Art is the Active Expression of Our Creative Skills

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

January 9, 2018

Raw Literature by Kate Spencer

Photo Credit:“So, who do you think painted this piece of work?”

Our European Art History instructor leaned against the rugged steel table at the front of the classroom.   I stared at the image on the screen.  The painting was of a solemn moment in time, a woman all decked in bright white kneeing before an altar.

“Rembrandt?” someone called out hesitantly.

“No.  Anyone else want to try?”

“El Greco?” said the woman beside me.

“No.” The instructor glanced around the classroom and with no further guesses forthcoming he gave us the answer. “It was Pablo Picasso.”

There was silence as we all digested this bit of information.  A lone voice echoed our thoughts from the back of the room.

“Picasso’s paintings were abstract with distorted figures. This doesn’t look like his work at all.”

“True,” replied our instructor. “Those were his later works. Like all great artists, Picasso learned and mastered the fundamentals of painting first.  He was 15 when he finished this large-scale oil painting of his sister taking First Communion.”

By the end of the class, I learned that there was a symbiotic relationship between art and creativity.

Creativity is allowing yourself freedom to explore beyond established rules; art is knowing which of the conventions to apply and keep while creating something unique.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. ~ Maya Angelou

When I was little, I remember waking up one morning to a world where the entire front lawn and even the streets were covered with a massive ice crusted white blanket.  My brother and I rushed outside. The snow was too crusty to make a snowman, so my ten-year-old brother suggested we build an igloo.  As the little sister, I got to cut out blocks of snow while he carefully stacked the slabs like house bricks around a circular perimeter.  We worked on it for hours, never quite getting the dome to close properly.  My brother still has the picture our dad took of us that day – two snowmen standing proudly beside our shoulder-high creation.

As children we freely engage with our universe in creative ways. I know I did. At some point I started comparing myself to others and in so doing convinced myself that creativity and artistry were gifts I did not share with others.

The truth is that we are all creative.  Besides artistry, creativity allows us to work through situations in life and find solutions.   It allows us to find unique connections between different ideas and objects.  It influences us when we are stuck in traffic and decide to explore an alternate route home or when we tell a story to a friend.  It plays a role in the words and images we post on Facebook and the outfits we pick out to wear each day.

The greatest thing about creativity is that once we open ourselves up to being more creative, it flows into other parts of our lives.  It’s like the secret spice that adds an additional layer of joy and fulfilment into our everyday lives.

 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~ Pablo Picasso.

I view myself as a literary artist.  The words that make up my articles, stories, poems and blog posts are my paintings. Creativity allows me to explore different structures and concepts in my work. The artist in me decides which elements to apply and which of the many drafts I write becomes my final work of art.

But what about those who are not artists in the traditional sense? I believe Picasso was telling us to look beyond the convention and recognize the artist in all of us.

There is an art to how we run a business, raise our kids, cook our meals and repair antique cars.  There is art in how we decorate our homes, plant our gardens and go for walks. Art comes from the heart and understands that we create who we are and who we want to be.

In the end, our life is the masterpiece we leave behind.


Kate Spencer is a freelance lifestyle writer. She invites readers to come and dance through the daisies, sit by the fireplace and reflect upon life and simple pleasures.  A few years ago she published a commemorative book exclusively for her family filled with short stories from her father’s life.

Kate is a Rough Writer at Carrot. Follow her on Twitter @EloquentlyKate


Blogging at:  ‘Eloquently Kate’


Raw Literature returns as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at


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  1. Ritu

    I love this! We are all artists in our own way. ????

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a beautiful and expressive essay. I really loved the Raw Literature essays from last year. We put them aside to go play in the rodeo arena, and Kate gives us a nice return. Thanks, Ritu!

      • Ritu


      • Kate

        Thank you both for your kind words. I was happy to kick-start the 2018 exciting Raw Literature series for you Charli. It’s one of the things that makes this community so special.

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “As children we freely engage with our universe in creative ways”
    This was the driving idea behind… everything… at ANE where I got my teaching degree. How do we honor and integrate and preserve innate and intuitive creativity. Edith Cobb, Joseph Chilton Pierce… Kate Spencer…

    • Charli Mills

      Kate deserves to be on that short list! D., I’m not surprised to learn you have a degree that reflects your passion for creativity.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I was in a good place at a good time, good people.. Karen and I among them. Serendipity. This post put me back there (And there is a longer reading list but I was brain dead at that time of writing)

    • Kate

      I’m thrilled that ANE recognized the importance of fostering and nurturing the creativity in children throughout the education system. I agree with Charli, your passion for creativity reflects so well in your writings. It’s a skill we and our children will need to navigate an unpredictable world.

