Editor’s Note: This piece is inspired by ideas brought to light in the author’s mind while reflecting on his participation at 1 Day of Art Copenhagen for (t)here magazine. They are a reflection of these experiences and mean little else. My eternal gratitude goes to Talenthouse, (t)here Magazine, my supporters and Hotel Fox for the opportunity to paint in Copenhagen.
Find your audience (or allow them to find you), that’s all you’re really doing as an artist as I see it. Don’t trust in what people say you’re talented in, trust in what you love to do. It doesn’t matter if you can draw the most perfect head in history, because buyers and appreciators of feet photos won’t give a shit. Finding your audience and porn are what the internet is good for. There are many artists, writers, engineers and scientists who “got found” after they died, because their audience didn’t find them while they were alive. Imagine if they had stopped because they thought that no one cared, then we would know nothing of Syliva Plath, Ludwig Boltzmann, Emily Dickinson, and other great thinkers of recent history. During their lives, they probably didn’t know an audience for their work existed (then or in the future) – or maybe they didn’t care if anyone enjoyed it. That’s what I see Talenthouse and their Creative Invite as being really good for, a way to find and connect with your audience, those people who appreciate what you’re producing. In my case the audience was (t)here magazine. Really it was just a few people, but the Creative Invite made that happen. Motivation feeds creation, and when you know that somebody, somewhere cares about what you’re producing, that simple feeling can energize your mind in unpredictable ways. Connect audience to artists – easy to understand – simple to execute. But does any of this matter if there’s no talent at play to create things? What is talent and how do you harness that wonderful energy?
What is Talent?
Of course, when somebody says something about talent and creating cool things the following thought comes up, “but those people had talent for something, they were bound to be appreciated.” So now you might wonder, “what is talent, do I have it for something?” I can only rely my own experiences on this subject. I’ll switch now to an analogy on head and foot illustrations. See, I have been drawing heads for years now, mainly in class notes, but sometimes also on random pieces of paper at bars or in journals. There was and at present is no actual reason for these random head illustrations. I just do them because the smooth form of the random, anatomically incorrect head is something I like. However, until 1 Day of Art Copenhagen, I hadn’t found anyone, an audience let’s say, for pictures or illustrations of heads. This screaming head shown here (for example) I drew during a class on colloids sort of pissed off a chemical engineering professor at MSU, but only because he wasn’t the right audience for my work (and I wasn’t the right audience for his lecture). As an artist, there is no ambiguity about it, just do what you love and feel drawn to. That’s it, that’s what talent is. It is simply the motivation to do things other people aren’t motivated to do. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time playing musical instruments like the violin, saxophone, and trumpet, but I’m not a natural talent with these instruments because I’m not really motivated to play them. It’s fun to blow some air and produce some sounds and play with other people, but it’s not like I feel the energy of the world flowing through my body. In fact, I rather liked being the last chair in the band (four years in a row). I simply had no motivation to do more. I’m also not naturally talented as an engineer. Sure it’s fun to learn about materials science and mechanics and I do it well, but I could have studied anything for 10 years and become reasonably well at doing it (like playing the trumpet).
The Talent Myth
Humans like complicated scenarios, so we write a lot about talent and inspiration because we’d like to waste our time talking and discussing a complicated theory for how they relate to one another instead of creating something. Most people feel that they’re not really talented, and therefore, should simply just exist – without pushing themselves to create things that other people are not interested in. However, this is not the only option. Just do what you love and feel drawn to, that’s really all you need to do. Why? Because you’ll be naturally motivated to do it better than anyone else in the whole fucking world. That is actually a very real and distinct advantage you have over everyone else. This is an advantage you have over nearly everyone else in the entire world. Think about that, it’s not a small thing. If you try to trick yourself into being talented in something that you hate, and follow what other people love (as opposed to what you love), you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. For example, if you’re a head drawing lover, and you start to draw feet because you think people only like feet pictures, then you’re at a distinct disadvantage if you finally meet a head picture lover. They’ll be totally ignorant of your talent for drawing heads because all you’ll have to show them is a crappy collection of sub-par feet illustrations and maybe some photos.
Do What You Love
It was always irrelevant to everyone that I drew random heads. However, they made me happy, something about the perfect aerodynamic form that I like, but when I was staring at a blank canvas in the Diamonds room at Hotel Fox in Copenhagen, I realized that I needed to draw a large head. I didn’t ask why, I just did it. That was the starting point for a piece I now call GonzoArt – I. But think about it, if I had stopped drawing heads because I thought I’d never have an audience for them, then at that precise moment in time I would have been fucked – and might have possibly drawn a large boring foot, and the painting would now suck balls.
Talent can be considered inherent, but it’s not something you can quantify and say, this person has talent, they will be an awesome foot illustrator from their birth until their death. It’s just a desire to practice something with more motivation than the majority of the rest of the people in the world. Cameras, pens, video devices, paints, these are just tools you can use, but they should never be the defining factor in whatever it is you produce and then call art.
You are not talented or special. Now that you know you’re not talented you’re free to just go out and do whatever it is that makes you smile inside.