Thursday, August 13, 2009

Work, work work

The most common comment that I hear from spectators when I paint on site at an exhibition is a variation of this:

"I wish that I could paint but I don't have any talent. I can't even draw a stick figure."

It's a sentiment that I don't believe for a minute but there's nothing that I can say to change that person's mind. She's decided that you're born with or without talent and that's that. It's an easy out and a self-fulfilling pronouncement. Telling yourself that you can't do something is the best way to ensure that it's true.

Looking back a few years at my first paintings is enough to convince me that I don't have a natural talent for it, but I do love painting above all other pursuits and I've spent lots of time trying to improve my work. Malcolm Gladwell noted in his book The Outliers that it's the time and the quality of the time that a person devotes to a discipline that determines his or her level of proficiency. To become a master at anything, whether art, music, sports, or computer programming, Gladwell said that you have to devote 10,000 focused hours to it.

I'm nowhere near 10,000 hours but I'm working on it. I paint daily and critique the results mercilessly, frequently rubbing out the day's painting in the afternoon and starting fresh the next morning. Occasionally I'm pleased with a piece, often I'm not, but I'm constantly learning from what I do and applying these lessons to the next paintings in the hopes of improving my art.

This isn't talent, it's hard work driven by a passion. Anyone can do it if she goes beyond just wishing that she could paint and deciding that she will paint, and paint and paint.


Connie said...

I know this is an old post but it nailed my attitude toward talent--meaning it is not a player in the world of mastery. I just finished Mindset, a fascinating book, backed by research, which speaks of the same idea. It drove home the idea that children and grown ups who have been told how smart and talented they are do not want to push themselves--they might fail and then they would no longer be talented or smart. People should be praised for effort and persistence. I so enjoy your blog, your paintings and your writing. It has been a huge help to me in my quest for better painting! Ok, off to do some focused practice!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Wow! It's so great to get a note from someone who's gone way back in the blog. I'm pleased that these posts still have something to say.

Thanks for reading, Connie and for getting in touch.

Happy painting!