Dear Ms. Doodles: An open letter regarding creativity, talent, and work ethic

Dear Ms. Doodles,

I am a subscriber to your YouTube channel and a fan of your work. I stumbled onto you via your collaboration with Mike Tompkins for his video for “Not a Bad Thing”, followed the links, and decided that it would be silly of me not to subscribe to your channel.

I am also a former music educator. To put it quite briefly, I studied for nearly 8 years to earn my Bachelor of Music Education (hey, sometimes a girl’s gotta work her way through college). My major instrument was voice, so I am in fact a classically-trained singer, and my creative process and products most often involve performance art of some kind or other, though I also like to play around with my camera, too.

Your video Attack of the Dragon | REAL TIME PAINTING Pt. 1 was really interesting to me. I enjoyed not only gaining a better understanding of your creative process, but also getting to experience your personality in a very real-time way. As such, I was really looking forward to the conclusion of the real-time video, and was excited to finally see the video for Part 2 a couple of evenings ago after I got home from work.

As I watched and listened, I was excited to hear this question, and your answer to it:

Talent is indeed a word that is fraught with a lot of emotional meaning, particularly in these days where celebrity is often confused for talent or ability. I appreciated that you mentioned predisposition in your answer, which is what I, coming from the background of an educator, would call aptitude. It’s a starting point, a jumping-off place from which to begin a journey toward increased skill and ability for everything from art, to business, to scientific study, to athletic endeavors and beyond. I do believe that talent is an actual thing. However, I do not believe that any of these endeavors, particularly artistic ones, necessarily require scads of talent in order to be done well and enjoyed by both the producer of the art, and those who consume said art. It angers me when people teach children that talent is a necessity. If I had a $5 bill for every adult person who has told me that their childhood music teacher told them to “mouth the words” to the songs because they “couldn’t carry a tune”, I’d be able to afford a very nice microphone. Which I would then use to record a very angry rant about educational malpractice. Even if a person has no talent whatsoever that person deserves, and actually needs to engage in any and all artistic endeavors that inspire him or her. It’s important developmentally, emotionally, and I would even say physically that we humans get to express ourselves creatively, regardless of whatever arbitrary scale of quality others would like to judge it on. I applaud you, therefore, for encouraging your viewers to endeavor to learn how to do the types of art they’re interested in experiencing.

However, any teacher worth her (or his) salt will also tell a student that no matter how much talent a person has or does not have, it must be supplemented with hard work to be brought to fruition. I was extremely pleased, then, to hear what you said in response another viewer:

I believe that any artistic endeavor – music, painting, sculpting, ballroom dance, and yes, even athletic art forms – requires a lot of time and effort spent honing the craft. Prior to the relatively recent idea that institutes of higher education are the best (only?) way to become experts at something, we humans had a system of apprenticeship that went back a long damn way in our history. If you showed aptitude for a given skill, you were apprenticed at a fairly young age to the local expert. Good with metal? Go work with the blacksmith. Got a brain for mixing ingredients to create other things? The apothecary is your man. Make better bread than your mama at a young age? You’re going to be a baker. You then spent the rest of your adolescence honing this craft, getting better and better, and only after literal years of work were you considered an expert.

We live in an age now where instant gratification is king, and everyone wants to be able to DO ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. I myself am no exception; I love everything about technology and what it allows us to be able to do and have, almost as soon as our brains form the thoughts. But as a result of this, what a lot of young people don’t understand is that one still has to make the same efforts over and over to become an expert at what they do, even now, in this Instant Age. Sure, Russell Wilson, Ricky Fowler and Derek Jeter are extremely talented athletes. But Russell spent countless hours throwing footballs before he even went to college, Ricky still hits bucket after bucket of golf balls on the driving range, and Jeter trained every single day of his career to create and keep his swing consistent and productive. Likewise, Beyoncé has likely written dozens of songs that weren’t up to par for every one that she put on a record. Charles Schultz probably went through endless reams of paper before he came up with the Peanuts gang that the world knows and loves. Quality is the compounded result of every attempt one ever made previously, whether it was successful or not.

If I’m hearing you correctly, the clips I linked from your video, your “How to Art” series, and the way you communicate to your viewers all point to something that I agree with wholeheartedly. Namely, that everyone has a creative impulse inside them, and everyone can not only express that impulse, but can learn how to express that impulse with expertise, if they so choose. Everyone, in other words, can do art.

I thank you kindly for your inspiring presence in this world, and continue to look forward to more excellent artwork and videos from your corner of the internet.




PS- Can’t wait to see Part 3 of Attack of the Dragon! 😀

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