Wednesday, June 16, 2010

IMC: Demos

Last night at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts, Greg Manchess began his oil painting demonstration of "Beauty and the Beast," entertaining the rapt audience with stories from his martial arts training.

He gave a lecture a few days ago debunking the myth of the DNA gene for talent.

Mastery, he said, comes from steady practice, the willingness to embrace failure, and a positive attitude.

Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell talked about their creature design inspirations, and Scott Fischer led us through the process of composing the digital/traditional cover for an upcoming Robert Jordan "Wheel of Time" cover.

I was scheduled to do a demo after my "Color and Light" talk. So I asked Ken, one of the students (and a college archaeology professor), to pose next to our school mascot, Flynn, the Icelandic ram skull.

Ken is of Norwegian ancestry, so I tried to morph the two faces together into a sort of "Viking Satyr."

Illustration Master Class
Gregory Manchess Art


bill said...

sure wish i could be there

John Calvin said...

Would you be willing to elaborate further on the Manchess lecture about the myth of the DNA gene for talent? I'd love to hear more...

Stephen James. said...

Perhaps we can call it a "Viking Satire" considering how tounge in cheak it is.

LandPainter said...

I'm sorry to disagree with Greg, but I think talent is quite real and does exist. How else can we explain amazing singers like Paul Potts and Susan Boyle? Or basketball players like Michael Jordan? Or entertainers like Elvis. Sure, they probably worked hard and kept practicing, but some people's brains fire differently than others. No matter how hard or long I practice I will never have the ability to sing or play ball like the above mentioned. Why should it be any different with artistic endeavors?

Personally, I struggle with certain aspects of art and just can't grasp them. Is it lack of knowledge or lack of talent? Perhaps both :)

Dan Gurney said...

Had I been there, I would have liked to ask what Greg would say about Mozart. Did Mozart have no more inborn musical talent than anyone else?

Who can say whether inborn talent is encoded in the DNA? Talent may be instilled in some other way.

I agree with Greg that it's not helpful to focus on the "gifts" we may have been given (or not) and focus instead, as he suggests, on practice, learning from setbacks, and cultivating an optimistic outlook.

Sam G said...

Greg Manchess rocks. Would love to see his finished painting though. ;)

James Gurney said...

Sam, Greg's painting isn't finished yet! I'm sure someone will post it when it is.

John, Dan and Sketchguy: It's a fascinating and very controversial topic. Greg actually had a slide in the middle of his lecture that said, "What about Mozart?" with quotes from Mozart himself saying how people misunderstood the nature of his accomplishments.

I'm hesitant to speak for Greg in explaining his argument. Perhaps he'll jump in here or suggest some links.

jeff jordan said...

I used to get mad at people who told me what a Gift I had as an artist. I think some people recognize pretty early on that they have some special talents, but then lots of hard work turns that into a Skill. And even if I've managed to become a fair to middling artist, I have total respect for someone who's a great auto mechanic or electrician, cuz I'm a total IDIOT at those things.........

Daroo said...

I think talent is a complex issue. I don't like when it is delivered as a complement that is really a dismissal-- as in "you're so lucky you're talented..." Its like saying "you're so lucky you have a trust fund..." It discounts all the work, practice and creative decisions that go into making art.

Viking Satyrs! That's high concept -- I think you have your next Dinotopia-esque franchise!

Here's another Manchess pic:

I really identify with his process (at least as I understand it):
By establishing his darkest dark shadow shapes first, he creates a graphically strong two dimensional design -- like a comic book inker "spotting the blacks". Then he builds form and movement with his brushstrokes as he works into the light.

He can establish color temperature and the "key" he's working in a right from the start.

Its not unlike the plein air landscape artists recommend-- shadows first!

