Undeveloped (?) Talent

Van Gogh's Starry Night -(public domain)
Van Gogh’s Starry Night (from the public domain)

Today’s post comes from Chris in Owatonna

My wife and I spent a pleasant week in North Carolina with her sisters and respective families to celebrate Thanksgiving. Our hosts kept us busy with activities such as the Greensboro Gobbler fun run/walk/crawl, disc golf in a lovely nearby park, and a wine-and-cheese-and-art afternoon where we all (15 of us including one nephew’s girlfriend and her family) gathered at a local studio and participated in a group painting class.

Some of you may be familiar with this activity in your local area. Each class member starts with a blank canvas and essentially copies what the teacher is doing to recreate the example painting on display while we watch her technique and follow along. Sort of like painting-by-numbers without either the numbers or the precision.

Each student is free to deviate from trying to copy exactly both the example piece and the teacher’s new rendition. In the end, we all end up with more or less the same painting, but with subtle or not-so-subtle differences based on our personal artistic expression.

I consider myself an artistic person, having performed music at a semi-pro level and taught instrumental music for 6 years. I also fancy myself to be a respectable photographer to the point I’ve enlarged several photos, framed them, and hung them on my walls.Not that they’re good enough that anyone would consider buying, but they please me, so there.

Nevertheless, the visual arts–especially painting but also including sculpture, mobiles, pottery, weaving, collages, metalworking, tree stump chainsaw art, and everything else in between–are not in my bailiwick.The last time I attempted any sort of painting beside the interiors and exteriors of buildings was in 7th grade, almost 50 years ago. It was not anything even a doting mother would proudly display to the in-laws.

Imagine my surprise when, after about two hours of relatively intense concentration, plus a few glasses of wine and some gourmet cheeses and crackers, I produced this, um, specimen:


S-i-L who chose the piece the group would copy made an attractive choice. Not too detailed, lots of colors, relatively easy focal points (leafless, branchless-for-the-most-part trees) and an easy medium to handle–acrylic paint.

The process was easier than I thought, although I’m sure it was dumbed down for we airheaded adults. Ten-year-olds would have been handling their own versions of the Mona Lisa, no doubt.

When we had all finished, we gathered as many paintings as we could at the house and stacked them as sort of a collage/homage to untalented people letting out a bit of a talent they perhaps didn’t know they possessed. Here’s what the majority of the group produced:


The third painting up from the bottom center column paid tribute to Van Gogh’s Starry Night. My wife’s version (lower left corner) added a lake. One nephew is color blind, so his rainbow looks markedly different than the others. Some painted more trees or larger trees. Different artists favored different colors–some had lots of blue, others more red, orange, and yellow. It was fun seeing all the differences and gaining a small appreciation for each individual’s artistic sensibility.

My question to you: Tell me about a talent you realized you may have had for a very long time but for whatever reason never used that talent because you either thought you weren’t very good, had no interest, or never had the time to nurture.

40 thoughts on “Undeveloped (?) Talent”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons.

    I am sitting in middle Nebraska, just ready to launch day two of the drive to AZ for two months.

    I used to win big at Monopoly, and I could be a ruthless player. I did not realize that this might have indicated that I would be good at running a therapy practice/business. Even though I am no longer the owner (one month!), I am still reeling from the cognitive dissonance created by thinking of myself in such a way. I always thought I just was bad at bureaucracy — true– so it meant I was a bad employee. Instead I was a lonely little petunia in the onion patch. I should have started my own shop years before.

    Slow learner.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. What an awesome thing to do together as a family! That looks like great fun with beautiful results. To answer the question, I guess I turned out to be a far better mother and domestic goddess than I ever thought myself capable.
    As a child from a large family, I never planned on getting married or having kids. I never really wanted that. But, of course, things change. I met my husband. We married. He really wanted kids. After being married 7 years, I finally concluded I could probably be an OK mom and it would be fine to have a family. But I still hated to cook and clean.
    My 3 awesome, intelligent boys are now on their own or in college and I’ve actually learned to make a decent (but simple) turkey feast and other respectable meals. Cleaning and organizing are still a challenge, but I can do them well when absolutely necessary and I’m feeling motivated.
    To turn your question around, all the things I thought I was good at and dreamed of doing have gone by the wayside. My BA in Theater from the U of MN is a feather in my cap, but I was never the actress I dreamed to be. Not the modern dancer, nor the artist or the journalist I was hoping to be. Just a low paid, but fairly stress-free clerical worker. And I’m OK with that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I had the poor luck of having my life blow up in my face when I was just turning 60. It was, in a limited way, good luck, for the collapse of the old identity forced me to contemplate some scary questions and try to forge a new sense of self. If you realize you know almost nothing about yourself ((for all the old assumptions proved false) you need to ask many questions, big questions. It is like the old joke: “Can you play the violin?” Answer: “Dunno. I never tried.”