  3. Annecdotist

    Lovely post, Kate. Creative, artistic and inspiring.

    • Charli Mills

      I agree, Anne. Thanks for stopping by to read.

  4. julespaige

    Creativity helps us survive… the child who feels left out, finds ways to cope.
    Everyday choices are creative avenues in life’s traffic jam.
    Some may not learn all the rules first, but break them anyway… they create and sometimes get very lucky to fall into Carrot Ranch which allows them to express what they have learned to those who seek confirmation of being a part of that continuance of being creative while they learn.

    Thanks, Kate

    • Charli Mills

      Beautifully stated, Jules. I think we all are seeking that connectivity at a creative level, but not many recognize the hunger to do so and choose conformity over creativity. I’m glad we can collectively create a space where creative exploration is upheld. We continue to play and learn!

    • Kate

      I echo your sentiments! Carrot Ranch is unique and truly allows us to find kindred creative spirits to grow and explore with.

  5. Ann Edall-Robson

    “In the end, our life is the masterpiece we leave behind.” No matter what journey we choose to take, or not take in life, this statement says it all. Thanks for sharing your insight, Kate.

    • Charli Mills

      That idea resonated with me, too, Ann. Thanks for reading!

    • Norah

      It is a great thought. I agree!

  6. floatinggold

    Indeed. And a great backstory.

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Karen's Stone Soup

    Reblogged this on Karen's Stone Soup… and commented:
    I think of myself as a writer, a really good writer. But, I’m reminded all the time how much a fantasy that thought it. Kate is the writer I always thought I’d be…but sadly am not! This blog spoke to me, & says everything I would say if I could write as eloquently as she does. Enjoy!

    • Kate

      Karen, I dropped in for visit at your site. I loved your take on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ – it was fun and witty and a delight to read! I am grateful that my writing resonated in some way and thank you for re-blogging it on your site.

    • Charli Mills

      You have a great zest for wanting to do it all expressed on your blog — a great creativity, Karen. We are each our own distinct writer and may we continue to press into that creativity every day we have.

      • Karen's Stone Soup

        Thank you Charli for your encouragement. It is very much appreciated.

  8. Liz H

    In the years of raising my kids and co-parenting (ha!) with my ex-husband, I had little energy to do the creative/artistic writing I wanted to do. A good friend pointed out to me–more than once–that my creativity was being channeled into cooking, caring for, and guiding my kids in a way no other mom could do for them. I took great comfort in that, and am glad to have them grown up and launched. Little did I know, I had also been caring for and guiding my own growth as a person, in the process!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes, I recall such years and agree with your friend about how mothers can express their creativity. I really relish having my own creative space dedicated to the stories I’ve longed to capture and express. And I believe I’m a better writer for having lived the creative expression of that time in my life. Good point, Liz!

  9. Shari Eberts

    So true! Using our creativity energy helps keep us feeling young too!

    • Kate

      An excellent reason for us to pursue and develop our creative skills! Thanks for reading!

    • Charli Mills

      When I’m feeling that creative vibe, I do feel like a child at play. Thanks for stopping by the Ranch, Shari.

  10. faithanncolburn

    I really love the quote from Maya Angelou. Printed it out and will post it above my desk. My mother wanted to be an artist–a painter, I think. Instead she had to quit school in the middle of the Great Depression and become a singer to support her family. After she married my dad and moved to the farm, her art became crocheted bedspreads and tablecloths. She was embroidering the blocks for a quilt when she died.

    • Kate

      Thank you for sharing this lovely story. Your mother sounds like a remarkable woman who never stopped being creative. I hope she found contentment in the creative channels she adopted in the different phases of her life. I can well imagine her bedspreads and tablecloths were works of art in themselves.

      • faithanncolburn

        I think her rough start left her feeling unloved and unworthy of love. She made a bedspread and a tablecloth for each of her two daughters, but always always did the most annoying things to elicit attention–like calling the day before her birthday so she’d never know that we hadn’t forgot. Of course, she feared we would.

    • Charli Mills

      That quote resonated with me, too. Thank you for sharing your mother’s story!

