by Shane Lewis7 June '19
Art prodigy, are you born as or do you become one?
Prodigy is one of those wonderful words whose different meanings tell a story about how the meanings of words bloom over time. The word derives from the Latin prodigium, meaning an omen or a sign of something to come. Prodigies are kids who often seem so talented that their success must presage even greater mastery, though, of course, the irony is that most prodigies peak in their youth.
We can define prodigy as an unusually gifted or intelligent (young) person; someone whose talents excite wonder and admiration.
From a quick look at the definitions of the word prodigy, it refers to an exceptionally talented person. The bottom line though seems to indicate that it refers to raw talent and not knowledge or experience, in which case, you are one or you aren't. You can not become one.
Let's draw the portrait
From his early days, a prodigy artist shatters our most primal understanding of the world with his perspectives. He workes voraciously, reinventing his style at a rapid pace—creating thousands of artworks be it sculptures, drawings, copperplate etchings, ceramics, or paintings.
He goes on to destroy everything we are accustomed to and creates a new vision for everyone.
How does a person evolve from newborn to mastermind?
How can a single soul redefine the way we see?
He could be both boisterous and silent, amorous and domineering. But from his beginning as a prodigy to his final, he seems destined for artistic greatness, his journey to genius fixed as firmly as paint on canvas. All the elements have to be there: a family that cultivates his creative passion, intellectual curiosity and grit, clusters of peers who inspire, and the good fortune.
Such a mix of awe and fear is not uncommon when it comes to prodigies. The Latin prodigium carries the connotation of something that’s unexpected but also unwelcome and possibly dangerous. Prodigies perform at an advanced adult level before adolescence, doing complex problems while some of their peers are still learning to jump rope.
Where does such early expertise come from?
Prodigies are rare. Precocious artists have acute visual memories, show remarkable attention to detail, and are able to draw realistically and create an illusion of depth years before their peers. They have an innate talent propelled by a “rage to master”—a passion so intense they feel compelled to draw or paint whenever possible.
From prodigy to genius (will discuss in depth in the next blog)
The vast majority of prodigies don’t grow up to be geniuses, no matter how flawlessly they master a skill. Genius is almost always cultivated by parents and teachers who support and nurture the seeds of greatness. Genius requires a game-changing personality, endowed with the courage and vision to transform a discipline.
The journey to greatness is never a solitary pursuit. One doesn’t know where his creative bursts come from, but they rampage through his head, discrete parts becoming whole through his hands and his paintbrushes.
In the end, the journey from prodigy to legacy is a story of ultimate conquest.