    One question I confronted was whether my new identity would include creativity. Three of the women I dated in the confusing years after my old life ended were highly creative in visual arts. One was a gifted photographer; one was a graphics designer; one was a professional artist with astonishing talent in many different genres. It was fascinating to observe these talented women create art. And I was shown–absolutely and unambiguously–that those women had a flair for art that I do not have.

    That led to another question, which was whether I could learn to fake it? That is, could I mimic the creativity of others so convincingly that average observers would think I have talent? My body fell apart before I had the chance to prove that I could fool a lot of folks that way. Those women would have spotted the fraud, but i didn’t get the chance to learn if I could imitate graphic visual talent.

    And that’s cool. When I look back at things I have written, a little of it (like maybe five percent or so) pleases me now. That’s enough.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think I’ve told this before. My artistic abilities lay dormant for most of my young life. I did a lot of things well as a child and my younger sister struggled in my shadow. When she expressed interest in art, that became “her thing”. She was really encouraged by my folks and I was not. I did NOT feel this keenly as a child, in fact, don’t have any issue with it now. Parents do what they have to do and I had plenty of other areas to shine. But it has been a lot of fun to develop my art as an adult!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was a decent artist in school, about fifth best of a class of 100. Two classmates make their living in art. Then I went back to it in my 50’s. Picked up carving in my 40’s. Then I went back to writing fiction in my mid-60’s. Learned that 1) they were joyful to do. 2) my skills got better. 3) I do not have any real talent at any of them. All of them are now gone with my damaged nerves. But my pain levels are so much lower, I will not complain.
    I did discover in my 40’s I have a sort of natural instinct for cooking.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I am sorting through my writings and trashing when I have the will. Just at this moment I came across this snippet about talent and the lack thereof.
    Memory: Broken Krystal

    Krystal was her name. To look at her you would not think her fragile. But she seemed ready to break into a million shards of glass, from loneliness and the weariness of being average.

    Such a heavy burden to bear at only fifteen. Short and barrel-like, stout of legs, and shy of eyes. Her burden was the knife-edge longing to be someone, to excel at something, to stand out in confidence. She knew she was unattractive, lacked the easy social ways of the other girls (having no idea how ill-at-ease most of them were most of the time), unathletic, nonmusical, lacking in artistic ability, and a solid C student, often by hard effort or the gift of a sympathetic teacher.

    She changed the spelling of her name every few weeks, as if her inner being or appearance could be altered by ink on paper. Khrystal to Crystal to Chrystal to Christal to Kristal to Chrystall. On it went. I wanted to offer her, but never did, some exotic spellings. Chrystalle, K’Ristal, or Kreistaile.

    I tried to catch her at the right moments to have a brief non-academic non-threatening conversation. But no male teacher, or perhaps not any teacher, could have a non-threatening moment with her. I gave her B’s on her writing, which she did not deserve. It was A’s she craved, which would be too big a lie, a lie so big even she would detect it.

    I taught several Krystals, but, of all of them, only she bore that ironic name.

    What, I wonder, had life granted her?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I haven’t taught public school students in more than 30 years, and I still wonder what became of so many of them, especially those who had some talent either musically, intellectually, or in some other way that I discovered while teaching them music. Might be a universal trait among all teachers.

      Chris in Owatonna


  7. I discovered on that train trip that I could learn to draw, but I doubt if talent is a word that would cover it. I have enjoyed designing quilts and other fabric ventures. I would also love to revive the ability to play guitar enough to lead, say, a sing-along group. My problem is I never put these at the top of the priority list. That may be my life challenge, to put some kind of creativity up at the top – when I do create something, it feels wonderful.


  8. I have a talent that I have discovered fairly recently. It’s a talent for saying or doing something without considering the ramifications of my words or actions and then regretting it big-time afterwards. I’ve had a couple biggies in the past couple months, one of which may have killed a friendship. I’m going to have to try my darndest to kill this talent.

