Friday, June 14, 2013

Bob Ross on Talent

Two things about this:

  1. This is the first time I have ever posted an animated GIF
  2. I never watched Bob Ross's show, but I like what he's saying here. And frankly I think you should listen to a guy who has the confidence to paint landscapes with his shirt unbuttoned and his hair in an afro.
Since entering art school, and watching some students flourish and others flounder, I've thought a lot about what talent is and if it exists. Illustrator Gregory Manchess wrote that "talent is a myth" and hard work is everything. 

I'm inclined to respectfully disagree, though. Two years of observing my classmates has led me to believe that talent exists, because I have met a few students who work hard but make little improvement in their skills. It's kind of sad to say, but I think it's true. Of course I believe in the importance of hard work, passion and practice, but it seems like people reap the rewards of hard work at different rates. Does that make sense?

What do you guys think?


  1. Anyone can improve their skills through hard works, but some will improve more than others. Different people have different innate abilities (talents), whether it be art, music, math, athletics, whatever. Some are gifted with the capacity to be great at something; some, at several things; some, a few or none. It's not fair but it's true. Those who attain the highest levels of achievement are rare combinations of innate ability and the ambition and desire to do the work required for them to achieve all of which they're capable. Telling kids that they can be "anything they want to be" is a cruel lie.

  2. I think that, like most things, the bell curve applies: the vast majority of people who apply themselves will see a direct correlation between the amount of practice they put in and their improvement; a small number on either end will see either disproportionately great or disproportionately meager progress compared to their efforts.

    The quality of the practice/learning comes into play as well - if you're practicing the wrong things or in the wrong way it will affect the results. A big hit against the "art is about expression - there are no wrong answers!" warm fuzziness that pervaded my own art schooling.

    I'm not sure how I feel about acknowledging the existence of talent, though - while "you're so talented!" encouraged me to stick with art early on, it also gave me the false impression that I had some sort of natural ability that trumped actual hard work. I can't imagine how much better my art would be now if I'd had a bit more humility and willingness to submit to some hard & boring directed practice years ago.


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