Back when I was about four or so, I loved to draw. I distinctly remember asking my mom to draw pictures with me one afternoon, so we sat in my room at the bite-sized table and chairs, the sunlight striking diagonally through the window and onto my bed. And we drew.

My mom drew a simple picture of a field of grass with an apple tree and a sun, and I copied her. She drew the bed of grass horizontally across her paper, so I did the same on my own. I waited until she was done with the brown crayon, and then I drew my own tree trunk, placed on the left-hand side of the paper, just like her. I remember feeling a bit bummed that her apples looked more like real apples than mine, so I lowered myself closer to my paper so that I could focus. I wanted my apples to be as good as hers.

This is one of those flash memories, where I’m sure the drawing event took about ten minutes, but from my kid perspective, it lasted all day. It was a drawing day.

I took the prerequisite art class in elementary school, just like everyone else, and it was a class I looked forward to all week in my early years, but not so much as I got older. From my perspective, I didn’t have a “natural talent” for art, so it felt like too much an effort to get my toothpick sculpture to really look like the Eiffel Tower. I’d rather read. That was my forte.

You will be creating the rest of your life. You might as well do it on purpose. -Matt Appling

I left elementary school, and I don’t think I’ve taken another art class since. But I always loved to create—still do love to create (and I love to soak up the blessings of others’ creations as well). I find inherent satisfaction in the rhythm of sewing, in writing, and in decorating our home. There’s something soul tempering about an afternoon spent creating…just because. Life moves slower, I can better think, and I’m just not so crotchety afterwards.

matt applingMatt Appling

is an elementary art teacher, and he regularly witnesses the gradual shift inevitable in many kids, starting from five-year-olds unencumbered by fear of rejection or lack of skill, to sixth graders who rush through art projects so they can proclaim, “I’m done!” and move on to something else.

Matt, like Picasso, believes that all of us are born artists, but that the challenge is to stay an artist as an adult. And his new book, Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room, makes a strong case of this truth, reminding adults that deep down inside, we are all, indeed, artists. We were all made to create. And it’s not too late to find and reclaim the long-lost artist that lives deep within.

Life After Art

With chapters that discuss stuff like the challenge to stay an artist as an adult, how our entire society suffers from an epidemic of lost creativity, the beauty of constraints, and that failure is an option—even a necessity—to becoming creative beings once again, Life After Art is a gem. Matt also tells comical stories about his students, and the corresponding sweet truths he’s learned from these young people. I think about this book hours after I set it down.

Somewhere along the way, children learn that failure is something to be feared, rather than to be learned from and embraced. -Matt Appling

It’s a short read, but it’s packed with truth. It’s a shot in the arm to get out there and be the creative self you KNOW you are. You really are. Stop saying you’re not.

There is eternal value in creating; it shouldn’t be an afterthought to enjoy only once we pay the bills and do the dishes. Deep enjoyment of life requires being the creative self you were meant to be. Art class lasts through elementary school, and then we too often move on to More Important Things.

But there is life after art. We need to live it.

What will you create today: beauty or ugliness? -Matt Appling


Matt is giving away a copy of Life After Art to ten Simple Mom readers! Simply leave any comment on this post, and you’ll be entered to win (I’d love to hear a memory from an art class you’ve taken). If you’re reading this via email, please click over to the post and leave a comment on the blog.

Oh, and head here to read chapter one for free.

This giveaway will end tomorrow night, Friday, July 19, and we’ll announce the winners soon after. I hope you win!