Poll: Are Artists Born Or Made?

young artist2There’s one school of thought that believes that artists are born with their talent. That they enter this world with a unique ability to express the seen and even the unseen through visual art. They believe that God Himself has wired this select population with an innate ability to represent the natural world, communicate ideas, or even evoke emotion through their masterful use of line, shape color and composition.

There is another camp that believes that artistic talent is something that can be taught and not something you’re born with. They believe that if an individual has the desire and dedication to “learn what it takes” to be an artist, that they can become that. Some even say that we are all born with the creativity that artists eventually all share, and that God-given talent to a unique few is not the case. They we grow apart from are artistic talent, and anyone can regain that talent if they study, train, etc.


Tony at about 4 or 5 years old
Tony at about 4 or 5 years old

My personal memory concerning this goes way back to when I was in kindergarten (yes, I can remember back that far!). My kindergarten teacher, Ms. Hunt, asked our entire class to draw a portrait of her as she stood at the front of the class. I’m not sure what the others drew, but I clearly remember Ms. Hunt looking at my work after that exercise. I also clearly remember her always setting me apart during every drawing assignment from that day forward in class.

Now, not to sound as if I was better than anyone else, but did Ms. Hunt detect a unique pre-ordained ability in one of her students? Something that set this one apart from the other 4-5 year olds?

So, share what you think about it in the poll below:

19 thoughts

  1. Think about it this way. Are you born with the ability to play the piano beauifly? No. You have the passion to do so and take the time to practice. Same with art. You aren’t born with the talent you have to develop it. Some artists struggled greatly but are incredible at art.

    1. Thank you for chiming in! Do you think that, although the artist has to train and develop the talent, the artist may be drawn to or may gravitate toward art at birth?

    2. I don’t think it is that black and white. People are born with different potentials and can pick up some activities quicker than others. Mozart was not born with the ability to play the piano but there is much evidence to suggest that he picked up the skill incredibly quickly and at an advanced level. I think it is the same with art, I can only speak for my experience though. I rememeber being very young and drawing at an advanced level for my age considering I had not practiced the skill any more than my contemporaries. I just found it easier, like my friend who are great at Maths find it easier – it is part of what makes us all different!

  2. What makes an artist an artist? I have struggled with this question myself.

    I think GOD gave us the basic skills to create, dance, sing, and all other skills which are classified as the arts (I also believe that everyone has a special GOD given ability/purpose, but we are talking about artists, so I will limit myself to such). I believe He passed this to us via genetics. I also believe He gave each of us various degrees of such skills. Meaning some people are able to sing decently (singing is an example) where as others can sing but not so good. As far as I know all children can draw and sing if there is not a physical or mental reason they are unable to. We all can learn to sing better with knowledge, practice and hard work.

    I was born with the genetic ability to create. My parents both had artistic abilities, and upon looking at the family lines on both sides, art skills are very apparent. Thus it was easy for me to learn the skills of drawing. I can not say that this was a calling of my parents. My family does not walk with GOD. They know of Him and taught me about Him and so forth. Basically what I am saying is I do not feel they were filling a calling of any sorts. They just did art because it ran in their blood genetically. It makes them happy. They may have a GOD calling in art, they just never developed the relationship with GOD to get that far in their spiritual development.

    I think there are 3 levels of ability. The fist level entails the basic skill ability in which GOD has placed in all of us. For example, everyone can sing and learn to sing. An Artist (the second level) goes beyond this. An artist has it running in their blood. They are not happy unless they are singing. They are their happiest when they are. There was a point in my life I was focusing on becoming a scientist. I worked hard at it. Yet art was always there with me. I would doodle or write poetry. I could not help myself. There would be times where I thought I would go crazy if I could not do something. During these times, grabbing a coloring book and crayons would relieve the over whelming desire to create something. Eventually I could no longer ignore my art. I ended up giving up my pursuit of genetics and turned to art. I think an artist can not ignore their skills and abilities. If they are, they are not happy, or their abilities are showing up some way in their life. Those that just learn the skills, do not have this haunting muse in their life. They probably enjoy the skill they learned and they may have a great desire to be a great singer, but the desire to just sing for the sake of singing doesn’t burn in their soul.

    The third level is a GOD calling. GOD can call anyone whom He chooses. It can be someone at any of the previous 2 levels, or someone that has never developed any basic skills whatsoever. I believe a person whom has an artistic calling from GOD is distinguished in that what they do / create touches the soul of others. It speaks to them on a spiritual level. The one with the calling may not see it or understand it. They may never realize exactly how they have affected others. I do believe they do know when that calling has fallen upon them and when it “kicks in”. I cant say I have done a lot of art that had GOD’s hand in it, but I do know the pieces that GOD called me to do. I believe they spoke to those whom the pieces were meant for.

