Up here in Canada, some people think the government should be regulating the names we pick for our kids. It has come to their attention that oddball names may have a detrimental effect on proper development. There was a case, for example, where a couple named their firstborn “Loser.” Loser was followed by another boy they named “Winner.” Funnily, it was Winner who grew up to be a beer-drinking layabout, and Loser is currently, by all reports, making big bucks as a stockbroker.
Then there’s the case of Benson W. Hedges III. With both dad and grandpa oozing success from every pore, little Benny felt so much pressure that he smoked his lungs out.
Winning in our game can mean jumping on the daily carousel of satisfaction, regular trips to the bank, or both.
I’ve spent a lifetime just trying to figure out what it is that makes artists winners. Raw talent counts, but it certainly isn’t everything. Hard work and quality art are right up there, but there are other factors.
One of them is the ability to develop parallel human relationships — finding and featuring others with complementary personalities and who are equally passionate. These are the folks we need to hook up with. Because our precious creative egos hang so closely to our art, it can be difficult for some to let go, join in the fray, and truly share. “Winners,” says Joe Blodgett, “have friends.”
Then there’s the “stripe factor.” Skunks can change their stripes. Every winner I’ve ever known was capable of change. They knew they could change. They knew they could get better. They became students of their own processes. To do otherwise was just too hard to take.
It doesn’t matter what your name is. Up here in Canada we have a bunch of winning artists whose name is Smith: Gordon Smith, Betty Smith, Keith Smith, etc. Then there’s the case of Larry Bracegirdle. A lot of people want to get a Bracegirdle. Larry, like the others, is dedicated to the daily play of process. “Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.” (William Shakespeare)
PS: “In order to win, we pay with energy and effort and discipline. If we lose, we pay in disappointment, discontent, and lack of fulfillment.” (Maya Angelou)
Esoterica: When I was in art school, there was a kid who was at first so bad, everybody snickered. After graduation he soon became art director of one of the world’s largest ad agencies. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in workshops. Some hopeless beginner will come in, fight the frustration, and emerge looking pretty good. It’s not just their attitude that changes. They begin to see how facility and a sense of purpose go hand in hand. They don’t even have to change their names. “When it comes to winning, you need the skill and the will.” (Frank Tyger)
Name as handicap
by Elihu Edelson, Tyler, TX, USA
So, was van Gogh a winner or a loser? — When I was a little kid, some smart-ass friend of my parents called me “the boy with the handicap” because of my uncommon first name. Later I learned that it was from the Hebrew name of Elijah (Eliahu) the prophet. As an adult I enjoy having a prophet complex. Van Gogh signed his paintings “Vincent” because the French couldn’t pronounce the guttural “Chuch.” (Incidentally, chochma in Hebrew means “wisdom.”)
by Linda from Facebook
In Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he speaks of “Five dimensions of Win/Win.” High courage and consideration are both essentials in winning. He then discusses the three essential character traits required in the Win/Win paradigm. A helpful and insightful read.
What’s in a name?
by Fleta Monaghan, Asheville, NC, USA
A name can make a difference these days, in ways we did not imagine as kids, at least us older artists. I was named after my grandmother, and always wished for a more conventional name as a young person. Now however, I’m so delighted with the name Fleta. For one thing, it is distinctive and unusual, a good thing for an artist, as we do want folks to remember us by name! And, with the Internet, it is pretty handy too. Just google “Fleta” and there I am on the first page (right below the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation!). My first name makes it easy for folks to remember me by name after meeting or when reading something in the press, and they can find me on the Internet too. Who would have thought.
As to being a real winner, names aside, you hit the nail on the head with the thoughts of being a student of your own process. Always defining yourself as a student, and always refining and reinventing your process is what makes us grow and get better and better at what we do. It is what makes being an artist fun too.
by Elsa Bluethner, Sunshine Hills, BC, Canada
Perhaps a person with the name “Winner” feels he is entitled as the name implies, whereas “Loser” needs to prove himself by defying the laws of the negative connotations attached to his name. When I was in CEGEP in Montreal, I attended the Fine Arts program and lasted one semester. I was told by my teachers that I had talent (which was a blessing since I did not have support in the home and had nowhere to do my work). The downside was that since I could not figure out how to put in the time, I failed, and finally was expelled from the program. I felt that since I had talent, I should have been allowed to stay and should have passed with flying colours.
I went on to fashion school 6 years later and excelled — except in drawing. The instructors told me I had “talent” and wanted to see some improvement. Again I believed since I could draw the best in the class I should have the highest mark. This was not to be. I finally decided to look at the work of the students getting the A’s and realized they were putting in a lot of time doing the work. I proceeded to do the same and try harder; my drawings improved, and my teachers took notice. Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.
What is success?
by Caroline Simmill, Morayshire, Scotland
A lot depends on what you want your art to be. Some artists may want commercial success, so it is important to learn your painting and drawing skills very well. You learn to market your work, which is not easy as I don’t remember that being taught to artists at art school. Most important, you need to learn how to network, and this is fun as you get to meet new people and some important feedback on your artwork.
There are a great many artists who see their art as a personal expression. They may also wish to paint subjects that interest them and are not of interest to those who buy art. Can we really deem success by how many paintings an artist sells in their painting life? If you need to live off your painting then yes it is important to sell enough work to take care of yourself.
