Many refer to artists as people with a special gift or a talent. While that is precisely not the case it is true at a very low resolution idea of what is a natural instinct or a trained proficiency. But people refer it most to the case of people with a genetic predisposition, whether is physical (Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt), or intellectual (Albert Einstein or Carl Jung), there can be people that have an advantage to certain types of activities . The same happens in the arts. There’s people that have a genetic predisposition to image memory and image abstraction. However this is nothing but an initial advantage. Something that makes easier the load of the work by the end. However the amount of effort (energy) can stay the same, the level of complexity of the task may vary, this doesn’t mean that a person with a lower IQ can’t do the same activities as a person with a higher one. It just means that the one with higher IQ can do the same task with less effort. Meaning that it can choose to spend that remaining effort on more complex activities.
Apart from all this there’s an area apart from these concepts, which I’ve chosen to refer to as Desire and Goal Projection. In this area there are a ramification of people that develop the same activity regardless of their “talent” or instinct. In this area reside the “should” and “want”.
Back in the day I used to believe that first thing an artist should learn was discipline. Well I was wrong. Because my struggle, at that time, was precisely the case. I was trying to gain discipline as I climbed my own professional and academic ladder. My main focus was about “should”. The ability and strength of mind to focalize a goal and make it happen. To plan, keep yourself on the track and treat life and my whole context as an opportunity to become better every time. But the problem with all this is that I already had solved a problem I didn’t know was there at the beginning, because I solved it years ago by the natural progression of spending time on what I wanted. And that’s the first thing.
My hypothesis si that the first thing an artist should work on is on goals and desires. The great question “What do you want” should be something that every human being should ask themselves at the beginning. And the bigger issue is that it shouldn’t be asked. It should be felt, experienced and exercised. Because most people don’t know what they want. For example: I want to be rich and powerful… see how easy that is? Is not the same.
What people see in the beginning, on the kid that draws a lot and gets really good at it is not talent. It’s interest. There’s a natural proclivity to do a type of activity and if the activity falls down naturally with that kid, the kid might want to perfect himself on it. But is the kid thinking to himself what does he want to do with his life, what does he want out of all that? No, there’s just a natural progression that makes sense and doesn’t need to be addressed. It’s non computational, non rational, is unconscious and has to do with temperament and personality.
However in today’s educational system there’s little to no room to wiggle and experiment in extra-curricular activities, in career related activities. School systems are rigged to teach you fundamentals for something that is considered a test that will determine your future, not true. It will determine whether you’re good at school or not, and discriminate the best at it from the worst to give the best more options to University. But school is not real life, hence the tests and teachings that happen on it are equally unrelated. University is a place where you pursue a specific career (for the sake of the argument, let’s say it is), and how are you supposed to know which career if you never had time to experiment and decide what you want. There’s no time left to think. Only the lucky who found that one thing they liked and they fit with are going to be able to find themselves on a career that meets their expectations and desires. Because they were able to goal orient themselves on what they needed.
I’ve always been very confused when I encounter “good” and “talented” artists that have not gained motivation in their career. I used to see that as a lack of discipline and laziness. But I was wrong. It’s interest and desire they lack of, and with that, there’s no goal projection. No matter if you’re the next Michael Phelps, there’s no use to your physical predisposition if you have no interest in swimming. No matter what happens, you won’t want to do it as the next man, who has all the interest and desire and less physical attributes than you do. That other man, might become an olympic athlete, but you won’t pass from swimming on Spring break.
The Should-Man and the Want-Man
Let’s draw a diagram to make an example of what I’m talking about. In this diagram we are going to oversimplify the concepts for the sake of argument. Let’s say there are two types of people and one struggle. The struggle or activity is to wake up in the morning to exercise, running particularly, and for the sake of the argument we’re gonna pose the option that the only time they can go out is the morning, so not to do it at that time will mean that they can’t perform that activity that day at all.
