Tyranny of the Talented

Should the unschooled write? Dance? Paint? Speak?

Should anyone who doesn’t know the rules 
attempt anything new?

Should we standardize self expression markers?

Should we correct every mistake? Because there IS a right and wrong?

Somehow we should all know what it is.

And if we don’t know what is accepted as right, we must find out.

Should we be quiet for fear of getting it wrong?

Of course not.

And yet. We often limit the rogue voices.

Within ourselves and in others.

We filter them out.

We filter our own wild muse for fear of what she/he will say.

We might not be able to take it back.

They might see who we are, after all.

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people
but the silence over that by the good people.”
~ Martin Luther King

IMPRINT by Shiloh Sophia, 2015 Housed in the Greenbelt Museum, Maryland


The Tyranny of the Talented

Dear One,

Recently I was corrected in a typo in a quote – the ‘s’ wasn’t supposed to be possessive and I cut and pasted from somewhere else and didn’t catch it. That quote was in a recent email – We are the ones we have been waiting for – by June Jordan. So first, I apologize to you and her for that. But now onto what it sparked.

I make typos often, am aware of it, and consider it a part of life and the speed at which I work and share from the heart. Do I wish it was better, of course. A few emails into the typo conversation, this person said: ‘Laziness compromises art.’ That stopped me in my tracks. I hope I never say anything like that to my students or friends, if I do, slap me. There is so much about it that feels wrong. I wanted to say – “then let me compromise my art and be as messy as possible in the process and lay around eating bon bons while I splatter pink paint.” Yes I felt reactive. And so I took it to my journal – what was it that got me riled. Lots of things but I will focus on one – privilege.

This got me thinking about how even having an ‘editor’ or proof reader or having a typo free document is a privilege. How knowing proper spelling and grammar is a privilege of the schooled. And I got to thinking how many people I have known who were brilliant, but unschooled. What if they were silent? Many of them are. Fear of getting it wrong.

I remembered my test scores being low, but my teachers giving me an A anyway since I ‘knew’ the material even if I couldn’t write it on the test. My comprehension was top of my class, but not in the standard ways. I got by on conversations with my teachers not my scores. I also moved all the time so my education was missing lots of things I still haven’t made up for. But I was smart, just not book smart. Should someone like me, not speak because I am not schooled, I am not even educated in art, yet I teach to thousands.

Am I danger to the status quo? I certainly hope so.

Thankfully, I became an artist. Where I had the room to become the me that I would be. Almost.

One of my early painting teachers post art school, said to me – ‘you should have stayed in art school – you could have been great.’ Then looking at one of my paintings for a long while he said, ‘Thank God you left, they would have ruined you.’ Some of my friends who stayed in did feel ‘ruined’ and had to recover – and were hundreds of thousands in debt, no joke. As for me I just went right into making art, and yes, selling it.

And indeed, my rogue skills with art making without proper training have led to a whole movement where talent is not the standard – and where wildness is encouraged at almost any cost. Intentional Creativity. In a conversation recently Jonathan and I took up this quote:

“We are here to rescue creativity from the tyranny of talented.”

We are here for freedom, not conformity.

This acceptance of imperfection isn’t just because of going fast – it isn’t because we don’t care. It’s because there are more important things than getting things right about things that are not hugely impacting. Yes some typos could be hugely impacting – but you get the idea. Perfectionism isn’t wrong, but expecting others to uphold the standards we hold dear, isn’t welcome. And yes, slowing down has gifts, and so does going fast. I have often gotten into verbal matches with people about typos. And no matter what, everything I do, has them. So be it. It won’t silence me. I will learn as I go. Is it always my best? No. Is it always my heart? Yes. Heart and best work don’t always go together. This assumption needs healing. Just like the assumption that people need to be talented to express creativity. Creativity has nothing to do with talent. It can, but it doesn’t always.

Full tilt boogie all the time is not sustainable. Just because my car has a best and most speed of 100 mph, if I run it like that all the time I am in danger and so are others, of crashing. I look for moderation – not by best or most. Yet full heart.

~ ~ ~

When the child is young and drawing we praise them for their work.
Then at some arbitrary age, we adults make a distinction that – by now – they should be at a different level of skill or they simply are not talented and should quit and move onto something more valuable.

This is a mistake. IF you cut the child off from their creativity you are also cutting of the major and most palpable access to their capacity to know what they think and feel and who they are. Creativity is about soul not about making good art. Self expression grants access to the inner world, without this connection, we make choices our whole life that reflect what we think we should be doing instead of who we actually are.

~ ~ ~

When people read my writing they say my tenses are all over the place. As if there are many worlds at once and times – so I am hard to edit – got it. When everything gets corrected, there are less mistakes but also less aliveness. There is something to that – this making it right, and good and nice, costs us something. Something precious.

Times feel precarious and foreign. Learning to speak our truth is part of the journey. I hope many of us, including myself can be more brave.

This weekend I was blessed to begin an online pilgrimage for the Black Madonna with Dr. Kayleen Asbo, and knew that during these strange times, working with the feminine and our fears and race and all the charged topics we could imagine – was a good idea. It was truly incredible – we have about 250 women traveling with us throughout the world. It’s step by step in painting, but you can also go rogue. Our next livestream is about the Alchemical Path and we will be working with red, gold, black and white paint.

Can you come from knowing

without making others feel like they don’t know

what you know?

Can you be in the presence of other people’s mistakes

without needing to bring them up

to show what you know?

Can you be intuitive without looking too far

into other people’s energy fields

especially without their consent?

Can you speak your truth

without needing to speak against another

person’s truth?

Can you be with the messiness of another person’s process

and see the beauty in it without even the desire

to clean it up?

Signed from the the salt of good tears,


P.S. there are likely typos in this email. 

If you want to comment on any of this you can comment on my Artist Shiloh Sophia Page, I really appreciate it when you do that and like the page too 🙂 it helps me know I am reaching you.

P.P.S. The photo above is from a wonderful weekend honoring and teaching the Black Madonna, you can still sign up by this weekend to join us to paint your version of her – no experience needed, yes, you read that right. Jump on in!