Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Painting Parent - Meredith Andersen Hannon

Meredith Andersen Hannon

How did your artistic career begin?
I am self-taught artist and began my career in college by turning my bedroom walls into a canvas. Inspired by impressionist masters, I decided to try my hand at painting a full-sized mural of an Italian seaside village, and with the encouragement of family and friends, expanded into painting walls across Northern Virginia. Over the years, I've switched to working almost exclusively in oils on canvas as a full-time artist.

How has being pregnant affected your art making ability?
I found out I was pregnant right before I had my first solo show (thankfully my brand new dress fit for the opening!), which was perfect timing as I had a large number of pieces stocked up. While I have been blessed to feel good enough to paint throughout the entire pregnancy, I took for granted how much physicality is required in the painting process. As a result, I've slightly reduced my actual painting hours, but in the meantime used that time to focus on organizing, researching, and creating a strategy for running a business with a baby!

Georgetown Skyline, oil on canvas, 24"x36"
When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?
Painting is my full-time job, and so I try to keep normal business hours (as normal as they can be running your own business). During the weekdays, I get up with my husband, we eat breakfast together, and when he leaves for work, I go up to the studio and start my day. Given that I maintain my studio in the home, I usually start dinner and wrap my day up in time for when he returns home. Of course, there are times when I am working on the weekend or attending art events in the evening hours, but I find it important to maintain a routine that mimics corporate world hours since I lived in that world for several years before quitting to run my art business full-time and therefore am accustomed to those hours.

Has pregnancy affected your painting inspiration? Have you felt more or less inspired?
To be honest, the whole idea of having a baby is exciting but very overwhelming at the same time, and a cluttered mind does not help the creative process. So there have been days when my inspiration to paint has been quite low. That said, I love Stephen King's quote “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” The same holds true for painting. Sometimes you just have to get up and start painting whether you want to or not, but on the flip side, the idea of showing my daughter that she can be a loving mom and wife and run her own business at the same time inspires me in incredible ways to get past any mental blocks.

Have you made any changes to your painting process because of being pregnant?
I tend to paint large pieces, so framing and moving pieces has become more cumbersome, as well as the things you don't think about like how using an air compressor and staple gun to stretch canvas isn't probably good for baby's developing ears. I may or may not have once strapped a pillow around my waist to muffle the noise! Thankfully there was no adjustment in the materials I felt comfortable using as I have only ever used non-toxic paints and mediums, so the only real change has been in my overall productivity levels due to the physical demands.

Capitol Glow, oil on canvas, 24"x36"

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
It was a huge disappointment in realizing that just because I now worked from home did not mean that my house would automatically be pristine. Actually quite the opposite...being away from the home is the only sure fire way to not be creating a mess in it. That said, being pregnant has forced me to create the habit of spending more time keeping the house organized because I realize that a baby is the ultimate way to bring a house from order to disorder if you let it get away from you!

In what ways do you think being an artist will make being a parent harder or easier?
I think time will be the biggest factor in making things harder. Especially having a studio in my home, it will be harder to separate my work life from home life. That said, I think being a parent will be a great motivator in pushing myself since I want my daughter to be exposed to the art world and to see that it is possible for her to run her own business one day if that's what she feels called to do. My mom ran her own business for years from home and I grew up watching that and always admired it.

How do you plan on working your art back into life after the baby is born?
I have set goals for myself for the rest of the year based on creating realistic expectations in talking to other mothers. I am very blessed to have both my parents and in-laws very close to home, so have a lot of help if I need to meet deadlines as well. In the long term, since I'm due in October, I plan to address how to ramp up to full-time status again once the new year begins and I come up for air after getting out of the newborn phase!
Villa Cipressi, oil on canvas, 24"x36"

Do you think being a parent will affect the way you are perceived as an artist?
Yes and no. Being pregnant in and of itself has been interesting as it's made me realize who takes my career seriously and who thinks painting is a glorified hobby. It's amazing how some people will make somewhat hurtful remarks about how painting will become a distant memory, whereas you'd never hear them make a comment like that to someone whose plan is to go back to the corporate world after their maternity leave is up. That said, others have been incredibly supportive and have made the assumption that my studio will just be a little bit more full of baby things once she comes along! At the end of the day, I realize that with the support of my family and the direction of God, I forge my own path and cannot allow myself to care the way I'm perceived whether positive or negative. Painting is what I am called to do, and while my life won't look the same today as it will a year from now, I know that both my painting life and personal life

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Painting Parent - Alison Bell Belt

How many children do you have? What are their ages?  I have three children, 8, 4 ½, and almost 2.

