One morning my granddaughter Zoe was getting ready for kindergarten when her mother walked into her room. “Does this go together?” Zoe asked.

“You’re an artist,” Jennie reminded her. “You can wear whatever you want.”

The next morning, Zoe confidently put on her fanciest dress and her flowered rain boots. When she walked into the kitchen, her father took one look and said, “Lose the boots.”

Zoe looked him straight in the eye and said, “Dad, I’m an artist. I can wear whatever I want.”

It delights me, of course, that Zoe is encouraged to think creatively and to think of herself as an artist. There’s evidence that she’s taking it quite seriously.

A few months ago I was planning a visit to Zoe and her family when I got a Skype call from her. We talked about some of the things we were going to do when I got there.

“Saturday is Jacob’s birthday,” she said in her most matter-of-fact voice. (Jacob is the doll I gave Zoe for her second birthday. Jacob is a girl.)

“Oh, dear,” I said. “I don’t have time to get her a present.” 

”Improvise,” Zoe suggested. “Just use what you have.”

Great advice, don’t you think, for solving a problem? But being an artist of the ordinary has even greater rewards.

Some of the happiest people around are those who have been raised to make their life an on-going art project. And, happily, I’m not alone in thinking that.

I recently finished reading Peter Buffett’s Life is What You Make It. Of course, I was curious to know what it was like to grow up with one of the world’s wealthiest men as a father. 

My favorite story in the book answered that question nicely. Peter writes about coming home to tell his family that he’s decided to follow his passion and become a musician. Here’s what happened next.

“As was his custom,” Buffett writes, “my father listened carefully, without judging, without offering explicit advice. Then one day, almost in passing as he headed out the door, he said to me, ‘You know, Pete, you and I really do the same thing. Music is your canvas. Berkshire’s my canvas and I get to paint a little every day.’

“That was all he said—and it was plenty.”

I don’t know if the Buffett men ever heard what M.C. Richards said, but they certainly personify it.  “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship,” says Richards. “The big art is our life.”

Seems to me that Zoe’s already figured that out. What’s your canvas?

5 Responses to “Artists of Everyday Life”

  1. Traci

    Love, love, love this post Barbara! My canvas really is a canvas along with any other miscellaneous items that can be turned into something artistic. But I will say that my biggest canvas is my mind since I’m always creating in my head.

    I love that Zoe thinks outside the box and encourages others around her to do the same, “Improvise. Just use what you have.” How great is that?

    One of my favorite quotes, which is usually attributed to Itzhak Perlman is, “Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out what you can make with what you have left”. Zoe has already figured this out.

  2. Sally Evans

    This is great – I completely agree that life is our canvas and we are all artists creating our experiences.

    And I love that Zoe told you to “just improvise”. We need to remember to think like kindergartners more often.

  3. Wee Peng @ The Conscious Life

    I love this line “Some of the happiest people around are those who have been raised to make their life an on-going art project.” Life is a blank canvas awaiting for you and I to unleash our creativity. But what comes out of it depends not just on what we put on it but also how we paint it. It can just be a blade of grass that you’re painting, but if it’s done with mindfulness, it will bring you more joy and serenity than an elaborate landscape painting done in a hurry.

  4. Darla LeDoux

    Hi Barbara,

    I was forwarded this by a friend, read the article and thought “how great is that?” so I clicked the link and it was by you! Of course. Great post, especially as I just returned from a baby shower where one of the activities was advice-giving. As a coach, I don’t like to give “advice,” but mine was “let him he be who is, no matter how you feel about it…” Then I read this! 🙂


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