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I Am an Artist • by Melody Ross

“I am an artist,” I finally said, well into my thirties ... and it was one of the bravest sentences I would ever speak, one that took years of courage to muster up.

I knew though at age 5, a free-spirited little girl with long blonde braids hanging on each shoulder, that I had an artist soul. I felt the fire that wouldn’t let up, my mind filled with ideas and colors and images that I had to express somewhere and somehow. So I made art. Most of the days of my life I made some kind of art. I doodled, I sculpted, I painted, I hand-sewed. I made up songs. I made up dances. I made up outfits and hairdos. I created my future in my imagination and I made plans. But I never gave myself permission to call myself an artist. I would simply say ...”Someday, I am going to be an artist ...”

The Right to Be an Artist
Fast-forward 30 years.

I was still making art. I had also made a family, a business, and a wonderful life. I called myself mother, wife, CEO, but still did not feel that I could call myself an artist. I was still waiting for it to happen. In the design business that I built, I had an entire art department that I hired and directed, all with art degrees that I did not have. I designed hundreds of products and wrote many books. I designed ads and I sketched patterns and icons and color schemes. Still, I never proclaimed it out loud ... too sacred. I didn’t know that I had the right.

Then art saved me.

A Life Support System
While making art, enjoying art, and dreaming of art was like breathing in and out for me, it had never so blatantly been a life support system for me. It was part of breathing, not WHAT was making me breathe. In 2004 my life fell apart when my husband of 14 years sustained a traumatic brain injury. He went away to a very dark and horrible place, trapped inside of a mental illness for more than five years and not able to function in any way as the husband and father that I married. In that span of time, we lost our home, we lost our business, and it seemed as if we lost what we knew of our marriage and the intact family that we had carefully built together.

So I made art. I wrote … and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. There were so many days when my words failed me, when my feelings were too afraid of their hugeness that they would not come out and explain themselves to me. So I painted … and I painted and I painted and I painted. And I sculpted. I felt as if an enormous explosion blew my life apart and also my limbs … with an arm over there, a foot over there, my heart over there, all trying desperately to find each other. Art made me whole again.

A Sacred Place
I don’t know exactly how it works, I just know that it does. I know that a collage can help you come to terms with very painful things when you just let yourself go and pick up pieces and scraps and colors and words and glue them all down and wait to see what the outcome is at the end. I know that your soul will say things with your hands and a loaded paintbrush that your mouth never begin could find words for. I know that the sacred place that your mind goes to, all alone, and in complete safety when you are deeply partnered with your creative self, is a place that you can always trust. There are not many places that you can always trust.

I also know that when you make art with this kind of passion and desperate need to be wholly alive, that others can feel that passion in your art ... and your art will go on to save others.

Walking Away
And so I make art. That little 5 year old girl showed up one day and demanded that I hear her out. She said, ”You are an artist, you always have been, and you always will be ... now get to work”

I walked away from the CEO life. I threw out all of my business cards and my business clothes. I took my heels off and walked in my bare feet again. I made a plan to make a career out of creating, and started licensing my artwork to other companies. My husband recovered and our marriage was restored and my children grew into exceptional people because of it all, many times expressing their growth through art. It is an essential routine in our household.

The Healing Power of Art
Over those years, my art showed me where all of the pieces of me were. Art showed me which pieces to keep and which ones I could do without. Art showed me that I could create new pieces … and that it was OK that I would never be the same person that I was before all of those things happened. Art showed me.

When I figuratively collaged my arms back on, and painted my heart back in my chest, and sculpted the most beautiful ornate wings to fly with ... I stood proudly with my mixed-media self, finally ready to fly again. Then I went out and found as many others like me who felt fragmented and broken and lost and colorless ... and I showed them what I knew. I showed them how art can put you all back together and speak ancient secrets into your ear that are meant just for you. And it worked. It has never failed. The healing power of art is for all of us. Being an artist is not an elite and exclusive club ... it is what is intended for humankind. It is part of our nature. It is here for our growth, our joy, and our purpose. It is here to help us help each other.

I am at a place now where I can see that everything that has happened in our life has led to this very moment perfectly. If I did not know what I know now, I could not do what I am doing now. If I had not felt what I felt then, I could not know how to show others what I know. If I had not passed through the places I passed through, I could never write about them, paint them, or sculpt them. I could never do what I do with our retreat company, Brave Girls Club ... and I would never appreciate the career that I have built, designing products and making art for others. ALL of life is an essential journey, all of it — even the rough stuff.

I wish I had known sooner, but now I know ... and when anyone asks, at any time, “What do you do?” I say — without reservation and with all the courage, conviction, and passion that I can muster — “I am an artist.”

Learn more about Melody Ross at or see her range of products at Learn about Melody’s art+life mountain retreats at


Thanks for sharing your story and I love the part you talked about figuratively collaging your arms back and painting your heart and sculpting the wings to fly with...beautiful! I think Art does give us all of those things and I also love the Daily Truths that bravegirlsclub sends out... so encouraging and lots of food for thought! I think we are all artists as's nature...human nature to create and express what we feel share and discuss with others.

