I’m not Talented

Most people, even those that are interested, won’t pick up drawing or painting or take classes or workshops because they think, “I’m not an artist, I have no talent, I’ll be bad at it.”

This my friends, is THE TALENT MYTH and is crap. Crap, crappity crap crap.


Early “Proof”…

When I was in grade one I was sent to the principal’s office with a note from my teacher and a message for my parents. My assumption was that I was in the deepest possible do-do and the remainder of my life would be spent in my room.

My parents. The PRINCIPAL…. whoa, this was big.

Turns out that my teacher Ms. Toomsalu, thought I had artistic talent and should be enrolled in extra curricular art classes.

*instant relief* I was not in fact, destined to live out the rest of my life cloistered in my bedroom.

So, Early “Proof”…

…is NOT an Accurate Identifier of Talent

For the majority of people, the only artistic skill that is really identifiable at an early age is representational skill; the ability to make stuff look like stuff you know. Elementary teachers aren’t generally artists, those that actually have art as a teachable are most often found in high school. Public school teachers aren’t trained to recognize non-representational art & design skills. This isn’t their fault – most of the general public aren’t trained to recognize anything other than realistic representational art. Development of art skills is not a high priority in grade school.

My recollection of art in elementary school was more craft than art; cut and paste, glitter and glue. I suspect now that “art time” was actually “useless-busy-work-time-filler” because there was no instruction offered and building art skills wasn’t on the agenda.

“Real Art”

My friend John has been a teacher and creator of art curriculum in the TDSB for YEARS. He’s retired now, well… sort of. He retired into teaching teachers how to teach art at UoIT.

Years ago he developed an art curriculum for teachers in junior grades. The teachers dubbed it “Real Art” because it was. John brought the foundations of visual art into the junior public classroom for probably the first time. But this is rare and at the time there was a lot of resistance to the curriculum by the teachers themselves. It was outside their comfort zone and they didn’t feel qualified to bring it into their classrooms.

As a result of this thinking, I see a lot of colouring sheets handed out; representational images to be filled in with appropriate colours. The sky is blue, trees are green. Points off for colouring outside the lines.
This is strictly in the box, left brain thinking and supporting one very small aspect of visual art: “make it look like something I can identify”.

Download your own “identifiable animals” colouring pages:

Download, print and colour. IN. THE. LINES. Or not - your choice!

Download, print and colour... using ONLY purple, orange and green. Or whatever - your choice!

Drawing stuff that looks like real stuff is no indication of authentic artistic talent or inclination.
According to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, my supposed superior artistic ability had less to do with talent and more to do with being born in March. Being born in the beginning of the year meant that I was bigger and had better hand-eye coordination than my younger classmates. Not necessarily talent, just more practice.

And maybe I became “talented” because I was told that I was talented.

Were you considered talented in art as a child? If not art, what? Did you continue with it?

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Discussion (6) ¬

    Victoria on her laptop says:

    Thanks to your friend, I got art classes during grade 7, which was the only class I was good at and got decent marks.

    It was also nice to NOT be so behind the rest of the class. To NOT be confused all the time and frankly being seen as the slow/stupid one by peers and teachers. MAny didn’t say it but I KNOW they were saying it behind my back. Grade 8 teacher… oh boy… she didn’t give me or a few other students the light of day since we were not normal or cool or smart.

    ANYWAY… I remember kids complaining about the art class and it was the classes fault their grade avg was going down. I was so upset when the school scraped the class in grade 8.

    I LOVE how art is can be just scrapped if it becomes inconvenient or cut backs are required. Geezus.

    On a secondary note – I wish I understood as a child how flawed adults are. I held the erroneous belief that growing up meant learning how to do things right and fair and equal. Believing in adult perceptions about who I was and what my abilities were in certain areas held me back.

    Stephanie says:

    See and I mostly stick to doing abstract pieces because I really can’t paint stuff that looks like stuff. Even though other people said they liked some of my paintings I didn’t really beleive them because I thought I was a failure because I still can’t make stuff look like stuff.

    Really though I just like the emotional response I get from swirly blobs of various colours. Nothing like a soothing background of cool blues, purples and greens, with a big slash of quin burnt orange across it for a bit of eyeball excitement.

    Lezley says:

    I think painting stuff that doesn’t look like stuff and making it interesting and cohesive is one of the hardest things to do.

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