There used to be a group of psychologists called Behaviorists. Through much of the 20th Century, these guys believed that when babies were born, they came into the world as little more than a “blank slate” or tabula rosa. Then would come learning and experiences to mold
them into the person they would become. Every mother I know, myself included, considers this notion to be completely absurd.
What seems obvious to most parents is that each child is a unique combination of personality, physical characteristics, and potentials. Within this last category, lies what people often refer to as “talent”.
The discussion rages between those who see talent as an innate gift, and those who see it as the fruit of a tremendous lot of hard work. Both are right. The crucial point is that talent is nothing more than potential, and potential means very little unless it is developed. But when it is, through years of hard work, it is possible to go further than one ever could without it, sometimes much further.
It takes a lot of sacrifice on the part of parents for a talented kid to become a prodigy. Most of us grow more slowly, depending on our circumstances and environment. Still, that which lies within will manifest itself. I remember what it was like, at a very young age, to hold a pencil and begin to make marks on paper. There was something about it that made it memorable. Later, I constantly drew animals on my schoolwork, to the despair of my teachers. Even when they made me sit out in the hall, I still drew.
Salvation came in the seventh grade, when I was able to take Art. Overnight, I went from near-failing to an A-B student. Psychologists tell us that if you are a creative person, you MUST create. It's not optional. Without creative expression, the whole world goes gray, at least for us artistic types.
Every artist also has differing strengths and weaknesses, and part of an artist's growth is figuring out what kind of artist you will be. I had a college friend who was amazingly gifted as a cartoonist. He could make you laugh with nothing more than a simple line drawing. I have no ability in that area, but he found it frustrating that I was always better in our Life Drawing class.
Recently, I heard a wise man talk about making comparisons. (Sadly, something we all tend to do.) He put it so well, “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to someone else's today”. We are all so different, with unique abilities, and can see only the “shiny outside” of others, not what lies within. But all of us can make ourselves better on an incremental basis, and over time, that can really add up!
Of course, visual art is only one small subset of the massive range of human endeavor. The never-ending challenge for all of us is to fully become who you are, and make the most of your own potential in whatever sphere of life you find yourself. I like this quote by Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one!” It's good advice.