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?

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.” (H.W. Austin)

Okay, back to work.

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/ It will cost you $14.95. 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)

The following are selected responses to the above and other letters. Thank you for writing.


Myers-Briggs vs Keirsey
by Bonnie Mincu, NY, NY, USA

Regarding Myers-Briggs (I’m an INTJ), I’ve used it for years in my corporate work and find it very useful. It’s a little different from the Keirsey types. I think the Keirsey temperament types are more inclined to type people as “artists,” whereas Myers-Briggs typing would probably have artists being able to be in any of their 16 types. With Myers-Briggs, knowing what type someone is would make it possible to predict what type of artist they are… for example, detailed, tight and realistic versus open and abstract. One could also determine whether or not they preferred to continue to fiddle with their paintings for a long time, or got satisfaction finishing a painting quickly and saying it’s “done.” People with Attention Deficit Disorder are said to fall more often into certain Myers-Briggs types, but not always. For example, they’d be more likely to be N (Intuitive/big picture) than S (sensing/detailed and linear). And they’d probably be more likely P (liking to keep possibilities open) than J (preferring closure). However, I’m a strong J, so it doesn’t always hold. With Keirsey typing, the “artisan” type would probably be more likely ADD, but I know of no studies on this. The problem with artists and temperament typing is that artists are not of all one temperament. I received my training from an extremely focused, disciplined realistic painter — NOT an “artistic temperament” and certainly not ADD.


Keirsey humbug
by Hank, NY, NY, USA

After doing the Keirsey test, considering the questions, and then having some friends do it I’ve come to believe that this supposed ‘temperament sorter’ is as valid/useful as the daily horoscopes or biorhythms. How come every single person I know who did this test falls under the supposedly small percentage of those who are ‘Idealists’? Then I read his take on ADHD/ADD. He spins a convincing yarn, whether it’s an attempt to debunk a valid neurological condition like ADD, or an attempt to ‘sell’ us on yet another type of horoscope. Bravo, Mr. K.


Tapping into the great “knowing”
by Jolene Monheim, Kauai, USA

The personality sorter is very useful if for nothing else than to improve one’s tolerance towards others “styles” of learning about and processing the world. I find the Keirsey personality sorter to be very helpful to promote healthy group dynamics in an office setting. The ESTJ employee needs to be aware of their style and tone down the urge to “take over” and supervise their INFP boss. Likewise the more intuitive domestic partner needs to take into account their spouse’s need for “concrete” hard facts and direction in any given interaction and vice versa. Honoring and respecting the differences between how we see and experience the world is part of gaining wisdom, something that the test will not determine. I believe that the “sorter” that you refer to in “what makes good art?” is the ability to be evocative. I wonder if the great artist simply has the ability to tap into the greater “knowing,” something like Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, and communicate it in such a way that we, the audience, resonate in a deeper part of our being. Maybe not even in the same way that the artist’s original vision was intended. When I see something that moves me, I feel a certain vibration in a part of me that bypasses my brain.


Idealist Champions arise!
by Janeson Rayne, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

I took that Keirsey test awhile back, and lo and behold, I too am an Idealist Champion. They say that 2% of the entire population is in this category. The irony is this. You are the first and only other person I’ve ever heard mention the Keirsey test. And you ALSO are classified as an Idealist Champion. It seems to make sense. Me? I’m always writing, painting, communicating — and it’s always about hoping to shed some light on something — to get another glimpse of the diamond that I can share with others. And you, it would appear, are similarly curious and motivated.


Myers-Briggs test
by Lorna Dockstader, Calgary, Alberta, Canada


“A Morning at Medicine Lake”
by Lorna Dockstader

I recently took the Myers-Briggs test, which also determines the qualities: extrovert/introvert sensing/intuitive feeling/thinking and judging/perceptive. There were several books available at the library to help with interpretation of results — What’s Your Type? Type Talk etc. One of them told me I was a compassionate visionary-3% of the adult population are this type. I also learned that certain types are better suited to careers in the Arts than other types. The majority of CEO’s and upper managers are extroverted thinkers whereas artists tend to be introverted and intuitive feelers. It was all very interesting and it confirmed that leaving my part-time job in the oil patch and painting full-time instead was something I should have done years ago. The test is a good way of helping one to decide what career path might be best for them.


Blown away
by Leanne Cadden, Victoria, B.C., Canada


by Leanne Cadden”

In second year Commerce at the University of Victoria, we have a class called Organizational Behavior. Everyone had to take numerous aptitude tests. The best by far is the Keirsey Bates Sorter. Two years ago (before they were charging people for the results) I had all my hometown friends and my family, take the test to see what Keirsey had to say about them. I’d say 90% of the time it was bang on! I was very impressed with the results. My personality was an eNTp — Rational Inventor. The Rational is “proud of themselves in the degree they are competent in action, respect themselves in the degree they are autonomous, and feel confident of themselves in the degree they are strong willed. Ever in search of knowledge, this is the “Knowledge Seeking Personality” — trusting in reason and hungering for achievement.” The Inventors also “wish to exercise their competence in the world of people and things, and thus they deal imaginatively with social systems as well as physical and technological systems. The eNTps are endlessly inventive, and are the most reluctant of all types to do things in a particular manner just because that is the way things have always been done. As a result of this innovative attitude, they often bring fresh, new approaches to their work and their lives.” These were a few of the things that were relevant to my personality. In fact, I felt the whole page description of the Inventor was “me” and I was blown away. I was also happy to know that Walt Disney, Buckminster Fuller, and Steve Jobs were also eNTps! Everyone should take this test!!!