    Other than that, I can’t think of any true talents I have. I have learned how to deal with paper clutter, and am good at it (although I don’t always keep up with it) but it took me many years of frustration before I felt like I had it under control. It’s more of a learned skill rather than a true talent.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Well, I believe i may have a latent talent for acting. When I retire, I hope we can move to a place with a community/amateur theater group. I would be too self conscious to pursue it here where everyone knows me.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. i am a fearless artist. i never let lack of talent stand in the way. i love painting sculpting drawing jewelry making, weaving, photography, conceptal art, writing poetry singing guitar piano sax and i have askeed my dauughters to teac me what they remember of trmpet and oboe before they are gone. i have a cel and violin i hope to diddle on before they get sold. i love montain climbing and that little tremor of nerves you get as you hit the moment of truth, i hope to skydive, i would love to do the suits with wings and the idea of hang gliding or flying one of those hang gliders is appealing, my motorcycle come out of mothballs and i may be ready to try motorcycle campin gthios summer.. i have a kid who is into fly fishihg and want to do a trail in montana of fly fishing streams 200miles long. i told him i camped there accidentally there once and had a school of rainbows next to my campfire for the neighbor to cast and get dinner at 7 and breakfast at 6 with the flick of a wrist. pastels watercolors bronze or clay glass or porcelin makes a small difference to me.
    for me its time and distraction. there are so many things of interest that being a member of the mile wide inch deep club is all i can handle. a mile deep is more prudent but leave that for prudent folks. i am not among them

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Many of us have talents that bring us pleasure. Most of us also recognize that our talents are lame when compared to the work of the truly accomplished. And that’s okay. I have joked about how badly I played guitar, and I meant it. I wasn’t fishing for compliments. It is a gift to be able to make beauty with one’s own hands, never mind that it isn’t as excellent as what a truly gifted artist can do. As bad as my guitar playing was, there were moments when I sat with a cup of black coffee and my guitar early in the morning and made music so lovely it almost made me cry.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are a true musician, Steve, and a musical soul mate. I get more emotional listening to others make music, but many times I’m putting myself smack in the middle of the fantasy of being that performer or group.

      Chris in O-town


  12. Having worked my entire career in one sort of creative trade or another, there isn’t much that I haven’t at least explored and not much I don’t feel comfortable with, however skilled or unskilled I may be. But here’s the rub: I’ve often wondered what direction my life may have taken if I had pursued academics.
    To be frank, I took scant advantage of the academic resources available when I was in college; that just wasn’t where my attention was focused at the time. I’ve since realized how much I love academic research. I’ve had to make up for it as an autodidact, not because my career required it, but because my curiosity did.
    Of course, that’s the road not taken and, with only one lifetime, I’ll never really know the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I might actually be able to write. While a sophomore in high school, the class read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge. We were assigned to relate what the poem meant to us. My take on sin, guilt and repentance must have impressed the teacher as she related to my mother that the work was of university graduate level in understanding and composition. But I was at the time more interested in making money in the construction trades than in literary endeavors. Then came marriage, children, lawn mowing and Twins baseball. Being “published” at long last on Trail Baboon has been a delight. I still haven’t earned a dime. Maybe I need a GoFundMe account.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Never too late to write. I Just published my first novel at age 60. Probably was too stupid to know better, but I’ve sold a few copies and have some terrific, supportive fans here on TB. Give it a shot, Anonymous. Let me know if you need any cheap advice. 😉 Some of it might actually be helpful

      Chris in Owatonna


  14. How timely! One weekend, I got really ill after working too long. While at home, I suddenly got curious about crocheting after reading a magazine. I remembered buying a hook before but only created one bookmark. Lo and behold, I am now on to something! I just finished creating a doily last weekend. I am thinking of many new projects such as mermaid tails, bags and scarves. My family want to purchase already 🙂

    I tried baking on my own last month. I unleashed a new passion for baking. I am on to baking 1000 cookies for the holidays with orders from my family!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. congrats on the new discovery and welcome
      doily is not a word that one comes across very often these days. what an interesting thing to choose as a new endeavor. mermaid tails? have fun. baking is good therapy and it tastes good too. enjoy.
      i hope t see you again on the trail. how did you happen upon our little family?

      Liked by 2 people

  15. The talent I may have had was acting. However it was fear that always kept me from pursuing it when I was young(er). By the time I came to the conclusion I might have been good at it, I figured it was too late. At least for me. I did some amateur acting with a local church troupe. The thing is that I approach my stories as an actor. I get to know the characters the way an actor gets to know his role. I try to become my main character in a story I am writing. This technique has been extremely helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

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