My mother always told me that I was born with the talent to be creative and to be an artist. I’ve often heard people say that they are “not creative” and they “can’t draw” or that they “can’t do artwork”. I’ve always believed that to be untrue. And, I do not believe that because I teach art. I would believe it regardless. This is one of those topics you could argue about until your head explodes, but I think it is wrong to dismiss that creativity and the ability to draw is “God-given”.
I came across the argument recently on Drawn. It sites two blogs with opposing view points. Brady Russell argues that it is God-given while Von Allen vehemently disagrees. There are many sides to this issue, but I’m going to tackle the one closes to my heart which is the beginning’s of an artist. I remember as a child that I was never the best artist in class. I just loved to draw. I loved to draw in perspective. And, I liked the mental stimulation it provided for me. I still remember drawing faces over and over and over again until I got them right. I was focused because I loved being an artist. I almost didn’t go into the arts out of high school, but I did have a foundation that I could work from, so following a fine arts path in college was something I could most certainly attain.
I think about the young me a lot when I teach because there are so many levels to being a good artist. Yes, it is easy to point out the child who can draw well, but there is the child that can match colors well, the child that shows a great attention to craftsmanship, the consummate artist with the stereotypical personality to match, the pattern-maker, and the student with the strong imagination. While I believe every child can learn to draw or be an artist or be a creative person, the ability to be creative is so often lumped together with being a good artist that most students will feel that they can never be creative.
I don’t want you to think I’m jumping too far off topic, but if a child’s ability to be an artist or be creative is not cultivated at a young age, they will never follow that path. And with the extreme attention put on reading, writing, and math, every child is not going to get that chance. It might be just too much for some kids…which, to be honest, is sad. I try my best, but at the end of the day, I can only do so much as a teacher. They need to build their own confidence and have the courage to draw and be creative. Too often, those abilities get shot down before they have a chance to blossom. To further illustrate my point, I’ll pull this quote from the Allen post:
Artists, especially artists that come to their craft at a very young age, often have more opportunity than others. Often times this opportunity is financial (there is a world of difference between the upbringing that an artist like Alex Ross had in comparison to someone growing up in, say, bombed out Lebanon). Having the financial wherewithal to pursue art is a major factor in the ability to get better and develop one’s artistic skills. It’s difficult to grow as an artist when one is simply struggling to survive. Other times, the opportunity is more abstract. Some kids have the self-esteem to get over the tough times as they learn their particular craft and others don’t. In addition, I believe strongly that some children get the right type of support at the right time to give them enough confidence to keep going. That support could come from a parent or a teacher or someone else. It could even come from within themselves with their own inherent stubbornness. Regardless, something keeps them going and they get over their inherent “terribleness” to become fantastic artists in whatever medium they choose. This is even true when it comes to sport and athletics. When you factor these two points together (the financial opportunity to learn a craft combined with the self-esteem issues to get over the bad days), it becomes very clear that artistic opportunity is not egalitarian.
In short, I believe an artist is not “born with it”. I guess that is easy to say as an artist and a teacher of art, but if I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be doing it or teaching it.