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The Job of Art – by Robert Genn

The Job of Art
- by Robert Genn

Recent research at the National University of Singapore suggests that feelings of job satisfaction may be built into our genes. Certain genes apparently determine how happy we will be at work--while other genes seem to be linked to lower job satisfaction. If our folks were grumpy about their jobs, we too are likely to be grumpy--and maybe even put in a poor performance. In a study of 1772 people, researchers found that two genetic markers--a dopamine receptor gene and a serotonin transporter gene--are more likely to be found in folks who like what they do.

Why do some of us choose the job of art? Similar to genes linked to leadership and entrepreneurship, some of us may have genes that favour independence and freedom. I used to worry that my need for art had something to do with chronic laziness or that I was incompetent in pretty well everything else. Now I realize picking up a brush had a lot to do with my folks, particularly my dad, who valued ideas, individualism, accomplishments, work habits and craftsmanship. A self-employed kind of guy, for most of his life he happily ran his own sign shop. I always thought it was my environment, but now it seems it may also be hereditary.

More problematic research shows that people need to be a bit nuts to excel, and that nut cases excel particularly well when under stress. But very few of the truly excellent artists I know might be classified as nuts. Underutilization of therapists is widespread in the visual arts. I think it's because we often prefer to take our own advice, but I may be nuts.

It's a given that an independent life gives courage to the next generation. Those who do not have this advantage owe it to themselves to hook up with those who do. One might even be able to shake off generations of chartered accountancy or other fields that attract therapists. Art is a job like any other, but it's also a calling that tests the depths of character. Genes or no genes, the calling should at least be examined. It's important that we be happy in our work. We're going to spend a third of our life there. In artists it may be closer to 100%.

The job of art has the beguiling quality of pulling you into it. I'm sure there are lots of professions that do the same, but somehow seeing those first morning glimpses of yesterday's winnings and losings keeps you coming back for more.

Best regards,


PS: "Human beings are of two classes: those whose work is work and whose pleasure is pleasure; and those whose work and pleasure are one." (Winston Churchill)

Esoterica: And what about talent? Is talent inherited? Current researchers don't think so. The older generation may give energy, example and support to the younger, but the younger has to go about inventing her own wheel. Talent is 99% hard work. Talent takes focus and focus takes character. Unlike a baronetcy, talent is not passed down the generations.

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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