So I set about doing things like learning guitar (self-taught), learning how to draw (self-taught) and learning how to write creatively (I can only take partial credit there – some of my English teachers played a large role in my development).
But after all of these years, I have enough of a discerning eye (and ear) to know that what I’ve done is still not on par with most of those artists that I admired as a youngster. Why is that? Experience? Effort? Equipment? Time? Yes, or at least partially, to all. But that’s not the deciding factor.
First, let me ease the outrage that this next observation will undoubtedly swell within anyone that considers themselves in that elite company, by saying that there is scientific logic behind it, and that it’s not as bad as it sounds. Read on.
There is definitely something that separates me from the likes of a Van Gogh, a Vonnegut or a Van Halen. Yes, they all start with ‘V’ (maybe a pattern there?) – but that’s not where I was going.
You see, the simple fact is that all of these disciplines can be taught…to anyone. That goes for all of the arts: painting, sculpting, writing, musicianship. They are skills, and with the exception of those that have physical limitations that might otherwise prevent them from obtaining that skill; yes, they can be taught to anyone.
Put away the pitchforks for now, folks. I’m about to enlighten.
So why is it that, after years of practice, I still don’t quite have the same abilities as Eddie Van Halen? Why can’t I draw as well as a Kubert or Romita (comic world, in case you didn’t know)? Am I just not able to learn that skill to the level that they have? Perhaps. And perhaps I just disproved my observation.
Ah, but wait. There is one other factor. And it’s a big one.
You see, what makes us mere mortals differ from the legendary artists (and those that aren’t yet legendary or haven’t been discovered) is the transference of that learned skill from the brain to the hand, from the brain to the eye, or from the brain to the vocal chords.
In layman’s terms. Talent.
Talent is, simply put, that ability that allows someone to see, hear or think something that not many others can – and then transfer that something to a physical media. As a skill, we can all transfer ‘something’ – but it might not be quite what we envisioned. Or maybe it is what we envisioned, but that might not be the best it can be.
That is the difference between skill and talent. The other major difference? Talent can’t be taught. Not everyone has it. And not everyone’s talent is equal to those others with it – no matter how much you practice.
So while I can draw some of Romita’s work to some decent extent, and I can play a pretty mean facsimile of Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Mean Street’ – I’ll never truly be the artist that those individuals are.
But I’m ok with that. I humbly bow to them and will continue honing my craft. There has to be some talent in there…right?