Where Does *Talent* Come From?

I’ve been thinking about this lately.

7th Grade Report Card
7th Grade Report Card  – Conduct Needs Improvement

My report card from middle school.  A regular “A” student and good kid, but something is wrong in Art class.  I remember being unsatisfied and I don’t remember why.  I can’t recall the teacher’s face.  She was mediocre and made it clear that I was a mediocre art student (B’s were mediocre in my family and the highlighting is mine).   And by the way, I was good at Math but I didn’t like Math. That “A” had very little to do with “Like”.  I liked art, my friends, writing, playing sports and reading.

And this

My old work from 2002 when I was inspired to pick up a paint brush and paint.  I painted from photographs, read books and pushed through countless so-so paintings (I only kept the best of them).  I was heartened knowing that Frida Khalo didn’t start painting until she was 19 when she was suddenly bedridden and immobile after a horrible accident.  I always thought  creative talent was a birthright and to be an artist you needed to express it in youth like the genius Mozart.  (I can’t comprehend that statement now, especially after having kids.) The realization that this wasn’t true inspired me to work, knowing the more I worked the better I would get.

And now, 2015.

I paint well enough that it touches people (not everyone), sometimes to tears, sometimes to buy my originals and printshire me and even to consider tattooing my work on their bodies.

Painting is important to me because painting is an act of love, and one that I’ve committed to making the center of my life.  Love at the center of life – that is powerful.     

It is easy to blame that teacher for stifling my creative expression.  It is easy to blame a culture that creates the fantasy that talent, (especially creative talent), is born, not worked for.  Or I can blame my  “Type A” family that let that “B” slide because it was Art class and therefor not important.

But faults are in the past.  Blame is useless.  Blaming takes no responsibility for the future.    I tell my kids, there is no use telling me whose fault it is, the question really is “How will you move forward learning from the experience?”

It is never too late to start answering that question.  How would you?

If you would like to learn more about Frida Kahlo I recommend reading this book.  Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo – October 1, 2002  by Hayden Herrera

You can also learn more on the Artsy.com Frida page here: https://www.artsy.net/artist/frida-kahlo


  1. Jen says:

    Have you read “Talent Code”? It applies to sports but makes me wonder about art pockets too…. Can’t wait to see you!

  2. Jen! I haven’t read it but “Outliers” is also a good book on a similar topic. 10,000 hours of practice for expertise. Macklemore has a song called 10,000 hours… I should look into it, the trick is really instilling persistence in kids in a society when instant gratification is everywhere.

  3. David Chen says:

    Great work Marika, I had “that” “teacher” too…I usually got A in art until I had “her”…her grading system was rather unconventional to me…for art.

    I took art in college and redeemed myself once more.

    I have been taking up oil painting at Missions Renaissance Fine Art Classes in Orange County…thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi David – great to hear from you. You are the second person (besides me) who remembers her in the same light. Great to hear you are taking to painting again too! Kindred spirit. Marika

  5. There where times when what is today called an “artist” was simply a craftsman, a kind of mechanic. It was more about learning technique than about being a “genious”. Maybe this has to do with the fact, that at that time the catholic church and nobility where mainly the employers or purchasers and themes where dictated by them. To be an “artist” then was also well paid. It could have been an economic decision to become one. I think it has to do with the improvement of photography that a lot of that got lost. Anyway, I like the approach that to be an artist you don´t have to be a genious or crazy, you just have to be good at what you do, so mainly: control your skills.

  6. Hi Ann – thanks for your thoughtful comments – I appreciate it. There are so many forms of emotional manipulation these days, photography is one definitely but even more sophisticated forms exist. Forgive me, but I think that is why the church or politicians commissioned artists – to manipulate people emotionally. Emotional manipulation is very well paid still, as is distribution and marketing of drugs that do the same. Does that make those marketers or business men or doctors or movie makers an artist? I suppose this is the next question and an interesting question. Which, of course, leads to what is art? And there is much to write and written on that subject.

    I personally love your work- it is emotion provoking – and reveals how beautiful people are while revealing how uncomfortable we can feel just looking at a person as a person. It is instructive. I’m looking forward to following you as well. 🙂

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