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Finding Your Talent – by Robert Genn

Finding Your Talent
by Robert Genn

Current research is now telling us that something other than high IQ and putting in lots of time makes for talent. New theories are ventured weekly, it seems, including such ideas as individual physiological differences like having the good luck to own an oversized connector between your left and right hemispheres. Some researchers are concluding there's some sort of unique feature--some sort of "gift."

Meanwhile, Malcolm Gladwell's solution of putting in 10,000 hours is still alive and well.

In one recent study, psychologist K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University asked violin students to estimate the amount of time they had actually practiced since they started playing. The students (all aged 20) whom the faculty identified as the "best" players had accumulated an average of over 10,000 hours, compared to just under 8,000 hours for the "good" players and less than 5,000 hours for the least skilled.

My inquiries into cumulative painting times have met with dubious results. Actual working time of artists who told me they paint "all the time" ranged from people who paint twelve hours a day and keep track of it--to people whose studio door is always open. Recently I noticed a small painting on the easel of an "all the time" painter that she had signed and dated "1978."

As far as I'm concerned, Professor Ericsson's studies could only be confirmed by some sort of gizmo fastened within the violin that only counted the hours when the instrument was vibrating.

I once installed a timer on my studio chair that activated when I sat, only to find just how little I sat. Also, not surprisingly, sitting did not always result in painting. While contemplation-time counts, the "Genn Improved Patent Painting Interval Time-Tester" (GIPPITT) would only tally when the brush completed an electric circuit as it touched the canvas. How to avoid electrocuting the painter has not yet been developed.

Fact is, artists who keep track of time may be whistling "Dixie." Keeping track of both finished and unfinished projects is a better way to measure progress. "Putting Paid to Projects" (PPP) is my new and improved measurement. A worker with 10,000 projects is more likely to be the one with the "talent."

Best regards,


PS: "The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work." (Emile Zola)

Esoterica: Some outside problem, inconvenience, disability or inadequacy may be needed to find the will to craft the work that finds the talent. Edward Bulwer-Lytton thought it to be simply "the will to labour." At some point it generally requires some sort of solitude. "Talent develops in tranquility," said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I think it may have something to do with innate curiosity. I've wondered if some people just aren't curious enough to become talented. Whatever the mysterious thing called talent is, it is there, like Santa, by agreed consent. And however evasive this "gift" may be, most of us would love to have more of it. Perhaps unlocking talent is in itself a talent.

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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