The first time I heard someone look at something I had created and say “June, you are an artist,” I was taken aback.
An artist? No, not me.
I can’t draw or paint or do calligraphy or sculpt or quilt or …
I just play.
And then it dawned on me … just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is artistry / creativity.

But for many years, I denied that anything I had made was creative or artistic. Each time someone made a positive comment on a handmade card they’d received from me or a painting I’d done or a book I’d made, I mumbled something along the lines of “oh, I’m not an artist. I just like to play” and never uttered a “thank you” to the person for their kind comment.

And then one day, I heard my husband deny his artistic talent to someone who had just admired his work at an art show. I was shocked. Hans was an artist! His sketches, paintings, and calligraphy had sold; he and his artwork had been featured in national magazines and art shows; his work was proudly displayed by many in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia. That evening, I asked him why he was so negative about his work and didn’t thank the person for their comment. His reply echoed my thoughts about my own work … “I’m not very good, compared to …”

Ahhh, there was the key – comparison.

Calligrapher Peter Thornton often says “When you look at your neighbour’s work, you see it for what it is. When you look at your own work, you see it for what it isn’t.”  Why do we do that? Why do we see the value of our effort and work in comparison with the work of others and not for their own intrinsic worth?

There will always be people who do what we do, only better. There will always be people who are ahead of us on the learning curve – who we admire and want to emulate. But that doesn’t mean our efforts, our work, is of any less value.

That evening, as Hans and I talked about the way we both denied that we were creative/artistic, we agreed to not compare our work with others and try to see ourselves as artists. I’d been a school teacher (variety of subjects) for decades and loved seeing the light come on when a student “got it” – whatever the subject. After that evening, I found myself consciously encouraging Soulistry workshop students to see themselves as artists, not to compare their work with someone else. I hoped that seeing themselves in such a way would make a difference.

When a student wrote and reminded me of the import role of encouragement (of one another – of ourselves), I realized that I’d taken the conversation my husband and I had had, very seriously. The student wrote: “I want to thank you. I drove on a stormy day in October to attend your ‘Picasso Portraits’ class. During that class you quietly said to me, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not an artist.” I so needed that comment at that time. I was questioning why I was “wasting” my time making art and asking myself what the heck I was going to do with all that so-called art that I was generating. I held your comment in my mind. Repeated it to myself often, when needed. And yesterday I sold my first painting!!! I entered a piece on a whim, and it sold on the first day. I am encouraged to continue making art. Because it makes me happy.”

She is an artist! Not because she sold one of her pieces, but because making art makes her “happy.”

I believe that expressing our creativity, our artistry, deepens our spirituality. That deep belief was the inspiration for the birth of *Soulistry* – the workshops, then the book, then the blog, the website, and the Facebook page. And, and it’s why the Soulistry book has a sub-title: “Artistry of the Soul,” for I believe that every person can be an artist.

Whether we are a flower arranger, sculptor, writer, painter, paper artist, surgeon, chef, book-maker, musician, fabric designer, singer, sew-er, cartoonist, dancer, poet, graphic designer, woodworker, gardener, knitter, card-maker, tangler, inventor, jewellery-maker, calligrapher, hair stylist, miniaturist, blogger, weaver, quilter, car builder, beadmaker, etc. … whether we sell our work, win awards, are ‘the best’ in our field, isn’t the issue. When we create, we make a spiritual connection – we are nourishing our spirit – having fun – challenging the synapses in our brain -learning something new – exploring our playful nature – experiencing a sense of happiness and indefinable joy.

Many years ago, at the end of a Soulistry retreat where retreatants created several projects, each was presented with a certificate with their name and the letters C.S.A. – Creative Spirituality Artist – and encouraged to add those letters after their name. 🙂

I like that – not because I made it up <g> – but because it speaks to an understanding of who I am when I create … an understanding of who I believe we all are, when we create.

We are creative artists connecting to spirit aka “Creative Spirituality Artists”. May we all be Creative Spirituality Artists with openness, with abandon, with play and with joy!

© June Maffin C.S. A.

(The photograph is of an “acrylic pour” I did on a long-playing record was a gift for a friend who now recognizes that she too is a C.S.A.)