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?