I have two really lovely children. They’re just great people and I’m a little partial to them. My son is 16 and my daughter is 14.
How did your artistic career begin?My artistic career began as a graphic designer and illustrator in 1994. I had always wanted to make great paintings but my parents pressed me to go to a college near relatives so I could live with them during my two-year college experience, so I went to the Colorado Art Institute, which taught me QuarkXPress and Photoshop.
Immediately after college, I began work as at the Kansas City Star laying out ads on the night shift. Within 6 months I was working as a graphic designer/Illustrator at a local not for profit. Just two weeks before my first child was born in 2000, I began working from home on a freelance basis for a local woman-owned PR firm and by 2001 I had several clients.
I was able to work for myself as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator for over 10 years with my largest client being the children’s curriculum and music divisions of Nazarene Publishing House. It was around 2010 that I saw a serious drop in the work from the publishing house. By 2011 the work was essentially gone. Children’s workbooks and crayons had been replaced with iPads and Ipods. Though I was successful at creating a few animated videos and apps for the company, I let the work go. I didn’t feel like an artist anymore. I felt like a computer programmer. Faced with the decision to either go back to school to be competitive in something I didn’t love doing, go back to school to learn a completely non-artistic career or finally peruse my life long dream of painting like the masters, I took an incredible leap of faith and applied for a scholarship to the Scottsdale Artist’s School. In 2012, they gave me the first of two scholarships and I began learning how to oil paint.
What is your Parenting/work/art situation?
I’ve always worked at home throughout my child raising years. Many hours have been spent at the computer or drawing table with a baby or two on my lap. Today it is second nature to my children. I taught them from a very early age to respect my privacy when I was on the phone or in a meeting, just as they would want me to not interrupt them if they had a play date over. Just the other day my 16 year old left my studio saying, “I know, I know, I won’t bother you unless we’re both on fire.” (A saying I coined when they were young…my husband is a full time fire fighter.)
Do you now or have you ever worked other jobs while pursuing your art. How to you preserve time and energy for your art. Are there ways that your art benefits from your other job?
No, fortunately, since I was the breadwinner in my freelance years, my family easily respected and supported my switch to fine art. My husband worked three jobs at one point so I could have the space and time I needed to learn how to paint. In the few short years since I began oil painting, I’ve pursued it tenaciously and with the intention of making a living. If you are intending to make a living with your art, there isn’t any confusion about how many hours you work or how much attention your work gets, it’s your work. If it isn’t your work, it’s a hobby and hobbies are always negotiable, second place and even eligible to be dropped all together.
When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?
I plan my week out on Sunday and aim to use Monday and Tuesday for any administrative work, errands, framing, private lessons, promoting my work, etc. I try to reserve Wed-Friday for painting. This is my framework, but if a client can only meet on a Friday, I may have to be flexible. Or, if I’m feeling the groove on a particular painting, I’ll paint on Monday and Tuesday and stop for a private lesson, but not to run errands. My calendar is set for a year in advance for workshops, open studio events and reminders are set for competition dates and shipping dates. This is my job, so I’m not only the Creative Manager/painter but also an Office Manager, PR Director and Sales Manager…I leave the accounting to someone who can actually operate a calculator.
Do your children get involved with your art?
Yes, both my children have posed for me during workshops and private lessons or just to make a painting that I’ve dreamt up. They’ve been super-supportive from the beginning! They both pass the kitchen to enter my studio and cheer me on all the time. They’ll happily go to art openings when food is involved and the whole family is traveling to Maui next month for my 3-Day workshop and family vacation. In April 2017, my daughter will travel with me to Limoux, France as my model for my 10 day Painting the Figure in the Landscape workshop. She’s thrilled since she’s been studying French for three years. I’m happy to have a model I know can do the work beautifully and has to show up, we’re staying in the same boutique hotel after all!
Do they inspire aspects of your art?
My daughter in particular has been a great inspiration in my work. Her coming of age years have touched a special chord in my work and recording her changing body and the growth of her spirit through oil painting has been a priceless experience.
How has having children changed your artwork?
