Undeveloped (?) Talent

(Cross-posted from a Trail Baboon contribution of mine)

Van Gogh's Starry Night -(public domain)
Van Gogh’s Starry Night (from the public domain)

My wife and I spent a pleasant week in North Carolina with her sisters and respective families to celebrate Thanksgiving. Our hosts kept us busy with activities such as the Greensboro Gobbler fun run/walk/crawl, disc golf in a lovely nearby park, and a wine-and-cheese-and-art afternoon where we all (15 of us including one nephew’s girlfriend and her family) gathered at a local studio and participated in a group painting class.

Some of you may be familiar with this activity in your local area. Each class member starts with a blank canvas and essentially copies what the teacher is doing to recreate the example painting on display while we watch her technique and follow along. Sort of like painting-by-numbers without either the numbers or the precision.

Each student is free to deviate from trying to copy exactly both the example piece and the teacher’s new rendition. In the end, we all end up with more or less the same painting, but with subtle or not-so-subtle differences based on our personal artistic expression.

I consider myself an artistic person, having performed music at a semi-pro level and taught instrumental music for 6 years. I also fancy myself to be a respectable photographer to the point I’ve enlarged several photos, framed them, and hung them on my walls.Not that they’re good enough that anyone would consider buying, but they please me, so there.

Nevertheless, the visual arts–especially painting but also including sculpture, mobiles, pottery, weaving, collages, metalworking, tree stump chainsaw art, and everything else in between–are not in my bailiwick.The last time I attempted any sort of painting beside the interiors and exteriors of buildings was in 7th grade, almost 50 years ago. It was not anything even a doting mother would proudly display to the in-laws.

Imagine my surprise when, after about two hours of relatively intense concentration, plus a few glasses of wine and some gourmet cheeses and crackers, I produced this, um, specimen:


S-i-L who chose the piece the group would copy made an attractive choice. Not too detailed, lots of colors, relatively easy focal points (leafless, branchless-for-the-most-part trees) and an easy medium to handle–acrylic paint.

The process was easier than I thought, although I’m sure it was dumbed down for we airheaded adults. Ten-year-olds would have been handling their own versions of the Mona Lisa, no doubt.

When we had all finished, we gathered as many paintings as we could at the house and stacked them as sort of a collage/homage to untalented people letting out a bit of talent they perhaps didn’t know they possessed. Here’s what the majority of the group produced:


The third painting up from the bottom center column paid tribute to Van Gogh’s Starry Night. My wife’s painting (lower left corner) added a lake. One nephew is color blind, so his rainbow looks markedly different than the others. Some painted more trees or larger trees. Different artists favored different colors–some had lots of blue, others more red, orange, and yellow. It was fun seeing all the differences and gaining a small appreciation for each individual’s artistic sensibility.

My question to you: Tell me about a talent you realized you may have had for a very long time but for whatever reason never used that talent because you either thought you weren’t very good, had no interest, or never had the time to nurture.

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