Everything is an art project

Published by Nela Dunato on in Art, Mindset

If you assumed everything was an art project, what would you do differently?

If you’re reading this, I assume one thing about you: you probably feel like you’re not really made for this world. This planet. The country you live in. The life you were given.

Maybe your family was wonderful, or they were part of the problem too. Whichever it was, when you went out into the world, socialized with other kids and adults, you’ve gotten hurt. You were confused. Why doesn’t everyone play fairly? Why isn’t everyone kind and polite? Why are there people in this world who hurt others on purpose? Why are there people who don’t care about the well-being of other humans, of the animals, of the Earth itself?

As a sensitive, creative, free-spirited, imaginative, downright magical creature, you feel out of place. Like an alien that was left behind by her real family. Abandoned. Forsaken. Lonely.

The pain is real. This isn’t just a story, and you know it. You may laugh it off, call yourself a black sheep and look for other black sheep to hang out with, but you can’t run from life itself. You’re a part of it, and it’s a part of you.

Life is full of challenges and misunderstandings. We’d all rather just escape to Narnia (or Hogwarts, or Middle-Earth, or Endor, or Enterprise), but there’s nowhere to run to. We’re kind of stuck here, and the only remaining thing to do is to make the best of what we have.

What if we looked at life in a different way?

If, instead of seeing life like a hard, solid thing that cannot be changed or affected by our soft, intangible souls, we viewed it as raw material to mould in any way we wanted?

What if our life circumstances were just paintings on canvas that didn’t go as planned? Or a sculpture that’s missing that “something” to make it come alive? What if it was a piece of fabric cut in the wrong shape?

I’m sure that as a prudent, resourceful artist, you don’t just throw stuff away. (Though there can be a tremendous healing sometimes when we throw stuff away and clear our surroundings.)

Somehow, you’d find a way to repurpose it into a completely different thing. You’d gesso all over that painting that went wrong. You’d chip away some more at that rock, or just smash all that clay into a lump and start over. You’d find another sewing project where that piece of fabric would fit wonderfully.

You’d find a way, because you’re aware that there is a way. You’re aware that with art, nothing is fixed and unchanging. You know that you can do anything:

  • throw and splash paint around
  • rip it up into pieces and move onto the next thing without regret
  • recycle bits into a new project
  • mix unlikely techniques into something you’ve never seen anyone else doing before…

You know this about art, so you’re not concerned. When it’s getting late and you’re frustrated and cranky because things are not going as planned, you know that tomorrow is a brand new day, and that when you look at your work with fresh eyes, you’ll know what to do next.

Unfortunately, we’ve forgotten that life works the same way. We’ve gotten complacent about things that don’t work, because we think fixing them is beyond us, that we don’t have that kind of power.

We do have the power. Art is nothing but a small mirror of our lives, a sandbox where we test our limits and push them further, so we could take our newly learned life skills into the world. Art changes you, in the same way your life events change you. By the time you’re done with your painting, you’re a different person from the one that started that canvas.

You know how to do this – you just need to remember.

So I leave you with this question:

If I assumed everything was an art project, what would I do differently?

How would I approach this situation, event, assignment or challenge if I considered it an art project?

If I assumed that I could mould, reshape, re-tailor, repaint this thing into something entirely (or even just slightly) different, how would I go about it?

What would my next step on this art challenge be?

Let these questions sink in and do their work. Write down ideas that emerge from incubating them. Try out the steps that come to mind.

Do things differently.

Don’t ever forget that you’re an artist, and you’re allowed to do that.

Nela Dunato

About Nela Dunato

Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.

On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...

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4 responses to “Everything is an art project”

  1. YES! It never ceases to amaze me how much my experiences in the studio have to teach me about everything outside the studio. One of the best things I’ve learned is bringing an experimental mindset to EVERYTHING. Total game changer. It takes the pressure off, it keeps things moving, and it makes everything easier because it releases so much of that perfectionism/resistance/fear so many of us carry around our art. Great post – pinned it. :)

  2. Thank you!
    I love this *bringing experimental mindset to everything*! I’ll definitely keep that one in mind, it’s a huge challenge for a recovering perfectionist :)

  3. Hmmmm…….. This is an interesting idea. This is hard for me to fathom as I have always done for others. I am at the point, now, where I don’t have to do so as much. I should really give this some deep thought. I think you have something here!
    Thanks, ma’m!

  4. Thank you, Su :)
    I’d be really happy to hear what conclusion you come to as you ponder this question. (By email too, if you don’t want to share it publicly.)

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