The Shaun White Guide to a Gold-Medal Art Career

I’m an Olympics junkie. I especially get a kick out of the winter sports that involve jumping, bumping, and—often—falling.

Shaun White’s half-pipe snowboard run (I call it a performance) on Wednesday night had me transfixed. By the end of his second run, I was grinning ear to ear for someone I’ve never met in a sport I’ve never participated in.

After much thought, I figured out what I learned from White.

Train Hard

White didn’t just start snowboarding and think it might be fun to make a career out of it and go to the Olympics. He trained long and hard. He knows that all of the visioning, affirming, and hoping are worth nothing without the work required to make it all happen.

White also had the tools he needed to help him become expert and even surpass his previous goals. He went to great expense to build his own “Secret Halfpipe” so he could perfect his bag of tricks. Of course, it helps that lots of money and endorsement deals came with the fame. He just reinvested some of it in his career.

Are you investing in furthering your artist goals? Are you dedicated to the hard training and long hours it takes?

Have Fun

I’ve never seen any athlete look like they have as much fun as Shaun White. Granted, snowboarders have fun almost by definition. But White takes it to another level. It might be the curly red mop on top of his head to go with the giant smile always gracing his face, but he seems like someone I’d enjoy hanging out with. I’d like his magic to rub off on me a bit. He loves what he does and that’s infectious.

It’s easier to be a fan of someone who has fun and is fun to be around.

Are you having fun? Is your delight in art evident to others, or are you caught whining and complaining too often?

Create a Signature Trick

Shaun White created his Double McTwist 1260 in secrecy and debuted it right before the Olympics. He owns it! No one else in the Olympics’ Halfpipe competition did this move and everyone in the crowd was waiting to see it.

Art Purists may crucify me for this, but no one can argue that having a trick (you can call it a gimmick if you must) can really work for you if it’s done right. A signature trick is one thing you’re known for—whether it’s the special framing you add to your art, the stylish pedestals you make for your pieces, or the irreverent email blasts you send about your art.

Let ‘er Rip!

The participants in the Halfpipe competition get two runs and keep the best score of the two. At the end of the first round, Shaun White—who hadn’t yet used his Double McTwist 1260 signature trick—was leading, which meant that he was last to go in the second round. By the time it was his turn he had already won gold. No one bested his first-round score.

In theory, White could have cruised right down the middle of the Halfpipe in his second run without doing a single trick. But, nooooooo. He proved to be a true champion.

White let ‘er rip on what was essentially a victory lap. He did every trick and even added his Double McTwist 1260! He gave his fans what they came to see. He held nothing back in his second run even though he had already won gold!

Have you been holding back? Have you been playing it safe?

PS: There were images on Shaun White’s site, but I didn’t see any marked for media or press use. Not wanting to violate any terms, I opted for a copyright-free image. Remember to put this info (for media use) on your own site!

Send to Kindle

6 comments to The Shaun White Guide to a Gold-Medal Art Career

  • Great post Alyson! I too watched Shaun White that night! Though I only caught his first run, as it was super late California time. It was the first time I had ever seen him snowboard. My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw how high he flew off the lip of the half pipe barrel. He was amazing! You can tell he loves the sport and he does seem like a really cool guy. I like how you used his enthusiasm and hard work as an example for us artist folk. Go for the Gold!

  • Great article, thanks Alyson
    .
    This is a wonderful example of what is possible, when you combine a passion for doing something, with the effort required to be excellent at doing it, topped with a determination to continually improve. This is then packaged in a cool, fun and exciting way, where the level of enthusiasm becomes contagious!

    The guys not doing all that to get some new sponsorship deal or for a big pay day, it’s his life! He’ll be succesful and get all of those things as a result of being commited to his dream over the long-term. The thing that ensures that success is that he knows how to market himself, and does that really well too.

    Having a dream, being passionate about it, focusing major effort on it, continually improving and successfully branding it = BIG SUCCESS :)

    River.

  • Alyson,
    GREAT post! It is my view that this, all that you said about the joy of it all and letting er rip, as it were…..is really senior to all the other stuff about what mailings to send, what programs to buy, what places to sell, etc. If this attitude, a spirit of play about it all is not in place, the rest can be drudgery.
    I would humbly suggest posting on this subject on a regular basis at intervals which seem timely to you. Because without this joy, IT just isn’t going to happen.
    I’ll bet if you interviewed those who are doing well with their artist lives, you would find fun, pleasure and delight as attributes.

  • Great article! He is a very attractive personality. For all of the reasons that you stated. Very inspirational. I would love to shoot him actually and have been thinking about sending him a note. I did shoot Jim Craig the other day. Why not Shaun White?
    Cheers, Kim

  • Thanks for your comment on this week’s ‘who’s made a mark this week?’ – where I highlighted this post.

    I thought it really interesting that we could both be stimulated by the Olympics to write a post supportive of artists trying to achieve a ‘standout’ performance – and yet pick out different aspects of approaches. I thought highlighting the signature trick is very valid. There’s absolutely no question in my mind that artists who are recognisable and unique get remembered more and better than artists who have not broken away from ‘same old same old’ delivery.

    If your readers are still in an olympic mood and want to continue with this theme here’s a link to my post of 18 months ago Gold medal art – lessons from the Olympics for Artistswhich was written after watching the UK win a gold medal while sat outside the National Gallery watching the POlympics on a big screen in Trafalgar Square!

    BTW did I mention that the site for the next Olympics is walking distance from me in East London? I’ve even sketched it being built!.