Arts & Entertainment

Talent in art counts for a lot less than you think it does

While natural ability has shown quick success, I’m here to tell you how building your skill can make it through the long haul.

Photo by Cole Martin | Collage art done by Cole Martin

As someone who has recently gotten into artistic hobbies, the idea of talent being the driving force of success has been something that I battled with personally. I didn’t grow up drawing, writing stories or making music. Trying to learn new skills while feeling talentless has been a harmful mental roadblock to my own creativity.

I often pointed towards this perceived lack of talent when running into artistic ruts. Whether it was scoring low grades in art classes, running into a wall when it comes to practicing or losing motivation flat out, there was a long period of time where I didn’t believe I could be a good artist.

However, I didn’t allow this to crush my passion and other artists shouldn’t either. A person’s talents may be a head start in the field, but the burden that I attributed to a lack of talent is far smaller than what I thought. Instead, we should be focusing our efforts and attention towards skill.

While talent accounts for where you start, skill is what pushes you to continue growing and improving at your craft, as you can continue to develop it with the right kind of practice.

According to a paper on music education, musicians Devin Ulibarri and Robert Flax explain  “Extensive, deliberate, and deep practice supported by an ability growth mindset—and not a fixed degree of talent—is the primary predictor of future expertise.”

It’s clear that with a lot of time and consistent effort, you can really start to hone your skills. I asked a wide group of artists online for some advice to gain some insight on how to improve your artistic abilities.

Photo by Cole Martin | Collage art done by Cole Martin

“I think the best way is just to keep doing whatever you want to be skilled at over and over again every day for small hours, then make markers of progress… then look back at that progress to see how far you’ve come… you’ll be able to see the difference, encouraging you to improve and showing how far you’ve come” said digital artist @TaffyCat36.

“The easiest way to build up skill is to do studies, studying whatever you want to get better at. And in the same way, having a habit to study constantly will help a lot. Watching other people draw can help as well, taking a look into how other people draw, paint, pixel, can help,” said pixel artist @ash_mallard.

“I think in the long run skill is more important [than talent] for art, because while talent can lead to some really impressive work right out the gate, it takes practice and slow improvement to truly fully understand what you’re making and how to adjust/continue making at the same quality… The most important traits an artist needs to improve effectively are being in the right headspace to not get thrown down by burnouts and critique, being motivated to seek information and resources for themselves, and ABOVE ALL being willing and ambitious to experiment with challenges,” said digital artist @teeth_collect.

“Do the thing a lot, but do it properly. Learning the wrong stuff can mess you up. It helps to have an experienced friend, teacher or mentor as well. Both to teach you stuff and motivate you when things get tough,” said digital artist @lemoncholicarts.

The key to being skilled and successful at something is not just talent but practice, consistency, a good mindset, and a good community. Free art resources are abundant, with a plethora of extensive tutorial videos on YouTube for whatever hobby you’re interested in. There are also plenty of artists like the kind folks above who would be ecstatic to help guide you on your art journey. 

If you’re someone who has doubted themself in their artistic ability, I encourage you to try to take another stab at it with these things in mind!