How Can You Create Beauty? Let Me Count The Ways!

If you’ve spent any time around here, you’ll have noticed that I really LOVE South African flora, especially Proteas. I was reflecting the other day on how many many different versions of Proteas I’ve created, and how exploring their quirky shapes, colours, and textures never gets old.


Beauty means something different to each of us

These five very different renditions of Proteas each have their own unique qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. I love when people tell me which of my artworks they like best. It’s very rewarding when someone shares that my art delights them, but also, it’s so good to be reminded that people like different art. It really takes the pressure off to know that there will be some people who like an artwork and some people who don’t like the very same artwork and prefer something else.

As an artist, how liberating to know that! It means that it’s not about whether my art is “good enough”, it’s not personal if my art isn’t to someone’s taste, and I don’t have to find out what people will like and tailor my art-making around that. I can drop all that head-shit and make the art that I enjoy making.

How wonderful that we like different things!

There are many, many different ways to create beauty

These are just five renditions of Proteas. If you search for Protea artworks on Pinterest you’ll find many, many more ways to create a beautiful artwork of a Protea. And there are still many, many more than that.

Given all this evidence of creative abundance, maybe I can stop thinking that I need to create beauty that’s familiar and similar to the kind of beauty I already know. And I can let go of the idea that there are objective, universally agreed best (and worst) ways to create a Protea (or anything else!), quit giving myself rules about how it SHOULD be done, and remember that I can even make up a new kind of beauty or way of creating that I’ve never seen anyone else do.

Just like with art-making, all of the big and important questions in life can be answered with many different expressions and renditions of what’s beautiful to you. Questions like…

  • Who are you?
  • How will you express yourself?
  • What will you believe?
  • How will you do relationships and family life?
  • What lifestyle do you want to live and what are your priorities?
  • How will you grieve?
  • What will your losses and traumas mean to you?
  • How will you live with and use your body and mind’s capabilities and limitations?
  • Where will you live?
  • How can you experience your life as meaningful?
  • How do you want to parent?
  • What work, creativity, and recreation will you pursue?

There are no universal objective singular “best” or “right” answers to these big questions because there are many, many ways you could answer these questions and create beauty in your life. Unique kinds of beauty that are meaningful to you and your loved ones. (This is why you’ll find my Untangle Your Grief book full of questions and art-making prompts, rather than advice!)

Lastly, remember that no matter what you’ve created so far, there’s always opportunity to create something else or to go about creating it in a different way.

Is it art or is it life?

  • Where in your life are you having trouble with a decision? What happens when you consider the possibility that there’s no single “right” answer or way forward – that all options will have pros and cons, risks and benefits, losses and gains?
  • Are there options for kinds of beauty that you could create or be that you’ve not considered creating or being because that kind of beauty is unfamiliar to you and most people that you know, or you suspect that people important to you would not appreciate that kind of beauty?
  • If there’s no single “right” answer, and many paths forward could lead to creating something beautiful (each with their own hiccups along the way), how will you choose your path?
  • Given that you’ll usually never know how all the other options would have turned out, how will you know if a decision is one that you can/ will be/ are happy with?
  • If you accepted that some people are going to like your decisions and the kinds of beauty that you create and others aren’t, so you’ll have to use something other than other people liking your decisions/ creations as a compass, what would you use to make your decisions about what you want to create with your life?
  • And what decision/s would you make? What will you create?