Abbey Ryan: Genius, Capitalist and Worker?

By Purnell T. Cropper | May 14, 2010

Abbey Ryan ’03 may be a genius, according to Seth Godin’s definition in his new bestseller Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? She’s certainly both capitalist and worker, according to his new book.

“If a genius is someone with exceptional abilities and the insight to find the not-so-obvious solution to a problem, you don’t need to win a Nobel Prize to be one,” he begins. “A genius looks at something that others are stuck on and gets the world unstuck.”

Godin posits that “all of us are geniuses sometimes.… The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.” Godin asks, “What if you could learn a different way of seeing, a different way of giving, a different way of making a living? And what if you could do that without leaving your job?”

So how does Ryan fit Godin’s classification as a genius? She owns her own means of production. Ryan is not only a alumna and an Adjunct Professor of Art at Arcadia University, she’s also the originator of a profitable enterprise: Abbey Ryan: A Painting a Day, found at

“I have always painted daily, but I’ve been making daily paintings for this blog since 9/23/07. The paintings are usually sold on eBay,” says Ryan, who earned a B.A. in Scientific Illustration and a B.F.A. in Painting from Arcadia in 2003, followed by an M.F.A from Hunter College.

Forget the factories and machines, the labor and management, writes Godin. “Today the means of production = a laptop computer with Internet connectivity. Three thousand dollars buys a worker an entire factory. This is a fundamental shift in power and control.”

Including her in the same paragraph with WordPress’ Brian Clark and rich and famous blogger Perez Hilton, Godin writes, “Abbey Ryan makes almost a hundred thousand dollars a year painting a tiny oil painting each day and selling it on eBay. These individuals have all the technical, manufacturing, and distribution support they need, so they are both capitalists and workers.”

Ryan’s story has caught the attention of another genius, and she’s also been contacted by O, the Oprah Magazine.