Melody, you are so beautiful! I've always looked at creations you've made and thought to myself what an amazing artist you are. So even if you couldn't admit it, the rest of us already knew. Thank you for sharing your art with us - it does heal. You are a fabulous woman!

Incredible- this is exactly what I feel, and where I am! Although it's 9 years later than you, I tossed the business cards too! LOVE IT!
Great post!

Melody, I can't even begin to express how reading your story on your blog months ago changed me. It gave me the courage to speak about the things that I had hidden down deep inside myself, and get over fear of falling apart over them. Your story and sweet, wonderful soul gave me the courage to write about how broken I have been. How making art just like you spoke of here made me brave enough to accept life's hiccups myself.
I think you are so amazing, and feel blessed to have found a friend in you!
Please keep spreading your story and message ... keep sharing yourself with these women, and changing lives.
I'm so PROUD of you!

I love Melody Ross so so much.... and I love her story.... She taught me how to heal through art and I will never ever ever ever ever forget it..... I'm so glad we can be birdies together... and I'm so glad she's guest curator!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxo

I've always known you were an artist, Mel...maybe you never saw it, but those of us working with you certainly did! :)

miss you!

You are amazing! No wonder I love your facebook updates so much! It's very nice to know more about you.
Take care,
Colette George

I think this is probably my favorite art saves story I have read so far! Thank you so much for sharing!

When I saw the word "sacred" in your story, I was struck. The difference between "scared" and "sacred" is the placement of one letter. Isn't it always when we are our most scared that we can find the truly sacred? You've given me something to chew on for awhile. We become our most creative self sometimes at the depth of distress. And when we create we are most like our Creator!

Thank you for sharing your story, it really is amazing. Your embracing of every moment in your life, both good and bad is truly uplifting. You are exactly right, the events of your life have led up to the person and artist you are today. It couldn't have happened otherwise. I can so relate to your story.

Melody this is so great, I am so proud of you.

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. I've been an avid reader of your blog and have spent many mornings in tears. You inspire me to search for my authentic soul... it's out there somewhere.

Thank you for your words, Melody. I too choke on the words, "I am an artist", fearing that saying it aloud will cause people to doubt it or question it as I do myself. Thanks for saying that art isn't some exclusive club either. I'm registered for Oct. Brave Girls' Camp and have been feeling quite intimidated lately - fearing that it is really only for well-known or published artists, not amateurs like me. Oct. is a long way off and I'm quite nervous and yet very excited as well to experience what you have to offer so generously. Looking forward to meeting you.

You have just given so many women the courage to own who and what they are...THANK YOU! I left the work force to become something I had given up on due to my age and then thought He had a plan other than motherhood for me but I have been Blessed with a wonderful supportive husband and the most amazing and at time challenging child. I still don't know for sure what I want to be when I grow up but for now wife and mom is enough...thank you for letting me know I can say it proudly!

I love your posts and find you very inspirational. You have made me laugh and brought me to tears. I just read that it took you many years to say you are an artist. I just said that out loud for the first time and it was awesome! I have a degree in art and design. I have created beautiful stained glass windows for many people and love pottery. I am now creating cards and enjoying photography, but I couldn't say I was an artist. You made me say it out loud!! I am so excited! I am full of inspiration and I am looking forward to seeing what comes of this. Thank you so very much for all that you say and do. I am so very thankful that I stumbled upon your blog, you are truly a God send to me...

Brave Girl Camp . . . I could see that five year old free spirited girl and I'm proud of that girl . . . through it all . . . you did it anyway (as you say). I love you and know that your art will continue to save you and will continue to take you new places!

Your story and words are so inspiring. I quit my big corporate job 1.5 years ago and am still searching for what's next and reading this really spoke to me so Thank You.

Melody, thanks for inspiring me once again!

Your words are incredible. I've just discovered you and I will be a follower from this day forward. I found you through your brave girl stamp set that I ordered yesterday... because I strive to be a brave girl also...

Thank you.

Melody, you say what so many of us are thinking. Art does heal. Art brings us together. Art helps us deal. There are colors within us and colors on our exterior, and art is there for it all. You have always inspired me! Thank you for being a BRAVE GIRL and laying your pain out there so that others are not afraid to let art heal their heART.

You inspire!!!

Mel, you know how I love you.. for years now.. literally years, you have inspired me. You. No one else. you. Your words sink deep in my soul.. and I find I know myself better after reading what you share. You have that gift. I love you dearly.. xo and can't wait to meet you. xo bonnierose in Fargo

I see how fragmented you were, putting the pieces back together.
Art and love binding together, with the glue of hope to create your masterpiece! Congrats, on deciding the your true path was to help others! Art feels holes in our hearts and minds, that only can be expressed with our souls! I am happy your husband is fine and you two, rebuilt you your marriages, your lives!
Thanks for sharing your touching story. ART SAVES~

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