Training Versus Talent

Guest Post by Molly Malone.

(illustration by yours truly: penelope dullaghan)

Think about what led you on the path toward becoming the artist, illustrator, or designer you are today. Did your parents tell you that you were always drawing as a toddler? Did you get in trouble more than few times for drawing on the walls with your Crayolas? Perhaps you were a huge fan of Bob Ross, and wanted to paint “happy little trees” just like him.

Or perhaps you were never stereotypically “artsy,” and just decided it was a career path you’d enjoy embarking on. Now ask yourself what’s more important to you and your success – the talent you may have been born with, or the skills you have picked up along the way? The training vs. talent debate is an age-old one in the creative fields, but revisiting it can be eye-opening, especially if you’re feeling uninspired. Pondering your process can actually help jumpstart your creativity.

In an article by online colleges resource eCollegeFinder, two graphic designers offer their views on what makes designers and artists successful. Basically, they both name innate talent as the driving factor (read the full PDF text here). One goes on to say that though training is certainly important, not everyone has a natural ability to thrive in the art and design worlds.

In her words, “We are constantly bombarded by digital images and messages – if designing were based wholly upon training, wouldn’t we all be experts through exposure alone? There is a certain natural ability that has to be present in a person [to succeed].”

But plenty of people disagree. In this article from Inspiredology, the author claims that talent has a falloff, and skill does not. In other words, natural talent gets you so far, but it’s continuously honing your skills that ensures a long, successful career.

So if you’ve hit a wall or are feeling particularly uninspired, you’ve got options. Go take a class, attend a lecture, have coffee with other artists or designers. Any or all can help you break out of a rut and keep growing. After all, if you’re in agreement with the article at least, talent is just the seed. It still needs nourishment if it’s ever going to bloom.

But what do you think? What side are you on?


:: Molly Malone is a Philadelphia-based writer, creative, and overall lover of the internet who has worked in design, copywriting, social media, and more.

Learn on Skillshare

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James

Posted by Thomas James on 09/06/12 under artists
No Comments


Submit your illustration:

Select an image on your computer:
Choose File no file selected