1. You are a wife, mom, and amazing artist—you wear so many hats in your day-to-day life! What does a typical day look like for you and your family?
My son (4 yrs) has always been a late sleeper but since having my daughter (9mo), who wakes up earlier than we are used to, we have grown to embrace the beauty of the early morning. All four of us are usually up by 6:30am. My husband makes breakfast for all of us, and I usually do some administration tasks like getting paintings ready to ship if I have had any recent sales, catching up on emails or cleaning and arranging the studio while I putter around with my coffee. Sometimes I take a short run. He heads to work around 8:30 or 9:00am so other than sitting and eating breakfast with my family, I try to use the morning to be productive since he is on ‘kid duty’ during that time.
Once he leaves I spend the last few hours of the morning playing with the kids, doing housework and homestead chores, doing school work with Finley and prepping anything I can for our dinner meal.
My daughter sometimes naps during this time which gives me some one on one time with Finley. Two days a week a babysitter comes to the house so I can work alone from 9:00am-12:00pm. On those days I spend all morning painting alone in my studio and its the largest block of time I get each week. On days that the babysitter doesn’t come, I don’t try to paint until the kids are down for their afternoon naps.
So after our morning, the kids and I eat lunch together and sometimes we watch a short show- Finley and I love the food network and one of his favorites, The Pioneer Woman, is on at lunch :) After eating we typically read a few books together, I put River down for her afternoon nap and Finley either takes a nap or has quiet time. This affords me about 2 hours in the afternoon to paint. Bliss. On magical days its more like 3 hours. I try to stay off my phone and computer and allow myself the opportunity to spend this time painting with no distractions. When one of them wakes up, they join me in the studio for another 30-45 minutes while I try to finish up whatever I was working on.
My husband comes home around 3:30 or 4:00pm and we spend an hour doing a few things with the kids, sneaking in some time outside in the garden or catching up on laundry or dishes. I finish up making our dinner and we eat together before heading back outside for some final play time, reading books together or doing something as a family before we put the kids to bed. My evenings are spent doing research and writing for my graduate thesis (MFA in Visual Arts- graduating this summer!). If I am caught up on my work then my husband and I watch a show together before heading to sleep relatively early- 10:00pm at the latest. I feel my best when I get 7-8 full hours of sleep so I try to do that 5-6 times a week.
2. You’ve blogged about using a studio space, but recently you’ve begun working from home more. How has that transition been for you?
From fall of 2014 to spring of 2016 I rented a studio space in town. I never felt like I was really getting my money’s worth out of the space because at the time we weren't able to afford childcare and I rarely had dedicated studio time to focus. In the summer of 2016 we decided to turn our unfinished attic space into a home studio. The money we were using to rent the studio space in town we could now use to pay a babysitter to come to the house and watch the kids so I could work alone. It’s not a perfect solution- I think my dream scenario would be to have a detached studio that is still on our property but not actually in the house because sometimes I am still distracted by the kids. However, being able to pop into my studio space any time I want is also a HUGE benefit and it gives me more chances to interact with my work than I had before.
3. In your most full seasons of mothering, how have you still managed to create? What have those seasons looked like? Do you feel like you’re in one of those seasons now?
Luckily, I had my daughter in May of last year and my husband is a college professor which means he was home permanently all summer, right when she was born. I would consider her newborn phase as a very full season of mothering and I was only able to have the energy to keep painting through that because my husband was also home full time for the first 3 months of her life. Now that she is 9 months old and in a routine, I am able to create more consistently, and I can better anticipate what I will be able to get done and when. During those first few months of having a child, it’s so difficult to not feel disappointed when your production doesn't meet your expectations. My son has always been an amazing independent player, and he is very content to work alongside me in the studio. Having a second kid really caused me to be much more disciplined with my time and schedule, to say no to things I wanted to do and be dedicated to my priorities because my time is so much more precious. My goal is to be fully present and engaged with my work as an artist while also being fully present and engaged as a mother. That requires a lot of compartmentalizing.
