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» AnimationNation   » General Discussion   » Talent Versus Perseverance

Author Topic: Talent Versus Perseverance
Don Bluth Productions
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I wonder if we shouldn’t speak briefly about the endowment of “talent." Certainly there are those to whom the flare for graphic design and visual rhythm has been gifted. Drawing flows from the fingers of such prodigies as freely as a stream tumbles over the mossy pebbles in its path. I’m thinking of someone like Picasso, who from his early childhood, drew incessantly with increasing skill. He possessed a prodigiousness that seemed to be his way of talking.

Oh, yes, and did I mention that Milt Kahl’s favorite artist was indeed Pablo Picasso; he studied Picasso daily. There is even a scene in The Rescuers showing Snoops arguing with Medusa. If you look closely you can see Picasso’s influence in the drawing. “And the tide was coming in,” says Mr. Snoops, gesturing with both hands. “Snoops,” purrs Medusa, “you are much too soft.”
I’m sure you remember the scene. I recall Frank Thomas’ displeasure upon seeing it. “You’ve gone too far Milt,” he remarked. I remember this vividly because we were all standing at the urinals when he said it!

But, let’s get back to the question of talent. There are many young people that love the art of animation, and would love to make it their career. But how can they keep up with the gifted artists? Can perseverance really overcome the lack of talent or is “talent” just a synonym for hard work? It has been said that you can’t teach a pig to sing. Some say that it can’t be done and it annoys the pig. In my opinion, I certainly believe you can train someone to be a good animator; I know this from my own experience. Sadly, many talented people fall by the wayside. The key to success is perseverance!


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I agree. I hate when people (and it's usually friends and family) say, "you're either born with talent or you're not". I think it's totally a myth. I read somewhere (it might have been Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Artist Within) where it is mentioned that drawing is just like any other subject in is learned like math, reading, writing, etc. Sure, some people learn to read faster, easier, earlier or better than others, but it is definitely something that can be learned.

When somebody tells me that it's easy for me because I was born with talent, it's almost an insult because I know how hard I've had to work...and continue to work to even get to the stage where I can draw the doodles that I'm producing at this stage in my life.

My belief is further strengthened by personal experience. I remember this one artist when I was going to school. He was WAYYY ahead of everyone...on a completely other level. We all thought this guy was the best thing since...Picasso? [Wink] Anyway my point is that that was my impression of him when I was just starting college and my own drawings were still very crude (much more crude than they are now [Wink] ). I saw the same artist's work years later and I was disappointed...and even more disappointed that I was disappointed. I wasn't impressed, which bothered me. Why was I not impressed?! "I used to LOVE this guy's work". I'll tell you why. The artist had not grown. Where I once thought his work was amazing and thought for sure that this guy would make waves in the animation industry, he all of a sudden seemed a bit stale. I guess a lot has to do with my own personal perception of art throughout the years as well, but none-the-less I stay firm in my opinion that having "natural talent" is not enough. You have to want to grow and nurture your "talent". It is so important for us artists to continue to learn and to continue to challenge ourselves. It's the only way to get better.

-Jose S.


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I was taught that art is method not magic. The magic comes from learning the method and expressing
it in your unique way. Much like "you got to know the rules to be able to break them". Art has a series of fundamentals and your "style" comes from how you express those fundamentals. Like jazz fusion, they learn the basics of Jazz and they break the rules.

I totally agree perseverance is the key ingredient...and having a plan. One can persevere
and still not go anywhere without a plan.

Find what you love, make a plan and persevere!


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Anson J
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I am not a believer in completely inborn artistic talent, but I think it may be an oversimplification to suggest that the remedy to a lack of artistic skill is simply perseverance and training. A lot of the skillset and concepts required to able to draw well, are difficult to pinpoint, much less verbalize and teach. In the end, the artist is alone in much of his learning, and often can only get certain necessary insights through a confluence of experiences, many of which often come together in a random way.

