Talent v’s Technique

A few years ago I spent some weeks at my brother's place in North London. The TV in the living room had Extreme Sports channel on, and different housemates would watch it on a pretty regular basis. Most of the stuff they showed was skateboarding and different disciplines of bmx.

In the beginning one could just not pass by the living room without feeling a force towards the screen. The awe and admiration at the different skills displayed there. The finest artistry and seemingly über-human performing qualities of most skateboarders, bmx-ers, etc was a reminder to us in that living room of the amazing potential of us as human beings.

After a while however, the same tricks didn't seem as entertaining. It didn't matter who did them, they all looked the same. They weren't as surprising or impressive anymore. Maybe because we had seen them already, or maybe seeing more people doing the same tricks made us feel that they were not so special after all. 

Yet, there were still a few times when a certain artist would blow everyone away.  I thought there were mainly two reasons for this: either he had plenty of tricks of his own that were therefore totally fresh, or somehow, his personality and style would shine through. Whatever it was he was different. And I knew it. I would remember his name and whenever he was on screen again I was sure he wouldn't disappoint. And he didn't.

I have now come to call this phenomenon 'Talent vs Technique' as I have come across it on many more occasions in my life. So many times in fact, that I just think it is a universal phenomenon in human artistic expression and creation.

I believe that in any art you need to have a minimum of technique to express yourself or otherwise you are at the mercy of your tools and you won't be able to truly shine through them. But I don't think they are totally related 1 to 1. In fact, if I had to choose between having talent but bad technique or good technique and lack of talent, I would probably choose the former. Of course if both are present then the result can be breathtaking!

Yet, 'talent' is personal, subjective. It is not as easily and objectively measurable as technique. It is not measurable in absolute terms. Even if you may feel that your expressivity as an artist/performer is improving or worsening, it is, ultimately, subjective.

So how do you train? Do you train talent or technique? Both? Separately? Together? Is that even possible? What do you think?

Guillermo Justel

Guillermo coaches Handbalancing on Monday evenings at 7.30pm