To Be An Artist

Just a quick post for you today. My dad is an artist, a metal artist. And he gave me this framed print. He has one just like it in his workshop, to remind him of why he does his art. And why what he does IS art. I thought you’d like to read the words.

You see, this is even more meaningful when you realize that my dad hasn’t always been an artist. He was a farmer, a mechanic, and well…a dad. He did dad stuff. But he was never an artist. He didn’t even draw. But once the demands of making a living and raising children took a back seat in his life, he began to get interested in restoring antique tools. That morphed into an interest in blacksmithing, metal fabrication, and eventually he began to use these skills to create art. He’s had a long, tortured set of conversations with himself about calling himself an artist. It just seemed so…well…pretentious. So I think this little bit of prose is comforting and reassuring. And it explains so well why we do what we do.

Inspirational poem, To Be an Artist.

When searching online for the source of this piece of text,  I found that this might be attributed to the creativity writer Jan Phillips in this slightly different form:

“To be an artist it is not necessary to make a living from our creations. Nor is it necessary to have work hanging in fine museums or the praise of critics. To be an artist it is necessary to live with our eyes wide open, to breath in the colors of mountain and sky, to know the sound of leaves rustling, the smell of snow, the texture of bark. To be an artist is to notice every beautiful and tragic thing, to cry freely, to collect experience and shape it into forms that others can share.” 
― Jan Phillips

Regardless of the source, the words truly bring home what it means to create. Why we do it. And why the efforts of our hands, our hearts, and souls is art — no matter who else knows it.

Why do we think we need permission from others to be “good”? Why don’t we make what WE like? What makes us feel good? I think maybe too many of us believe the stories that others have told us about who we are. Well there’s no need. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to make your own art. Just like in the words above, you have a lifetime of experiences just waiting to be transformed into your own creations.

My dad’s art really began to grow when he gave himself permission to use his own experience, his own soul, to make his work the way he wanted to. He is finally becoming more comfortable with the term “artist”. He is entering art shows and doesn’t get (as) embarrassed when we talk about how good he is. With each piece he learns more, grows more, and gets even more ideas of things he wants to try. He’s been thinking about adding new materials to his designs. I can’t wait to see what he makes next. You can see more of his work on his website, Ornametal Things. I’m one proud daughter!

The Iron Florist by Jim Davis, an entry in the 6x6 fundraiser for the Ozarks Regional Arts Council
The Iron Florist by Jim Davis. This is my dad’s latest piece. It’s for a 6×6 Fundraiser for the Ozarks Regional Arts Council. All entries must fit into a 6″ x 6″ space.

23 thoughts on “To Be An Artist”

  1. Art was my life it was a escape from parts of my life that were not so nice growing up…it took me into a world of pure beauty and I was in total control of me…a fantasy of what a beautiful world there really is….it was my survival and it brings joy and happiness still into my life….just look around art is everywhere not just what we ourselves create but in what we see outside in nature and in the furniture in our homes to the preparation of the food we eat…just remember your children are one of your greatest creations treat them like fine art….Kathay

  2. Thanks, Ginger, for sharing that wonderful and inspiring quote. I was also very touched by the story of your Dad and your close family. Reminds me of my love for my wonderful Dad, going on 94…

  3. Thank you Ginger for all your wonderful blogs. This one in particular really struck a chord with me both because I too have an artistic Dad that has come into his artistry late in life (he has started carving NW Native American inspired masks) and because I have struggled for years with the idea of calling myself an artist. I have a BFA in printmaking but have moved on to primarily working with polymer clay. I don’t sell much and have never shown my work in a gallery and even though I work on my artistic endeavors with nearly full time zeal I have always just thought of myself as a hobbyist or crafter. It did seem pretentious to call myself an artist. I think that thanks to the quote you posted here I will now proudly call myself an artist, even if what I make is mostly for me 🙂 Thank you.

  4. Christine Matthews

    Hi, it’s great that someone has put into words what I feel. I have a dear friend who renovates houses and I always look at his work and think he really is an artist. I see a beautifully finished brick wall, a carefully designed meandering pathway, reused brick and tiled floor and wonder at the artistry.
    I have always dabbled myself and love to create, a day without having created something is a day wasted as far as I am concerned. My mother was one of those wonderful mums who should have been an artist. She crocheted, tatted, knitted, embroidered and made lace, she loved praise but would have laughed if you had called her an artist. I think of her every time I come up with a new idea for making jewellery and thank her for being the way she was. Sadly she died much too young, now I am retired I can play and create all day if I want but wish it could have been with her. How lucky you are to be able to share with your father a love of art and beauty.

