Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Painting Parent - Abigail McBride

Every Morning 24x20
Today's interview is with Abigail McBride

• How many children do you have? What are their ages?

Two boys. They are 5 and 3 years old.
• How did your artistic career begin?

About 2 generations ago with my grandmother, Frances Karlsson. She was the first in the family to pursue art with a passion and her influence and heritage came to me. I was about 8 years old when she gave me my first ‘official art lesson.’ I was about 14 when I began studying with a determined mind that I would do this with everything I had.

• What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

I keep a studio in the house and do portrait commissions, still life and plein air landscape. Galleries on the east coast represent my work and I will participate in regional shows and exhibits. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to participate in a few museum shows as well. I love to teach, so a class at the college (Anne Arundel Community College,) a few private students and a weekend workshop once a year fleshes out my work situation. I use babysitters for special events during the week, but I generally work from home and that flexibility has allowed me to keep the kids out of full time daycare.

• When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?

The parenting context is shifting sand so my strategies for making time are many, varied and constantly changing. The one constant is the night. When everyone goes to bed I can work. This has forced me to learn to paint from photos and references. It has really opened up a whole other world of painting ideas.

I do find teaching and having shows lends a useful structure to my routine. The deadlines for a show or commission are helpful to me. When I have an outdoor still life going I keep to a strict schedule to return to it each day at the same time while the weather is similar.

•Do your children get involved with your art?

Not really in the making of it but they are enough in my head and part of my life that I don’t really feel I can give a solid no. They are more involved in the running the business part of it. They have occasionally helped me carry cardboard when loading the car. I have found ways to include them in framing and sometimes photographing my work. And they often accompany me in delivering work.

Well, there is one way. When I have a child portrait session I let the kids play together for the first 45 minutes. It helps them relax and gives me a chance to observe the child I will paint.

Do they inspire aspects of your art?

Oh yes! I think that’s inevitable. You can’t help but paint from a very personal point of view and becoming a parent is probably the most impactful shift in my life thus far.

• How has having children changed your artwork?

I once told my Father “I will never paint babies or flowers. I am going to be a REAL artist.” Then I had kids and planted a garden. I am eating those words big time.

To be perfectly honest I was a bit of a diva before having kids. I only worked from life or direct observation, and only in the best light conditions of early morning and late afternoon. And I held fairly strictly to painting in the way I was taught.

Starting a family blew all of that lifestyle out the door. I had to learn how to work at night, from references in small and interrupted windows of time. It has unexpectedly given me more skills and made me think more deeply about why I paint and what role I believe artists are playing in our culture. It’s pretty crazy because before having them I assumed children would only be a detriment to my work and career. It has changed the game and some things are hard that were once easy but overall they are an amazing gift.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?

It has inspired me to the greatest heights of efficiency I can achieve.

But as a family we all take responsibility for household things. Who ever does it best or is logistically better positioned takes care of it. Generally I do childcare coordination, cooking, laundry and technology because I don’t mind those chores and can make it happen more easily. My husband cleans all the floors, bathrooms and handles paperwork among other things. We split the yard. The kids pick up their toys and know how to get a sponge or towel to clean up their own spills. We will train them up as they grow to pitch in more at age appropriate levels. 

• Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?

• Baby wearing carriers (Moby Wrap, Baby Bjorn and Ring Sling)
• Naptime
• Babysitters
When they were tiny babies I would hold them while I painted. I realized that I could nurse and paint at the same time using certain baby carriers. I even did some plein air work while nursing! That is because I am crazy.
J But I suppose that’s what it takes to go after a dream! Nap time is also a great time to work and they sleep a great deal at this age. I could set up baby monitors and even paint still life in the yard. This was actually the easiest stage for me so far.

Mobile Baby – Toddler:
• Mother’s helper
• Babysitters
• Naptime
• Play Yard XT and water
Mobility is a game changer. I also used outdoor play yard fencing to get some extra time when they woke up. Setting them up with a shallow bucket of water and some cups can really extend your time. This was probably the most challenging window for me because I had both an infant and a toddler. Even with the mother’s helper there was a great deal of need for Mommy. But everything with kids moves quickly and this phase was over in what seems like a blink now.