Outside the box
by Arla J Swift, Harrison Lake, BC, Canada

I’m pretty sure geniuses do not take tests that put people in boxes, especially themselves. I think geniuses are too busy thinking outside of boxes, to be attempting to fit in them, if you get what I mean — as I’m sure you do, because I think this is some kind of joke. In fact, I think it is one of your trickster type things — I think this all came about because you went to see “The Fellowship of the Ring” and got infatuated with Gandalf. Geniuses like to play around a lot and have a good sense of humor too.


by Faith Puelston, Germany


by Faith Puleston

Oh dear, and I thought I was just lazy! Gertrude Stein may have a point. Should I now be speaking for all geniuses (genii?) when I say that there’s nothing like having to do something in a hurry for getting it done! I once did such a psychological test and “failed” miserably to qualify for any of the activities I really shine at. Maybe we should found a Society. I know a psychiatrist (well, doesn’t everyone?) He reckons that anyone who gets involved with the psyche in any form is a crackpot, including himself. They all start by analyzing themselves and each other. If they survive that, they turn on the innocent bystander and/or scout for volunteers. Well, no one forced you to do that test, did they? I know of a really fun test, which is free of charge. Readers might be amused and edified. It’s a left brain — right brain, personality of the brain, type test. When I’ve been painting, my visual side is clearly dominant, when I’ve been teaching voice, the auditory side takes over. When I’ve been challenging my computer to a game of scrabble, flames appear.


99% perspiration
by Bill Cannon, California Coast, USA

Today, Edison’s birthday, let’s say that he was right. Further, let’s say that Henri was right too. So, if there is 1% genius in everyone, you are a genius, just like the rest of us. It is, then, only the 99% perspiration that counts.


Genius from birth
by Wiebke Görner, Manchester, UK

I have thought a lot about the question of how geniuses (what is the proper plural?) are created, as I worry that the term is often used to divide rather than do something more positive. The prevalent opinion seems to be that genius is in-born, and that is that! I have been a psychologist and psychotherapist before I became a full-time painter and have carefully looked at some of the lives of my favorite geniuses: Freud, Picasso and Mozart. What all these three people have in common is that at least one parent thought them to be a genius from birth (in Freud’s case one aunt is said to have leant over the cot and pronounced: “This child is going to be a genius!” Very Brother Grimm!) Therefore my opinion is, that a person brought up on a belief as firm as this will always push the boundaries in the secure knowledge that this their task in life. So it must have to do with expectations and the absence of a fear of rejection. And of course: doing it for over eighty years (as in the case of Picasso) helps as well.


On with the quest
by Theresa Bayer, Austin, Texas, USA

I’ve pondered on the mysteries of genius — and whether I had even the slightest touch of it — for years. The more I wondered how much ability I had, how original my work was, or whether I’d ever become famous, the more unhappy I made myself. Not asking myself those questions anymore, I am simply getting on with the quest.


Quiet determination
by Sally Martin, Lancashire, England

The thing with this issue of ‘No support’ is it comes down to self-support, self support and nurture. My partner offers varying degrees of interest and support in my life as an artist and he used to view it as hobby gone mad. In the last few years he has had the realization of what wonderful possibilities lie ahead for me each day I am making my goals happen. When he is disinterested or dismissive he is usually operating from a lack of understanding or fear. I am changing so much as my career develops, really flourishing and getting strong, it has taken me a while to realize how scary this is for him. I have realized that he cannot comprehend my internal private artist life, it is my journey alone and I have to be my own support and enabler. I have to reach out to others on a similar path to mine, creative friends, other artists in my studio, the RG letters and clickbacks. This is where I get the sense of others ‘out there’ who understand and support me and ‘get’ what is happening to me in my creative life. I am learning to give myself free rein to make the decisions right for me. I cannot wait for others’ permission or approval, I move ahead with quiet determination.


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 96 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2002.

That includes Frans Tieleman who asks, “Does it take genius to pay $15 for 36 questions?”

And Edward Berkeley of Portland, Oregon, who says, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.”

And Yvonne Dionne, MD, who says that auras are a better guide to character evaluation.

And Stephen Connor who says when he thinks of genius he thinks of Ringo Starr’s song: “It Don’t Come Easy.”

“Once you had to be a genius to make works of art. Now you have to be a genius to understand them.” (Roy Emmins)

“One cannot explain the existence of genius. It is better to enjoy it.” (Professor Sir Ernst Gombrich)


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