How to Live Like an Artist


photo by Adam Milligan

This has been one of the most life giving summers.  I have been given the gift of time with a summer break, and have delved into many artistic ventures–  and I am rediscovering it to be something that makes me come alive.  The rhythm and lifestyle that I’ve settled into in the past month have brought forth some really solid habits and practices that I want to carry into other seasons of my life, whether or not I’m creating art and blogging on the daily.  Here are some of the things I feel like I’ve been learning.

1.  Open Your Eyes

I’ve noticed how my perspective has shifted since I’ve been doing art more regularly.  Everywhere I go, there’s an awareness, paying attention to the details and seeing the beauty in the everyday moments.  The metaphors I think about as I’m weeding my garden.  An encouraging conversation that spark an idea for a blog post.  A wildflower that catches my eye.  Parts of the city that I could sketch in another I Love Kansas City card.  What a great way to live life- eyes wide open to the beauty of the moment.  

2. Trust Your Gut

Sometimes we spend so much time second guessing ourselves that the creative process never gets started.  I can spend hours on Pinterest looking for things that I want to create, but for fear that it won’t turn out right, all I have is wasted hours looking at a screen and envy at other people’s creativity.  Sometimes the act of creating is more important than the final product.  And running with an idea that comes to me ends up being perfect.  Or not– but the next try turns out better.  Excellence must be a fearless and persistent pursuit.  

3. Work Hard and Rest Well

I feel like some of the best advice, although cliche, has rung true for me: Inspiration will come, but it has to find you working.  So much of what I’ve created this summer was just out of trial and error, and continuing to create consistently.  I would have to ascribe any of the talent I have as a writer to the 20+ journals that I have filled.  Any major artistic project has had a moment where I chose to stick with it, pushing through and continuing to work when I just want to walk away and watch Lost instead.  My creative desires have ebbed and flowed over the last couple of years, but the times I am most successful as an artist are the times that I make consistent and quality time to create and stick with it.  Equally important to that stick-to-it-ive-ness is knowing when to take a break.  When to leave the mess and go to get frozen yogurt with a friend instead.  It can be a dance of pushing in and releasing.  Both are necessary and good.  

4. Surround Yourself with Inspiration

As I started doing art and blogging more, I am always looking for a creative muse.  I have happened upon so many sources of inspiration, both as a writer and artist, and I have made time to soak in those encouraging words and looking at other artist’s brave and talented and beautiful creations.  It has also been such a delight this summer to find myself surrounded by delightful and inspiring people that have been so encouraging and empowering.  As the next school year starts, I want to continue to surround myself with people and words and things that bring life and light.  


5. Be Courageous

I have been surprised at how much bravery it has taken to share what I create.  I have been making art for years, mostly in journals and for my own home.  I have also filled dozens upon dozens of journals– filled with thoughts and poems and rambles.  I can look back at my own journals and am often quite encouraged by the wisdom I was discovering at that particular season, but that encouragement stays with me as an individual.  This summer, a lot of what has been on my heart has been shared with whomever happens across my blog, as well as my art- now out there for the world to see.  It’s scary!  It’s easy to start thinking that the validity of my thoughts are directly correlated with how many views my wordpress stats page shows each day.  That my worth as an artist depends on how much money I make on Etsy.  When I can debunk that lie, I can say with honesty that, right now, in this season, I want to continue creating.  Even if no one read my blog, and if I never make a sale on Etsy, I love doing this and want to continue.  However, I don’t want fear of failure or the insecure whisperings of being irrelevant, pretentious, too much or not enough to paralyze me.  If one of my friends shared the same insecurities I am battling, I would share this quote:  

“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Marianne Williamson

Living out the truth of who you are bravely is what I love to see in my friends and loved ones.  It’s what I find so inspiring in the other artists and bloggers I have come to know this summer.  I must not shy away from doing the same!

6. Know That Your Identity is not on the Line

On Saturday, I went with my roommate to the First Weekend Flea Markets in the West Bottoms.  I spoke to several store owners about the possibility of selling my art at their stores… As I brought out my sample journals and cards to show the owners, I felt very vulnerable.  My art is very much an extension of me.  What does it look like to share and sell that art with others with freedom?  It means creating and sharing with confidence, but with the wisdom that my worth has already been established and is not up for grabs in any interaction or transaction or lack thereof.  I was very encouraged by the feedback and potential business opportunities that I received on Saturday.  I was beyond thrilled when I made my first official sale on Sunday.  I can celebrate those victories, but that joy doesn’t have to terminate on a self-congratulatory pat on the back or momentary feeling of worthiness.  Rather, I can be filled to the brim with wonder– what must my God be like that he invites me into this creative expression and gives me the desire, ability, and opportunity to make beautiful things?  That living this life can be a form of worship that glorifies Him?  Wow.  



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