I often have the same conversation about talent and skill, specifically regarding art (imagine that) and over the years, I have developed quite the stance on this subject of talent, skill and interest in regard to one artistic ability, or ability in any activity for that matter.
I do not believe in talent. What most people refer to as talent I see as interest. It is interest that leads to dedication, practice, skill and mastery, that people typically interpret as some kind of extraordinary natural ability. I realize this is a very narrow view, and I always fear that it's viewed as abrasive or elitist, but I think it is objective and accurate.
My personal view on my own ability, comes not from talent (I did not start out drawing any better than anyone else) but from intense interest, practice and developing skill. Beyond that, the art I produce, they way I produce it and the reasons or motives behind my work, and effort explains much more about the kind of artist I am. After all, it's the artists personal story that always ends up explaining their work.
So I'll tell my own personal story of how I became an artist. A bit self-serving I know, but then after all, a large motivation behind my behavior is to express my experience to the world. I'll try to keep it interesting....
The earliest notable piece I did, was when I was about 3 or 4, I had drawn a bear climbing up a hill. it was the kind of work you would expect from a kid of 3 or so (for the first time, I wish I had a photo of the drawing, which my mom still has. Maybe someday) My mom was impressed with the drawing for one particular feature, the legs of the bear bent in the front and were shorter than the rear legs, I guess to show it was going up the hill. and that is the example my Mom has used as my start, though I don't see it as remarkable, I figure that's the official point of my "emergence". Since This age of 3 however, I was surrounded by my Mom's collection of comic books, a collection that ranged from Archie and Pep to Vampirella and House of Mystery. Which were the first things I had ever read.
As a side note. Everyone as a kid draws, it's a fundamental thing of childhood; coloring, painting, and drawing. Children have always been naturally drawn to art, I would say this reveals an innate interest in people to create and express their experience, even when we're not aware that, that is what they are doing.
Like any kid I drew all kinds of stuff, and I always wanted to draw more, and to do it better.
But a few things happened in my childhood that dramatically reshaped what drawing meant to me. I won't go too far into these events here, other than this: when I was 7 years old, my 6 year old brother, Scotty, was hit by a car and killed on our way to school, and When I was 11, my 1 year old sister, Charity died due to complications of a heart surgury she required because of birth defects. It goes without saying that these events affected me in dramatic ways... and notably, for the purpose of this story, my art.
After Scotty passed away, my whole life changed. I began seeing a grief councilor at the time, and wasn't able to express in words how I felt, and what was going on in my head, so my councilor asked me to draw what I was feeling and thinking, and it opened a floodgate. Many of those drawings don't exist anymore, destroyed to keep private my emotional state, but it was a form of relief that helped profoundly. I drew pictures of my brother being hit by a car, and how I wanted the whole world to die, so my pain would go away. I continued to draw images of death, destruction and horror from that point on to this very day. Introducing Art Therapy into my grieving process gave me my only psychological outlet that wasnt destructive or violent. In many ways, I needed to draw.
As a kid my family moved around a lot and I switched schools frequently, so I always seemed to have to reexplain my experience and condition to councilors and teachers, something I quickly grew tired of, but was necessary when you're a young kid drawing pictures of death all the time. There were more than a few teachers that were put off by my "art".
After Charity died, the artwork grew more intense and grotesque, as my interests began leading into horror movies and magaines like "Fangoria" and "Movie Monsters" After her passing, we moved to Oregon, where I re-enrolled in grief counciling, now a vet in this kind of experience. An incredible coincidence occurred in one of the schools I attended in Oregon, the grief councilor I had was the very same councilor that I originally saw when my brother died in Phoenix, and she (damn I wish I remembered her name) knew just what to do and let me draw, and encouraged me to get into other art classes, and to start drawing things that I felt were fun in addition to the darker stuff I was putting to page. And though I was drawing regularly well before this, it was the moment I remember thinking, I wanted to be an artist, and show the world how I feel. It became a mission, and in many ways, it saved my life. I drew my first comic book then, called "Super Flea".
We moved back to Phoenix, and I continued to draw, but at this point I was drawing more stuff from comic books; The Ninja Turtles, Spider-Man, and Batman, stuff like that, I began to study the comic books I grew up reading, and copying whatever I could, showing off my drawings, original and plageried at school, hoping to use them to make friends (It worked. ha!)
In 8th Grade, I met a guy that also liked to draw a lot, and he was quite a bit better than I was. One day he had showed me a few things about how he drew, and I stole those techniques and made them my own, (thanks Ray!) showing him how it had changed my work, and to a degree it kind of pissed him off. But I was relentless in my desire to learn and improve, and I continued this trend as I went into highschool and met many other artists, whom I learned a great deal from. And as many of these guys got bored with drawing, or just moved on to other activities, I never let go of my mission. I took every art or creative class my high school offered; ceramics, basic art, theater, newspaper and then took independant study classes and teacher assistant electives when they ran out. It was all I wanted to do. my high school Art Teachers, Rex Pelleran and Mike Helmstedder as well as my Journalism Teacher; Maryellen Ohrnberger shaped my ethic and concepts of integrity as an artist and my approach and style of producing it. While close to graduation, and exploring military service, my art teacher, and biggest direct influence as an artist, Rex Pelleran steered me toward Art school, and provided me with my first moment of validation as an artist. He said I could be good. and from the teacher that crumpled up my drawings and threw them away, it meant volumes. Before Graduating, I was voted most artistic and most creative of my senior class and off to Art School I went! It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be convincing my Dad that it was what I needed to do.
...That's enough of that. For now at least. I'll finish the story next week. The next part won't be so damn dark and depressing.