by Robert Genn March 31, 2009 The two main types of eccentricity are "genuine" and "phony." If you're sensitized to human nature, you'll find excellent examples of both types among your friends. Then there's the grey area where some folks start out phony and end up genuine. But that's another story. The phony ones lead such dull lives that they find the need to cook up stuff to make themselves stand out. The genuine ones come by eccentricity quite naturally--often unaware of their own idiosyncrasies. Eccentricity is the sidecar to the powerful motorcycle of individualism. Anyone who has read my stuff will know individualism is a good thing. My friend Egbert Oudendag (1914-1998) was of the genuine kind, becoming even more genuine as he aged. Dining exclusively on spare ribs and grapefruit, owning up to nine bicycles at a time, eschewing the medical profession and painting while in the nude were just a few of his peculiarities. Egbert appeared poor and simple but was wealthy and smart. Our mutual bank manager thought him "mad." I wrote a short chapter about Egbert in "Love Letters to Art." The controversial American journalist Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) defined madness as "affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that they themselves are sane." Egbert opened all his freshly purchased oils from the back end of the tube and cut in significant quantities of a secret oily brew. This gave him the longest and most languid stroke I've ever seen. His inventiveness in so many areas stemmed from his disadvantaged background in Holland before he immigrated to Canada. Eccentricity, coupled with need as the mother of invention, defines style. Egbert had style. Eccentricity is getting more difficult to fake. In what appears to be a rebirth of artistic responsibility, we are honouring craft and proficiency, as well as individual initiative. Conservative waves are spilling over the shaky dikes. We might just be left with empowered eccentrics who quietly make their own genuine articles. Eccentrics work. They think things out. They ride many bikes. This is a good thing. Best regards, Robert PS: "Eccentricity is a method of distinction so cheap that fools employ it to accentuate their incapacity." (Ambrose Bierce) Esoterica: Truly creative people are perennially in a state of reinventing themselves. Anyone who cares to focus for a time on any difficult task is bound to exhibit elements of eccentricity. Artists need to take stock of what they are doing that's different from the norm--peculiarities of mixing, drawing, stroking, looking. Name them and claim them. We must see our uniqueness clearly and be prepared to go wherever it takes us. So what if it involves taking your clothes off? That's the way we were born, eh?