A person, the First man will wake up in the morning and decide to go for a run, it will look out of the window and realize it’s not raining, get on the jumpsuit, put the shoes on and head out the door. The man runs. He repeats this activity every day whenever is possible. he doesn’t even ask himself the question he just knows he likes to run so he does it. Why? Because he wants to and he can. This is the “Positive man”, end of story. Then there’s the “Negative man”. The negative man wakes up in the morning and tells himself “I should go for a run”. This man splits into other two men.
Second positive man doesn’t think it too much, he just hops out of bed put on the jump suit and with little struggle gets out of the door. He runs. That’s the end of this man. The second negative man however stays in bed for a little while and really says to himself “I really really should go for a run, I need to go for a run”. He splits into two other men.
The positive man, takes up a second wind and a big amount of mental power and visualizes himself turning into the thing he doesn’t want to become. He visualizes the need for running and the gains he will get. He feels ashamed of his laziness so he puts on the jumpsuit and goes out for a run. That’s the end of that man. The negative man, instead, thinks about the struggle of running and how tired he is. The bed looks promising and he tells himself that he will go out tomorrow. He stays in bed. This man is the Last man.
For the sake of argument we’re gonna cut this short here. But this story, can keep on going on an infinity of variables and I’m pretty sure you understand what I’m going with for now. The idea behind this is that the “First man” versus the “Last man” always pose a more positive attribute regarding goal projection and desire, he seems effortless, he knows what he wants and now wonders how to do it, but if he knows how, then he doesn’t think about it anymore. It is not the Last man’s fault that he’s not going for a run, that doesn’t make him a lesser man. It makes him an uninterested man compared to the First man. And that’s not bad. It only means that he’s not interested in running, because we can assume he just doesn’t like running as much as the First man. And that’s the main difference between a highly industrious and conscientious professional and a not so much one. Interest and desire. With those, there can be better goal projection. The First man (from the start) can take the time and effort he didn’t spend at decision making to spend it better in perfecting his activity and his performance. He struggles at a much higher level and challenges himself in a different way, because is genuinely interested in the activity at hand. So most of his mental and physical energy can be spent on new and better challenges improving his development and skill level, hence his goal projection has a way higher value giving him a bigger opportunity to find other points or anchors of inspiration that projects his goal even higher and so on. But the Last man, struggles and wastes a huge amount of energy just to get to the base of what the First man does, his goal projection will be much lower in value and will decline rapidly finding almost no anchors or new motivators to help him thrive further. And that’s the difference between the Want-Man and the Should-Man. All of them have the same wants and shoulds, but they’re distributed in different percentages. Being the First man (Want-Man) the one with most wants and desires for what he does, there’s almost no should or forced duty to his activity but a sheer passion that drives him froward. However the Last man (Should-Man), is almost all should. It’s discipline trying to get him out of bed, but that is no counter for the desire he feels for staying in late and doing this later. There’s almost no interest, his goal projection plummets to the ground.
In an art career happens very similarly. Many struggle greatly throughout their entire career, and there are very few that seem to fly by. This is interest. These students are using the same energy others use to get out of bed and think about their duties, they think about how to plan their week, what other things are they going to study and they project into the future what they want to do and how they’re going to do it. There’s energy used at a whole different level of productivity. But there would be no case for it if the desire and goal projection wasn’t there in the first place. The what, why and how.
Yes, you like to draw. You like to draw people and animals or fantasy worlds and imagine and daydream about stories and things. Why. Ask yourself that. Why do you like Frazetta, why do you like Velazquez instead of Leyendecker. Make yourself self-aware of what your desires are and figure your goal, don’t force them into you, be honest. Do you want to create comics? About a character in particular that struggles in a complex political environment? Why? Do you like the rational logic of science fiction and take in great consideration the existence of it for the capacity to dream on human potential? Or do you like fantasy, to bend and twist human reality into concepts that could never be, to make more evident points of view that portrays human existence? Sometimes is not necessary to make those questions, some people have the luck of falling into them. Some others don’t. We need to treat our desires and aspirations as a matter of importance. Then we can begin to redirect our energy into more complex and detailed problems that would make the difference between us and other professionals.
Do you want to be rich and powerful? Why.