Confession: I wrote this one just because I laughed out loud at the quote at the top of this story. Look, you just have to keep going. It’s part of the contract you signed when you fell in love with art. Behind every successful artist – every single one – is miles of canvas, acres of paper, piles of woodchips and marble dust, and the sooner you accept this the faster you can burn through the trials and the errors and the faster the miles of lived creative experience will spool out behind you while the road ahead gets wider and wider.
It’s just what happens – there’s no timeline (it is honestly, really really, never too late), there’s no actual right or wrong, and the good news is that the more you do this thing and push past every seeming barrier just by doing it more, the more passionate you become, the better you want to be, and the more creativity you’ll add to you life.
I say, forget “genius,” “gifts” or “natural talent” – some innate ability that advantages one person over another. It’s a thing, but talent is just a small part of the whole enchilada, and the whole “you either have it or you don’t” is lazy thinking because it’s nowhere near that simple. “Talent” is more like a complex cocktail of genetic inheritance, desire and drive, patience, daring, luck, variable motor skills, physical coordination you can develop, and a bazillion other factors that give the lie to “it’s something you’re born with.” Not buying it.
Artmaking comprises a range of skills, almost all of which can be learned. The work of a prodigy and that of a trained artist working for decades is ultimately indistinguishable – the results are the same.
Keep On Keepin’ On
Although our brains stop developing somewhere in our mid 20s, they go on changing as long as we live. The brain’s ability to physically change the more you do something is called plasticity. Neuroplasticity. It’s why practicing really does work. Why should digital art, drawing, sculpting, or painting be any different?
Why should you instantly be a master at something you’re never done before?? Muscle memory allows us to forge entirely new connections between the brain, eyes, and arms, wrists, and hands. The only way to develop the muscle memory you need to master your medium is by repetition.
Psychology tells us that deliberate practice – the sort artists need to learn their craft – is different from observation, rote memorization, or repetition. Simply observing or even repeating a task will not by itself improve performance. Deliberate practice is needed, practice that is intentional, done with attention, rehearsal, and repetition. Doing the work develops a baseline of knowledge that can lead to ever more complex knowledge and skills. The best way to learn to make your art is to make your art.
The only way to go is to keep going.