Art is everywhere

As you start this week, may you notice art.

Kyle and I got in to a conversation this weekend about the definition of art. Is art art because of the motive behind the creator? Is it the viewer’s responsibility, indicated by how he or she interprets it? Is there an objectivity to it, a dividing line between art and non-art, or even between good art and bad art?

We were sitting at a cafe playing easy listening from the 80s (if you get caught between the moon and New York City…), talking about the uniqueness of art being so subjective; how one person might love what we don’t like, and vice versa. It’s not a matter of production, because a song can be produced in the exact same method and result in a sound that I prefer, as opposed to Saaaaailing takes me awaaaaay…

But just because it’s not my style, doesn’t mean it’s not art. And just because my daily life might be filled with the mundane, the everyday, what I might not label as lovely—doesn’t mean it’s not art.

Kyle pointed out that if you stop and think about it, everything could be considered art in some way, and that if it were a priority of ours, we’d be continually astonished at the artistry surrounding us. “The fern in that pot—look at that!” “Look at how the pen just pours out ink for me—amazing!” “The yolk in this egg in contrast to the avocado slice… what an astonishing combination of goldenrod and sage!”

Now, you don’t have to be a crazy person and talk in exclamation points. But what if we called it art, the everydayness of it all? What if we slowed down just a bit and noticed that the even-ness of a book’s pages, the dimples in a toddler’s pudgy hand, and the ability for one floor to connect to two via stairs could all be art?

We are surrounded by art, by beauty, by majesty. And we are created to take part in its creation (there’s a good book that just released about that, actually). This week, slow down just a bit, and acknowledge the art in your life. It’s everywhere.

Top photo credit

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. I’m loving these Sunday posts, I’ve got a few bookmarked in feedly. Such a good reminder to slow down and appreciate life!

  2. What a great post! I love this so much because I just naturally tend to see the extraordinary in the everydayness around us. I love to look at the colour of the mason jar on my windowsill or the mix of leaves on the ground or the sight of the sun all dappled on the ground. I guess I never looked at it through the eyes of artfulness before though. This just encourages me even more.

  3. Art is certainly everywhere. Nature is one big canvas on whose is painted some of the best masterpieces if one just cares to stop, look and be mesmerized…beyond that, we create art everyday day in whatever we do sometimes not even realizing it.

  4. I agree. I think that art is everywhere and that most anything can be classified as art. I love this idea to see art in the everyday… I love these inspirational posts. Thank you so much for taking the time to write them. 🙂

  5. I’m going to need to re-read this every morning. Wonderful reminder. Thank you so much!

  6. Slowing down to notice is key.

  7. “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

  8. Hand on heart this post pinged through on my phone as I was mentally planning a post titled ‘make your own art’.
    Art is a hot topic for me currently. We have decided to invest in a piece of real art for the first time (feeling rather grown up! haha!). But we are also busy making our own art.

    “Art is what you can get away with” Andy Warhol

    Last week I grabbed a frame from Ikea and mounted an LP in it (remember records?). It was going to be the actual record, but the cover is so striking the whole thing got framed. Talking of 80’s it is Japan’s ‘Life in Tokyo’. Such a great image of the skyline. All black, white and red – so very 80’s!
    All of a sudden I can see potential for art all around.

  9. Hand on heart this post pinged through as I was mentally planning a post on ‘make your own art’. Art is a hot topic for me currently. We have just decided to invest in our very first piece of proper art (feeling very grown up haha!).
    But it has led to getting busy making our own art.

    “Art is what you can get away with” Andy Warhol

    Grabbing a frame from Ikea we mounted a record sleeve (remember records?). It is Japan’s ‘Life In Tokyo’. Such a great skyline shot. All black, red and white. So very eighties.

    All of a sudden I can see art all around in our everyday life. Things worth putting on display and enjoying.

  10. Dear Tsh,
    I wouldn’t normally post a comment like this, but I ‘m surprised you would post this without even mentioning Emily Freeman’s book. I know that you have read it and it’s been talked about in your circles, so I would think it played into you thinking about this topic?

    I know you and Emily are friends and I’m sure you meant nothing by it. No judgement hear, but it just struck me as odd. I hope it’s ok that I say so.

    Lots of grace for you!

    • Hi Lindsey 🙂 I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but if you click the link in the last paragraph where Tsh says “there’s a good book that just released about that actually” it goes to the Amazon page for Emily’s book.