4. How are you seeing the fruit of your creative work blooming now from seeds that you planted long ago?
For four years I walked out my creative path as a wedding photographer. It turned out to be a career that was not fulfilling me as an artist, even though I was a practicing artist and getting paid good money to photograph people. I craved working with my hands and wanted to be a painter, so one day I just made the switch. It took about a year of transition, finishing up my committed photography work and switching my lifestyle over from commercial artist to fine/studio artist. My background in the wedding business really helped me as a painter though because I am so prone to detail and discipline in the studio. I like having a plan and working through the problems I am engaging with in my art making in an organized and well thought out way. This helps me stay consistent with my work, not get lost down rabbit holes as easily when I am exercising my creative muscles.
5. What inspires you: as a wife, mom, and artist?
Strong women inspire me. My children inspire me. Fresh air and trees and the sounds birds make inspire me. Doing inner work, growing as a person and thinking through my identity inspires me.
6. What or who do you read to help inspire your work? What other resources do you recommend to fellow creatives?
I read the Brooklyn Rail, Two Coats of Paint, The Jealous Curator, Beautiful Decay, Art in America and ArtForum. I spend a lot of time reading about artists who are also mothers like Louise Bourgeois, Mary Kelly, the Mother Art women and contemporary artists who are making and practicing today in the midst of motherhood.
I strongly recommend for other artists and creatives to spend a lot of time engaging with artwork that is not your own- that does not look visually like your own and does not wrestle with the same content. I think it’s especially easy for parent artists to be focused on output, on generating work because their time is so limited. So much of being a great artist is understanding what other artwork is being put out into the world and engaging with that work. It will help you become a better artist and help you to be more articulate and thoughtful when you create your own work. Spend time in galleries, connect with other artists, open your work up to critique and dialogue with others.
7. Do you have a scripture, word, or mantra that guides your work?
Truly, no! Right now I am looking at the idea of the mother as a hinge or a hook, metaphorically and am playing around with that concept in my painting. I have visual cues that I focus on to guide my work but I am so saturated with reading that I’m not sure I could ever pick one specific thing… It might be a fun practice to try it out though!
8. How do motherhood and creative work complement one another?
I think being a practicing artist and being a mother works together in many ways. I am constantly engaging with new ideas and ways of thinking in art and children certainly push you to do the same. I find so much satisfaction from birthing a beautiful painting, and the idea of growing a body of work and then releasing it into the world is an obvious parallel for having a child. It takes a lot of organization, focus, and discipline to be an artist and I find I am a better mother when I have a handle on how I am spending my time with my kids and am able to focus on them, when I have disciplined myself to put down my phone or set aside the laundry and really interact and engage with them.
9. What is something you have learned in the past year that you are taking in to the new year with fresh eyes?
I have learned that I tend to be too serious and hard on myself and I need comic relief to help alleviate some of those feelings. Being around friends, watching a funny TV show or listening to a podcast that makes me laugh is really good for me. It softens me. I’m trying to spend a little time laughing every day.
10. If you could tell moms who long to create as they raise little ones a word of advice, what would it be?
To quote one of my favorite authors, Annie Dillard, ‘how we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives’. I think about this quote all the time because every day is truly so important. While being a mother of young kids, I think it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, to get lost on the doldrums of each day, to get discouraged, to hope for things to change and to wish time away. I think its truly worth every ounce of energy you have to give yourself fully and completely to your kids when you are with them, and also give yourself fully and completely to your creative work when you make time for that. If you find yourself unable to focus on either thing, then take a step back and see what needs to change. Readjust and try a few different schedules or options until you find what truly works for you and don’t beat yourself up for it! Kids are flexible and will adjust well as long as you are loving them completely. Don’t feel guilty for wanting time to do your work. Yes, you will have a phase down the road where your kids are not with you and you can use that time to create, but your time now is just as important! And those future days are not promised. All of the effort you have to put into making both things work, being an artist and a mother, is 100% worth it. I fully believe that.