How many times have you heard someone say: “I’m not creative” or declare “My child doesn’t have artistic talent” ? This poses the question, is it really a matter of being born with innate talent or is it a matter of developing it? Some Kids Are Naturally Drawn to Creating Art. It’s true that some kids are just excited about creating art. A few of them may be been able to pick up a pencil and draw something magnificent right away, but that’s very rare. It’s more likely that because they love art, they spend many, many hours practicing. Kids who don’t love art are less likely to spend a lot of time working on it, unless they’re encouraged. Are some kids indeed born with more natural talent? Again, yes–a few–but it’s more about what they enjoy doing, what they’re exposed to while they’re young, and if they’re willing to put in the work. If your kids aren’t naturally crazy about art, they can still become good artists. They probably just need some help finding materials they enjoy and doing projects that spark their interests. They may have a preconceived notion about what art is. They may think that all art is drawing and painting, but what about clay, paper mache´, or mono prints? If your child doesn’t like to do art, check out our blog post on ways to make art fun for reluctant artists. Kids who are perfectionists often don’t love art because they get frustrated when they aren’t able to immediately create something that looks like they think it should. Luckily, there are ways to help them with that. Check out our blog post on Art, Perfectionism, and Your Child. The Pros and Cons of Realistic Drawing If you were thinking, “My child doesn’t have artistic talent,” it’s probably because he/she can’t draw things realistically. Learning to draw and paint realistically is great for kids and their brains. I remember being told by a college professor: “Anyone can be pretty good at drawing because it’s an actual learned skill. We may not all be Michelangelo, but that’s ok!” While it may take more practice and instruction for some of us than for others, I definitely agree. There are two main components to realistic drawing: Learning to accurately see what they are trying to draw The mechanical techniques of drawing One of the problems kids and adults alike run into when trying to draw something realistic, is that they’re trying to draw what they think the image should look like; instead of really seeing it and breaking it down into basic shapes! If you’re trying to draw something from a photograph, one fun technique that helps trick our brains into seeing objects as shapes, is to turn the photo upside down and draw it that way. Encouraging kids to be observers of the world around them and to really see what they are trying to draw is something that will benefit them for their entire lives – regardless of what their drawings actually look like. So whether they want to master the skills or just dabble, it’s a win-win for their brains. For more information and ideas about this, read our blog post, Drawing Brings Out the Best In Your Brain. That being said, being able to draw realistically isn’t the only thing that matters. Yes, this goes against everything we hear. But lots and lots of amazing artists don’t create realistic drawings or paintings. There are so many different ways to be creative and artistic, and the world needs all of them! We do our kids a disservice if we focus only on realistic drawing. Creativity and creative problem-solving skills will help them immensely throughout their lives. The Power of Hard Work I’m not personally a fan of rap music except for our hometown Seattle rapper, Macklemore, who tends to have positive messages in his music. In his song, Ten Thousand Hours, he sings about great artists, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great because they’d paint a lot.” If you interviewed several professional artists they would likely tell you that they create beautiful art because they’ve put the hours in to hone their skills and overcome obstacles. Most artists believe that they have to paint a lot of bad paintings (or bad sculptures, etc) in order to get to the good ones. One of my artist friends recently exhibited his work at an art fair. Some people came into his tent, looked at a painting, and asked how long it took him to paint it. They were clearly looking at the price of the painting, trying to calculate how that would break down as an hourly wage. What he told them was, “That one took me 30 hours and a lifetime to paint.” If he hadn’t spent hours and hours painting and honing his skills for the last 25 years, he wouldn’t have been able to paint that particular painting. According to a University of Sheffield article, Talents that selectively facilitate the acquisition of high levels of skill are said to be present in some children but not others. […] An analysis of positive and negative evidence and arguments suggests that differences in early experiences, preferences, opportunities, habits, training, and practice are the real determinants of excellence. We need to stop thinking “My child doesn’t have artistic talent,” focusing instead on fostering a growth mindset. Talk to them about putting in the work necessary to get good at something. Instead of saying “I’m not a good artist,” encourage them to say “I’m not a good artist yet AND I have a lot of fun creating art!” Research shows that kids who enjoy something and/or have strong parental encouragement will work at it harder in order to improve. For most kids, it boils down to three things: interest, willingness to make mistakes & learn from them, and practice. That being said, don’t discount the immense benefits kids get from the process of creating art, regardless of what the end product looks like – talent or not.