The art lotto
by Robert Genn

June 12, 2009

In the pub the other night, I watched a couple of workmen fresh from plastering. 
Pints in hand, they were going over their lotto tickets. "All wrong numbers," 
they said. Every examined ticket received a resigned smile and a mumbled 

Making art is like buying into the lottery. While we may play often, we may 
never hit the really big pot. Creatures of habit, hoping to get lucky or simply 
being stubborn, we continue to play.

Furthermore, driving out into the environment or entering the workaday studio, 
we can soon be in the company of negative feelings: "It's all been done 
before," "Why bother?" and "There I go--failed again."

But there's something that keeps us buying tickets on ourselves. In the lotto 
that is art we still have a certain amount of control. Actually, we can print 
our own bloomin' tickets. Talk about stacking the deck!

It's our personal sense of uniqueness that keeps us reinvesting. Maybe you're 
wondering how to give yourself a little edge so you might get more regular 
winners? Artists might consider repeating a few self-designed mantras. Better 
still, get up and sing:

"It may have been done before--but not by me." "Something worth doing is worth 
doing differently," and "Oh, the lovely feeling of failure."

While it's difficult to put a unique spin into every work of art, it's this 
feeling of "first-time" uniqueness and personal, workmanlike exploration that 
rings the winning buzzer. And even mild distresses, distractions and 
disabilities make their chancy contributions. The idea is to walk away with a 
few items that are different from the standard fare. It's a push, and it's 
certainly not everything in life, but it's way ahead of whatever's in second 

Best regards,


PS: When Barbara Walters asked Sir Laurence Olivier how he might wish to be 
remembered, he replied, "As something like an expert workman." Barbara said, 
"Sounds so prosaic." Olivier reflected for a moment and said, "Well, I think 
a poet is a workman. I think Shakespeare was a workman. And God's a workman. 
I don't think there's anything better than a workman. Or a workwoman."

Esoterica: We are workpeople who give ourselves permission to put our own 
individual spin to our craft. It is this spin that makes art so absorbing, so 
interesting and so valuable to others. It's this spin that keeps us at it. You 
can have small wins practically every day, and what losses you may suffer can 
often be rectified on the next go-round. Artists spin their own lottos.