K. W. Broad said...

I agree with Greg and Daroo. I fully think talent is simply a myth. I think it is all a matter of mindset, which can be developed.
I have seen someone who was picking up a pencil for the first time draw like he'd been doing it for a few years. But he also viewed the world differently than I did. Despite not considering himself an artist, he was wired to observe his surroundings and how things work, and picked up very quickly how to translate it to paper. It took me much longer to draw like he did when I was starting out, but only because I had to learn to adjust my way of thinking, and I think this applies across the board for anything that is often dismissed as "natural talent".

Some people are wired to think intuitively for certain things and will grasp it faster than others, but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't learn it. It just takes us a little longer to get into the proper swing of it.
Having the right attitude, determination, persistence, and vision can take us a long way :)

Mario said...

The Viking Satyr has something special, and I like the warm-cold play on the skin tones (and everywhere).

As to talent, I agree with Dan: it can be hardly denied that talent exists, but why loosing your time complaining about the gifts you were not given? If you like doing something, work hard, and you'll discover you were given more talent than you thought.

Unknown said...

I rather think that being obstinate to learn something is the real talent...

Amy Lilley Designs said...

What, tell my son that he didn't get his talent from's such a great moment for me every time I throw it out there...(albeit, he's light years ahead of where I was @ his age...oh child of the computer age)...I do, however believe, that it's a either have it or you don't...and you all CERTAINLY have the quick paintings...could well be part of your Dinotopia family...

Unknown said...

I believe that talent exists and that each and every person is given a talent. HOWEVER, just because you have this talent within you doesn't make you brilliant at whatever that might be. It still takes hard work and tenacity to become a "master" at something. Perhaps it's the passion and drive that often comes with this talent that makes it easier for us to grow and improve? I certainly can't live without creating. It's something that I have to practice and do out of sheer need. However, if a person loves art and isn't born with an immediate talent for it, I do believe that hard work and practice will get them somewhere with it. I just think that a person with a born ability will be able to progress further and faster in most cases.

Tristan Alexander said...

"Debunked the myth of DNA gene for talent" this a way of saying there is no such thing as talent and anyone can do it? If so I am afraid I totally disagree! Yes, anyone can be taught to technicaly paint what they can see, or what is real. But I do not belive that anyone can be a true artist just by study. That is like saying anyone could become a great musicial, or pick almost anything else...simply with hard work! Many have tried that and failed! Some people just have a natural affinity for certain things. If you don;t want to call it talent, then it's just simantics, but not everyone can learn to be a great artist! Does it still take hard work and percerverance, yes! But without the inborn spark, the basic drive to create, you will never be a real artist!

Gregory Manchess said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for chiming in! Sorry I'm late....had to catch up from the IMC.

I certainly don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but I'm afraid science is backing me up on this one. We can 'believe' all we want about what talent is or isn't, but in fact, the neuroscientists are currently all aflutter over the subject.

I never really believed I had 'talent.' Never felt it, just wanted to be very good. Apparently, quite a number of other creative people have felt to same. Nietzche being one of them who didn't believe a bit of it, even as far back as 1878.

None of this is bad news! ALL of the findings are exciting and very positive! Yes, of course it takes work: long FOCUSED hours of work. You see, without the intense focus, or Deep Practice, one can 'spin their wheels' over an entire lifetime and not make any progress. (I discovered that in the martial arts. Yikes.)

Many people feel let down when they hear that, indeed, there isn't much difference between them and Mozart neurologically. They feel that they could have followed their dreams if they so chose. Science says we can. That's great news....for everyone.

No one can make another person a "great" artist (whatever that is), but average people, and artists as well, can become better and better through deep training practices.

Here's a website to get you started, but honestly, I've been reading about this subject since the late 70's. The literature is extensive.

I hope this helps. My desire (also so far not a gene) has driven my passion for decades. I love what's coming into the light now, and I've seen it happen to people right in front of me. I've watched the changes. Remarkable.

Just start your research. You'll be amazed and gain refreshed insight and energy to succeed.

Keep Going,