Deep Thought Thursday: The gift of talent

Talent is a double-edged sword. What you are given is not really yours. What you work at, what you struggle for, what you have to take command of–that often makes for very good art.

–Paul Schimmel as quoted in in Seven Days in the Art World (page 72)

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20 comments to Deep Thought Thursday: The gift of talent

  • That line “What you are given is not really yours” just jumped out at me. I don’t disagree with it and I don’t take issue with it. But this is what I do say about it~ That it is a complete lie. What we are given is something that we have actually made to happen, even if we don’t know quite how we brought it about. If one doesn’t get this, then the issue of being responsible for one’s creations in life, or lack of them can be put on someone or something else. We are responsible for the lives we have and making them the very best we can. I didn’t used to see it this way. Since I now understand it to be true, it has changed everything for the better, including the quality of my art work. Being responsible for something means you care about it, are interested in it, take care of it and protect it.

  • There are some people, and I am one of them, who believe that everything we have – talent, time, material things, friends, the environment, etc. – are all gifts. All temporarily in our care. All to be deeply grateful for. Just like any precious gift from a loved one we have both the honor and responsibility to care for then all. That responsibility is not only to myself but more importantly to the Source of the gifts. This belief is motivating. And at times a source of healthy guilt. If I am not doing my best I feel like I am not caring for what has been so generously given to me.

    • June Carol Hines

      My reply to Michael Lynn Adams: It does my older soul good to see a younger
      soul believe that all we have are gifts. As you probably know, Michael, “To Whom
      Much is Given Much is Expected”. Wherever you are I hope that if you are an
      Artist in some kind of endeavour that you are giving your creativity the best in
      your ability that you can and are enjoying completely.

      June Carol (a retiree, a Volunteer and an Artist)

  • In an art history class I took, we discussed how in the Middle Ages people believed that talents were God-given gifts that needed to be honed in order to honor God. This made me think because at the time I had put aside my making and was thinking about becoming an art historian. It put the seed in my mind to get back into the making and I’ve found more fulfillment since. I’m not saying that I am or am not doing it to honor any particular diety, but it really made think about wasting what is given to us. Now if my talent was as a criminal mastermind, I’m not sure that society would agree with this idea… I do believe though that raw talent isn’t enough to make you successful (in any of its manifestations). The hard work is probably the more important of the two. After all, what is talent worth if you aren’t using it?

  • I do think an artist has a responsibility to use their gifts and talents, because that is what they are born with, in most cases. In our workaday world, it is very hard to keep our skills up and stay inspired, but it is important, so we should strive to do something to that end every day. I know it is what keeps me getting up everyday!

  • I had nothing to do with any raw talent that I have been born with. Yes I have worked hard and long to develop what was already there, but it would be ignorant and prideful to be given credit for the natural ability to grasp, understand, and run with the principles of art, music, writing. . .etc. I firmly believe that my God has given me these gifts for a reason. To use them, and to point others to Him. Not to glorify myself, and certainly not to waste the gifts.

  • We have it as long as we can control it. God forbid I lost my hands, no matter what talent I had would be out of my control. Unless….that is….I found a new way to wield it. Now I’ve confused myself.

  • Leslye

    I have to disagree that my talent is not really mines, because it is mines. I did not work, struggle, or take command of it. I just did it, because I knew how, because I enjoy doing it, because it is my spirit. I was born with it, if I have been doing it my whole life, other talents such as learning time shared, material things, friends, the environment, etc… are all spiritual gifts of the Universe I learned as I grew. These are all spiritual gifts from the Universe. It is the energy of one’s mind that attracts the gift of doing very good art. I believe it does belong to that person. So that is a complete lie.

  • What interesting responses to this quote! I would like to continue after having read them to say that I do think that one’s abilities (not the concept of gifts) are a responsibility to nuture and improve and enjoy. Why not have the thought that even if it is one’s own abilities we are speaking about, instead of from elsewhere, BOTH require a care and responsibility to make the most of what we have, whatever the source that each of us believe to be true…

  • This is an interesting topic and one that has been on my mind since watching this amazing TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html E. Gilbert dispenses with the notion of individual genius and offers a different paradigm for creativity, one which Wendy alluded to in her comment. I truly believe creativity comes through us, not from us.

