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I sit down at the dining room table with the familiar mess: a million shards of safety-scissored scrap-paper transformed into a miniature bookshelf by a miniature artist; a formidable stack of papers from the preschool; a leaning tower of library books; and an abandoned teacup, half finished. I hope it was today’s tea.

I dream of converting the guest room into an art studio – I’ve even put that old kitchen table up there as a place-holder for the dream. But it’s here, the dining room, in the middle of the mess and the chaos, that I still come to paint. I come after my girls are tucked in at night, or while they watch the third episode of Wild Kratts in the other room, or now, while they shape play-dough into baked goods between their not-so-chubby-anymore fingers and imaginations.

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We are making here, always.

We make dinner, and make forts out of blankets, and we make faces of frustration, the likes of which live on precisely no-one’s Instagram feed. We make messes and we make space and order and then we make messes again. We make it through bedtime and make love even in the tired seasons of life. We make memories and we paint with words and make story and make believe and we are making, making, making.

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I make, more and more these days, with pencil and paint. I am embracing the idea that this gift, the art that always seeps out some place, can be my vocation. And the art can be a hidden wellspring. And the art can be an offering. I begin to see my art through this tri-focal lens.

I make art for hire. I make art that I sell here and there and this helps to provide for our family, makes another night that Ted is home and not working. I have never been a driven worker, and I am surprised to find joy in this.

I make art in the secret. I paint broken fragments of a nest when I don’t have words for the hope birthed in those dark, dormant waiting days. And there are words and images that are meant for the secret place.

I make art to give it away. Giving away something one’s poured time and paint and prayer into feeds the soul of the giver and the receiver, and I want my art to serve, to give generously with my time and brush.

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There are seasons when I lean a little farther in to one of these three. In late fall, I painted and hand-lettered four prints for (in)courage’s new print collection, Words Matter.

I was in the midst of a season of making art for others, for hire. August brought the (in)Mercy campaign graphics, and September brought illustrations for the second of The Growly Books. October brought the Micah 6:8 poster, and then November brought the Words Matter prints.

So I carved out quiet in December and let art grow in the secret place. And art for others came from that place, too, gifts drawn and painted with another in mind. I keep dancing between these three ways of making, letting myself lean into one, and over-correct with the other, all in the midst of the mothering and home-making and friendship-building and everyday ordinary that mostly fills my days. I think there’s a cadence emerging.

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I sketched my four Words Matter prints, and worked and reworked the letters in paint and ink and then on the screen. Hand-lettering offers the opportunity to pour over words slowly, letter-by-letter, and I let the words seep in.

After I sent the final drafts, I heard back that I’d left a word out. I laughed. We are all learning, and this is new to me: this balancing work and family, art for soul and art for hire.

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I could write on and on, but there’s unrest in the play-dough bakery, and real-food dinner to be made, so I’ll let my words rest, like my art, and hope, always, that something beautiful will transpire in the space between my making and your seeing.

(in)courage and DaySpring just love working with Annie Barnett – her talent, creativity, generosity, and heart are such a perfect match for this community! If you’re interested in purchasing Annie’s specific Words Matter art prints, you can find them at DaySpring.com using the links below (each one is only $10 and make great gifts, too!):

Would you like to influence the next phase of this collection? The (in)courage team would love your feedback. We want to produce the designs that YOU love! Click here to take this short 4-8 minute survey. We really value your thoughts and feedback. Super fun bonus:  We’ll randomly select one lucky person who completes the survey to receive a gift package from (in)courage worth $40! Woohoo!

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  • Ruth

    I so love these prints. Are they available in the U.K? xx

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks, Ruth. I believe they are. If you follow any of the print links, you’ll find a Help menu at the bottom of the page, and you can click on Shipping Information for more details.

  • http://www.fromhispresence.com Jamie Rohrbaugh

    I haven’t looked at the prints yet, Annie, but I just wanted to say I loved your words about making life into art. :)

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Oh, thanks, Jamie. Glad you’re here.

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com Marty

    Another way your art is coming out is through the way you paint words on a page…even when you’re typing them using keys, and we are viewing them on a screen. What you wrote, how you shared…it’s all beautiful. God bless you, and thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks, Marty! I appreciate that.

  • http://www.lifeversedesign.com Julie Chen

    From one artist to another, you “speak” my heart. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your work. Thank you for offering your gifts to our Lord & to all of us. You are a huge encouragement & I pray many blessings on your creativity! Keep them coming! And always enjoy your form of worship.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks, Julie. Love your life verses and how you’re making art too.

  • http://www.amysmithdesigns.com Amy Smith

    Beautiful work. I am in a similar place. I know for certain that my art is my worship, my ministry, my calling. I am watching God open things wide for me pursue this. Such an amazing feeling.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      I love seeing your art, Amy. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • http://maddychristinehope.com Hope

    I love your art. It must be amazing to be able to make that!!
    God bless!!

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks so much, Hope. It’s often stretching and rewarding to work at something you love, right?

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com Shelly Miller

    One of my recent blessings is meeting you in Ohio Annie. Your life is inspiring. Love these prints and your art in general, you are a gift to those who know you, truly.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks, Shelly!

  • http://narrowpathstohigherplaces.com Alia Joy

    Love the way you live art and creation in all the corners of your life. So beautiful, friend.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thank you, friend.

  • http://www.youaremygirls.com Jennifer

    Each word here is just beautiful, Annie–and your last line just takes my breath away. Yes, it’s the whispers in between… I just love what happens in the translation. Thank you for all your art.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks, Jennifer. I’m grateful, too, for the grace in the translation!

  • http://www.elisapulliam.com elisa

    Annie, I love your beautiful artwork and the opportunity to see behind the scenes of your production — the mess of life and art and beauty all pulled together by the Master Creator. Thanks for the inspiration this offers me this morning.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks for reading, Elisa. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  • Elle

    So, I Love this. If I buy your prints from day spring, will you get the proceeds?

    • Elle

      Oh, wait, that sounded terrible. I wrote that before I had coffee. I want to support you. Is Dayspring.com the best way to do that?

      • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

        You’re funny Elle. Good Wednesday conversation is plenty of support – buy art you love!

  • http://www.amylearns.com Amy Tilson

    Your words and your paintings are you poured out on paper and screen. I’m blessed to have at least that part of you scattered throughout my home. Beautiful!

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Oh, thanks Amy!

  • http://www.lindsevanniekerk.blogspot.com Lindsey van Niekerk

    I am so proud of for ‘this’ and all it means to your soul to let these words go here, even though unfinished or unresolved and yet….as always….there is the beauty of Jesus in all of it.

    • http://www.besmallstudios.com Annie Barnett

      Thanks, Linds. Love you.

  • Beth WIlliams

    Haven’t look at the art prints yet, but if they are anything like the ones I voted on then I know I will love them.

    You gals are great artists and have a great imagination!