How to Know If You’re an Artist (Part II)

October 12, 2011 | 27 comments

We were gathered around the table in the Laity Lodge dining hall when the writer beside me asked us the question: “Do you live a creative life?”

I knew what she meant. She was asking how we pursue creativity in days packed with rote and routine, with sudsy sinks, gray cubicles, spreadsheets on the desk, bedsheets tumbling in the dryer.

Where is the creativity in this life? 

I lifted a fork to my mouth. I knew how I wanted to answer the question. I wanted to tell her how I believe that we are all creatives, imbued with the Spirit to make beauty from beauty. I knew this in my head;  I want to live it in my heart.  

I am made in the image of God; therefore, I am artist.

I am creature of Creator; therefore, I co-create.


Home now, I remember the question. I am relearning that art and creativity are inescapable. Every time we rearrange furniture or set a table or fill a vase, we are making art.

My daughter Anna told me last night, as she watercolored: “The art teacher told us that the very best artist in the world is the one inside of you.” She pointed at me.

“And the one inside of you.” She pointed at her sister.

“And the one inside of me.” She pointed at herself.

I want to love the artist in me. My girl in pigtails gets it. Dear God, don’t let the world rinse the Truth out of her.  

Intuitively, she knows that God values the artist. God values art so much that He went to the trouble of involving another part of the Trinity in the craftsmanship of holy places. (See Exodus 31). 

“… I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts — to make artistic designs .. to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”
— Exodus 31:3-4

The Spirit of God brings a powerful new dimension to the work of the artist. He enlivens our creativity with his Spirit.

Holy Creator, Let me co-create with you.


In the dining hall at Laity Lodge, I did finally answer her question. “All of life is inherently creative, I think.” 

I  took a bite, tasting a chef’s art, flavor exploding on these tastebuds. I scanned the table, where knives and pottery were arranged, just-so, by a waitress. Dare I say, by an artist? Light slanted on ice prisms in water glasses,  a crystal-blue dance. 

I saw how someone had set apples and upended bananas in a large bowl. An accidental fruit sculpture? 

Outside, the Creator’s centuries-ago artwork stood as chiseled rock on rock. An inky sky twinkled like an upset jewelry box. 

And the Creator had filled an entire dining hall with artists. And not just the painters and the poets and the book authors and the songwriters. But also the chef. And the lodge hostess. And  the waiters who picked up dirty plates from the left, and set down clean ones on the right  — a tableside waltz.

The dining hall was a God Gallery, and we were the framed masterpieces. In the corner of our soul-canvases, He penciled this: 1/1.  No duplicates available.

All around us, art.
All within us, a creative life. 

And I,
among the created,
among the co-creators.   

But do I really live the answer to her question? Do I really live a creative life? I think that I am only beginning to see again. 

Related: How to Know if You’re an Artist

Worth checking out: Troy McCullough, a friend from my college days, is sharing his art over at The High Calling Focus this week.  Troy is now a news editor with The Wall Street Journal and is a freelance photographer. Check out his layered photos here. Gorgeous art!

by | October 12, 2011 | 27 comments


  1. Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama

    Yes, I want to remember I am that kind of artist when I am mad at my kitchen sink for getting all filled up with dishes. Again. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Yes, Lisa-Jo, we definitely have to think REALLY creatively to find art when we hover over the dirty dishes. Does creative thinking count as art? 🙂
      I think so.

  2. Nancy

    “The dining hall was a God gallery.” Yes. Indeed. And, ahhhh….those cookies!

    • dukeslee

      And *YOU* were/are among those masterpieces. I’m so glad God created you.

  3. HisFireFly

    Created in His image, the Creator… and He indwells us, so yes…
    in the waitress, the cook, the laundry, in you
    He says, keep your eyes open…

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Karen, for the affirmation and the reminder. Eyes opening wider here! 🙂

  4. Megan Willome

    I saw you snapping photos all weekend of stuff that I thought was crazy. Then I see those images on your blog, and they’re beautiful. Yep, you’re an artist, all right.

    • dukeslee

      I snapped a few pictures of some crazy someONEs, too. (You are among that goofy gallery.) 🙂

      Missing you.

  5. Linda

    It is a true and amazing way to look at the creative life. I am happy to know that I don’t really have to be one of the “artsy” nonconformists I so admired in my youth in order to call myself artist. I have His permission to just be the me He created me to be.
    Loved this Jennifer.

    • Charity Singleton

      Linda – This was the battle I was having with myself over living a creative life. Where do we get those images of artsy? Is anyone really living that way? I am so thankful to be living a creative life that was made for me.

  6. Dea

    I often say that I love to cook because it is an art. No measuring spoons required except the “tasting spoon.”

    You have touched on something important. When we aren’t creating we aren’t reflecting the image of our Maker.

    This post—what an encouragement to “co-create.”

  7. Bradley J. Moore

    Wow, you nailed it! The vases, the watercolor, the arrangement of words in an email…. We are Co-Creators. Charity asked a similar question of me. She is really stirring us up, isn’t she? 🙂

    Beautiful words, as always, Jennifer.

