Be the Artist, Not the Canvas

Scott Leonardi

What I mean by being the artist and not the canvas, is to not let yourself become overly splattered with the paint - *opinions - of other people.

I understand that it’s not necessarily the easiest or most natural thing to do to move throughout your life coloring the world around you with your own personality paintbrush. Most people don’t feel the need to always be so full of inspiration that it spills over onto everyone around them, and that’s okay. What you don’t want though, is to walk around like an anthropomorphic canvas, covered in the ideas, opinions, and personalities of everyone but yourself.

You see it every day.

You listen to it all the time. People that haven’t taken the time to develop any sense of individuality at all. They walk around like mirrors covered in graffiti. All they do is reflect what is in front of them and let other people write whatever kind of nonsense comes to mind on their faces.

You look at them and can’t help but think, “These influences are great and all, but where are you?” If you actually ask them that, they’ll probably get a weird look on their face like they don’t know what you’re talking about. Those interests and opinions you see painted all over them are them. Who else would they be? What else would they identify with if not their interests, hobbies, traumas, and opinions?

They don’t seem to be able to see that, although the world of experiences has dripped and drawn and scribbled and scratched them from head to toe, there is still something underneath it all.

There is, and always has been, an original being under that mess. Somewhere under those crusted layers of acrylic, under that cracked and caked-on clay that’s slowly covered your entire identity after years of letting outside influence get the better of you, is a real deal true-blue person.

I’m not trying to overly criticize these people. We all have this problem.

Sometimes it’s not even a problem. Really, who else would we be if not the accumulation of experiences and influences we’ve had throughout our life?

My point though, is that instead of simply taking these things and regurgitating them back into the world in a similar and lesser form, we should be doing our best to melt down these experiences we’ve had into something entirely new.

We shouldn’t be walking around like mirrors to the world, only able to show off what’s currently being reflected or what others have painted on us. We should be walking around like we are each unique creators, capable of coloring the passing world with our very own original hue, formed by the blending and solidifying of all past experience and understanding.

Be the artist of your life, and in your life.

When I say be the artist of your life, yes, I mean that you are the only one that can truly shape how you want your life to turn out. We’ve all heard something similar to that before, I’m sure. It’s an important lesson to understand. Just as importantly though, is what I mean by being the artist in your life.

When you become the artist in your life, I don’t necessarily mean it in the conventional meaning of the word “artist”. Not everyone identifies as being creative, or even outgoing to any degree, and that’s fine. The world needs the conventional just as much as the creative or else nothing practical would ever get done. What I really mean is to live strictly as your true self, no matter how you see yourself.

When we live as our truest selves, without allowing the influences and distractions of others to paint our personalities some other shade, we start to have our own influence on the world around us. You may even start to see speckles of yourself reflected in other people. You won’t be able to help it.

Being wholly and completely yourself has a rippling affect on those around you.

Some people will be more susceptible to being influenced by it, others not so much. If they are also being fully themselves, you shouldn’t have much of an influence on them at all.

So, when I say be the artist in your life, I simply mean that, when you find yourself among the masses, you know that you are a producer of something invaluable. A utterly original product. That product is you. It’s so you that if you really were a walking paintbrush, you couldn’t help leaving behind flecks of personality paint everywhere you go.

Just please, do your best to not turn into a strutting canvas, frayed at the edges and covered in another’s ink. It may feel comfortable because you’re surrounding yourself with other canvases, all walking around covered in similar sketches and poorly drawn copies of other people’s portraits, but one day you’ll look in the mirror and not be able to see your face. You won’t know who you really are under all of that inky influence. You’ll have to douse yourself in paint thinner and light a match just to burn yourself clean from the years of allowing other people to throw painting parties on your skin. I’m guessing that won’t be a fun experience, but to each their own

So, take the splattered white board off, shake your arms and feel what it’s like to be free of the weight. Start to make your own brush, dip it deep into the well of you.

And be the artist, not the canvas.



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I write a lot about self-development and personal growth. I want to help people uncover their authentic selves through creative expression and in the process understand their place in the world a little better. I also enjoy writing screenplays, short stories, and poetry. All of which can be found at

Imperial Beach, CA

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