Are Artists Born or Made?

Are Artists Born or Made?

Everyone is creative. Or, creativity is reserved for the special few, for artists. Which is it?

Like most debates, in which the sides are polarized, there is truth in each.

Everyone is Creative

Everyone is creative. You would not be alive without creativity. You use it daily to navigate the unpredictability of life and our world, to create your own life, to solve problems, to get dressed or decorate your home. To envision futures, even to plan vacations.

But not just that.

If you put a piece of paper and crayons in front of any child, who has not been too wounded by others, she will happily make art. And, her art will be original, unique to her. Likewise, any child can—and will, if given a chance—sing, dance and invent remarkable stories, poems and wild ideas with her fertile imagination.

Generally, in indigenous cultures you will find that the entire tribe participates in singing, dancing, drumming and elaborate cultural rituals that involve a great deal of creativity. You don’t hear these people say, “I can’t dance,” for instance.

We all have this capacity. We are all creative. If encouraged in the right way and not hindered, we can all make art of various kinds, art that is original, authentic and interesting. I see this every week in my classes.

Artists Are Special

And yet, artists are also a special breed. We are not all born with the same gifts and talents.

Each of us have our own unique calling and capacities to develop. We have differing levels of innate talent and abilities that then need to be honed. Yes, environment and training play a huge role in this, but there are still significant innate differences.

Just as professional athletes have extraordinary physical capacities, which they have also worked extremely hard to develop, exceptional artists have unusual creative capacities, which they then have to work very hard to cultivate.

One person has a knack for mechanics, another for science, and a third for art. They were not born the same. Their minds, their senses, their hearts do not respond in the same way to life.

Artists see, feel, hear, taste, experience the world differently, acutely and more imaginatively than most people. They make connections many people would never dream of. And they are driven to create.

A Portrait of the Artist

My entire life I have been making art of all kinds.

As a child, I made figures out of clay, sewed clothes for my dolls, arranged elaborate tableaux in my dollhouse, wrote and performed plays with my best friend, played the violin (though no one in my family at the time was musical), took dance lessons, made up songs and wrote stories and poems, among other creative pursuits.

In adulthood, I play music, dance, write, make collages, garden and do graphic design, among other things.

I am obsessed with creativity and happiest when I am making things. If I go for as little as two weeks without making anything, I become depressed and start to feel life is lacking in meaning.

But even beyond that, the way I process new experiences and information is imaginative. I am constantly inventing, making unusual connections between things. The way I think, dress, speak, do most things is artistic. It is hard-wired in me. I am an artist.

It’s Not Either Or

Artists are both born and made.

We are all creative. We can all make art. The immense pleasures and benefits of making art and being creative are available to all and are meant for all in some way. They are a part of our humanness.

And at the same time, those who have a calling to be artists have special gifts, capacities, ways of experiencing, processing and relating. Those capacities can be cultivated and require care and practice to be honed.

Even within those who are called to be artists, there are widely varying levels and kinds of innate talent. Look around and you see that this is true.

We are not made the same.

What This Means For You

We each have gifts to bring forth. We each have unique abilities and ways of seeing and being. Those gifts, that essence of who you are, are valuable and needed. That is why you are here. It is also your key to your joy, passion and fulfillment in life.

And there is nothing wrong—in fact, everything right—in having joyful, creative hobbies, even if you feel you are not born to be an artist. Making art or crafts, being creative, brings so many blessings to a life.

So my recommendation to you is this:

Rather than wasting time wishing you were someone else, find your gifts, whatever they are, and develop them. Cultivate your unique voice, your style, your Self. And also, let yourself have hobbies and pastimes just for fun. Do what you love, follow your dreams.


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