Saturday, March 28, 2009

Learned Talent Vs. Natural Talent

They say Michael Jackson had it as a child, which is why he became such a major star. Shakespeare supposedley had it back in his day because there wasn't anyone else like him before. Biggie Smalls, the notorious hip hop mega-star apparantly was born with it as well; its arguable that his rhymes were filled with lyrical skill rarely heard before.

What is it, then, you ask? It is natural talent-- the ability to create within the artistic realm in an innovative manner that is neither learned nor honed in any large way prior to demonstration.

Some believe that most artistic people are born with an artistic ability that is neither learned nor duplicated. However, if that is so, what role does learning play in building artistic skills and at what point do you recognize whether you got it or don't got it?

Talent as Intuition

According to blogger Nick Pagan, natural talent is largely intuitive, which means that you don’t have an understanding of what causes the effects that you create. As you seek to do bigger,or better, things, he writes, there comes a point when your natural ability proves insufficient.

Perhaps this is why dance phenom Michael Jackson relies on choreographers like Vincent Paterson to build his dance performances through teaching him technique, timing and routine. This may be the reason while many rap artists who consider themselves true hip-hop heads study the greats before them and are able to speak to the history of the craft. Maybe this is why every great actor can speak of movies or plays that inspired them because they studied them in critical detail and repeatedly watched them for tips and cues.

Ultimately, it can be surmised that talent alone is not an indicator of ultimate success and growth or in the field of the given talent.

Honing Your Craft= Hard Work
As I conclude my last day of my four-week course at a local photography school, I can only hope to build my skill as I learn techniques in composition, lighting and aperture. Before-- a point and shoot queen-- I garnered attention for my photography but wasn't able to speak to the "why" behind it. Now I'm on the path of making my artistic creations more intentional.

Consider these notable creative folk when you make the decision to take a class, seek a mentor, attend a workshop or go back to school to study in your artistic field of interest:

  • Angela Bassett, actress, received an MFA in acting from Yale University
  • Impressionist Painter Allan Freelon won a full scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) and later earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a masters of fine arts from Temple's Tyler School of Art.
  • After years of performing as a teen mother and learning things by trial and error, noted author & performer Maya Angelou studied under famous mentors and joined alliances with noted writers as a member of the Harlem Writers Guild where she was mentored by James Baldwin
  • With innate musical and dance ability, soul legend James Brown's early recordings were heavily influenced by the work of contemporary musicians such as Ray Charles and Little Richard. Little Richard's relations with Brown were particularly significant in Brown's development as a musician and showman. Brown once called Richard his idol, and credited Richard's saxophone-studded mid-1950s road band, The Upsetters, with being the first to put the funk in the rock and roll beat.
  • Writer Terry McMillan received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and attended the MFA Film Program at Columbia University
  • Actor Denzel Washington earned a B.A. in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University in 1977.
  • In 2003, Samuel Jackson spoke out against rappers turned actors, saying that as a classically trained thespian it was not his job to lend credibility to by appearing in movies with them. Jackson earned a BA in Drama from Morehouse College in 1972.

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