Can You Learn to Paint or Are You Born With It?

Strawberry Souffle Bouquet
From The Joyful Brush online class: Strawberry Souffle Bouquet, 16X16, oil

People ask me such great questions. For example, this came from a lady right here in Texas: “Nancy, have you noticed, now that you have your own business, does the Wine Hour move up by one hour every year, or is it just me?” Since we did mention wine in the last Blossom Blog, it seems like a good way to start this post, too, (plus, we are packing for Italy right now!). So, in answer, absolutely and yes, the Wine Hour does seem to move up an hour every year here in Flower Mound Studio, kind of like a one-way time change, with much leaping forward and very little falling back. However, I am a bit concerned that the gal who asked the question restricts herself to just one hour. Perhaps that was a typo.

Another great question that came in this week was, Can you learn to paint, or are you born with it? I’m a firm believer that a woman can do anything she sets her mind to, if she truly decides to, and I’m not just saying that because I saw Wonder Woman yesterday. I happen to come from a long line of famously stubborn women, my grandmother, my mother, and I’m sure my Great-grandmother, too. How to achieve the impossible? Tell me I can’t do it. When it comes to art and reaching a pinnacle of some sort of success, I do think talent helps. But I really think hard work helps more. In Color Theory class in college, there was a student whose work absolutely astounded all of us, his classmates, and the professor, too. Each assignment, the student completed quickly and beautifully. After not much time at all, the teacher took him aside and told the student he was being accelerated to the next level class.

You can image how glum we left-behinders were, after seeing a budding Michelangelo in our midst. I’ll never forget what the professor said to us. He said chances were slim that the young man would be a successful artist. The professor said that when someone is given a talent that they do not have to work at, they often move on to other things. Succeeding in art is 10% talent, and 90% hard work, he said. But there is one thing he didn’t say. I’m convinced it’s also necessary to have a real desire to be an artist. We all start somewhere, some at a halfway point around the racetrack, and others (like me) find our way to art later in our lives. Regardless of where your talent lies on that invisible scale we all see in our own imaginations, I believe the thing that pushes you over the finish line is the willingness to keep painting, to keep going, after we fail at a painting. It’s your own personal tolerance for failure, measured against how much you want to live the art life, that will determine your success. Mix together a stubborn streak, a desire to learn to paint, and a bit of hard work and dedication, and nothing can stop you from succeeding. It’s completely and totally up to you.

PS – A huge congratulations to Regina L, winner of a peony print for leaving a comment in my post last week – leave a comment here and you’ll be entered to win an art print, too!

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Nancy Medina

Nancy is a master signature artist and instructor with over 1800 online students from around the world. She has worked with Disney, served on the art faculty of the Dallas Arboretum, and teaches workshops in France, Italy and across the US. More about Nancy

Reader Interactions


  1. Absolutely loved this blog Nancy! Such wise words Practice, Patience and Perseverance-thats what I keep reminding myself as well. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful thoughts, inspiring stories and encouraging words!!

    • You’re most welcome Rohini! I’m glad you enjoyed my little wine colored missive! 🙂

  2. I was at a painting convention and became totally overwhelmed with all the beautiful paintings. I felt so inadequate. A decorative artist told me to find something I loved to paint and work to be better at that. It was great advise. Once I felt comfortable painting flowers, I was willing to branch out a bit.

  3. I agree 100%, Nancy! After 37 years with Amoco/BP, I asked an artist friend if I could learn to paint, since I had never picked up a brush. She asked if I had the desire to paint (she knew I did), and I replied “very much so”. I joined her weekly workshop in February 2016 and can’t believe what was hiding inside of me. And then I found you…and I’m so thankful for the doors God has opened in leading me down this artful path. Thank you for sharing your talent and knowledge!

    • Just tell me I cant and I will find a way. That has been my secret to accomplishment all my life. Its always worked for me. And all the strong women in my family, too. How amazing to find a group like this and a teacher like Nancy!

  4. I witnessed a similar thing in art class over 40 years ago. A new student, who hadn’t painted before sat by me. She did 3 remarkable paintings and I wondered whether she was really new at painting. When she didn’t show up for a couple of classes, I asked the teacher about her. The teacher said that painting really didn’t challenge her and she moved on to something else. I agree that persistence and hard work is 90% of painting.

  5. As a youngster, I drew, painted, sewed and crafted. Then work, marriage, kids…etc took over my life for numerous years. Now I am an empty nester and have started thinking about my love of everything creative. I recently bought some art supplies and dug out my sewing machine and am beginning my creative journey again! I believe it’s never too late to try ANYTHING new!

  6. If I had not taken your class myself I would be skeptical about how positive and uplifting you are in real life . Nancy is the real deal ladies I have seen it for myself . I so look forward to my trip to Italy with Nancy and Carlos to learn Nancy’s beautiful style of painting . I feel really blessed for having found you for having met you and for the opportunity to take this trip of a lifetime . See you soon !

    • Thank you so much Anita, I’m sending energy and good thoughts your way. I’m so honored and blessed you joined me for Italy – xo

  7. Thanks once again, Nancy, for brightening my day. When I open your blog and read the encouragement I am lifted…I feel that I am painting because I love it, and because I love the COLORS…mixing the million shades does something wonderful for me. I know that is only a small part of the process, but without the joy of color it would be a challenge rather than a pleasure when I sit in front of a blank canvas.

  8. I like how you said that inherent talent does help when it comes to art, but hard work helps more. Lately I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands and think it would be really fun to take an art class. I’m glad I read your article because I feel a lot more motivated and hopeful about being successful in the class!

    • Daphne I’m glad to hear that! It sounds like art is one of the talents that is calling to you!

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