Unique talent

We’re all amateurs. Life’s too short to be anything else.

Unique talent

When Hokusai, the famous Japanese artist, was eighty years old, he lamented that he was just beginning to learn his craft. Many artists who came after him were well aware that talent is limited by definition, and that the ideal will never be attained.

In the relatively short time available to us we have to find our strengths and develop them as best we can, so don’t try to equal the talent of someone you admire, but make the most of your own. You’ll have your hands full just doing that.

Every artist, no matter how gifted, only has limited talent with which to cover a small segment of his or her métier, but when a hefty dose of effort accompanies that talent, success is assured.

An example to illustrate the point. William Turner, the famous English painter, greatly admired the work of a now long forgotten artist, Philip James Loutherbourg. Turner carefully imitated Loutherbourg’s paintings. Then he wondered why he admired these works so much. He selected elements such as color, composition, and visual language, but it turned out to be the way Loutherbourg rendered light that most appealed to Turner. By highlighting a subordinate aspect of another artist’s work and dedicating himself to mastering that aspect, Turner became a great innovator.

Since everyone has a limited, but unique, talent, you should first determine which painters you admire most, and which aspect of their work it is that appeals to you.

Please disregard the figurative elements in this: that lovely sky, those imposing shadows. They have nothing to do with art. That’s the outside, the skin of art. Peel it off and what’s left, the residue, that is Art.

The figurative representation so admired by the masses is the work of ‘picturemakers’, and thus not very creative.

In the future, pay a little more attention to the abstract, stylized, and decorative elements, which can elevate your artistic tricks and techniques to the level of Art. In essence, all good visual art is abstract. As abstract as music.

From tomorrow on, look at art the way you listen to music.

Kees van Aalst

One thought on “Unique talent

  1. Thanks so much for this great set of lessons – really helpful and sound advice that I shall return to often to remind me of what I should be doing when I’ve all too often strayed from the path!

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