      Have a great day!

    • Hi Lindsey… I did. 🙂 Last paragraph.

      But, as a good friend of Emily’s I can tell you in confidence—she wouldn’t be offended in the slightest if I didn’t mention her book. Because she’d tell you that she doesn’t own the idea that art is everywhere. She’s a conduit for why people are talking about it on the Internet lately, but she knows it’s not an idea she invented, the idea of real life being art.

      Thanks for being a reader, Lindsey. I really appreciate it.

  11. …or does it only become art when it’s shared and someone else has the opportunity to connect with it? Questions, questions.

  12. This reminded me of a Wall Street Journal article I read this weekend:

  13. A long time ago when my youngest was a baby, I watched him play and wondered if I would always remember the dimples on his chubby little hands. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy life’s simple blessings. You are right art is all around us if we just take the time to look and appreciate it.

  14. Such a good reminder. There is beauty and art all around us. We just have to stop and notice…

  15. You know you’re speaking my language here 🙂

    Also, it was totally unplanned, as when I was writing last night I didn’t know you’d be writing about this today, but this post goes along with what I’ve been thinking about and sharing on SK today. Love it when things like that happy, friend.

    Best wishes!

  16. My husband and I had a similar conversation after viewing an Avant Garde/Dada exhibition last year. We argued at length at whether the urinal with a signature on it (Fountain – by Marcel Duchamp) that sat displayed on a podium is actually “art.” That piece has a long history of sparking this kind of debate. I like the way an editorial (The Richard Mutt Case – 1915) summed it up – “Whether Mr. Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.” While I can see the beauty in design and functionality in a everyday item like a urinal, I have not yet decided where the line for “art” is. I definitely can see the art in a single blade of grass, or the laugh of a child. In an everyday setting these items unequivocally are art, part of the landscape for our eyes and ears. But would I feel the same if I were asked to consider it in a museum setting? Maybe it’s just a language difference that I find challenging since there is no standard definition for the word “art.” When a photograph or painting is done of the everyday object it immediately becomes more comfortable to accept as art since that is something that has already been predefined. I for one am glad for the conversation and the opportunity to try to learn to see something in a different light; even if it is questionable in its definition. Although, I would much rather spend an hour looking at a Van Gogh piece than a urinal. Just my own personal taste guess!

  17. Just downloaded “A Million Little Ways” and am excited to read it!

  18. Sarah Westphal says:

    When I really really look at my children (3.5 yr, 1.5 yrs and 6 months) all I see is glorious art. Growing, singing, babbling, in full tantrum mode, playing, crying, smiling & laughing. Especially when I see the dimples and cellulite (it’s natural!) on my daughter’s bum cheeks when I dry them off after a bath. They are my favourite artwork ever created–in true partnership with the best Creator of All–of course.

  19. When my daughter was a freshman in high school, she got a C on her report card in her art class. She was very upset because she loved art and otherwise had all A’s. I went to speak with the teacher to see what had happened and she explained that she got a bad grade on her final project which brought her grade down to a C. I asked what she did wrong on the project and the teacher said, “She didn’t do anything wrong, I just didn’t like it.” I was flabbergasted! I said “Art is subjective! You can’t just say you didn’t like it?! You’re her teacher?!” She refused to change the grade and it took my daughter a while to find her joy for art again. Very sad…

  20. I guess in a sense, everything we do can be considered a form of art.

  21. Thanks for this refreshing post! It reminds me how every day as I hang out with my one-year-old son I feel like I’m observing him at an art museum: oohs and ahhs over how a door knob turns, how steam rises from my coffee cup or how airplanes fly in the air. I love how it’s making my eyes see so much of my Creator’s handiwork that I so easily missed before.

  22. I think the “art is everywhere” argument only works if you are religious. I think beauty is everywhere, even in decay, but art? Art requires intentionality. Art is a human creation.

  23. Hi Tsh,

    I skimmed through your last email and am introducing myself. I’m a lurker – rarely comment but I love your material!

    My name is Karri. I’m a stay at home mama of four kiddos (6wks – 5yrs). I’m from the Northwest so naturally my boy is a socks and sandals kinda guy 🙂 We’re a military family so every ounce of simple we can get helps.

    Thanks for sharing your life with us.

    Have a great day,

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