Are we there yet? What is the greatest talent of all? The one you don’t have

By From page A9 | September 20, 2012

Since talent shows are all the rage on TV right now, let’s talk about what constitutes an actual talent. BMX bike stunt riders are talented; the guy who lets stuff hit him in the crotch without a protective cup is not.

I think people’s reasons for admiring talent falls into two camps: admiring a talent you sort of possess but can’t imagine taking to the next level; and not having even an ounce of a particular talent, so you’re amazed by it.

For example, you might really admire the NBA player who can dunk a basketball, because try as you might, you can’t even get 3 inches off the floor with a running start. You know it is an impressive feat.

But it’s also possible that you really only appreciate a talent you can’t imagine having, like being able to flap your arms and fly.

I’m definitely in the second camp.


It could be argued that a mediocre violinist is more impressed with a first-chair, London Symphony musician because said violinist understands the mountain of talent it took to rise so far. But I maintain that if I already knew how to play the violin, I wouldn’t be dumbfounded by somebody who could play it better. To me, that’s the result of being a more dedicated musician who practices a lot, has a great instructor, makes it a priority in life, etc.

To belabor the point because I thought of more examples, when I watch TV singing talent shows, I admire someone who can sing well, but I don’t revere her the way I would the arm-flapping flying dude. I can sing on key enough to understand that others can sing on key better.

Likewise, I (stupidly) assume that if I exercised more, I could be an Ironman. If I golfed more, I could be on the LPGA tour. Sure, this isn’t even remotely likely, but it feels possible.

(Hmm, I just thought of a third camp: Maybe if someone isn’t interested in a talent than it doesn’t seem all that amazing. Well, that ruins my premise, so forget I said anything.)

What feels utterly unachievable to me is what I hold to be one of the greatest talents of all … drawing and sketching (insert chorus of angels here). It’s like a super power to me, so beyond the realm of possibility to pick up a pencil and draw what I see.

Honestly, if I were to draw stick-people, you wouldn’t know what they were without labels. I have not one tiny bit of artistic ability when it comes to drawing. None-point-none.

Enter my fascination with Pete Scully, local urban sketcher. I found Pete thanks to Twitter, where various people that I keep up with follow him — his sketches occasionally have been attached to their tweets. I’ve been blown away by his sketches of de Vere’s Irish Pub, and one day when I had some time, I clicked on the link that brought me to Pete’s full gallery of work (http://petescully.com).

That’s when I realized I should find out more about this guy and show him to you.

His drawings of icons all around Davis and UC Davis are amazing; you instantly recognize the exact place Pete is capturing, down to the fire hydrants and recycling bins. As I scrolled through the many fantastic sketches, inspiration hit: I would ask Pete if he’d allow The Enterprise to use some of his art to grace the covers of our four “Welcome to Davis” editions (which start publishing Sunday and go through next Thursday). Pete graciously agreed, and I then had the delightful task of hunting through hundreds of images to find the right feel for the covers.

Well, I could go on and on, but words aren’t worthy. I beg of you to take a minute and scroll through Pete’s drawings … they are phenomenal, and it is so much fun to see our town through his pens and paint.

There also is much more to say about Pete Scully, but you’ll have to wait until Sunday’s “Welcome to Davis” edition to find out more.

I will leave you with this thought from Pete: “For me, urban sketching is only partly about the drawing, and largely about the ‘looking’; through recording in a sketchbook we build a closer relationship with the places we spend our lives.”

— Tanya Perez is an associate editor at The Enterprise. Her column publishes every other Thursday. Reach her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya

Tanya Perez

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