Hard Work Elegantly Kicks Talent in the Pants

I want to address something with you today. I don't do it out of spite, or a lack of gratitude, or snootiness, or lack of self confidence. I just want to make one thing clear:

I haven't gotten where I am today with talent. I got here with hard work.

A project in the works, about a little boy and his pet shark.

A project in the works, about a little boy and his pet shark.

Too often a well-meaning person will come up to an artist, intrigued by their drawing, and make the comment,

"You have a gift."

"You're so talented."

And my personal favorite, "All I can draw are stick figures."

Yes, I'm grateful for these comments! Every artist is. To those well-meaning people, I happily reply with a thank you, while wishing inside that I could explain to them just how much they are missing the mark. They see a drawing and (maybe) think, "Wow, they can do something I can't. They must have something that I don't."

It gets pretty bad, for instance, when I show up to a birthday party with my sketchbook. This is where there are no fellow artists around, but where there is always that relative that knows someone who does something creative. They're always really good. Everyone is really talented.

I'm not attempting to judge anyone for this. But honestly, professional artists do not like to be compared to hobbyists all the time, particularly if that hobbyist does not do anything remotely close to their professional trade.  I am not a child painting my mother on a paper plate, nor am I someone who draws peoples' pets because they just ask me to and I happen to know how. I'm in this for the long haul.

I do it for a living. This is my income, my lifestyle, my passion. NOT my hobby.

It is my living to the extent that I am going to school for it. Which means I have devoted my life to it, which means it is not something that I would ever dare to refer to as a hobby or simple talent. Other artists in my position will agree.

We define our craft now by hard we are willing to work for it, not by how far our talent can get us. No one wakes up one morning with this ability and drive. There is nothing supernatural about it, or even special. Talent burns out. We are here because we persevered.

We stuck it out through the bad times, gobbled up the criticism and threw it back up, cried and raged at our failures and finally watched wide-eyed as we saw ourselves climbing out of the muck for that first time. It has been this endless, glorious cycle ever since.

So please, if you are going to call an artist talented, please remember how much time they devote to arrive at what you are seeing. It means a lot to us when you recognize that.