As a college freshman studying art, I had to first learn the theory of art before I was allowed to paint. I studied the rules of color and composition, learned to understand good design and spatial concepts. So much of what I learned was about control with little flexibility. Most of the students’ art had a similar look, which mimicked what was being shown in the galleries of New York. The students who excelled in class were those able to perform what was asked of them without difficulty. I wasn’t one of them.
As a young student aspiring to be an artist, I struggled with art history and all the academic subjects behind making art. I didn’t learn to appreciate any of it until later when I started to achieve on my own. I was told at the time that one percent of one percent of art students ever made it big. So why did so many of us still want to pursue art careers? It certainly wasn’t for the money.
You don’t go into art thinking you’re not talented. Something has to drive the need to work long hours in isolation with little recognition. For me it’s not just the inherent need to make art, but the innate knowledge I have the talent to do it. I see now how my earlier training is actually the engine that allows my work to find its voice. It’s the skills I’ve learned and continue to learn that moves my work forward.
So the way I see it, it isn’t enough to just have a natural ability or aptitude to create, I also have to be vigilant about developing new skills. I need to remain curious about new ideas. It’s the combination of talent and skill that distinguishes my work from what’s already out there.