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Child Prodigies

I’ll just come out and say it, child prodigies make me jealous. Especially this kid, or this one.

Its frustrating to me because like other fellow artists, this is something we’ve been working at for a long while and yet still our personal work goes without recognition.

When I was much much younger (about half my age) I remember watching a story on the nightly news about a girl who could paint like Picasso. (Her work looked more like Wassily Kandinsky’s at the time but hey, who knows better, the news media or artists? I digress…) At the time, I didn’t know what a publicist was, but now knowing what one is, she must have had a pretty good one.  It seemed like she was making ordinary children’s art on giant canvases. Not only that, most people her age probably wouldn’t have access to these canvases unless their parents saw dollar signs.  After having just researched other child prodigies, I stumbled upon this artist’s work.  She is still painting, making millions, and her style hasn’t changed much. Maybe this girl was a real prodigy, but she seems more like a one hit wonder.

True, every artist has their own style, but in order to get better, don’t you have to explore the possibilities of other techniques and styles to make your own better?  This is what most musicians do, why can’t this be applied to art?  I would think if you were a child prodigy, you would want to see if you could break your own mold and see if you could do something better than you had previously.

What about child prodigies like Marla Olmstead?  I won’t bother delving into the subject of her work because so many others out there have also commented on it including child psychologists. A documentary was made about her, her process and whether or not she’s a normal child enjoying making art, or if her work is the product of her parents’ prodding. This is why I believe there is a true distinction between children like her, Kieron Williamson and  Victoria Yin.  There is more than one approach to art, but the true approach is in the deliberation with which it is approached.  This is why I believe Mr. Williamson and Miss Yin are the real deal. Its arguable that Marla Olmstead’s art is like that of Willem DeKooning‘s, but again  for me the separation of what is real art, and what is just an exercise in swirling color is intent and deliberation.

Talent like the young artists I mentioned above is very hard to find. Keiron is already painting like some of the old masters and Victoria is creating works that look like surrealism meets cubism.  It makes you wonder how someone so young can make art at such an advanced level when the rest of us have to work at it. If they were 20 years older, would their work stir the same reaction? Subtract how good their art is from the equation and look at their age, this is what people are looking at, not the art itself. Even as they age, the sales of their work will only increase because they were child prodigies, making the work they did in their youth worth way more than anything they will create later in life.

What if you were to apply this in reverse? What if someone who is in their 90’s started painting for the first time and produced work like this? Would you purchase it? Would you pay millions for the artist to paint a work just to say you had one?

They say VanGogh didn’t start officially painting until later in life, but it makes you wonder, did he always have it in him? Could he have been a child prodigy if given the chance?

What do you all think?

4 responses to “Child Prodigies

  1. You raise an interesting point. Michael Jackson was somewhat of a child prodigy, he was singing great songs with the Jackson 5 when he was 8 years old. Let’s look at someone like Susan Boyle. She is considered a newly discovered talent. I’ve not done any research – I’m far lazier than my wife – but I bet she could sing well at a young age too. Maybe no-one heard her.

    • If Ms. Boyle was heard,maybe they truly appreciated her and wanted her to make her own way rather than hear a cash register anytime they heard her? Not to get into it too much but Joe Jackson who managed the Jackson 5 did so primarily for money. This is the drawback to having a talented family or a prodigy in the family. You start to see people get greedy at the expense of the talented rather than letting the talented make the decision if they want to be in the spotlight or not. I don’t think Michael had a choice did he? I’m not too up on this subject so please forgive me if any of this is wrong 🙂

  2. Sarah Boo ⋅

    Is it more fun to have a huge amount of talent at an early age, perhaps never getting any better and being the same your whole life, or to have a chance to grow over time and have more say in who you are?

    • Thats a very good question and it should go up for debate! Which option would you choose? In this instance, I would have to say the latter. If you were the same your whole life, people would know what to expect out of you. Because being an artist is very much tied into who you are as a person, not only would there be nothing left to discover in your work by your audience, you would never be able to surprise or impress yourself. Thats it, if you’ve done everything there is possible by age 8 then what’s left? What’s to stop the prodigy from being bored, and dropping art altogether? (Other than money of course.)

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