What makes me feel like an artist? Is it seeing my mental images coming to life on a blank page? Is it tracing the lines of a persons facial features with my eyes, as if I’m drawing them in my mind? Is it knowing exactly what colours I need to mix together to create my desired shade? Is it smelling fresh paint as I open the cap and try not to gag? Is it feeling the moist, yet hard clay moulding to my touch and shaping into a new creation?

Sure, I guess all of those things are well and good artisticy things. But what makes me feel the most like an artist is having dirty hands. When I have dirty hands, I feel like I did something. Like I was so into my art that it overflowed off of the page and onto my deft fingers. Whether it’s graphite rubbing off onto my hand while I use my finger to smear lines into subtle shadow, pastels leaving a dusty, pale, chalky trail where ever they touched, dust vibrant splashes of  paint jumping off of the canvas to colour my pale hands, or clay coating my fingers in a crackly, thin grey layer, having dirty hands makes me feel good inside.

Sometimes I’ll intentionally try not to keep my hands clean for just that reason, “accidentally” setting my hand in some wet paint or blending a particularly dark spot with my finger. But, because I’m a generally messy person, I usually don’t have to go out of my way to be messy. Once my hands are dirty, I’ll half-heartedly wash them, but not too too well, so that some residual artistic expression remains on my palm, part of me hoping that someone will see it and ask me what I was working on.

Messy hands, to me, are the badge of an artist. If you don’t get messy, you’re not doing art. Maybe that’s just me, and my interpretation, but if I’m doing art right, I do not stay clean for long. Now, I’m not really an artist, and only sporadically sketch a pencil drawing now and again, but when I do decide to stretch my dormant artistic side and wake it up, it’s an amazing feeling, and I remember why I loved doing art ever since I was a little girl. Time ceases to exist, and it’s simply me and my work, existing, shaping each other, as I quietly sing to myself and attempt to spill my messy, colourful emotions onto the blank white wilderness before me.