  5. My dad was a metalworker his whole life. He has every metalworking tool known to man and he knows how to use it….well. Mind, he was not an artist in the sense that your father is, but he could cut a piece of ductwork and make it fit in any unlikely place, he could fashion any sort of tool to suit a unique job. How lovely it is that you and your father can share ART. My dad is 80 and buried inside him is a real artist that he never took time to develop. And he never would teach me anything, he was always afraid I’d get hurt. He had a fit when I bought a simple drill press! But I know that what burns inside of me and what talent I may have is because of the genetic disposition I inherited at birth….from him. I love my dad. He drew up the plans for my workbench. I tore them in half and decoupaged the pieces to the top of each end of it, where I see them every day. Come what may, my Dad will always be with me, right there on that bench. Thanks for the post, Ginger, it touched my heart.

    1. I didn’t really get into it, but my dad’s journey is fascinating. He was very much like your dad all his life. He could make anything work. I remember as a child watching him make very rough sketches of gates or foundations or buildings on the backs of envelopes while he drank his coffee in the morning. Then he’d go out and make it. When my brother left home, he had to redesign all the gates and pens so that he could take care of the sows by himself, and that meant a lot of welding of pipes (sows are strong). He was always a practical man. He told me recently that he remembers talking to an artist about 15 years ago and thinking he was too old to get started in art. But that if he had, think of how much time he could have saved. But he wasn’t ready then to make the changes in himself yet. He always tells me, and others, don’t wait. Do it now. Do what’s inside of you. Your dad taught you what he knows (even if you don’t think so…look at what you do for a living, and how much that came from him!). And maybe one of those lessons is that you need to live your inner artist now. Don’t wait. He’s teaching you right now. 😉

      1. Thanks Ginger and Brenda

        Your comments made me realize just how my family shaped the person I am today. They reminded me of my dad who was a Master Carpenter. He actually went to university to become a teacher but that dream ended when he developed meningitis and lost most of his hearing. So he used his other talents and became a Master Carpenter. When my brother and I were children my dad often took us with him to work on Saturdays and allowed us to play with the pieces of wood and tools laying around. To this day the smell of sawdust brings back those memories.

        At home my dad also allowed us free reign with his tools and often brought home interesting pieces of wood for us to play with. He taught us how to hammer nails and saw wood without getting hurt. These experiences lit an internal fire to build things of my own. However as a girl I was barred from the metalworking and woodworking classes at school which endlessly frustrated me.

        Your comments also reminded also reminded me of my mom, an accomplished knitter who could knit any pattern and magically adjust it to any shape and size. She gave me my first pair of knitting needles and ball of yarn and taught me to read patterns and knit. She continued to knit until just three days before she died of cancer. They reminded me of my grandmother who could crochet anything, who gave me my first crochet needle and who taught me to crochet in just a few minutes. They reminded me of my granddad who could make anything grow and taught me about the earth, plants and the semi-precious stones he found on prospecting trips.

        Thank you for reminding me just how much the creativity of my parents and grandparents along with my childhood experiences have made me into the person I’ve become and how that translated into the creative adults my children have become. And thank you for the timely reminder that it is never too late to grow in new creative directions. It’s probably time to take those carpentry and metal working classes because the only person stopping me now is myself.

  6. I really like you dad’s work. Clearly though the apple did not fall far from the tree. Besides being a talented artist yourself Ginger, your creativity also comes through in your writing which flows beautifully and is so easy to read. I look forward to every email post.

    As an aside, recent emailed articles no longer come from but from This makes it a little confusing because I also receive emailed articles from other Word Press blogs and now I cannot tell immediately who the article is from. I was not sure if you were aware of this or knew what could be causing this to happen.

    1. Thank you Brenda. Wow. You are so kind. It really makes me happy to know that you enjoy my posts. And no, I didn’t know that about the emails. It’s a little bulky on this end, it’s so hard to know how it looks to the reader. That’s frustrating because I’m using a self-hosted website and it has nothing to do with Grrr. I guess I’ll be switching over to a “real” email program rather than using the one built into my blog. I’ve been putting it off due to cost, but it looks like I’ll have to bite the bullet. I really appreciate you pointing it out though. Thanks.

  7. I echo Lynn’s post above! I’m lucky to have had parents who nurtured all of the noticing of everyday wonders and miracles… and who made their living with what they saw. We may not have been rich, but we lived richly!

    1. You know, it does go way back to childhood. My parents taught me to see. My mother is a teacher so I grew up learning, listening, talking, and being shown everything. My parents never worked outside the home so I was truly by their side while they earned their living, doing what they did, knowing why they did it. We were truly lucky kids! I had a phenomenally rich childhood. And I have never regretted being home for a good chunk of my children’s lives as well.

      1. Hi Ginger, I have arrived very late last night in BRanson MO…delays at Chicago.Loving your county and hope if you are free I can meet with you for a coffee in SPringfield as I was unable to meet in Poertsmouth x

        1. I was JUST thinking about you! Must be psychic. Welcome to the very odd world of Branson…I’ll send you an email. Definitely let’s meet up!!

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