I have argued for years now that anyone can learn anything, and practice makes perfect. While I believe that certain people are naturally gifted to learn a certain skills easier and faster, I don’t believe that it would be impossible for people to reach high levels of performance in any skill with the right amount of determination.
A few days ago at work we were discussing whether or not we needed another team member on our team. My company has an IS department of over 300 people, and my team is a mere 4 members. We handle all corporate communication technology, e-Learning, public affairs technology and learning technology. A pretty daunting task for our humble team.
My coworker argued that we needed another teammate with a background in graphic design, and that the he (or she) could learn the technical skills as needed along the way. He felt that artistic and creative ability was something you either had or didn’t, while programming and computer skills are learned. My coworker looked across the aisle at the anime posters in my cube and said he could never learn how to do that. I explained to him that it was a skill like any other. I look at some web applications and would have no idea how it works, yet he could easily look at it and probably break it up in his head how it was put together. Its the same thing when it comes to drawing and art! I can look at a person or object and break it up into simple shapes which are easier to draw and fill in details after.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at these two examples from my own life. Take the drawing I did in 2001 on the left. Now I thought that was pretty good, and was happy with it. Four years later and about a dozen sketch books filled with absolutely terrible drawings, I’m creating illustrations like the one on the right.
As another example, take my first cartoon sophomore year of college and compare it to my last cartoon senior year.
You won’t become a better illustrator, programmer, musician, mathematician or anything through osmosis. To be an illustrator you need to study anatomy, shapes, depth, perspective and practice, practice, practice. Look at your finished drawings and make notes about what looks right, and more importantly, what looks wrong. To be a better programmer you need to do the same thing, except with your code.
My point is, its about practice and actually trying to learn, not just going through the motions, not just doing. There is a difference.