Is Creative Talent Inherited?

Have you ever been told that your talents ‘run in the family’?

Aside from such a statement making me feel mildly robbed of credit, I hadn’t really thought too much about this until I recently spent some time in the home I grew up in.

As well as serving to remind me that once out of a single bed, you’ll only go back by necessity, my stay also afforded me the chance to look at some of the artistic endeavours of my fore-fathers that my parents have displayed on their walls.

This pencil drawing goes back to my paternal great-great grandfather who lived in The Netherlands. (Cows are pretty easy drawing subjects to come by over there.)

This little Australian landscape in oils was painted by my paternal grandfather back in the 1980s. I wonder if – coming from The Netherlands – he was instinctively drawn to flat farmlands?

Not to be outdone, this little oil painting was done by a great-great uncle on my mother’s side of the family. (Pastoral scenes clearly the order of the day for all these men!)

I grew up peeking at these drawings and paintings and wondering if I’d ever reach the same heights.

I tend to believe that a lot of artistic talent comes through sheer hard work and practice, but am I selling my gene pool short? Can my ancestors claim just a little credit for my artistic leanings?

A quick spot of research reveals that there are, in fact, genetic differences in those for whom creativity comes more naturally. Huh.

These differences affect the connectivity between different regions of the brain which in turn help creatives to think more laterally and to ‘form novel associations, detect patterns and comprehend symbols’. (1) Well how about that?

Of-course, none of this means that it’s a given that someone with ‘creative genes’ will go on to succeed in their artistic endeavours - that still requires sheer hard work and practice - but it is a small leg-up I suppose.

So next time you’re neck-deep in some creative pursuit, cast your mind back a generation or two and give a nod to those who’ve likely done something equally as artistic in their own time.

And now, I believe it may be my family duty to go find a cow to draw.


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