    • Charity Singleton

      I hope the stirring leads to something good in the pot!

  8. S. Etole

    You stir our thought processes in a most creative way.

  9. Laura

    I saw you snapping that photo of that chair and I just KNEW if would be beautiful. Just like you. These words are so comforting to me and I’m digging deep to find out why. Maybe the answer is is when I read about your daughter’s art teacher and what she said, my heart swelled with love for that teacher. How much we give when we affirm the creator in another.
    Such a beautiful post, Jennifer. Thinking of you a lot since Texas. Hoping you are still spelling out words.

  10. dianne

    Hm, how’d I get here? Oh, Twitter! This post totally resonated with me. For the past few years, we’ve gotten in the bad habit of eating in the living room. Yuck on many levels. Finally, I realized how the act of setting the table is like art to me. It’s not just another chore to get through but it’s something I can (as often as I get my act together) appreciate and enjoy doing. Nothing big. Just a table, cleared of junk, plain white dishes set on placemats. But I feel creative and happy!

  11. Andrea @ Mosaic Ideas

    Beautiful article Jennifer. Filled with the Spirit bringing on the desire to create! I am new to blogging and I have a blog on mosaic art. My son says the best way to get visitors is to leave my link on other blogs when I comment so there you are. If anyone has a moment please give me a visit and leave a comment.

  12. Lyla Lindquist

    I didn’t go down to the studio. I’m not entirely sure why. I used to paint a little. Enough to impress my mom, anyway. But now I don’t. And I’m not entirely sure why that, either.

    Seems that a lot of other things pushed in that seemed to be more important, more valuable.

    A wise friend told me over the weekend to listen to O Magnum Mysterium. I pulled it up on YouTube and watched/listened about a dozen times. I was, more than anything, taken by the beauty of the Westminster cathedral. And it made me really wonder why I don’t often think that it’s more important.

  13. Sheila

    You’ve written well and truly about art, about us as artists, about being created and thus co-creators.

    But I gotta say this: If the only prayer we ever said over our children was this one you gave here, we’d be doing well by them.

    Dear God, don’t let the world rinse the Truth out of her.

    That just undid me.

  14. Carolyn

    I lived with a creative woman most of my life. She did not live what is considered the “creative life”. My precious Mama was a housewife. But she could bake cakes from scratch. She could do needlepoint and crocheted anything from lacy doilies to afghans to keep us warm. She sewed my Easter dresses and prom dresses. She sewed my sunflower costume (alternately known as the Blooming Idiot costume). She decorated wedding cakes and birthday cakes (for pay). She quilted by hand – quilts that we fight over now that she is gone. She was an oil painter. I have beach scenes and mountain scenes on canvases all over my house that are her work. She painted some roses on a sweatsuit for me and they are so beautiful that I refuse to let go of it even though I haven’t been that size in years. Her handwriting was beautiful and she would send letters in the mail just because people loved getting them. She was so talented. Her whole life was creation. I never felt I measured up. There were people who compared us and made sure I felt lacking, but she never did that. Those same people kept her quiet from encouraging me in the ways she thought I was creative. I didn’t even know what she thought my gifts were until very late in her life. I would like to live a creative life to honor her – to honor the gift from God that she truly was to me. I just don’t know how. My “writing voice” is often so raw and unpolished. My visual art skills are almost non-existent (I can do a reasonable stick unicorn if you like). Any Truth that God has spoken to me about the talents He gave me has long since been shouted down by detractors. Maybe I could learn mosaics as I pick up the itty-bitty pieces of me and try to put them back together after such destruction.

    • deb

      is it okay if I say that you just created a life force that gave me goosebumps when telling of your mom?

  15. Charity Singleton

    Jennifer – I loved how you answered this question, how you seemed to be already where it took me years and years to get to. The romanticized creative life in my mind, the one I thought all of the writers and painters and actors I knew were living, doesn’t exist. The creative life if just this, a life of paying attention and being intentional. Thanks for being part of this conversation with me. It’s a question I wish I could have asked everyone that weekend; it’s a question I need to ask people more often.

  16. emily wierenga

    oh, i love this… i love you, artist friend. xo

  17. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    It’s all creativity; it’s all God–when we stop trying to draw lines around portions of our life, of the world, sectioning off what is and what isn’t, that is when we find ourselves in Him all the time. Now if only I could put down the pencil and erase a few lines I’ve already drawn in the sand.

  18. David Rupert

    I dont paint. I dont sculpt. I dont write poetry. I’m not an artist. But I heard that same challenge and I’m discovering my inner artist. It’s not pretty, but to God, it’s an amazing expression

  19. Cindy

    I really believe that I am happiest when I allow the creative Holy Spirit to inspire and work His way within. . . . then to be amazed as the results!

  20. Sandra Heska King


    The very best artist in the world is the one inside of you.

    How can that not be when the very best artist in the world is the One inside of you?

    I’m only just beginning to see.


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