Is talent something that can be learned? Watching Dancing with the Stars, I see contestants who learn the same dance steps, but who execute them in varying degrees. Some contestants seem to have an "it" factor from the beginning while others never seem to quite grasp the movements. I believe that while you can certainly learn new steps, the natural talent or ability to dance cannot be taught. The same goes for singing, painting, or any talent that is called artistic.
Skills are learned, by their very nature; ability or talent, however, is inborn. But talent and learned skills compliment each other.
In the artistic sphere, skills are tools with which a person makes art. They are not art in themselves. Such skills might range from the ability to draw a recognizable face, through the ability to play the guitar, to the ability to string words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs or perform dance steps. The utilization of those skills, however, is where natural talent comes into play.
All humans have some degree of imagination, but not in equal measure. Some are content with playing a tune on a kazoo, while others compose a symphony. A person's share of imagination is not completely cast in stone; neglect can cause it to atrophy, while active use can cause it to grow somewhat. At the same time, it can only grow so far. Practice cannot make a Mozart out of an accountant, nor can disuse perform the opposite.
Talent is an internal ability. It is a drive that pushes the artist to create, and it is a vision that shows the artist what kind of an effect to seek. These two impulses exist together, rather than striking independently. Someone does not think, "I really feel like creating something, but I don't know what." When someone truly wishes to create, he/she wishes to create something in particular. Someone wants to write a short story or a poem; wishes to play a certain kind of song, or perhaps to compose one; or wants to portray a certain role or emotion through dance. One starts with a sense of something that one wants to express, and then looks for a medium with which to express it in a meaningful and satisfying manner.
Learned skills are not irrelevant, however. They are the techniques that permit the artist to take the ideas forming in the imagination and give them an independent existence. Without them, an artist is reduced to a daydreamer. Generally, an artist is more comfortable with some skills than with others, and chooses to emphasize them. At the same time, the idea forming in the imagination may demand one treatment instead of another. Sometimes an artist needs to learn an entirely new skill to give the proper form to a given idea.
As is always the case with tools, having a good selection at hand makes for the most satisfactory results in the long run. Perhaps a writer usually prefers to work in the medium of short stories, but once in a while develops an idea that demands a poetic treatment. This writer could take a class in poetry.Then again, perhaps a given idea requires a more radical shift; perhaps it needs to be conveyed musically, or in a drawing, rather than through writing. Many of the most creative people have cultivated more than one medium of creative expression for just this reason.
In short, the essential qualities that create art are intrinsic to the person, and not learned. Skills that can be learned, however, play an important role in the creation of art. The better the artist knows his skills, and the more options he has at his disposal, the more satisfactory the end result is likely to be. And this is the ultimate goal in any art form.