  • I had a friend (also an artist) once dismiss my art because “it comes so easily for you.” It made me so angry because I also work, practice, study, research, draw and think about my sculpture constantly.

    I guess it’s all in the point of reference. Most do not understand creativity.

    When I’m working professionally, creating 11 feet of symmetric architectural ornament, folks in the factory walk by and everyone says “That looks like so much fun!”

    I’m working as hard as I can, concentrating to see that everything is balanced, but to them it’s fun. Certainly I’ve never walked in to the accountant’s office and said, “That looks like so much fun.”

  • Leslye

    Morning! Patrick and all other beautiful artists, Maybe it’s time you reverse the concentration to pure fun to avoid experiencing hard work. Using other’s comments said and your creativity should be fun and easy as in working smart, not hard. Enjoy getting attention, in what you do best ;o)

  • Please, people. An opinion has been presented. It may or may not be correct, but it is not at all a lie. Only a deliberate assertion contrary to fact can be legitimately called a lie. An opinion may be called incorrect, but it cannot be called false.

  • Talent (or ability) in art, music, sports etc or whatever is a GIFT…but talent is NOT enough. Unless there is desire, determination, drive, discipline, devotion, development, and direction…all the talent in the world will be squandered. At the end of my days, I hope to be able to say…”All that You gave me, I used wisely”

  • A wonderful topic. As an artist and teacher,
    I don’t think people are inspired to be creative because of duty to a deity, or to a
    gift of talent. I think artists create because the act itself gives them such pleasure. Yesterday I spent the afternoon in one of our major galleries. Most of the art projects the love the artists had for colour, texture, brush strokes, plus the excitement of being able to portray landscapes, figures, still lifes and abstract work. A spiritual quality may come through a work of art, but often while producing the work the artist was simply happy creating — free from thoughts of how that happened.

  • I know that it was God who placed the artistic talent within me and I believe He did that because He wants me to use it! So many people tell me how they would love to be able to paint or draw (and I’d love to be able to sing!). What a waste to have a talent in any area and not use it! I also believe that creating needs a massive dose of self discipline and hard work! Inspiration to paint just doesn’t come along out of thin air, these days with life so busy it takes serious organising skills to carve out the time to paint. I paint because I adore doing it, when I am out there. The rest of the time is just me waiting to get back out in the studio.

  • Well said Barbara. I appreciate your reasonable stance. Why do people insist artist’s have “gifts” that they are “responsible” for? This attitude is not shared by bowlers or ditch diggers or mathemeticians. We do what we do. We study, we practice, just like teachers and doctors. I know I’m better at painting than I am at most other things, and that’s where I choose to spend my time. Good art comes from understanding the work ethic -as well as the serendipity- required to accomplish the artist’s desire.

  • It always bothers me when people talk about the GIFT of talent. With the exception of a few geniuses, most of us work very hard to accomplish what we do. It is not given to us, we earn it. For most artists, talent, ie being able to produce good accomplished paintings (or sculptures, or whatever), comes at a high price. That price includes a lot of time spent learning; it includes practicing, over and over; it means making painting a priority; it means making time for it even in the face of a very busy life; it means persevering and staying with it, even when things aren’t going too well; it means overcoming discouragement; it means struggling; it means being afraid of failing and doing it anyway. The price of talent is courage, determination, perseverance, and most of all, hard work. To achieve talent, you need the will and the tenacity to keep working at it until you get good. Film maker Sam Goldwyn said “The harder I work, the luckier I get”. My version of that would be: “The harder I work, the more talented I get”.

  • Fascinating comments!

    Do you think anyone has been given a gift of talent in one area or another?

    • June Carol Hines

      Yes, I believe a person can receive a gift (s) or she (he) may have a strong inter-
      est in one field of interest and it is up to the individual to cultivate the gift for a
      positive use.As for example a person may be a people person and enjoy talking
      to people about her(his)work be it being a creative person or services that a
      particular organization offers. If a creative person in the Arts- painting than the
      person must work,even in small ways,at the gift (or strong interest) that the person has because she (he) is passionate about doing so.To be the best you can in life
      with whatever has been given you inwardly.Never too late to start.