Child (Up to 5yrs. That’s as far as we’ve gotten.):
• Babysitters
• Preschool/Kindergarten
• Play with siblings!
• TV
Things start getting easier here. My best strategy involves not letting them watch a lot of TV so they are capable of long stretches of independent creative play. Then when I do let them watch a show they are totally entranced. When they both hit school age I expect it to get one notch easier again.
••Bonus if you can find another Painting Parent**
I have occasionally found other parents with kids around the same age or with kids old enough to be babysitters. This is pure gold. We have a Painting Play Date. You split the cost of a sitter. While the kids play you paint. It’s often a still life but I’ve done plein air landscape too. It is a wonderful feeling to talk art and parenting with someone in a similar situation. If I could find the right group it would be amazing to hire a nanny or two and actually travel to different locations to paint.

How do you encourage your children to be artistic?

I don’t. I do encourage them to be problem solvers which is creative thinking. Children are naturally artistic but I want them to come into their own. I think they are sort of automatically soaking in some elements of being artistic just be being around art and artists the same way I did.

Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic?

No, but I do feel some extra pressure for the things I do in their world to be artistic. Like party decorations, cakes and invitations.

In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?

My creative problem solving skills are helpful but that is not a skill limited to artists.

Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?

No. Before I had them I thought it would. I noticed a perception shift when I got married but not when I became a parent.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Painting Parent - Heather Theurer

Heather Theurer, Artist and Parent

Blue Ribbon

How many children do you have? What are their ages?

                     I have 5 children: 16 (boy), 13 (girl), 10 (girl), and 8 (identical twin boys)

How did your artistic career begin?

                     When I could pick up a pencil :) When my parents asked me at the age of 3 what I was going to grow up to be, I said, “a famous artist.” I’ve been working at that ever since. I finally went “professional” about 18 years ago.

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

                     I have a great husband who supports me in all three of those roles. My studio is an open, walk-through space in our home, so my kids are always able and welcome to be a part of what I do, although that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to accomplish projects! But now that all of them are in school, I do get a few precious quiet hours during the day to focus only on my artwork. Art is my passion, but my family is my love, so there is a delicate balance that I am always very aware of and that requires specific attention so that I don’t mess up what’s most important. And sometimes that means putting my art aside.

When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?

                     I try to make it as regular as possible, although this doesn’t always happen. I have to be pretty flexible with a large family. During the daylight hours, however, when there’s the best light to work with is when I make specific time to create.

Lilo and Stitch
Do your children get involved with your art?

                     That depends on how you look at it! :) When they were younger they got involved—a lot! When I’d sell a painting, I’d say that the buyer was really getting two artists for the price of one because some little fingers decided to work on the piece while I was out of the room. Now that their older, some of my kids have decided that they’re not quite so interested in art as before, which is okay, but a couple of them really love it too. My daughter who’s 10 blows me away with what she creates and she loves to learn new techniques as I learn them. If she keeps it up, she’ll be way ahead of me as an adult!

Do they inspire aspects of your art?

                     Absolutely. Most of my paintings in some way or another have been inspired by them. Either by an experience or struggle we were going through, or simply something they said or did that sparked an idea. I’ve actually snagged some ideas from drawings my 10 year old drew for one of my dragons.

How has having children changed your artwork?

                     I think it has matured my artwork. Great art, in my opinion, is created as a result of deep life experiences translated into the medium you’re working in. This comes in many forms, but life with my children has expanded my view of life and the universe and the eternities in a way that has given my art a new dimension and depth of meaning that wasn’t there before I had them.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?

