Give me a wall, a piece of paper and a marker and I’ll draw your story. But ask me if I’m an artist, and I can give you 100 reasons why I’m not: they’re just sketches, I’m not trained, this isn’t real art, and the list goes on.
I’ve spent my career collecting reasons I’m not an artist, whether in the form of my incredibly talented colleagues like Emily and Nevada, or the books, seminars, workshops that seem to only underscore my lack of artistic talent. And yet, at the end of every session, I am approached by someone blown away by my artistic “talent”, “your work is incredible!” they’ll say, “I wish I was an artist”.
But here’s the thing: I’m not an artist.
Art, in my mind, exists as something beautiful, captivating, or thought-provoking on its own. Art is the Mona Lisa, Starry Night, American Gothic — not my quickly drawn star-person.
The art in my sessions is produced by the teams themselves. The captivating beauty, drama, humor, and joy is discovered and created through the team’s journey, I only capture it. So when a manager approaches me and points to the pictures on the wall and says that she is so glad she hired me, I can promise you that she isn’t looking at my cartoon elephant — she’s looking beyond the elephant, to the story of frustration that put the elephant on my wall and allowed someone else to say “me too!”, and finally the group to, for the first time, say “let’s fix this”.
That is art.
So I’m not an artist, not in the pictures I draw anyway. If you want to call me an artist go ahead, but please point to the groups I help transform into something excited, passionate and engaged before you point to my cartoon elephant.