“The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire and persistence.” Milton Glaser

Talent in a nutshell? I believe it to be a slippery bugger; talent is not to be contained in a shell of any kind. Can anyone say with certainty what talent is, where it comes from or how it is harnessed? A quick perusal of thoughts and quotes by some talented artists shows a surprising (to me) lack of trust, even belief, in ‘talent’. I think talent is a species of intelligence, as is genius, an actual trait/characteristic of brain activity. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s brain works in a certain way, enabling him to write The Great Gatsby while I must be content with such as this post. YAWN …, that’s a pedantic statement saying nothing about the relationship of talent to art. But a reductionist explanation may be the best I can muster on my own.

I wonder why so many talented people disparage the idea that talent is an actual characteristic, a real player in the success or failure of an artist. The consensus seems to be that hard work is THE key to unlocking art, with heavy doses of discipline and luck. It is as if hard work is required to legitimize the art. Like pain in my previous post, art requires hard work and discipline to be worthy of the title. True? Or is this adding to the myth that art is a herculean achievement? Perhaps it is. There is no denying the role of hard work, discipline, will, desire and persistence. But why remove talent from the equation? Many people are capable of hard work, suffering,… but what sets the artist apart from this crowd? Talent, an ability to create/discover connections the rest of us simply cannot see.

“…I paint German artists whom I admire. I paint their pictures, their work as painters, and their portraits too. But oddly enough, each of these portraits ends up as a picture of a woman with blonde hair. I myself have never been able to workout why this happens.” Georg Baselitz

Is this the best ever description of inspiration or what? Brilliant. Inspiration, is it a real phenomenon or another by-product of work and discipline? The thoughts and quotes I found generally treat inspiration with the same wariness as talent. Once again the consensus seems to be that it is not a real thing in itself , but a name we give to the ability to pay attention and show up for work. I believe work/art is what an artist, or anyone, does with an inspiration. Whether the inspiration comes from outside or inside is immaterial, for me. What matters is something stimulates a thought process – words, pictures, faces, emotions, a landscape… whatever it is, there is a catalyst and a reaction. Something very real is happening when an inspiration occurs. Anyway that is how it seems to me.

Talent and inspiration, are they mysterious forces at work in the soul of an artist, labels we apply to the products of hard work and discipline, brain states that happen for some of us sometimes under the right kind of stimulus? Except for the soul part I say yes to all the above. There is as much mystery in talent and inspiration as there is in genius, beauty, truth, etc. What is not mysterious is they come to little or nothing without the will and discipline to work at one’s craft. In the end I believe it does come down to what our brains do, for what ever reason, to make connections in the chaos of it all.

That’s all I have for now