                     Well, for one thing, the dishes don’t always get done. Or the laundry put away. I am pretty compulsive about working in a tidy house. It drives me nuts to have clutter floating around and tasks undone. That being said, if inspiration hits me hard enough, the rest of those things can completely melt away into nothingness and I can entirely ignore them for the moments I spend encompassed by that idea. When you’re transported into another world you’re recreating, the world you live in suddenly doesn’t exist anymore. It’s an awesome feeling while it lasts.

Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?

                     It was a struggle while they were little, but nothing like it is now that they’re older. You’d think that they would be more independent, thus less demanding, but their schedules and homework and personal interests (and yes, sometimes attitudes!) have actually made it more difficult than before. Not to mention that my career has grown with them and the number of commissions, shows and projects I work on have increased, so that adds to the issue. So I’m always having to re-evaluate my schedule and workload to make sure that I’m not going to over-do it.

Stripey Dragon- Aubrey age  9
Massive Dragon Aubrey age 9
How do you encourage your children to be artistic?
         Seeing my kids create is a real joy for me, so I ask them to create for me whenever I can. I have them draw for their grandparents and relatives. I also save what they draw for me, framing some of them even. There are a myriad of opportunities to create and enter contests and things like that too, which I think is good for them as it provides a specific goal they can work for and reach. But I also know that creating good art requires skill, so along with positive reinforcement, I will offer critiques to challenge them to put in even more effort and thought and technique into what they create, to which they have responded in turn with some pretty amazing stuff.

Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic?

Dripping Dragon by Aubrey age 9
                     I did at first, but not anymore. I’ve come to realize that my children are unique, both from other children around them and from me. Not all of them show an interest in being artistic, but what subjects they do show interest in, I think is amazing and I want to build them up in what they love. Even though my dad was a engineer, physicist and mathematician and always hoped that I’d do the same, he never put me down for wanting to be an artist and always encouraged it. The least I can do is the same for my children in what they like. But no matter what, I still try to squeeze in some kind of artistic endeavors into their lives because I know that learning to use the creative side of yourself is not only enjoyable, but is essential to succeeding in just about any other area of expertise. If you can see things pictured in your head or on paper, it’s far easier to figure out a problem or task, whether thats in math, science, english, you name it.

Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?

                     Some, yes. My 10 year old (yeah, she’s the most artistically-inclined one of the bunch) used to copy and re-copy in pencil some of the paintings that I’d done. I was flattered! Until one day when she embellished one of “my” dragons with a twist of her own. Then I got excited! She had taken something she’d seen and made it hers. She owned it. And now she takes elements from nature and puts them together to make the most amazing creatures. All from a little bit of copying.

In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?

                     It makes it easier because it gives me a way to escape into my own world when I need it. A world that is incorruptible except by me and is as perfect or imperfect as I want to make it. It makes it harder because inspiration doesn’t always come at the most convenient times. Life needs living and tasks need doing and children need loving more than a painting needs to be painted sometimes.

Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?

                     Most of the time, I get two main responses. The first is that people can’t believe that I have five kids and still have the time to be a full-time artist. Those people are always a little amazed that I can create what I do and balance all of that. The other response is one of a bit of disdain. Like having a family is a hinderance and therefore makes what I do a “hobby” rather than a career. But usually that’s because they’ve first heard of my kids and haven’t yet paid attention to the work that I do. Either way, I don’t really care. I do what I do because I love it, and yes, occasionally that means putting my art on the back burner for a while so I can take care of my family. If someone is going to like my art, then go ahead and like my art—instead of preconceiving ideas about it’s worth simply because of my family situation. The idea seems a little ludicrous, but it happens. Silly, I know.

Are there any other things about Balancing Painting and Parenting that you would like to share?

                     Everyone’s situation is unique, so it would be tough to give particular advice on it, but if I had one thought that I could share, it would be to follow your heart. Not in a selfish, personally indulging kind of way, but in a real, true-to-your-soul kind of way. God gives us gifts for a reason and we have to find that reason. The ability to create art is a gift. My children are a gift. Life is a gift. Treat those things as such and you can’t go wrong.