A touch of genius


Dear Artist,

Back in the home studio with my faster computer I’m doing some of those personality inventory tests on line. According to the “Keirsey Temperament Sorter,” for example, I’m what they call an “Idealist Champion.” This gives me an idea of who I am, where I’m happiest, what sort of a mate I ought to have, etc. What I really want to know is what I’m good for. To put it with a little less humility — am I a genius?


The Thinker, bronze sculpture
by Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917)
Rodin Museum

A lot of us would really like to know whether we’re cut out for it. The “sorter” in our business is the quality of our work. It’s been my experience that we can be introverts, extroverts, care-givers, or self-centered boors, and still be damned good artists. What is it that gives some of us the touch of genius? To my knowledge there’s no written test. Perhaps someone in some Psychology Department is saying, “Research needs to be done on this.”

While we can’t say what genius is, exactly, there’s a bit to be learned by what bright folks say about it. There’s more than one side to genius, of course, but it seems to me there’s remarkable agreement: “Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.” (George-Louis De Buffon) “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” (Thomas Edison) “Genius is not a possession of the limited few, but exists in some degree in everyone. Where there is natural growth, a full and free play of faculties, genius will manifest itself.” (Robert Henri) “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” (Aldous Huxley) “Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains.” (Jane Hopkins) “Genius, the power which dazzles human eyes, is oft but perseverance in disguise.” (Henry W. Austin)

Okay, back to work.


The Kiss, sculpture
by Auguste Rodin

Best regards,


PS: “The modes of expression of men of genius differ as much as their souls, and it is difficult to say that in some among them, drawing and color are better or worse than in others.” (Auguste Rodin)

Esoterica: You can take the Keirsey test at http://www.keirsey.com/. In 36 questions you are measured for sensation, feeling, judgement, intuition, thinking, perception and other traits. “It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” (Gertrude Stein)

This letter was originally published as “A touch of genius” on February 12, 2002.



  1. In her book on the determinants of creative genius, Ochse quotes from the poet, Hesiod

    “Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning”.

  2. In my book “A Strategic Painter – Mastermind Your Craft” I have addressed this point (pages 21 – 24). As for me, I am certainly cut out for this profession of being an artist (among many other things: Instructor, Linguist, Picture Framer & Chef). I am an INTJ/P (Enneagram 5w4) and it is through my artwork that I am best able to show my genius (and yes I am a genius though my family may disagree).

  3. Well- I went and answered these questions- but this test is ridiculous- and I did not ask for my score. With virtually every question my answer was both. That’s because I’m BOTH. And this test is about defining you as one or the other. No good artist is one or the other. So I could go on and on here- defining dualities- just to let you see how I’m both- but why bother.
    So to further comment about the last letter- NO WHITE-BOX GALLERY DIRECTOR will ever be the last word on whether or not you are a genius artist. Most hope for the best and don’t have a clue.
    Me? I’m an internationally published display designer (1979) I’m an extraordinarily gifted Club DJ- hearing music in key / with lyric content / and beats per minute. (1978 – 1985) Still mixing music all these years later. I’m an award winning published poet. I’m an internally recognized award winning world-class fiber artist. (http://scythiatextile.com/UK/Fibremen_2011-2014.html)
    I’m also a Shaman / Healer / Light Worker / Tarot Reader / Energy Channel. So that must make me a genius. And a jackass too- I’m just sure.

    • I like your answer Bruce. The internet is full of these 20 question things that are designed mainly to tell you how good and unique you are. The answer to all the questions are in what we do, not surveys. Our life will tell the story.

  4. Pingback: A Touch of Genius | The Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur

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