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Is Drawing a Talent or a Skill? The Surprising Truth

Updated: Jul 1

Every once in a while I answer a question on Quora.

Today this question irked me so I responded. It irked me because… well you’ll see.

Please note that I answered the question and don't take affront to my answer, it was to a specific person. This might not all apply to you. If it doesn't, my apologies.


Q. Can drawing be learned or is it a natural talent? Can someone with no artistic skill become good at drawing?

A. Which Came first the chicken or the egg?

funny cartoon of adam sandler as an egg head fro mthe movie 50 first dates

I’m an Artist and I have been one my whole life. I go around drawing caricatures at parties and that’s my job (please see my info at the end of this article, I’m available for bookings).

Anyway, I also teach children how to draw. Most of them can learn once they know the steps. It’s pretty cool looking at the finished drawings.

My point (and I do have one) is that in general most people can draw. Most kids who have never had lessons in drawing can pick up a pencil and with instruction learn the basics of drawing what they see. There might be the occasional one who is handicapped and cannot. But My daughter has Down’s syndrome and even she has improved her drawing by using YouTube drawing tutorials. So that tells you how rare that might be.

In fact in the 1800s in England and America, (and maybe elsewhere), drawing was a subject in school that an accomplished educated person would have to learn. In short: Everyone used to be taught how to draw IN SCHOOL!

Needlework and Drawing was required of school children in the 17th, 18th & 19th centuries                centuries
!8th Century Needlework

Someone modern decided to make art curriculum about “exploring different mediums” and “learning the elements of art” and so for some ridiculous reason that’s what we teach our kids in art classes today instead of teaching them how to draw.

It was immensely frustrating for me trying to learn how to draw on my own growing up with no resources, and teachers who taught me everything but how to actually draw. I didn’t get a decent teacher who actually taught me how to draw until I was in COLLEGE.

This is why I teach kids drawing today. Because they dumb kids down in school now and teach it the lowest common denominator. That’s why gifted kids are bored and unchallenged in school. 🤚🏻

I believe it’s purposeful too. Go read John Taylor Gatto’s “dumbing us down” sometime.

The quintessential book on why you should pull your kids out of public school and homeschool them - while you're still allowed to do so,
dumbing us down book by John Taylor Gatto

Now just like any other subject, there are people who excel right away and people who do not. The ones who excel will likely continue because they enjoy the praise and they get a reward: a good finished product and verbal praise. They will do the one thing that is required to get better at anything: PRACTICE

The ones who do not excel at first won’t get a lot of praise because their drawings aren’t as good. I’m not being mean here that’s just the way things work. Even if a teacher tries to praise a kid's drawings that aren’t as good, the praise will likely sound flat and not sincere. Because it’s not. Just being honest here.

Now do you think a child who isn’t naturally “gifted” can’t learn to draw? Ah, but there’s the rub. They absolutely CAN learn. And they absolutely can get better just like anyone else. It takes training their own eye to draw what they see, persistence, and tons of practice. But it absolutely can be done.

One of the most famous artists in the world taught himself to paint without formal training. He started out as a missionary. He didn’t do well as a missionary (they treated him like an outsider), so he turned to painting. The only problem was, he sucked. His paintings were cartoonish. Dark. Ugly. Depressing. Here's one of his early paintings:

this drab and ugly painting was created by one of the greatest artists in the world. But it was before he got great. Its a good reminder that we all need to practice to become good at anything, and greatness lies within each of us if we would only not allow oursleves to get distracted.
The Potato Eaters By Guess WHo?

This famous painter, who I’ll reveal in a minute, went to Paris.

This was during the time of the impressionist painters. He went, met everyone, saw their work, was inspired and immediately went home and started painting in bright colors. He began teaching himself to paint in earnest (which is basically drawing in color).

Here’s one of his later paintings.

Van Gogh didnt start out as a great artist. It took him many years of constant work to get to the point where he could paint this.
Sunflowers by Van Freaking Gogh


Van freaking Gogh.

Even VAN GOGH's early works were Cartoonish. Ugly. BAD.

My point?

EVERYONE has to work to get better at ANYTHING. It’s called practice. Some people are going to practice more due to internal motivation they have.

THAT is what you need to get better as an artist. The fire to continue to practice. A lot.

It’s not the swift that wins the race. It’s slow and steady like the tortoise.

That’s why some artists hate when people say “You’re so talented”. I don’t hate it. But I know it’s not true. It’s not about talent. Not at all. It’s about sweat. (And I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ saying this. I give all glory to God for everything I have and am. Including the Drive to Practice!).

I worked my tail off to get to the point where I could draw a person in two minutes or less.

If you want to do the same thing you have no excuse nowadays. Look up what you want or learn on YouTube and find a teacher you like and then copy them. I didn’t have this when I was a kid. I had to do it the old-fashioned way. You have a huge advantage over me, and even over Van Gogh.

What woiuld vincent van gogh be able to do with all of the tech available today?
van gogh selfie

But the mind control misinformation about artists and art is strong. They’ll tell you it’s only about talent. That no one makes it as an artist. Not to quit your day job. That there are no art jobs and they don’t pay well.

HOGWASH. That’s all because art is important, it influences culture, and yes you CAN do it. and it will get you out of the rat race. And it will make you into a thinking, feeling, intentional human being.

You just have to be willing. To pour your life into it. But let’s be honest - what are you pouring your life into right now? Probably inconsequential things like social media and video games. That’s a lot easier, isn’t it? It’s harder to do something like learn to draw. Learn to play an instrument. Learn to write clearly and with persuasion so that people will change their minds. Like I’m doing right now.

Virtual reality is shinier than reality. You could waste your life away on it, living in a dream world, instead of taking the time to learn skills to make your real life better
VR distractions

You likely haven’t done it and neither has 99.99% of the population. For whatever reason. And so people like me who have worked our whole lives at honing our craft APPEAR to have “talent” to you. Which is exactly why I am employed as a professional artist. Because you and everyone else didn’t take the time to learn.

So thank you! I appreciate you NOT learning to draw.

Maybe THAT will motivate you.


Kathy Buskett is a wife, mom, homeschooler, professional traveling caricaturist, writer, influencer and a disciple of Jesus Christ. (NOT Donald Trump)

If you want her to come draw a crowd and put smiles on your friends and family’s faces (literally), contact her now to see if your date is available.

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