Gift from god? I don't think so.

(This originally appeared at my blog, The Flying Trilobite on Sat. 23 May 2009. You may comment there as well.)

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It happens to artists. Surgeons. When someone marvels at the eye, or bacterial flagellum.

“Your art ability is amazing. A gift from God, no doubt.”

sigh

Just because something is hard to understand, just because complicated processes occurred that you did not witness, does not mean it was caused by a benevolent mythical being who hands out aptitudes like Santa with presents.

It has been a source of fascination to me, and not a little frustration that the ability to create art and the complexity of biological features each sit in the blind spots of members of the devout populace.

Like a gift from god. It’s throwing your hands up in the air and casually (lazily) admitting ignorance.

I get it: it’s supposed to be a compliment. But it actually insults me, though I usually reserve my cringing to myself. I have worked really hard to get where I am in my artistic ability, and I still reach and try to learn. There was no magic “poof” granted to me as a child that allowed me to render a decent life drawing or balance colours in a composition.

That was studying. That was attempts at keen observation. That was making countless mistakes I attempted to learn from. Feedback. Crits and criticisms. Learning from indifference. Trying new materials. Replicating happy accidents. Sharing techniques.

If this happens to you, encourage a bit of reasoning. I don’t like being a jerk. Somehow, any response I can think of seems like a rebuke.

“Those years of school I paid for were earned. Not a gift. " (Those heart-wrenching hours when you push a painting too far and ruin a perfectly good life drawing don’t feel like gifts either.)

How does one say it? How do you lead a person to reason? How do you encourage them to pull the holy book out of their mouth before they speak?

-Glendon Mellow
The Flying Trilobite
Art in Awe of Science

Journal Comments

  • Robert C Richmond
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