What is Art?

She looked up at the painting, brows furrowed with disbelief making it clear she didn’t agree with my admiration for the piece hanging on the wall.

“That’s not art!”

She was only five but already our world had begun to shape her perception of what was worthy to be deemed ‘art’ : an image that reflected perfection and accuracy.

This was the first time her perception had been challenged.

Sure, there were homegrown ‘abstract’ pieces hanging on our walls at home. Some even had a frame. But perhaps in her mind, they were ‘age-appropriate-worthy.’ It’s fine to put a few blobs of paint on a canvas and call it art when you are three, but surely when you grow up you should ‘do better,’ create something that looks more real.

“Well, what is art?” I posed the question to her while recalling my own philosophical discussion on this topic in my early twenties. Admittedly I was at university and it was an art tutorial but still, now seemed like a good time to discuss these thoughts with my daughter.

So, Beni what do you think art is?

“An artist does art… it has to look nice. Good. That’s not art,” came her response as she once again looked at the abstract piece hanging on the lobby wall.

I questioned a little deeper.

“Well then, when does an artist become an artist? Are they only an artist when they produce something of worth? And who gets to decide if it’s good? What if you like it and I don’t? Is it still art then?”

Time to think…

“Beni, anyone can be an artist. It’s about how you feel inside when you’re doing what you’re doing. If you are creating something with the intention of it being art then it is.”

“So I could be an artist?”

“For sure! Even now you can be an artist.”

We left the discussion there. And three years on I now realise it’s significance. The seed of freedom, creativity and identity was germinating within her.

Beni Riordan Picasso    Beni Riordan Rooster

What is Art?

When it comes to art, people view things differently. There is no right or wrong, only intention, process, and experience. Sometimes art is discovered in the eyes of the viewer. There are two parts: what is being created and how people view it. The value is not diminished if the artist and the viewer do not see eye to eye. It is simply a matter of opinion.

A writer writes. A painter paints. A musician plays. What someone else thinks of it is irrelevant when it flows out of your identity. It’s knowing who you are and being confident in who you are without apology.

I could go on here talking about famous artists and writers not discovered until they died… When did they become artists? When they were invisible producing endless ‘worthless’ works? Or when someone decided the works were in fact brilliant? You get the point. Being an artist isn’t determined by the value of the outcome, it is discovered in the process outworked day by day. Engaging in artisty things. Not striving to be an artist, resting in the fact that you are.

I am because He is.

In Exodus God introduces His name for the first time. God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ Or ‘I am that I am.’

The great I am.

He wasn’t caught up in defining Himself by what He did. ‘I am’ was enough.

I’m convinced these ideas are connected.

Art is an outcome. Artist is the identity.

Books are an outcome. Writer is an identity.

A focus on outcome can be crippling and full of comparison. But identity just is.

I am that I am.

I am is enough.

Being an artist, a writer, musician, or whatever it is that you know deep down you are, doesn’t happen when people validate us, it happens when we know who we are, how God created us. An identity founded in Christ.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph 2:10

Be blessed,

Carly Riordan


Carly Riordan

Carly is a writer living on the Gold Coast, Australia with her husband Joe and their two girls: Beni and Selah. She is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, a lover of His Church, His people, His Word and life in general. Daughter Wait! is the first of many books she hopes to write. 

Her first book Daughter Wait! is an engaging conversation on dating and relationships as well as a memoir where she shares her heartbreaking experience of unplanned pregnancy, abortion and the road to restoration.

Daughter Wait Book

Daughter Wait! is an invitation to consider a different approach to dating and relationships. If you have ever wondered:

How do I have a Godly relationship?
How do I know if he is the one?
What are realistic boundaries in a Christian relationship?
How do I move on from a broken heart?

Then this book is for you.

Written in Carly’s unique conversational style, you’ll cry, laugh and cheer as you follow her story of love and loss. Daughter Wait is a timeless reminder that regardless of your past, God has the best for your future


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