Thursday, July 12, 2018

My artistic evolution and debunking the word "talent"

My goal with this document is to share with you my path to becoming a professional artist and teacher, and the evolution of my visual language skill as it evolves from having “no promise” to being a skill that shows purpose and produces pleasing visual content. I believe that, by the end of this guide, you will see the word “ART” much differently than you currently do. I wish to convince you that drawing, painting, sculpting and such, are not talent-based skills nor are they art in and of themselves. I wish to convince you that drawing and painting are language skills that are masterable by anyone. Then, I hope to convince you that any language can be used for artistic expression, OR... to merely communicate, depending on the goals of the communicator. I define art as the ability to communicate profound, meaningful, and purposeful content that other humans can identify with and relate to, OR to communicate complex ideas that help spark thought in the consumer's mind by way of reading, hearing, tasting, or seeing what you have created. Enjoy!

There are four sections to this post. First, the bad works. After a year and a half of artistic training, I was showing little growth. Second, the works I started to produce after a high-quality mentorship with Feng Zhu, a professional artist who worked on Star Wars EP II and III. Third, works that I have produced between five and fifteen years after my mentorship with Feng Zhu. Fourth and final section, I share a few samples of my students’ works for further inspiration. My goal in sharing my artistic background and my visual language skill growth is to reveal the lies society teaches about “art” and “talent.” You do not have to have “talent” to draw and paint like a master. Having a natural disposition to any given thing or subject is helpful, of course, but not demanded. Also, and almost as important, I propose that the visual arts do not have exclusive rights to the word “art.” I hope this document inspires you to pursue drawing and painting (and/or any other skill and instrument you wish to master, such as a guitar, clay, or edible ingredients) to their highest degree.


These works were created after I had a year of art college under my belt. 

Note: After applying to the bachelor of art program at the Art Institute in Los Angeles, in 2002, the principle of the school denied my admission because she said my work showed no promise. After a conversation with her, I was told that I should seek another field of study because of how bad my basic drawing skills were. I had been working as a graphic designer from 1999 to 2002 when I applied. I had grown as a designer, with a decent portfolio, but design was not my artistic passion. Although she liked my graphic design works, I was applying for a more traditional program yet my drawing skills were non-existent. Regardless of her discouraging words, I took that as a challenge. I wanted to learn. I set up an in-person meeting with her and eventually, she reluctantly accepted my application for admission. Then, once again, at my one-year evaluation, she was very disappointed in my lack of progress. I convinced her it will click and that I was working hard. She accepted reluctantly. She was worried that I was investing a great deal of money into something that would never amount to anything. I continued. I am glad that I was unaware of just how bad my work was and just how low-skill the instructors were at the time. My ignorance kept me moving forward. They were a new school teaching a new skill, so this was bound to be expected. 

This leads me to the next section where I decided to take matters into my own hands and follow through with my desire to build a foundation of skill somewhere else. The above images were scanned just before taking this class described in the next section.


Works I developed after an eight-week course with Feng Zhu and Hong Ly, four weeks with each.

I continued with the Art Institute at my normal pace, not really growing as a drawer/painter but enjoying the classroom environment. I guess I was unaware of just how little artistic foundations were taught at AI during my time there... that is, until Feng Zhu pulls out a few important foundational tricks, during our sessions, that really helped me jump to new heights in skill. I knew now that AI was not teaching me the skill that I was paying to be taught. I continued at the school to complete the program while doing what I could to educate myself in the visual language from outside sources.

The following images represent the skill I gained from just four, four-hour sessions with Feng Zhu. We watched as he would create these stunning images using just a few simple yet powerful fundamental drawing skills and only three drawing utensils: a mini T-square, a 10% Copic marker, and a .003 Hi-tec C pen. He would draw and talk about the who, what, when, where, how, and why's of what he was doing as he was doing it. I latched on to his every word and begin following the steps. FINALLY something tangible. His images were so inspiring and his approach so simple, there was no reason for me to feel like I was inferior... I was merely not as experienced as he was at the time. A few applicable, non-threatening steps to produce solid works that I could be proud of and where I could finally see visible skill growth. I now had something to work from.


Okay, now that we have been able to work out our skill, this section represents the addition of experience in skill, subject matter, and self-expression. Just because someone can draw a pretty picture does not make them an artist or designer. I see plenty of beautiful images that are produced in production that have no meaning. This section attempts to show that there is a lifetime of work past learning the language in order to communicate ideas that impact viewers on a level that is far deeper than the surface. Every image in this section has some sort of purpose and represent a deeper style of communication that we call “art” or purposeful design, which I am constantly trying to achieve. I consider very few to be masters of true "Artistic" communication: J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings masterpiece that explores the complexities of the human condition, or poetry from William Shakespeare who profoundly tackles the idea of how tragic romantic love can be, or the tears of joy brought about by one of Gordon Ramsey’s meals, or the excitement of a crowd watching Jimmy Page play stairway to heaven, live... these are a few masters of artistic communication. I hope to be in this echelon of artistry some day. It is a lifelong endeavor but one I am compelled to prusue!

Some of the images in this section are studies from life used to build more experience with a multitude of new subject matter, others are for communicating an idea for a communal project, while others I used to explore profound recesses within my soul in order to heal from past hurts. Either way, please enjoy and stick around for my students' samples and closing thoughts. 


Be inspired by these images. Most of these students were like me when they began my perspective or design classes. This is the results of their purposeful efforts to learn the tangible structure of wielding the visual language and applying it to communicate an idea.

In closing:

"Art" is not exclusive to drawing, painting, or any of the other visual arts. It does not take "talent" to learn a language. You never hear a parent tell their child, he/she doesn't need to learn to talk or write because it is too hard and only those who are "talented" enough can properly use words to communicate! No, no you do not! That is an absurd notion, right? So, why is it then that a child already has a natural sense of creating pictures but becomes discouraged from using this skill as they grow because they do not meet a specific threshold of quality? Do we say, little Jeffrey is having trouble with dyslexia (seeing letters, words, and numbers out of order) so he might as well give up? No, we get little Jeffrey help to get him past this particular issue so that he may have an easier time communicating in the future. Drawing and painting are the same. If you are deficient in an area, get help to find a solution to the problem and increase the skill over time. Work hard, find good people in your life that are willing to encourage and help you overcome your deficiencies with the language. It is worth it! Do not let anyone tell you that you are incapable of learning to draw and paint well based on some arbitrary metric. That is just not true. It will take hard work and perseverance, but you are more than capable!

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My artistic evolution and debunking the word "talent"

My goal with this document is to share with you my path to becoming a professional artist and teacher, and the evolution of my visual la...