Kirsten Lee is a multi-disciplinary artist living in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. This is her third installment in a 4-part series as Artist Strong’s Artist in Residence. You can enjoy more of her art over on Instagram @kleewv. Visit her website to explore artworks and ongoing projects at

This residency month is thundering by. How can we already be discussing autumn? And scarier still, the holidays?

I’m really seeing the value of an all-immersive residency, removed from daily distractions. It’s not that you need to choose between art and whatever little urgency flares up at home, it’s that you made the choice when you sent in the application. Nothing but you and the muse, your new studio buddies, and endless possibility….

Some residencies even remove the need to decide what to cook for dinner! Bliss!

Someday…. Maybe…. In a life shaped by different decisions. But right now, I’m grateful for Carrie’s digital residency. It fits in perfectly with Life Right Now.

This has been a week of obstacles. I had my plan for unbridled creativity, and a hundred little urgencies popped up along the path. That seems to be the pattern, doesn’t it?

Unexpected farm challenges arose and were squelched. A book project that had been put on hold has been thrown back on the table with a RUSH!” stamp. Clients want changes and deadlines stand firm.

One friend died. Another celebrated his birthday. Another, in the throes of her own grueling battle with cancer, asked us to pray for her first grandson, born premature. (He’s doing great!) We may be artists, but we are first and foremost human.

We need to remember that, again and again. Every time we step up to our easel or behind our camera or (insert artistic medium here.) We are artist, we are human.

Any time we stutter an unexpected Yes, we need to excise a (sometimes sadly) sacrificed intention. I’m learning there is power in the No.

I’ve said no to the distractions that I can’t affect, removing social media and the news app off my phone. I can still access them, it just takes more effort, leaving space to ask myself if this is really a) positive and b) actionable. Usually the answer is a no.

The flip side is a yes to both my peace and my art.

Every yes demands a no. Every no opens space for a newly possible yes. Yin and yang.

September marks not only the end of the digital residency, but the hanging of my solo exhibition. The unexpected yesses and no’s of the past many months have shaped both the current body of work and what will be the final show. Neither are what I envisioned at the onset. Inductive arting, inductive exhibiting. Left foot, right foot, see what unfolds next.

The demands of being human seem at odds with being an artist. In my case, the farm and my human family take away from expressing my art. But they are also my most immediate muses and models, at once ordinary and frustrating and splendid!

Van Gogh painted flowers because they were cheaper and more available than models. My models-the animals, the landscape, leaves dancing through the seasons- all are free! Unless you count the cost in nos.

As you create your art in hard-won time, what ordinary bits of your daily life show up? What yesses? What no’s? What disguises do they wear?

Mary Oliver, in her exquisite poem, “Messenger,” muses:

“Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me 

keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be 


Aren’t we so fortunate, as artists and as humans, that at the end of the day, our job is to stand still and to be astonished!

Every month, 1-3 artists show up in our Artist Strong community to share their artistic process, journey, explorations with us over the course of a month.

The goal is to normalize the MANY, VARIED experiences of being an artist.

And if YOU  want to apply to be an Artist Strong Artist Resident, subscribe to our weekly updates to hear about the next time applications are open.