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.

1 comment:

  1. Great questions and candid answers.

    Abigail is still on a journey - I am her Dad and there were other things she took a stance on other than “I will never paint babies or flowers. I am going to be a REAL artist.”

    When she does change direction it is by conscious choice neither imprisoned by by the past nor fearful of the future.

    Abigail makes wise choices. Her family is proud of her.