So check this out, you guys:
It’s an anthropomorphic frog. I drew it. It only took me about two hours. I know, right? How did I draw something so awesome in only two hours?
For me, drawing is an excruciating process. Brain-hurty, frustrating, tedious and ultimately disappointing. My artistic talent peaked somewhere in that golden age of youth between eating my first solid foods and pooping in the appropriate receptacle. I figured that was the end of that story… and I was pretty much fine with it. I would focus on other things I enjoyed and was actually decent at — like softball, or having imaginary friends. I always assumed drawing ability lay in the universe of the Talented — in the world of Some People Are Just Born with It.
But the funny thing about talent is that the more you think about it and try to pin it down to a useful definition, the more elusive it becomes. Is it innate ability? Well, starting when… from birth? What do you really know how to do when you’re born? I can probably say I’m a talented breather, but that’s about it. Somehow, somewhere, there was learning, however early and preliminary it might have been. If talent is a heightened ability to learn, well then that’s just an accessory to skill, isn’t it? Or, if talent is basically an amplified version of interest or passion, you can add a drop of ambition, and suddenly you’ve got something you can hold on to.
Of course, this isn’t to say that there’s no such thing as having an advantage — there are people for whom certain things just seem to be easier. And maybe that’s talent. But really, that’s just a slight boost up the massive mountain of learning and work and effort that everyone who wants to be an expert at something must climb. And sometimes talent — and being told that one has it — can be a crutch to actual achievement, and more importantly, to learning. Because if this idea of innate ability is the preferred state of affairs, then learning takes a sad second place, becoming the thing you’re left with when you don’t “have” talent. I believed this for a long time. I was embarrassed if I couldn’t immediately do something well.Â I still am. To be honest, publicly showing this pencil drawing is making me a little nauseous. Thus, it should be no surprise that for a long time, I got very little done.
So here I am. At the base of that intimidating mountain (rendered crappily, no doubt, to match my own abilities). But I want to be able to tell stories in pictures as well as in words, and if I have to draw a thousand crappy frogs before I can move onto the next amphibian (both literal and metaphoric), then so be it.
My next step — also publicly announced here so that I feel obligated to do it — is an ongoing comic strip chronicling my quest to learn how to draw, where the characters in the comic will be portrayed by whatever creature/object I’m learning at the time. First up: frogs. Coming soon to my own neglected blog.