I mix a splash of spruce green acrylic paint with the chartreuse, let my paintbrush pick up and lay down the two colors unevenly.

I do not know what will appear before me when I do.

I hold one of the raw wooden-handled brushes that sit in the jar on the shelf between our dining room and kitchen. The girls usually hold these, and they are covered with smears and drops of paint from years of use.

Often I’ve looked at the brushes and imagined the day I’d take a class to learn how to make art with them, when I’d feel free enough to let them really run and twirl.

I’m done imagining. I’m ready to paint.

I lay my brush down on the side of the plastic bowl in which I’ve mixed colors. I am unsure what to do next and can’t tell if I’ve done too much or not enough.

The middle is muddy. I keep painting.

This is the same canvas I started months ago in a moment of quiet bravery, hung up right away on the bedroom wall before I lost my nerve. It’s the same one I have pulled off the wall several more times, adding a stroke here and there. Never quite sure what I’m doing, it somehow feels both vulnerable and hopeful.

Each time I pick up paint on the bristles, my fingers and stomach pulse an excited energy tinged with anticipation and fear. I combine color, tilt my head, follow a whim and turn the canvas upside down to see I like it so much more than I did before.

This makes me feel like a kid, and so I wonder if I’m on the right track.

Lately painting and decorating forgotten corners of the house with what we already have are how I’m living art, not hiding parts of me I worry will be seen as too bizarre, quirky or colorful.

I’m done living bound.

This home is covered with the art of these bold and creative children, and I am finding new inspiration every time I look up. Lines, shadows, highlights and shapes calling out, Be free.

In writing talks, in pounding nails into walls, in smearing paint on canvas, I am starting to feel unashamed joy, and moments of abandon even.

I am not gripped with worry about performing right or making something beautiful. Instead, I am learning to show up with what I’ve got in my hand, with a trusting heart, ultimately surprised by what takes shape before me.

This kind of art is saying yes. Yes to vulnerability. Yes to not knowing. Yes to imperfection. Yes to partnering with the Maker who calls us poem.

And for this current canvas, I’ve decided to keep the middle muddy (at least for now) because it is reminding me of the mysterious unseen of living art. Because we never really know what the result will be when we take out the brush.


Greatly inspired by Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live in the writing of this post.

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