I paint at the dining room table. We eat our meals in the kitchen, and the dining room table transforms into a makeshift studio for days at a time: tiny pyrex bowls of colored water and little glass jars filled with brushes, sketches on napkins, a new sheet of Arches cold-press paper being slowly transformed.

If you’re walking in our neighborhood and happen to stop by in the midst of the making, or even just after, one of two things will happen. Either I will usher you right into the heart of my process to share my latest work, welcome you into the mess and hope the art speaks to you too; or I will redirect you to the living room, maybe straight through to the back patio, bypassing vulnerability entirely. 


Art is where I can’t hide. It’s where my pride is most exposed, both the puffed-up, praise-loving kind and the loathing, self-deprecating variety. I don’t seem to have a lot of grace for the process of becoming in art; it’s all pride or all shame. I so desperately want the art you see to be good enough. I long for nuanced lines and expert blending, the recognizable signature style of an experienced, trained artist, without any of the fumbling and failing that shapes the learning curve of the self-taught, young artist that I am.

The art reveals these tendencies of my heart: my pride and my perfectionism, my harsh self-criticism and my fear of failing. I don’t want to admit that the same feelings linger beneath other areas of my work, my relationships, or my faith, but when I am quiet, I see the same harshness there too. 

 It’s not at the dining room table-turned-studio, but around the kitchen table, that those tendencies are being remedied. 

On Thursday I tuck my girls in early, get them settled as fast as I can and wisp through the wide- planked pine hallway, down the stairs. I race the clock to put the dishes away and sweep the kitchen floor before friends start slipping in the door. Sometimes the candles are lit and the kitchen is clean, and some nights, it’s a losing battle.


But there I don’t worry if I haven’t wiped down the bathroom counters or if most of dinner is lingering in crumb-sized portions on the floor. These are my people and they’ve seen me in the worst of my mess. One will grab a broom, another sit right down in the chaos. A third wanders in late because her daughter couldn’t fall asleep, and we text another who forgot we were meeting altogether. Laughter or tears will fill the room no matter what.


These are the friends who are teaching me to live honest, to live outside the paradigm of perfectionism. They are teaching me that an open door need not lead to an immaculate home, and that answering the proverbial “How are you?” with tears is a gift of trust. We’re together to discuss a book, but we make food together and let the reality of our days and marriages and heartaches spill out unscripted. They’re not looking for perfect. These are women who value process over product, authenticity over image, dialogue over platitudes. 


They’re changing me, and they’re changing the way I create. I’m beginning to approach my brush and pen with the same vulnerability fostered by my Thursday friends: This is me right now, this is all I have to give, can we sit together here? 

When I return to the blank page and wet my brush, I paint a little looser. My paintings are less a testament to my skill and training and more a reflection of my story right now, imperfect but becoming. The gloss of impressing others with my art is wearing thin, and I’m finding joy in the quiet creation, the small growth and faithful practice of a craft that brings joy and serves others. 


  • Who are the people who encourage you, in your art or in your life, to loosen your grip on perfection and embrace the small good life all around you?
  • Is there an area of your life where your pride is exposed? Are there safe places in your life to let those guards down? 
  • How can you create space for others where honesty is valued over image?


This post is part of our September series on The Hospitality Of Art. Find those stories HERE.

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*All images generously shared from Annie’s Instagram feeds (@BeSmallStudios)

Annie Barnett / Posts / Blog
Annie Barnett is an artist and child at heart who loves discovering beauty in ordinary places. When she's not making art, Annie can be found mothering three wildly fun little girls alongside her husband Ted; or perhaps writing; or experimenting with blueberries and goat cheese in the kitchen, preferably with friends gathered around. She writes sporadically at annieathome.com and shares her art at besmallstudios.com.
  • Sarah

    I love this post so much, Annie! So honest and so relate-able. You’ve opened the door a crack for us to begin to let our guards down and consider our pride issues.

    September 2nd, 2015 8:34
    • Annie Barnett

      Thanks, Sarah. Pride is a hard thing to nail down, huh? Learning right along with you.

      September 2nd, 2015 17:04
  • Shelly Miller

    Oh Annie, this post makes me wish I could drop by your house and sweep. You have such a welcoming way about you. And your vulnerability resonates. Vacillating between pride and shame is common ailment among those of us who are creatives. Thanks for this lovely rendering and a glimpse of your life in tight focus.

    September 2nd, 2015 8:45
    • Bobbi Jo

      I am with you Shelly

      September 2nd, 2015 10:39
    • Annie Barnett

      I would love if you could drop by. That pesky ocean between us…

      September 2nd, 2015 17:05
  • Bobbi Jo

    I am so glad someone else is like me. This post could not have been timed any better for me to read. Thank you for sharing it. An hour ago, I finished the largest painting I have ever done for a friends birthday gift. The thought of carrying this work and giving it to another (oh the vulnerability in this act) started to freak me out, fears of is it good enough came out and I wanted to hid it away but thankful the friend knows its coming so I have not hid it. Anyways your post was exactly what I needed to read over this afternoon. My favorite line “My paintings are less a testament to my skill and training and more a reflection of my story right now, imperfect but becoming.” exactly where I am. Thank you for sharing.

    September 2nd, 2015 10:38
    • Annie Barnett

      I’m glad it isn’t just me! I hope your friend loves the painting, Bobbi Jo! What a gift.

      September 2nd, 2015 17:11
  • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    My goodness, these words jumped off the page for me, “I don’t seem to have a lot of grace for the process of becoming in art; it’s all pride or all shame.”
    I sometimes view my writing in the same manner and I am one of two ~ content or critical. I am learning that, like most things in life, my writing is a process. More than that, it is something the Lord has both called me to do as an act of obedience and worship…and not for me to “judge”.
    I for one, am delighted that you are sharing your art with the world!

    September 2nd, 2015 10:48
    • Annie Barnett

      Thanks for your kind words, Caryn. Grateful for your being here.

      September 2nd, 2015 17:12
  • Kris Camealy

    Annie, I appreciate this post so much. So much of what you say here resonates in my own heart, and I am grateful to be among such a kindred soul here at the table.

    Thank you for sharing your art, your heart and your stories. They point to Jesus, which is, I think, the best we can hope for as artists. ((love you))

    September 2nd, 2015 15:56
    • Annie Barnett

      I think some of our conversations must have been ruminating in my mind while I wrote. Grateful for you, Kris.

      September 2nd, 2015 17:13
  • Elizabeth Marshall

    Annie, this speaks to my heart in many shades of “me too/yes/I know this place”. A sacred echo present throughout. Thank you for your truthtelling. Thank you for your art. Thank you for you.

    September 2nd, 2015 16:53
    • Annie Barnett

      The feeling is very mutual, Elizabeth. Thanks for being here.

      September 2nd, 2015 17:13
    • Dragon

      Hei igjen Kr,istneiog takk for det!Mari er en strålende redaktør og redaksjonen består av flinke folk fulle av ideer, så vi håper det smitter over på bladet. Hyggelig at du ser at vi har blitt bedre! For det jobber vi beinhardt med hver eneste dag. Kom gjerne med innspill

      March 9th, 2017 0:14
  • Deandra

    I listened to Mak#;r8217&s version yet again. Never get tired of listening to it. I think I am going to have Mike teach it to me on the guitar. If I could only learn one song, that’d be it !!!

    March 8th, 2017 23:59

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