I have no talent
Post #1444 • January 15, 2010, 12:03 PM • 9 Comments
After spending three hours in the studio and three hours at home with a model, I went onto Reddit and found an interesting post by John Nunemaker:
It is true. I have no talent. What I do have is a lot of practice. And I am not talking about occasionally dabbling in Ruby on the weekends. I am talking about the kind of practice where I beat code that isn’t working into submission (though often times the code wins).
The kind of practice where all of a sudden I realize that it is 2am and I’m exhausted physically so I should go to bed, but mentally I feel on fire so I let the code have me for another hour or two (I imagine this state to be like a marathon runner or ironman near the end of their race).
(Yes, I follow Proggit.) Over in the Reddit comments on the post, user Ohsin linked to Journey of an Absolute Rookie, in which Jonathan Hardesty went from this to this by working his ass off for seven years.
There is no sweat equity in art, as Walter Darby Bannard used to remind me. And indeed, I had a good, eight-year run of paintings that never took more than two or three hours to polish off, even when I was working six feet high. But I exhausted that impulse. The painting I've been working on since moving into the new studio last July, the only one I haven't thrown out upon completion since then, represents weeks of effort, not hours. Soutine and Balthus have been the brightest stars in my personal sky, and for whatever reason (Hitting forty? Moving all over the damn country for three years?) the emphasis is moving from the former to the latter. I may throw out this one too. But the drawings I did yesterday, slow things constructed with attentive noodling, felt like coming home. (I'll post pictures once I get them scanned on the really nice scanner at school in a couple of weeks.)
That Proggit thread repeated a common missive - someone had talent, and it resulted in skewed expectations and laziness. I have talent. I understood gesture drawing without explanation the first time I saw someone do it. But Degas noted that everyone has talent at 25 - the trick is to have it when you're fifty. Now that I'm closer to fifty than 25, I see what he's talking about. There's no sweat equity in art, but a long-term, productive, self-critical life in art is the very equity of sweat. I'm feeling how intensity of expression can build into a considered statement instead of a furious one. A proverb in Aikido says that beginners make big circles; masters make small circles. So be it. Long hours are coming. I welcome them.