    I know GOD has used me as an artist. I am not to the point I can say my creative abilities are a calling. It has taken me a long time to understand what I have just written. If I am called as a creator, I sure wish I knew what I am supposed to be doing. 🙂

  3. Joel-

    Well put.

    By the way, it’s good to hear from you again!
    I hope all is well with you and the folks in the Phillipines.


  4. God plants the artist seed for his good purpose. Thus we are BORN with it.

    What particular plan he has for our particular talent, skill, and passion for the arts – we have to MAKE it our own.

  5. Hi techne-

    What I vaguely recall about what I drew (remember, this was a hundred years ago, around 1970)was me attempting to capture the purple of her coat with it’s yellow buttons, the red-orange of hair. Maybe she saw me attempting to do a little more than a stick figure, I can’t say.

    I’d love to ask her what she noticed if that were at all possible.

  6. i said both because i think it’s about calling and not simply “talent”.

    on the one hand, some people are born with an innate talent — let’s call that potential. but all that potential is not enough to make one “an artist” if that talent isn’t harnessed and honed and the individual doesn’t work on their skills, and if they don’t explore and experiment and consider thoughtfully the creative work they produce. i think it is closer to the truth to say they’re wired to communicate ideas – that intent is the core issue, i think.

    on the other hand, while i think that we are all inherently creative we are, after all, image-bearers of a creative God), i don’t think that means that everyone can be an artist. still, if one has a desire to communicate ideas, i think that one can develop their skills and those skills can be developed. then again, i’m reading your reference to “artistic talent” as drawing or painting (or whatever visual medium) ability.

    to clarify then, i think that what defines one as an artist is one’s desire and ability to communicate something through [visual] means. or, perhaps more accurately, the desire to communicate something leads to the willingness and discipline to develop the necessary skills to do so.

    of course, i believe that being an artist is a calling, and it is not about “talent” – or at least not at its core (after all, there are a lot of “talented amateurs” out there). that requires a lot more than simply being able to work in a mimetic or expressionist idiom, it requires real thought and consideration of what it means to communicate visually.

    so a quick question: did ms. hunt set you apart because of her own personal conception of what “an artist” – even at that young age – should be able to do? personally, i would love to know what you drew and how.

  7. I believe that God gives us a different an unique gift. It could be a dancer, writer, teacher, singer, ect. We all could learn to do different things but from birth God has given us each individually our own special gift. So I believe that we are born with a God given talent. But its up to us to use this gift to honour God by using it for His glory. That’s the part where we need to call on the Holy Spirit for guidance in what He wants. I think anyone can learn anything but that’s where you can see what God given talent has been given to each individual. Some have rhythm, singing voice, great speaker and writing abilities and able to draw and others don’t. That doesn’t mean that God can’t add them latter in life for nothing is impossible for God.

  8. Excellent question!
    All talent and skill must be cultivated despite being endowed with an heightend artistic awareness.
    The hands must learn to work with the eyes and the eyes must discern through the intentions of the heart and mind.
    Others may get it quicker that most, but all must submit under the discipline of learning; cultivation.
    Though Jesus was born the Christ…He had to cultivate His anointing through His earthly fellowship with the heavenly Father.

    The function of man is to cultivate…Gen. 2:15
    If anyone escapes this natural law…they are not human.

    Also, to know how to draw does not make you an artist…it makes you a human xerox machine.

  9. I believe that people are born with a God-given ability that must be honed, whether it’s in an artistic practice or not. I think people are called to be creative in whatever their ability is because God’s a creator and we’re made in His image 🙂 Live your dreams folks 🙂

  10. I can not choose either one of your choices because I have a different belief. God gave every one the ability to learn to draw and paint but not all are called to be artists. We all can develop the drawing and painting abilities at differing levels but not all of choose to go in that direction of artists because God has His plans for each one of us, some even who are called to be artists will not follow the call to become one, though they have strong abilities. Learning to draw and paint does not make one an artist. An artist is one who applies these learned abilities(though some seem to have a natural untaught ability, we all have it but the focus for each is different so some will look as if it is natural because they are so highly focused in that area because I believe God gives that focus as part of His calling, all are called according to His purposes). Also when the mobile temple was being built, many had abilities but God gave His Spirit to a select few and they taught others to do what was needed to do the artistic work. Even back in the day of the Renaissance there were many in a work shop that were trained but never became “artists”. So I can not make a choice from your 2 selections, there is a 3rd maybe even more. Thank you for sharing this poll because it has encouraged me to keep doing what God has called me to be: an artist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.