Using myself in a crude example, I didn't realize until I was well into my twenties that my childhood habit of bearing down relatively hard on the pencil not only affected the quality of my drawings, but also hindered my ability to learn to draw better. Forcing myself to draw lighter had a strong impact on improving my work, but I'm 45 now, have been working as an artist for nearly 20 years and I still have to fight myself to use a lighter touch with my pencil. A lot of it is how the brain is wired and how behaviors are formed at a young age. Like I said, a crude example, but there are many little things like this that play a part in a person's artistic development.

As for perseverance, I know professional artists well into their 50's who have worked and studied extremely hard throughout their lives whose work doesn't even begin to match the skill of some young art students I know.

So I believe person can indeed be trained to be a better artist. Becoming a good artist (or at least good enough do well professionally) is a different matter altogether.

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Mr. Fun
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I’m one who believes that some people are indeed gifted. That is, they’re born with exceptional talent.

I’ve been drawing all my life, but there are younger people who can draw circles around me. I’m okay with that. They’re simply blessed with natural talent.

I was lucky enough to learn this lesson many years ago when my brothers and I played in a band. I had to work really, really hard, but never once did I approach the natural musical talent my brothers had.

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When I was in art school, my painting teacher gave out flyers to all his students, it said:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not-
Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.

Genius will not-
Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education alone will not-
The world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!

I still have that flyer.


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Sergio Pablos
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Great topic.

I believe that a certain inclination, a small measure of talent is needed to begin with. I've certainly met artists who failed in the long run, despite their rock-solid determinaton and perseverance. Mainly, I think they simply lacked the ability to absorb and retain the necessary skills, so they found themselves hitting the same wall repeatedly.

However, these are the extreme cases. In most cases, someone who has decided to become an artist usually has the necessary skills to build upon. From that point on, I agree with you that perseverance (preferably fueled by passion) is the key.

It's a hearbreaking thing to have to tell someone they simply don't have what it takes. I've only had to do it a couple of times in my career, and I hated myself for it, but I honestly believed it was for their own good. It's specially hard when you've seen the person put their best effort into it.

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Greg B
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Our present day science doesn't fully explain the abilities we have.

Some people display phenomenal abilities as young as age 4. We've probably all seen such prodigies on tv specials and documentaries.

People can't believe I do all the things I can do, I studied hard and practiced. I write, draw, paint, act, do all sorts of things well and I'm not alone. I like to take time and read the biographies of famous folks and find to my surprise they are multi talented and some experts in their fields but may only gain noted recognition for one. Many actors are fine artists in painting, sculpture, music. Some outstanding musicians also hold talents in many areas.

Harrison Ford comes to mind. One of the biggest box office stars in history and is a master carpenter. Humphrey Bogart the biggest legend in film was also a master at chess and a top notch mariner all his life. I recently found out that actor Buck Taylor who played "Newly" on the legendary "Gunsmoke" series is a celebrated watercolor painter. It just don't end.

To me the true talent is in the perseverance and imagination of an individual. Sure there are people who can paint and draw and compose music but how many can reproduce from their own wild imagination and that of others?

Not wanting to go into the metaphysical too much but the skills you learn you may well carry on to another lifetime hence the dawning of those young prodigies.

The joy of creating things is what propels and each one of us has different motiviations but the joy part is the most rewarding. Nurturing others to expand their creative pursuits is also a talent in itself and lifts a society upwards and that's why teaching is without a doubt the most important gift to share.


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Perseverance counts for much. However, I do believe that some are more "gifted" than others in terms of their ability to visualize and allowing their thoughts to manifest in various physical forms we call the arts. I can honestly say that some people are born with not only artistic potential but also the necessary skills to be autodidacts. That does not mean that hard work can not carry people for a distance. Perseverance is in many cases the driving force behind innate artistic creativity that allows an artist to meet its potential. However, perseverance is not a substitute for born talent.

I know many don't like or believe in the notion of natural born talents, but to deny the notion is not of great service. Natural talent is not a magical concept, it merely reflective of the complexities of the human brain. One can not, in good faith, believe that mere perseverance was Michelangelo's tool as he painted the Sistine chapel. Or that how Picasso saw the world as reflected in his cubist works was really the product of diligence.

