Monday, February 11, 2013

Talent vs. the Evolution of Skill

So I have been thinking about careers and skills and such lately, with my graduation soon approaching, and I have been pondering the dichotomy of natural talent vs. hard earned skill.

And the summation of my pondering is as follows.

As humans, we are cruddy at gauging and visualizing time in sizable quantities. We just suck at it. It's why the concept of evolution (tiny changes built up over time) can be so hard for people to understand. To visualize millions of years of selective pressures morphing and redefining organisms due to environment, predators, natural disasters... that's a big idea to get your head around.

Another example is the stars in the night sky- the distance that light has to travel is so vast, that by the time it reaches us, the gaseous body from which it was sent may have already died. That idea explodes my brain every time.

I think the concept of evolution can be applied to an individual's skillset, on a smaller scale. I'm not saying this idea will be foolproof, and it's idealistic, so feel free to disagree.

You have 300 children- let's just say they're five years old, for the fun of it. And they all want to be artists. Let them progress and grow for 15 years. You will see a gradient of skill levels. Some of this can be attributed to outside forces- family encouraging/discouraging their interest choice, free time and materials to practice their craft, health, disposition, etc. etc.

The skillset gradient can also be partially attributed to internal forces. What am I getting at? Let me explain with antelopes. We can all agree that predators are a selective pressure for antelopes. Therefore, any little genetic alteration a baby antelope inherits that will improve it's chances of surviving predators, will help it survive to pass it's genes on to the next generation. This might be slightly longer legs, better eyesight, faster reflexes, a more cautious disposition, better lung capacity, etc. etc. Over time, these genetic alterations add up, and what started as a small advantage (to the current set of selective pressures) can become a rather dramatic advantage.

Let's apply this to our 300 young budding artists. What would be perceived as talent could be something as subtle as slightly better hand-eye coordination, slightly better perception, spacial awareness, colour sensitivity, enthusiasm/inclination, etc. Over time and with a lot of practice, these small *internal forces* can give the children an advantage over those who possess advantages in other areas (but not relevant to the selective pressures of this skillset).

What is passed off as natural or 'god-given' talent could perhaps be attributed to small advantages from a young age, wether it be inner drive or a subtle physical advantage. (maybe these are linked also... if at a young age you find certain interests improve with relative ease, you might be more inclined to pursue them over others...)

So I guess what I'm getting at is. I disagree with people deciding not to pursue certain fields of interest on the argument of 'I'm not talented', or, 'person X has natural talent, I've never been able to draw like that.' And so they give up before they started. Because of (what I would argue is) the social myth of talent.

Sure, maybe they have a small physical advantage. Maybe outside forces enhanced this also (very encouraging parents or unlimited materials and time...) What you are seeing is perhaps a seed of unfair advantage, supplemented with a lot of time and effort.

When people have directed questions to me about talent or how I learnt to draw, my answer is time and practice. I did a lot of terrible terrible drawings in order to draw less terrible ones now. And the terrible ones I draw now, I draw so that I will draw non-terrible ones later.
Whatever small advantage that might be coined natural talent is negatable, and without practice would have been for naught. So never tell yourself you can never be like your idol. The only thing that truly separates you from them is time and practice. Skill comes with deliberate practice.

I hope this in some way makes sense.

Feel free to comment and disagree, I'd like to hear your opinion.

This was the result of my musing over the past few days, after a friend asked me for help learning to draw, and beyond the usual advice to study figures/ favourite artists and books, I could simply only suggest practice. I felt bad that I only caused him frustration (it has not been the first time that answer has inspired that emotion). But in all honesty, I and anyone else who has a specific skillset has dedicated a lot of hours to their craft. There is no easy way to fast-track those hours of hard work and pain.

If there is, please let me know.

To show what I mean about pain and dedication to improvement....
here is a picture of horses I drew circa 2004 (forgive my eerie staring O.O)

circa 2007

circa 2011

circa 2012

I don't even want to try and calculate how many drawings of horses go in between these four. 
Or before these four. Or after these four. I guess this post could be condensed to: 

~nothing worth having in life comes without sacrifice and patience~

I think I forget this sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Very well writtent!... I find it hard to read with no caps :)
    ... Now go animate!