“Is drawing considered an innate talent or a craft, which can be learned by anyone?”
Personally, I believe that natural talent exists. The reason I believe in natural talent is because I’ve met too many people who have exhibited truly remarkable drawing abilities to believe otherwise. Many of them can run circles around me in terms of their drawing skills, and they seem to possess an effortless command of drawing that seems to transcend age and/or experience. Take a look for example, at this drawing done by a 13 year old Durer:
Self-Portrait at 13 by Durer
At the same time though, all of the talent in the world won’t get you anywhere if you aren’t willing to work hard, push yourself, and try new approaches. I’ve encountered people who were amazingly talented, but who were lazy. One of my peers in art school was such a scatter brain that he was never able to make a professional career as an artist for himself because he could never keep a continuous thought together. I’ve had students who had dazzling drawing skills, but who were so enamored with their style of drawing that they never wanted to try anything new.
In the beginning of my career when I was teaching high school, I once had a 15 year old student who demonstrated some of the most extraordinary drawing skills I have ever seen. Everything he drew was breathtaking, and he was worshiped by the other students for his incredible drawing skills. However, all of his drawings looked the same, all the time. The drawings he did at the beginning of the semester looked exactly the same as the drawings he did at the end of the semester. Even though all of his drawings were aesthetically beautiful, his progress was completely static and his work never evolved. There was nothing artistic about the way he applied his drawing skills.
Natural talent aside, I also believe that if you are passionate enough, and willing to invest in hard labor and intense dedication, you can absolutely acquire the drawing skills you seek. I’ve had a number of students over the years in my Freshman Drawing classes at RISD who came into my drawing class with almost no drawing experience at all. One would think that lack of experience would set them back, and that having previous drawing experience would be an automatic asset.
Actually, many of the students with no experience frequently end up being some of the top students in the class because of their fierce commitment to learning and their ability to experiment and take risks. Many students have remarked to me that their previous drawing experience was actually a hindrance, and that they wished they could have started from scratch. A good portion of the semester for many of these students is often spent getting rid of bad habits, which in many ways is much tougher than starting with nothing.
Remember though, that even the greatest talent and drawing skills will only take you so far. In the end, it’s the creativity and ideas that matter. Artists have to think and make choices in their work-this is what distinguishes an artist from someone who is simply technical adept.