Friday, September 7, 2012

98: Natural gifts vs. acquired gifts

THERE IS A POPULAR THEORY that has been around for a while called the 10,000 hour theoryIn his book Outliers author Malcolm Gladwell writes that people who achieve incredible success have one thing in common: they spent at least 10,000 hours learning and perfecting their craft. Dan McLaughlin, a professional photographer from Oregon, decided to put the theory to the test and committed himself to 10,000 hours to master golf and hopes to become a PGA golf champion. McLaughlin, who had never picked up a golf club, calls his endeavor The Dan Plan and is now sponsored by Nike and is shooting a documentary about the experience.

I think it's possible, especially in the field of sports, to invest 10,000 hours and radically improve your ability. But in the case of art, especially painting, I'm not as convinced. I recently took a year off from painting. When I came back I found my abilities vastly improved, especially my plein air painting. What does such an unexpected development mean to the 10,000 hour theory?

Not painting for a year yet improving means there are other factors besides the brute force of putting in the hours. Acquiring the proper knowledge can vastly accelerate learning. It is one reason I started this blog; to help painters radically diminish the 10,000 hour investment. 10,000 hours is just too much time, especially for people such as myself, who started painting later in life.

I have probably learned more than anyone by writing this blog. And I really appreciate all the thanks I've received. It's one of the reasons I've returned to the Thick Paint project (although I am still working on my commercial project).

I recently purchased a software package to write novels and screenplays called Storyist. One amazing features is you can write a book and with a few clicks publish to the Kindle. This feature prompted me to start writing my own book about Thick Paint. Amazon allows authors a 70% royalty if the price of the book is between $2.99 and $9.99. So I am planning to offer the book between those price points. My goal is to provide information for a reasonable price to painters who might not be able to get information elsewhere.

Let me know what you think of this project. I look forward to hearing from you.

UPDATE: I never got that Kindle book written but you can read what I have so far free here.

Brad Teare September 2012


  1. I've been following your blog for several months, and know one thing for sure: you are a natural teacher! You do it well, and I look forward to your book project. I love the thick, squishy wet look of your paintings, and would enjoy reading your instructions, tips and techniques all put together with the accompanying paintings.

    A favorite post from last year was one where you offered photos of a work in progress, showing how it looked from the beginning, and at various stages. Fascinating and very instructive. Please keep us posted on the progress of your Thick Paint book.

    1. Thank you Rettakat. I appreciate your kind words so much!

  2. Brad,

    Sounds like a worthy project. Good luck! I too had a similar experience coming back to art after a couple of years off. I was trying to figure out why I was better upon return and I determined that although my hands had not done much art in the interim, my brain had done a lot of art. I unconsciously polished my observational and compositional skills because I was not physically engaged in making much art. Now, ultimately you have to make art to see the improvements, but to me, study obviously had an influence.

  3. That sounds good Brad. I have bought a few oil painting books for around $25.00 but they have to cover an area I am very interested in. That lower price is OK for an ebook format.

  4. Many thanks for the feedback. It's those kinds of comments that will prompt me to finally publish that book! So far it is about 35,000 words. I had no idea it would be so hard to edit of book of that length. I have also been slowed down because I learned I can add black and white images to the book which I believe would be helpful especially when writing about values.

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Thanks for your comments!


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