all success. -Pablo Picasso

Don’t wait for inspiration to arrive, don’t ruminate. Experiment, be curious, try different things. Consistent iteration, experimentation and hard work are the basics to creating your greatest work. Pondering your next big project on the couch? I think not! What is the smallest step you can take? Write it down and then plan your next actionable steps.

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I am not talented at drawing either!

Personally, I don’t consider myself exceptionally talented. Although I know many of you might choose to disagree. I have had to keep working every day to acquire my skills in drawing. I continue to learn and hone my knowledge of the fundamentals. It has not come easy. I have had instances where I was the worst in the art room and others where I was the best.

Choose to be in the room where you are the worst. It is humbling to realise how much more you have to learn. Most importantly, you continue to learn from those around you, so surround yourself with the best artists and work your way up. Even if it means that the only artists you know are the ones you see online.

Work hard to sharpen your talent.

Talent vs hard work

Talent helps people fit into some jobs, cultures, and contexts better than others. Talent can be a wonderful thing to possess but we also need to account for emotional make-up, preferences, and dispositions.

Indeed, sometimes talent can be a disadvantage. Why? It can make us complacent.

One of the major advantages of not being talented is that it motivates us to do more, to do our very best because we cannot fall back on our honours. We tend to evaluate our own performance more critically and we are self-aware. Since it doesn’t come easy, we are always giving it our best shot. And that’s where your greatest benefit lies.

Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard
Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard – Tim Notke

Hard work beats talent

If you do not take steps to gain knowledge, start training, and get some education your natural talent will not grow, and others who put in the effort will surpass your accomplishments. Successful artists are constantly sharpening their talent/craft, be it drawing or painting regularly. If you are not constantly practising, that talent remains dormant and burns out slowly.

Tortoise and hare story.
“The Tortoise and the Hare”. Wikipedia Public Domain.

Just like in the story we were told as kids… the famous tortoise and the hare tale. You might meet artists who are the speeding rabbits in the art world and you might meet some tortoises. But given that we strive to shine as artists, you may take your time to slowly chip away at your goals. And that is okay! There is nothing wrong with taking longer to reach your target with intentional effort.

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hard work beats talent.

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