The Urge to Understand

"Eucalyptus Island"
watercolor 15 x 22 inches

I hear a sad statement frequently in my workshops and classes . . . . ."I am not very talented."

It is indeed a sad thing to witness when a person simply doesn't believe that they can make something special happen with paint.   And the same sadness comes into view as the person laments that they 'might just as well give up.'    

I won't go into the psychology of the person or what provokes such vile statements to erupt from anyone.   I will, however, correct that person (or anyone making such statements) and help them to revise their thoughts about talent.   As I see it, talent is 90% drive.

That is to say that one must have the urge,  or the want to understand something, or to be able to do something.  In other words, it is the degree of desire that drives us to be really good at something.   Without that desire or that passion to achieve, all the genetic programming to be an artist goes right out the window.   I have seen lots of lesser talented individuals become stellar painters only because they just would not stop working at becoming better and better.

 . . . . .Which brings me to my point. . . . .

My friend and painting buddy, Scott, and I went out to paint on Sunday afternoon . . . .and we nearly froze our toes off in doing so.  We had hike with back packs full of painting paraphenalia for nearly a mile into the inner reaches of a slough (a body of sea water extending inland and establishing an inland wetland enviornment quite unlike the sea.)    The wind was beginning to come inland from the ocean, which at this time of year is very cold.  And I can attest that it can become very uncomfortable very fast.
We knew what we were up against, but we both wanted something very badly.   We both have been trying for some time to capture the essence of the massive Eucalyptus trees that populate that shorline.   We didn't care if it was uncomfortable.   All we wanted was to put in the practice so that we could LEARN what it is, exactly, that paint does to speak eucalyptus in such a way as to grab hold of a typical painting viewer and say "Hey!  Look AT ME !"
Whether or not we are talented guys, the moral of this story is that we both have this driving desire to be able to be good at painting.  (By the way, I don't believe that the drive to be better ever goes away, no matter how masterly we become.)   And, as I said above, out of sheer determined effort, it IS going to happen for both of us . . . .we will become painters of these oddly shaped trees of draping foliage . . . .one way or another.   We both will be seen as "talented" painters.
I know that Scott will, one day, be a nationally recognized oil painter.  Why do I know this?  All one needs to do is be around the guy for two minutes and start talking about painting.   He lifts from the surface of the ground and levitates because he is so enthused about it all.   That is what talent is.   He has it.   And anyone else out there, who dreams about this stuff in their sleep, can't get enough time at the easel, is driven to make every painting the best, is deeply disturbed by their failed attempts,  is gobbling up books, videos and workshops and spends countless hours with other artists in order to learn is talented.  (I know.  That was a long, run-on sentence.)
The painting above is the one completed this last weekend of the famous eucalyptus that populate California.   I really did learn something about them and how better to paint them . . . .at least I'll know better next time I go after them . . . . .and that time will sharpen my talent even more.  You see, I have an insatiable urge to learn!