There I was, standing in the longest line, holding a heavy stack of envelopes to ship every which way all out into the world. Days before, I was sprawled out on the floor stuffing these envelopes with gifts to go out to the ones I love and care for. As usual, I spent just as much time preparing the outside of the envelopes as I did the inside.
I stamped them and splattered them with paint. I took great care addressing each one and writing names out with my fountain pen. I smoothed beautiful strips of washi tape along the length of the envelopes, and I left notes on the closure in the back—just as I usually do. I always send out mail this way—artfully and soulfully. Sometimes it’s watercolor and sometimes it’s ink. Sometimes it’s the kids’ handprints stamped across packages sent out to friends and family.
And this time was no different. Holding my heavy stack of envelopes, I stepped up to the counter and greeted the mail clerk. After glancing at my stack of envelopes, he looked right into my eyes. “Are you an artist?” he asked.
“I guess you could say that,” I answered. Then I smiled beneath my mask as he continued scanning each parcel. I smiled and no one saw it under that mask, but I knew it and I felt it because never have I ever considered myself an artist. Never have I ever called myself an artist.
I don’t have a stunning studio with shelves of supplies and windows that let light pour in. I never learned about painting techniques and brush strokes, never stretched my arms in a graceful port de bras. I have not sculpted clay into fine figurines nor studied at Julliard to master Bach on the oboe. Never have I ever called myself an artist because never have I ever thought myself worthy of the title.
But I do write songs with lyrics of longing and lament. I have vignettes of micro abstract paintings in the pages of my journal. I design graphics and I design spaces. I take old pieces of furniture and restore them to look like new. I let ink stain my fingers, and I dance when I cook.
“Are you an artist?” he asked.
“Yes, yes I am,” I now want to say.
I am an artist because I make things in the mundane. I am an artist because I design the things I see in my dreams, because I paint pictures with my poems. I am an artist because emotional power seeps out of my pores. I am making beauty shine in a world of broken things, and in my creating I am like God lighting up the darkness with a beauty so bright that it blinds. I am an artist because my God is an artist, too, and His creativity is the way in which He showcases His compassion for this world—for us.
And I am not the only one whose heart burns with burdens, whose eyes see beautiful things that have yet to be. I am not the only one that finds pleasure in making things—writing poems, making meals, building businesses, and creating causes. With breath in your lungs and light in your eyes, you are also an artist. You are making magic in the mundane, taking ordinary things and making them extraordinary. You are using the work of your hands to heal your heart and help a hurting world, too.
Creativity isn’t a calling reserved for a certain kind of crowd—it is for you and it is for me. Art is not for the elite; it is for everyday people. And more than all we make and create, it is all that we are. We are works of art, ourselves—ever growing, evolving, and becoming. Molded and sculpted in the hands of our Creator, we’ve been called good, all that we do and all that we are. In His eyes, He sees no flaw.
In your making, you are also being made. You are the artist and you are the art. So however and whenever the question comes, whether filled with celebratory tones or seeping with sarcasm, don’t let it conjure up inferiority or insecurities. Claim the label and take the title. Embrace the work and the worth of your hands. Acknowledge it before others but do acknowledge it—especially to yourself.
“Are you an artist?” they will ask you.