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This is such a good topic.

I am in awe of certain artists in this industry, even some who are only students. But for me, wondering if someone is born with superb art or drawing skill is like wondering if God exists. It is hard to imagine that a baby could be bestowed with such gift, but then you have Mozart, Picasso, etc.; those who are just unbelievably gifted.

I think for the most part, drawing/artistic talent goes hand-in-hand with practice. I've never met a great drawer (or artist) who wasn't drawing incessantly. Art has been "my thing" since I was very young, 4 or 5. But I can honestly say that although I drew a lot, I did not draw as much as I breathed, which I'm sure has hindered my skill potential, overall.

So, I think that frequent practice along with natural talent allows one to draw or paint well (almost) as naturally as they breathe.

Kind of tangent-y, but that's my input.


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i think that talent will only get you so far. talent will maybe get you in the door. i can only speak from my own personal experience. i don't consider myself an overly talented person, but i feel like my greatest strength is my work ethic. there's the ability to see your own mistakes and correct them, which i don't feel can be contributed to raw "talent", that i think most successful artists and animators have.


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I dunno.. when I was in middle school I still remember sitting down to do our first perspective drawing, it was wierd...I somehow knew what I was doing. Its like I just knew how to draw in perspective- I still remember doing that drawing... everybody was drawing boxes and I instead drew a city street with signs and cars and construction cranes.. I was actually kind of embarrassed.. some kids were really angry about it- Hey, quit showing off.. Hey where did you learn that? Why you going ahead like that? I couldn't explain it....I have no idea.. drawing in perspective just seemed obvious.

On the other hand, I was taking spanish in college and it was the damndest hardest class in the world to me.. I just cant remember words. Everybody says spanish is an easy language to learn. Well not for me. My brain is simply not wired for it.

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Very interesting conversation... Yeah, just like asking if "God" exists you can ask, what is talent? And then why not take it further and ask what is anything? What is a tree? What is this place? What am I? Our language is a very nicely crafted communication method and that's about it. The real truth behind everything we experience is still unknown to us. Maybe I am getting off topic, or am I?

I've had experiences where I'd say my talent is what carried me through to the end when I had no idea what to do next, but if I didn't persevere in the situation, maybe my talent would've not had a chance to help me out. There seems to not be one way or one process of how things work or come together. Maybe a big part of it is instinct, but where does instinct come from?

I've been playing piano as far back as I can remember. One time many years ago when I was a kid in the middle of practicing Bach, I hit a wrong key, but that mistake was one of the best things that ever happened to me because out of that frustration I started playing some kind of exaggerated version of that Bach piece which then turned into an improvisation. I had never studied music theory or composition at that time except for the music I was reading every day but something strange happened and I suddenly found myself going off for over an hour creating all original, some abstract, some very structured, but all over the place, improvisation. After that I began to experience a whole new world that opened up to me. But what was it? Was it a talent I discovered after years of discipline? Maybe I was more open to it or my attitude was ready for it.

To make this a little more interesting... there were times when I tried to draw, but I kept giving up because everything I tried was horrible. The only thing I found that I could do was mix geometric shapes together into interesting objects, sometimes into abstract faces. It was fun for a little while but eventually I stopped because it went nowhere. Then years and years later, very recently as I started working with Snakebite and Charles on the new Animation Nation and slowly becoming a part of AN, I suddenly had a strange new desire to draw again. I think I was getting inspired by them and other people in the mix. I thought it was a stupid idea to try to draw again... but I did it anyway. I was so surprised at what I did that it felt like it wasn't me. I did one drawing that seemed to be very good, but I thought it was a fluke or something. I started another drawing to prove it to myself and the next one seemed to be even better. After all these years, something clicked and I could draw. I wouldn't say they are great or works of art but why was I suddenly able to do it?

Maybe I will have to put my drawings up in the gallery now to ease any curiosity. I can say anything here about all this but seeing is believing. I was thinking to do that anyway.