  11. Jennifer

    Yes! We are all creative. And we all use it in different ways. The artist uses creativity differently from the scientist, but they are both using that inner thing that sees what’s possible, what can be. I love the example of Picasso. It reminds me of Van Gogh in that one of his famous paintings is called the Potato Eaters, it’s dark and drab and perfect for the style of the Dutch masters of his time and totally not the kind of painting that we associate with him. He had to learn to paint in color and there is a quote where he says he practiced painting flowers for a year in order to get used to color.

    • Kate

      Thank you for sharing the story about Van Gogh. I went and looked it up, as the Van Gogh pieces I’m familiar with all include colour. I was just reminded of a quote from Matisse that said creativity takes courage. I am grateful to all the artists and scientists who have had the courage to pursue creativity and enrich our world.

      • Jennifer

        That’s a great quote. Creativity does take courage…courage to open yourself up and share it with the world, whether they want it or not.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good point about scientists and artists tapping into the same creative source. Thank you for sharing the story of Van Gogh. I had not seen that painting before (I had to look it up, too).

      • Jennifer

        Isn’t it surprising to realize that it’s the same artist who did Sunflowers?

      • Charli Mills

        Very surprising!

  12. Kate

    Reblogged this on Eloquently Kate and commented:
    It takes courage for artists to share their creative work with the public and Charli Mills has given a safe place to so many of us writers to do just that: explore, create and share. I’m grateful to Charli for inviting me to kick-start the 2018 Raw Literature series at Carrot Ranch. Check out my post about the symbiotic relationship between art and creativity.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for leading the way in 2018, Kate! As we create and share, it’s good to have a thoughtful discussion on what art is and we process it. Your piece is beautiful and lives up to your name, Eloquently Kate.

      • Norah

        It does, indeed. 🙂

  13. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    How lovely. I always fancied myself as an artist and now I am. Words are my brushstrokes!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, Marje! You are a literary artist, and there’s no end to what you can write with your brushstrokes.

      • Marje @ Kyrosmagica

        Aww, that’s so sweet of you Charli. xx

      • Charli Mills

        Paint away!

  14. Colleen Chesebro

    What an excellent discussion of creativity. I’ve never been an artist, but like to think that I dabble in creativity in different ways. Even cleaning a room can be creative depending on how you do it. That’s why I love YA fantasy. I get the opportunity to be the kid I couldn’t be growing up. Perfect! 😀 <3

    • Charli Mills

      You are indeed an artist, Colleen, especially when you use the natural and fairy world as part of your expression. May this current childhood be full of fun and exploration!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        You are so kind, Charli. Thank you. <3

      • Charli Mills

        I know how important a second childhood is! <3

  15. robbiesinspiration

    A fabulous article. I would not have guessed that painting to be a Picasso either but it makes absolute sense that he would have started at the beginning. When I started with fondant art I also started by copy real life objects and only later changed the creative process to my “made-up” creations.

    • Kate

      What a fun and delicious art skill you have! I checked your site and your ‘made-up’ creations are incredible. Thanks for sharing your learning experience with us.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thank you, Kate, I am so pleased you liked my fondant art.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s interesting to know you started creating real-life fondant objects first. I find your fondant art is full of personality. But we all grow as artists, don’t we?

  16. Norah

    Lovely post about art and creativity, Kate. I like the way you described creativity and appreciate your self-description as a literary artist. I’m certain Charli would agree. I wouldn’t have picked that painting as one by Picasso, either. And he finished it before he was 15! I found his quote about remaining an artist when you grow up interesting. I think, in fact I’m certain, I was creative as a young child but had it stamped out of me as I grew up. My children helped me find that child-like joy in creativity as an adult. I didn’t keep it as I grew up, I re-found it. I think that’s just as good. I was a lucky one.
    It’s great to see the series continue, Charli. Well done for being the first of the year, Kate.

    • Kate

      Norah, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I agree – children help us re-connect with the creativity we had as a child – and I’m glad that once you re-connected with yours, you embraced it and did not let it go!

      Sheri Eberts commented that creativity helps us feel young – may your youthful spirit continue to shine in all that you do.

      • Norah

        I think a great amount of creativity involves fun, so yes, I agree with Sheri Eberts.
        Thank you for your wishes. I accept and send them back to you. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      What a gift children can give us when we are open to sharing creativity with them. I feel my children did that for me, too. And I still love seeing them as creative adults. I’m glad you enjoyed Kate’s essay. She did fabulous to give Raw Literature its return after the Rodeo.

      • Norah

        We have much in our children to be thankful for. Yes, I agree – a great lead post by Kate.

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