The Untalented Artist

On the shop web page there is a reference to myself not being very talented as an artist that is followed by a link to a separate page just labeled “The Story”. Some people have found it and some have not. Below it is reposted with some minor modifications.


“I have been drawing on everything that I could get my hands on since I was bitty. Since my Mother appreciated quiet activities, this behavior was encouraged. A nice little hobby. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even very good at it.”

Now enough people have asked me about this statement that I felt it needed further clarification. So if you are interested, here is “The Story”

When I was little (really little) my mom used to read me stories (I think this is a pretty common childhood thing) the difference is that my mom often selected Greek mythology for our story time. Because of this unusual choice there weren’t pictures on every page like their were in most kids books. As a result, I was especially interested when we got to a page with a picture on it. It had to be looked at and studied before we could move on. Right at that point in my life I decided that I wanted to be one of those people who makes the pictures (found out later that they were called “Illustrators” – it became a magical word to me). Whenever anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up – I told them proudly “an artist!” They told me that was great. I drew my little pictures and mom oohed and aahed over them, stuck them on the fridge or passed them along to the Grandparents. I was content with my vision of my future.
Some time passed and I found out that I wasn’t as good as some of the other kids at drawing. This concerned me some. Doubt and fear began to creep into the dream. (What if I am not good enough?) Then one day a boy in my class (I have come to call him Tony, but at this point so much time has passed that I might have made his name up somewhere along the line) was drawing pictures. We were all gathered around him amazed. For fourth grade (or whatever it was) he was amazing! Everyone was telling him how good he was at it and how great he was. He told us emphatically that drawing was stupid and it was just something that he did sometimes – no big deal. (As an adult I have a whole different perspective on this response… but at the time…) I was devastated! How could he say those things? How could he have been given such an amazing gift and say it was stupid? How could he be that talented and not even care?!?
I was really worked up.
So worked up that when my mom got home from work that night I was still really upset.
I relayed the entire story to her expecting her to tell me that Tony was an idiot and a stupid boy – something to make me feel better at the time. Instead my mom gave me some of the best advice of my life.
She told me that Tony had obviously been born much more talented than me at art….<what?> but that it didn’t matter. <now I knew that she had really not been listening>
She told me that if Tony didn’t care – he wouldn’t practice and he wouldn’t progress. He would always draw just like he did in the fourth grade. <but, but … he draws GREAT!!!!! I continued to insist…>
But, (and here is where it got helpful) I could get to be way better than Tony. If I was passionate about what I did, continued to work as hard at it as I possibly could and practiced every single day – I would get to be light years better than Tony.
She gave me hope. She gave me a way to hang on to my dream.
Since then I have also learned that it is important to always remain teachable as well. (Well, OK, there are a lot of other things I have learned since fourth grade)
But most importantly she taught me that hard work can accomplish the impossible and that I have to believe in myself no matter what.

I continue to tell this story to people when they tell me how talented and blessed I am because I want people to know that they can accomplish their dreams as well,
even if they aren’t as good as Tony.


An artist that I greatly admire recently told me that “The difference between mediocrity and excellence is the attention to detail”. He talked a great deal about his lack of ‘talent’ as well. I think that in some ways those people who were born with an advantage or a talent are sometimes at a disadvantage in the long run. I have met so many talented artist that remind me of Tony. They don’t work hard at it. They do everything they can at the last possible second. They don’t push themselves because they don’t have to. The rest of us normal folks simply have to work harder at it if we want to keep up…. and in trying to do so wind up excelling.

So if what I do looks easy to you, then I am doing a good job and I am flattered. I don’t expect clients to understand the hours and hours of prep and the lack of sleep trying to fine tune their tattoo.

All that matters is that they wind  up with a piece of art that they can love for a lifetime.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. It takes away some of the magic.

~ by justteejay on November 19, 2009.

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