“Anybody an artist?” Their answer will challenge your thinking

There’s a great book on Creativity and Innovation called “Orbiting the Giant Hairball”.
The author of the book is Gordon MacKenzie, an artist who worked for most of his career at Hallmark Cards. He also used to make some really funky, fun sculptures welded together out of rusted steel.

One thing MacKenzie loved to do was to speak to school groups. He’d spend the day going into all the different classes starting with the kindergarten in the morning and ending with the sixth graders in the afternoon.

He started the same way with all the groups. He said:

“Look, I’m an artist and I love to be around other artists. I look at your walls and you’ve got art on them so there must be artists here. Anybody an artist?”

In the kindergarten everybody in the class is raising both hands in the air, jumping about all excited saying

“Yeah, Yeah! I’m an artist! I’m an artist!”


They’re not just an artist, they’re an enthusiastic artist!
By the first grade, still every hand is up, not so much dancing around, not as many double hand raises but everybody is still an artist.

You get to the second grade and that’s where the first bit of attrition occurs – not every single child raised their hand. Then it progressed. He would get two or three people raising their hands starting in the fourth grade, a pretty pivotal moment in terms of identifying as creative.

By sixth grade when the children are old enough to understand this, the couple of people raising their hands are nervously looking round to see if they’re going to be judged by their peers.

It’s not just a fear of failure, it’s a fear of being judged. Creativity is as much about the ability to come up with ideas as it is about the courage to act on those ideas – Creative Confidence.
So Gordon Mackenzie asked the sixth graders:

“Hey! What happened to all the artists in this school? Did all the artists transfer out? Did all the artists go to art school? I don’t think so. I think something much worse. I think someone or something has told you it’s not OK to be an artist. If you don’t remember anything else I say today I want you to go home and remember it’s OK to by an artist.”


At Painty® we believe like Joseph Beuys that “Everyone is an Artist”.
We exist to help people rediscover their inner artist that’s so often been hidden since kindergarten or preschool.

We are all born with a high level of innovation, but it is the cultural norm to have these aspirations and pleasures flattened at a surprisingly young age.

It’s OK to be an artist even if it causes the people around you to raise their eyebrows. Maybe try this line of thought “I’m not going to be perfect, but I’m going to try stuff”.

Gordon Mackenzie died in 1999, soon after the publication of Hairball. He urged people to continue gaining enriching experiences. The final two sentences of his book are:

“If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you.”

Gordon created his masterpiece and encouraged many other people to be artists.

© 2023 Painty®
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