Anyway, to me it seems that you can't reach pure "talent" without perseverance, openness and the right attitude. No matter how talented you naturally are your talent may not evolve and become your whole life unless you work very hard at it.


I posted the drawings I talked about:;f=3;t=002383


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Dennis Woodyard
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JDC, I'm staring a that quote tape to the wall in my office as I write this. It is a quote from Calvin Coolidge,our 30th President (1923-1929). My copy is newspaper clip I saved from N.Y. Daily News from the 70's or 80's. I still have it remind me to keep at it. My progress may slow to a crawl at times, but perseverance is still the key to unlock creative doors.

The Gods that smiled when you were born are Laughing now - My Favorite Fortune Cookie Saying

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Yes, perserverance.
I believe people can be naturally, even born,gifted with a talent but without perserverance and /or nuturing talent can stagnate or even die.
It's not an either-or proposition. Talent can be gained but both the gifted and built require perserverance. The word "talent" like in the old parable was a measure of money that needed to be invested, that's why it is such an appropraite word for or giftedness.
Particular to animation,some of us knew that person as a student who we thought would go places and that other who wasn't top of the class. It's not an unusual experience to see in several years passing the latter improve or be in a higher position and the former either stay where they are talentwise, or working under the class slowpoke, or dropped out of the business altogether. Perserverance.

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I'm one of those outsiders looking in, so I can't relate any industry anecdotes, but I do find this discussion really interesting. I also think it's possible to become a good artist and animator through simple dedication and work. I started drawing later in life than others, and while I'm not at the level I want to be, just through personal experience I can say it's definitely an attainable goal.

Perseverance is indeed the key. If I didn't believe that, frankly, I wouldn't be here. I have to say, it is tough to keep yourself motivated at times, when you can't see any way in -- you question yourself, your ability, and whatever confidence exists can just drain away. Nonetheless I'd encourage others aspiring to the industry to keep working at your craft, have patience with the process and with yourselves especially. Don't give up.

One a related note, if I can speak up on this: I find the mantra "a degree doesn't matter, it's all in your portfolio" a little bit misleading? Virtually every job posting I see related to visual development and animation has a B.F.A. requirement. Even internships at big studios (I think big production houses are the only ones offering those sorts of positions, for grooming prospective junior artists) require that you are either enrolled or are a recent graduate. I'm self taught, and while I understand some of the reasoning behind it, it's a bit frustrating nonetheless.

There are a few generous artists in the industry who have taken a little time to talk with me through e-mail, and while years ago you could find a company willing to take you on even with no experience and no formal training, nowadays that seems near impossible. In the Illusion of Life Disney animation book, it alludes to this sort of system where people showing some ability or interest were taken into the studio and trained up. I am sure Mr. Bluth and others could provide far more solid information on this. Does this happen anymore? It's only one guy speaking here, but maybe there are others out there who also would just like to have the opportunity to show what they can do, be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. Unfortunately, the dearth of opportunities for junior or entry level artists and animators makes determination and persistance hard to maintain.

Anyways, sorry for going off on a bit of a tangent there. This is a good discussion, thanks for taking the time to talk about it.


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As one of my teachers back in school use to say, "There is always going to be someone better than you so get use to it. It's not about how good you are but about what you bring to the table!" I have found that to be more and more true as the days go on.

Getting back to Don's original thoughts, I do think perseverance is the key. However, a lot of kids getting into the business think that animation revolves around Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and Lucas. In fact, there are companies at every level who are willing to work with people of varying degrees of talent. I think many kids (especially ones coming out of the name brand schools) tend to get the impression that they are entitled to a job at a major studio doing a major job when in fact they may be able to find a very good opportunity at a smaller studio.

Also, one of the major problems that you have to address is that while there is a great mass of talent out there, there are not anywhere near enough jobs to handle the demand. Schools are turning out a staggering number of kids for which there are very few jobs and quite often the schools have not prepared them for the real world. In traditional animation, it is not uncommon to find kids who can animate but can't do clean-up and inbetween.


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Ugh, sorry, *persistence* not persistance!


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