Partners In Design


[ARTICLE] Creativity: Born with it, or work hard to get it?

I ran across this article, where Brady Russell (indie cartoonist and blogger) goes in detail about his "theory on creativity". To paraphrase, his main points are that he can spot an artist's "style" even by looking at their early childhood sketchbooks, and that this style is carried over to adulthood. So no matter how hard you work to improve yourself (he's not arguing that you don't improve yourself), you retain this "style", or rather, the characteristics of your style are visible in your earliest drawings. He also stresses that the most successful artists (or people in their respective fields) are born extremely creative, and "no amount of practice or conditioning can help those who simply aren't 'born with it' ".

I didn't read too many of the comments for this article, but quite a few people don't agree, someone named Von Allen being one. Here is a reply from Brady Russell, addressing Von Allen and several other comments at once.

As for myself, I think that yes, there are people born innately creative and talented. People you want to kick in the stomach because they just rock your mind with how brilliant they are. But, I also think that talent will take you no where fast unless you work hard and get better at it. Sure, I know plenty of talented artists, but they don't apply themselves, are not motivated, and never practice or have the desire to make something of this talent they possess. I think if you are actually born with talent, you should definitely use it. Because it's a fucking shame if you don't.

I was born with the ability to draw. Being artistic and creative runs in my family: that being said, I had to work hard and practice and learn to get where I am today. I drew stick figures with the best of them. As time passed, I developed a better control over my medium and honed in on my artistic skills. It's an on-going process. And I can only go up from here.

What are your thoughts?


Paul said...

This is like a watered-down version of "are gay people born that way" (or which came first, chicken or the egg).

I'm inclined to agree to a point- I think there is such thing as natural talent. However, I'm also of the mind that there are about 475 shades of gray with that reasoning. There are degrees of creativity. The world isn't cut up into creatives and non-creatives.

Regarding certain techniques and areas of art, I think there are skill sets that can be taught...but when it comes down to it, those people with "acquired" abilities will always be limited as to how "good" they can be (but again, there's no set limit).

Something that comes to mind is math. Math is something that can be taught...but when it comes down to it, you really need to have a knack for it. I may be able to solve some algebra here and there, but I probably don't understand the reasons behind WHY a certain equation works. Someone who is naturally talented at math will understand the 'why' behind the work. The same goes for art and design. You can teach someone what a good layout is, but they may never have the aesthetic eye to explain why it works.

Alexandra said...

Thats a good way to look at it. I agree, this matter cannot be lumped into haves and have nots.

Shalimar said...

The idea of being born with talent or cultivating it is an interesting discussion. The part about being born with a specific style is especially interesting. To help me make sense of this, I think about it like handwriting, just a certain way an individuals mind works and how it connects with their hands.

In respects to talent; When I was in Debbie Millman's class, she said something that always stuck with me. That having great talent is equal to operational excellence. What separates the amazings from the not-so-amazings is what yo do with that talent. Unfortunately, I know people who have great talent, and do absolutely nothing with it. Thats not to say that I don't think humans are born with creativity in their blood, or in their brain.
I was watching this special about the universe and they were speaking about Einsteins brain. [wiki: To compensate for missing portions in his brain, the inferior parietal lobe was 15 percent wider than normal. The inferior parietal region is responsible for mathematical thought, visuospatial cognition, and imagery of movement.] In other words, this helped him visualize his experiments and theories with out having to physically experiment with stars and crap. ANYWAY. what I am trying to say is that, I think that creatives are born with that part of the brain more advanced than others, and that hard work and practice can expand upon that. Will any of us be James Jeans, or Paula Schers? Who the hell knows, we're in our 20s. I always hear the phrase 10% Talent and 90% hard work being thrown about.

Man, I confused myself. Enjoy.

BradyDale said...

Hey folks.

Thanks for considering what I wrote. We all agree. It's been frustrating to see people characterize what I wrote as indicating it's All-talent-no-work. That's just patently silly. There's also lots of kinds of talent in the visual arts and all arts. And I think in every art form we have a "signature" in our work. In writing, literary forensics experts have made this demonstrably true. Did you know that there are people out there who can run a random document through a computer (even if it's never been seen by anyone else before) and tell you who wrote it (so long as they have other documents by the same person on record). Crazy.

Talent is complex and takes many forms: was Rembrandt talented? Yes. But so was Rothko. Know what I'm saying?

I thought I made my nod towards shades of gray pretty clear when I wrote:
"It’s not true that a beautiful model, innovating scientist, record-breaking athlete or successful artist doesn’t work hard.

"That said, you can’t be Claude Monet, Max Planck, Walter Payton or Christy Turlington without a lot of luck on the day you’re born."

What's been harder is articulating that there are multiple ways to show your talent and cultivate it in different art forms.

The real purpose of all this, though, is to challenge the notion that artwork is 100% merit/hardwork based. I think it's worth pointing out that some people start off with considerably more resources and not be silly about shying from that fact. I think the present inclination to pretend that we are all equal in all things is silly and does us a disservice in the lies we tell ourselves and our peers.

That said, like the main character in Vonnegut's BLUEBEARD, who had mountains of talent and nothing to say, some people do little with it. Others, like Tom Hart, in the comics world, don't have a lot of raw skill but manage to convey so very, very much with what they do have that it's inspiring.

Anyway, I'll be watching y'all. I think it's very cool that you have this community and it's just the kind of thing I want to talk about over at This Too Will Pass.

Alexandra said...

Hey Bradydale,

Thanks for taking a look at our blog! We found your article very interesting, as you can tell from our long comments. We all appreciate this type of discussion! We'll be keeping an eye on your blog as well. :-D