Many times over the years when I was illustrating, I’d lamented over the choices I had made that kept me from being a professional painter. Now that I’ve actually made that leap I can see that it never was ‘having children’ that kept me from being the artist I wanted to be. It was my own lack of courage. You see I never would have taken the leap to becoming a professional fine artist had the children’s publishing industry not imploded…had my income not depended upon it. I was complicit in my dreams just staying dreams. I imagined the life of a ‘painter’ meant you had to live aloof, alone and in some small apartment in NY or Paris, eating paint and take out. Ha! That is such a lie. Real, successful women painters have beautiful full lives as parents and spouses. We cook, and clean our own houses and we even have friends we get to have coffee and see movies with once a week!
How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
Okay, I have to admit…I did just hire a housekeeper two weeks ago to come twice a month and clean the things I am clearly not addressing. It’s not as expensive as you’d think, and it has really eased a little guilt for me in the “I’m supposed to have that done.” department. The fact of the matter is, as a businesswoman who works more than full time hours, it is okay to hire help with anything that needs to be done which I simply cannot get to. Next on my list is to hire an intern to keep my palette and brushes clean. Just kidding!
Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?
No, as I said, my children have been raised to behave in a disciplined manner around my working schedule. In reality, I’ve been far more available to them working from home all these years than any other parents we know. They’ve never done day care aside from camps and moms day out stuff, and they’ve both told me that seeing me work from home makes them proud and inspired. I wouldn’t do a single thing differently.
How do you encourage your children to be artistic?
I really haven’t encouraged my children to be artistic per se. I’ve always want them to be who they are and follow their own passions so I paid close attention to them when they were young. They both gravitated to the dress up clothes and puppets much more than the crayons and watercolors so I followed their lead and enrolled them in children’s theater and took them to plays at an early age. They are both gifted musicians and actors and public speakers. The benefits of art, the calming, focus and ability to be in tune with your self are true across all artistic endeavors. I love that me kids participate in theater and music. I don’t have an ego that drives me to push them to be visual artists just because that’s what I am.
Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic?
I receive a lot of questions about it, but I don’t consider it pressure. My husband and I are confident in our parenting together mostly because we have wonderful mentors (friends with older children) from whom we receive advice and direction from often. And so far, we’ve raised truly beautiful people, which is what is important to me most as a parent.
Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?
My children are so involved in their own work, acting, debate, travel and school. They are both very creative and funny people. They are charming and ambitious and we are often complimented as parents, which always feels great. They have expressed their pride in me, and inspiration by me, but I think that comes more from seeing me be happy and persevere as a professional than specific to my artwork. So I haven’t’ seen them mimic my artwork as much as emulate my example of how to make their own dreams come true.
In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?
I definitely claim space for myself that perhaps other working parents aren’t as finite about. My door may be shut for hours and my music may be loud enough to drive another person in the house crazy, but that’s what headphones are for. I imagine any parent working from home, artist or otherwise, has to have a similar boundary. I wouldn’t say being an artist makes it harder, though, it’s just different. There are jobs that would be much harder to be a parent while doing that job, like a soldier overseas. Parenting as an artist is cheesecake compared to that.
Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?
Perhaps, since I have painted my children, people may consider my being a parent when they think of my work, but I would be saddened if their thoughts bent either positive or negative about the fact. I want my work to stand on it’s own merits, to be considered and appreciated and judged on it’s face, not by me, my working methods, my materials, my life choices, marriage, children, pets. It all seems irrelevant when one is faced with a great work, or a bad one. I stood in front of Sargent’s “Madam X” last year at the MET and never once did it cross my mind, “I wonder if he was a good parent”.
Are there any other things about Balancing Painting and Parenting that you would like to share?
Only that I hope women painters in particular are not burdening themselves with undue work/life/parenting questions, or letting anyone else place those burdens on them. Parenting is difficult enough as it is, and 10 times more so if you don’t have a loving partner and lots of support to raise your children with.
I wish for all artists who are also moms, to give themselves permission to do both jobs beautifully. Pull all the resources you have to give your kids beautiful childhoods and give yourself the time and space you need to make the best work you can make. Be unapologetic about your art if it is your work. Demand of yourself and your environment the same standards any job from home requires.
If painting is your hobby, accept that hobbies are hobbies and they don’t and shouldn’t’ garner the respect that work does. I wouldn’t support my husband in racing remote control cars for 20 hours a week, but I’m happy to see him enjoy the hobby when he has time and I’d love to see him go to an RC Car Race Workshop once a year so he can really hone his skills, meet up with some other RC Car nerds and come home refreshed and excited about life!
We should all live the life of the kind of people we want our kids to become. Be happy, productive and kind and your kids will be too.