Sketchbooks and Stick Figures-->
We’ve all experienced hundreds of getting-to-know-you conversations. We all know the questions you’re supposed to ask. What’s your name? Where are you from? And for me and most of my peers, this next one is inescapable:
What’s your major?
Illustration, I answer.
Oh, Illustration, they say. Is that, like, art?
Yes, I confirm, Illustration is art.
Wow, they say. I can’t even draw a stick figure. You must be really talented.
After participating in variations of this conversation hundreds of times, it’s really got me thinking. What do they mean by that last comment—“You must be really talented”? Sometimes it seems like an explanation, or even an excuse, for being good at something.
I do believe that there is such a thing as talent—raw natural ability in a certain area. What is strange to me about the comment “You must be really talented” is that, in the end, I don’t feel that talent has very much to do with my success as an artist. Talent, or raw natural ability, is just that—raw, unrefined, and untried. Even a person that apparently doesn’t have talent can excel beyond someone who does—if they invest the required time and effort.
So, you can’t even draw a stick figure. This doesn’t prove that you’re not talented and could never do “good” art. It simply shows that you haven’t spent much time drawing stick figures—yet. You could, though. And you could get really good at it, given enough time. This is why artists carry sketchbooks.
I first learned the value of sketchbooks from my high school art teacher. Every week she would collect our sketchbooks, not to critique them, but to make sure that we were drawing, observing, and recording ideas constantly. “You don’t have to show your sketchbook to anyone if you don’t want to,” she’d say. “This is where you mess up and make mistakes. It’s where you think. It’s where you learn. It’s not to show off how talented you are to anyone else.” Through sketchbooking I learned how much time and effort is required to produce good art. The merely talented who aren’t constantly sketching get left by the wayside. Artists succeed because, even when they’re not in front of a canvas with brushes in hand, the have a sketchbook that they carry everywhere.
Believing in effort over talent is extremely liberating—just think about it. I really can do, and be, and accomplish anything I want, provided that I am willing to put in enough time and effort. And so can you. Your hopes of what you want do and be and accomplish can be realized, if you are ready to do what it takes. Try it—invest a little time and effort. I believe in you.