How many paintings do you need to sell to be seen as a success and how big a success do you really want to be? I am happy selling my paintings in four galleries. This is where I want to be in my artistic career. I don’t want to do big solo exhibitions and I certainly don’t want to travel miles to hold exhibitions in other areas. So, in my small world I am successful yet nationally I am not. At the end of the day we all need to be honest about where it is we want to be in our art. I have met artists who feel success is to have learnt a new skill and to capture light in their painting after not being able to do so before. To another success at their art is about expressing on canvas or paper their personal life journey stuff. I don’t feel we can be black and white about winners and losers. There is just so much more to life than that.
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Talent without soul
by Dave C from live comments
It’s usually not the class presidents or those with higher intellect that make it in this world. It’s those that struggle in school and when entering the workplace. Those that have to work hard to make their way are the ones that become the millionaires and business owners, a lot of times employing those that fared much better than they themselves did during school. It’s those seventeen year old kids that work nights and weekends after school, learning that hard work and pride in one’s work are the future millionaires and business owners. It took the reading of two books to wake me up and show me where I had gone wrong. Both books are by Thomas J. Stanley, entitled The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind.
How many artists who have showed great talent, some even being labeled as “naturals,” have struggled because their work, while showing lots of talent, displayed no life or soul? How many of these artists feel that all they have to do is drip a little paint on a canvas or draw half a dozen lines with a piece of charcoal and the world will be falling down at their feet, ready to proclaim them the next Wyeth or Pollock? I’ve attended art events and have run into this type of artist who, if you question their art, act as if you are beneath contempt, that their art needs no explanation or justification. It is what it is.
Some of us are labeled “winner” early on and it’s the worst thing that can happen to us. Others get the “loser” tag affixed to them and, if they can survive it and look past it, they become some of the most successful in whatever field of endeavor they choose. Maybe, some day, we’ll stop all this nonsense of teaching our children that they are special and they are winners without even lifting a finger, and get back to teaching them how to take pride in hard work and craftsmanship, leading them to much more fulfilling and useful lives.
by Diane Fujimoto from live comments
Talent alone does not insure success – many things contribute, including hard work of course, but sometimes circumstances like age, environment, etc. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell actually contains a story much like Dave C’s IQ story above. How is it that some are successful and other are not? What made Bill Gates, The Beatles or Tiger Woods so successful? It’s the 10, 000-hour rule — and all the right circumstances that followed.
What is winning?
If I think I win, I win. If I think I lose, I lose. When aspirations are set so desperately low that anyone can win (a subject you dealt with in a recent letter) then the whole win/lose thing becomes meaningless. I detect that you are on a bandwagon to really raise standards again, even with the conservative and traditionalist slippage that would result. This may be the price America has to pay to get back on track as a quality leader. For too long the visual arts, particularly in the West, have been haunted by the vested interests of pyramiding profits with artistry of little merit.
Your name makes you
by Crandall Roggerty
The Kabalarians believe the name you give your child has a profound effect on his or her progress in life. There is a direct relationship between your names and all the conditions in your life. There is much more to your name than just its sound, origin/meaning, lineage or numerology. It seems that people become their names, and often the simple act of changing your name can have a profound effect even when done in later life. The chosen name expresses his or her inner purpose more fully. It fulfills his or her greater mental potential through a harmonious mind, makes the person happier and more creatively expressive, and engenders health due to the influence of a positive name.
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We rise up
by J. Bruce Wilcox
A whirlwind winds around life and forms new connections. Old ages pass away this moment and a new day is born. Time stops and the big wheel spins on and on. Doesn’t it? Seems like anything is possible… It’s an extraordinary time to be alive and creating — don’tcha think?
The world of fear collapses — but we rise up. Our spinning spiral solar system moves ever closer to the galactic equator and the only real possibility is to continue to align with the New Energies and further awaken from the slumber of millennia. My friend Rocky thinks in Geologic Time — which occasionally I like to chat in. But I think Galactic Time is even more interesting — especially NOW as ages shift and the sands of time cease to blow. Timelessness is taking shape and form.
Caracter & dissiplin
by Theo Halladay
Robert — I havnt red evrything u hav ritten [I uze reformd spelling], so I wunder if u hav ever ritten about the generus and forgivving caracter of the world of art, that cauzes lots of losers to decide they ar going to hav a try at being artists.
Ware other professional feelds hav strict requirements for membership, the world of the arts — especialy grafic artists — apears like mor of a healing enclave. Wen I was teaching privat art lessons in Victoria between 1991-2005, a good proportion of the students who came to me wer problem children who wer not doing wel in scool. Their parentsw had been advized that art lessons, being less restrictiv & demanding, wud do them good. They wer rite, & I was able in moast cases to help them. [One case ware I notably faild was that of a girl who at 14 chortled as she drownd the girl who had been her best frend, in frunt of an audience of other kids.]
Becaus of the wel-known healing proppertys of art, u ar rite to stress to artists & wud-be artists that they must work at develloping caracter & dissiplin. The way u rite suggests that u ar wel aware of this facet, so much needed in the art world.
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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Kenneth Flittonm who wrote, “Today’s letter tells me in no uncertain terms why so many artists are complaining of little or no success. There are just too many darned good artists out there!”
And also Haim Mizrahi who wrote, “Trying to define winners or losers in any way or shape is a drain on one’s energy.”
And also Tepes Dracula (Sergiu Vlad) of Moldova, who wrote, “I’m agree, but when I think about how to live to day tomorrow, here in our country everything is different, is very difficult with art, here is appreciated only stulul classic, (still life) otherwise cannot understand anything.”
And also Henry Wang of Hong Kong, who wrote, “When a born loser gets a break, look out!”
Enjoy the past comments below for Winners and losers…