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WHAT IS TALENT?


    I have a philosophy about "who we are" and how it may apply to the mysterious question                    

    of "what is talent and where does it come from?".

    I like call it "Predisposition of Likes and Dislikes" and thought I would share my thoughts

    with you here as a blog (BTW... I’m sure someone else has shared and documented

    similar thoughts in the past, but I’m not a cognitive psychologist. If someone knows the

    actual term for this “philosophy”, please let me know!;


    1) I believe we are born with a predisposition towards the things we become passionate about and

     are attracted to.

    A friend of mine uses the illustration of his son the baseball player. His son evidently was "drawn"

    to baseball and his interest and attraction enabled him to develop a passion towards the game,

    which resulted in success. As far as batting averages go... I know nothing about the subject because

    I was NOT interested in baseball so I never pursued it. I found it extremely boring. I found this true

    with most sports, and never excelled in any of them (except one, which I'll get to in a moment.).

    However, I WAS attracted to playing the guitar and drawing. Nothing excited me more than a

    blank piece of paper because I knew that WONDERFUL things were there right in front of me just

    waiting to be released. All I had to do is start drawing... and the magic began. My brother on the

    other hand found that blank paper was exciting and useful for calculating math and the flow of

    electrons. In addition, he thought I was a nut when we're on the freeway going around a curve

    where I could hardly contain my excitement over "HOW FREAKING COOL" the perspective of the

    road-signs were as they flashed past our faces, reflecting brightly in the headlights. This

    predisposition towards our "likes and dislikes" (some might call passion) caused us to go down two

    very different paths in our lives. By the way, my brother also recently acquired a passion for music,

     and is daily working hard to become an accomplished guitar player (BTW, he’s getting very

    good!).


    2) Practice may lead to expertise.

    Since I had a passion for drawing, I drew... a LOT! I grew to be a better artist because I enjoyed

    doing it. Rewards were forthcoming in the fact that I got praise from some people over my "good"

    drawing. That felt good... and gave me the drive to do more, so I drew more and got better.

    However, at one point I reached a plateau which brings me to the next point;           


    3) Growth requires study

    While I enjoyed drawing... I came to the realization that I was lacking in fundamentals, so I began

     "learning" by reading, and talking to people who were already accomplished. I didn't go to art

    school so virtually everything I knew about art (until recently) was self taught. Here's the funny

    thing... it NEVER felt like study because my "passion" of art gave me an interest in pursuing it. It

    wasn't "work", it was what I loved! My brother went to college to study Engineering, and I doubt it

    wasn't work for him either (but DANG... it would be like getting my teeth pulled if I had to do it!!).

    He's now literally a Rocket Scientist with Boeing, in charge of ANYTHING electronic on the missile

    projects he's involved in. Dad was an engineer and was thrilled that he "followed" in his footsteps.

    However, my desire to be an artist was frowned upon and seriously discouraged. Which brings me

     to point number...


    4)  Environment may play a role in the development of our "passion".

    If my dad had allowed me to go to Art School, it's hard to say where I'd be in my art career today.

     Instead I spent MANY years of my life in the Corporate world in Marketing, as a miserable "Stress

     Monkey". It's hard to say if I had had an environment that encouraged me would have changed

    my "passion", but I'm sure it wouldn't have hurt it. I had a high school art teacher once who

    required us make Macrame Pot holders and braided key fobs. When I innocently asked "when are

    we going to learn how to do real art like painting and stuff"... she barked back "I think you should

    take up a trade like Automotive Repair or Machine Shop, because you don't have a shred of talent.

    So, I shut down my "passion" for nearly 35 years, and only recently re-discovered it a few short

    years ago. The pain I experienced during those 35 years may have been crucial to the EXPLOSION

     of creative outpouring I've experienced in the last 4 or 5 years. I'll never truly know how it "might

    have been" with a supportive environment. But I tell ya what... I sure encourage my daughter with

    her talents ANY chance I get!


    5) Hard work plays an important part in our success, yet may NOT be the final road to greatness.

    I propose that we have physical God given attributes and limitations which may enhance or

    encumber our "Passion". Remember that I said I never excelled in sports except one? My 3rd year

    in High School I discovered an event called the Pole Vault, and thought "that looks like fun!". I

    started out as a MISERABLE Pole Vaulter, but worked HARDER than anyone on the track team. I

    stayed to practice long after everyone had gone home even while it got dark. I started working out

    with a local college track team because I wasn't getting the coaching or challenging workouts I

    needed. I LIVED, SLEPT and ATE POLE VAULTING. In my Senior year, I won the Gold Medal in our

    league finals beating out other vaulters from my team and 15 other High Schools. Then I went to

    college and found out what  REAL Pole Vaulter was. My "stocky" body and heavy legs were my

    downfall, and no amount of practice would ever equip me to become a serious collegiate

    competitor... or sadly the Olympic Vaulter of my dreams. As a guitar player, I WORKED

    EXTREMELY hard most of my life to sharpen my chops, but only attained a mediocre proficiency.

    Art on the other hand seems to come very easy to me. I do things in painting naturally that my

    recent instructors have asked me "where did you learn to do that"? I don't know... I just do it!

    And my final point;


    6) Our "passions" may be driven by cognitive differences in our perception

    I believe that we are all equipped with certain physical and mental traits that are unique to our

    being. A person with green eyes may view the world somewhat differently than those with blue or

    brown. A sense of smell or taste may be different from one person to another (which has been

    scientifically proven). For that matter... what I experience as "normal" in the way I feel day to day

    may be to another (if they were somehow transported into my body) as painful, or miserable. But I

     know nothing different from birth, so I have accepted it as "normal". Suppose for a moment if I

    perceived what you know and see as green, as red... and my red was your green? We both know

     in our minds what that color is since birth but know no difference. So what I perceive as green

    might be red in your head and vice versa! Could this affect how we are "predisposed" in our

    passions? I believe so, but I'm afraid I'll never be able to prove it (transporting into someone else's

    body isn't possible at the moment... and if it were, I'm SURE it would be illegal!!).


    I know this post was long, but I have given this subject a GREAT deal of thought over the years. I

    sure I may be off base with some of this... but would love to know your thoughts if you’d share

    them with me.


    Your friend,

    Craig Sibley (aka - Craigo)


Untitled 1957, SFMOMA collection
Clyfford Still