Thursday, October 22, 2009


I was born an artist. It is in my genes.
I know this for sure.

When I was four years old, my Dad came to pick me up for a weekend visit. My parents were divorced and I looked forward to being with my daddy each week. We were kindred spirits. That particular weekend, before our planned outing, he told me he had to stop at “Uncle Lefty’s” house. Lefty was his brother and my uncle. When we got to his house in downtown Detroit, I was told to stand and wait in the vestibule. Since I was a very obedient kid, I would normally stand still until told to move. I didn’t obey that day. After my dad left my sight, I moved towards the French doors leading to the living room. I opened the doors and was hit with the wafting smell of what I now know to be turpentine and oil paints. I stood there looking at the large room. There was no furniture. The walls were lined with canvases and there was an easel with taboret in the middle of the room. I just stood there looking. Then my four year old mind thought this thought:

“I don’t know what he is doing in here, but I want to do it too!”

The rest is history. I did just that. I became an artist. Unfortunately, my Uncle Lefty gave up art shortly after my discovery of his work. He got married, had kids, and worked in a factory the rest of his life. His own artistic pursuits were forgotten except for garage Halloween extravaganzas!

None of my family is close. We were never told about our family history. In fact, I didn’t learn about my paternal grandmother’s talents until after I had my M.F.A. The discovery was quite by accident. My father was drunk and he told me a story about his mother painting murals in churches in Illinois. I had never heard that before. It was so shocking to me. However, it reaffirmed my belief that art is in my blood.

We all have the ability to be creative. I have noticed the controversy of “nature or nurture” comes up all the time when I watch art videos.
Are we born artists or is the artist created through study and practice?
I really believe we all have the attributes to be artists and we are meant to create. However, I also believe it is a matter of degree. I think we have varying aptitudes to utilize our creative skills. For example, I am creative but I could never sew a dress or play concert piano. This is not just because I have not spent the time to study how to do either. I don’t have the aptitude to excel in fiber work or music. I know this because I have tried to learn both. I know for sure, you could lock me in a room for decades and I would never be able to compose music like Phillip Glass. However, I excel at creating with certain visual art materials. I know sculptors who can’t draw. I know writers who can’t sing. So it goes.

What do you think? Are artists born or made??

Click pic of detail view
“When the Bubble Bursts”
Sheree Rensel
Digital Mixed Media Collage


Elizabeth said...

I believe without a doubt that artists are born. One can learn about color, drawing, technique..but one can never learn the intangible thing that artists bring with them to earth when they are born. I knew when I was very small that art was the meaning of my life. I knew even when other kids could draw better than me, that I had something unique to channel in this life.
Thanks for your personal view into your discoveries, your artistic life.

Sheree Rensel said...

I believe this too. I really do. I remember seeing a video with some female, NY artist (I can't remember which one at the moment) and she went on and on about how anybody can be an artist. I sat, watched, and said "BULLSHIT!".

I do believe all humans have the capacity to be creative. However like I said in the post, it is a matter of degree. I don't care how hard I would try, I will never be a Top Chef or a master of Irish dancing. It just isn't IN ME. I know my place as a visual artist. These traits were given to me genetically.

Anonymous said...

Trying is not enough, wanting is not enough. I may want to be a brain surgeon but that does not mean I *can* be. It requires talent, inborn capacity, as well. Same with art - talent or capacity and hard work are both needed. That's my $5 worth anyway.

Anonymous said...

I also beleave that we all have some kind of in born creative side but not only do we have to study and practice to bring it out but we have to also be willing and want to bring it out. The passion.