How did your artistic career begin?  I feel like I've always been an artist.  I remember in third grade drawing a picture of myself as a “singing artist” because those are my two favorite things.  I discovered my aptitude for sculpture when I was 21 and fooling around with some Sculpey a boyfriend had left at my house.  It was an amazing moment for me . I always wanted to have art be a large part of my life but it wasn't until after my first year of college as an math major that I realized that nothing else was a realistic option for me.
What is your Parenting/work/art situation?  I'm a stay-at-home mom and I'm home schooling my 8 year-old.  It's rather chaotic around here.  When they were a bit younger, I could take them all to the studio with me, but it' too much now.  I do most of my work at night now and am searching for an affordable, reliable babysitter for one or two afternoons a week so that I can get some more work done.
When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?  I used to go to the studio every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and I would like to get back to that.  I also try to attend a Tuesday evening life class regularly.  My husband stays with the children and I go to my studio at night as much as I can.

Do your children get involved with your art?  My boys love to play with my clay and my tools, but it's mostly just making shapes and smashing them at this point.  My oldest son has done a few pieces that are a bit more finished.  My middle son once made a “man” on an armature that was amazing for his age, but he destroyed it before I got a picture. They also adore drawing, particularly my middle son.  He can use up a ream of paper in less than two months.  
Do they inspire aspects of your art?  I'm leaning more toward exploring children's portraiture and figures and my own feelings as a mother.  I never understood why so many female artists tended to focus on those subjects when I was younger, so I find that funny.
How has having children changed your artwork?  I actually have gotten more focused about it since I've had children, probably as a way to get time to myself and also because I see more immediately what little time we all have in our lives to accomplish things.
How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?  My house is usually a ridiculous mess.  I'm not a very good housekeeper anyway, but I'm always behind now, especially when I have some sort of deadline.   I figure there will be time to have a neat house when the kids are older and not contributing to the chaos.  My husband tries to pick up some of the slack as he can.
Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?  Before I had my daughter and they boys were younger, I was able to go to my studio two afternoons a week and take them with me without too much trouble.  Once my middle son started getting into stuff and stopped taking an afternoon nap (around age two), it got trickier.  After my daughter was born, that situation became untenable and I have to have a sitter or go at night when my husband can take them.  As the boys have gotten older, they fight and bicker about toys and computer use more, which is obviously very distracting when I'm trying to work.  That's the main reason for my no longer taking them all to the studio with me.  I'm hoping in a year or two, they will have moved beyond that.  My daughter is a much more laid-back child, so hopefully she'll get with the program.  ;)
How do you encourage your children to be artistic?     I let them use as much paper as their little hearts desire, which is a lot.  I also try to get them quality materials, particularly brushes, and let them use some of my own tools so they don't become frustrated with the process.  I remember attempting to paint things with horrible brushes when I was a child and being so angry with the outcome because I knew that it was because of the brush, not me.
Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic?   I feel more pressure to nurture any ability they might have, only because I want to enable them to fulfill their potential.  I worry about pushing them too much and then conversely not doing enough.  I think that's a pretty typical “mom” feeling though. I feel pressure to nurture them if they do have an artistic bent as it's so hard in this day and age.  I don't feel like I was as supported as I could have been, although it definitely could have  been far worse.  If they don't show an aptitude for art, that's fine with me.
Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork? My middle son likes to make people out of clay.  I don't know if that's directly from me or just a coincidence.
In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?
I think it makes it a bit harder in some ways because I think most people view it as a “hobby” instead of a job that's very important to me.  I wonder if people think I'm being selfish or silly in attempting to be successful.I tend to have artist's ADD, and things can get pretty chaotic around here.  I'm a creative thinker though, so it's fun to help them work through problems they might have and to watch them come up with novel solutions for things on their own.
Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?  I've not personally experienced that, although people always ask how I get anything done after they've met my brood.  I used to take my daughter with me to the evening life classes until she started walking and got too disruptive and felt a lot of support for that.  
Are there any other things about Balancing Painting and Parenting that you would like to share?  I think it's very important for artists to make the time for themselves to do their art.  I find I am a much more pleasant and capable mother when I have adequate time to do my art.  I guess the desire festers and turns into resentment when it's not directed properly.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Painting Parent - Brandon Douglas


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

One, three months, Beatrice Ruth Douglas.

How did your artistic career begin?

I’ve been drawing my whole life, but didn’t start painting until about 7-8 years ago. My job affords me a lot of time off and painting was a fun way for me to fill that time.  I think my hobby began to turn down the career path in 2010 when I took a workshop with Mia Bergeron and then really kicked into gear in 2012 when I started painting with Seth Haverkamp. Having such amazing artists close at hand for inspiration and guidance has been huge for me.

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

I have been a firefighter for about 12 years now and a parent for 3 months. Up until Beatrice was born I had tons of time to paint due to my work schedule of 10 24-hour shifts a month. Now that the little one is here, things have scaled back. My wife also works full time, which leave me (happily) watching Bea all day on my weekdays off. But thanks to having such a supportive and understanding spouse, I’m still getting in a few hours of painting in the evenings after putting the kid down to bed.

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

My prime studio time these days is usually later in the evenings, 4 or so nights a week, as well as all day on my Mondays off thanks to my mother-in-law. However, I always keep a sketchbook with me and will occasionally work on small paint sketches at work on a slow day.

Do your children get involved with your art?

Na, she’s doesn’t quite have the motor control to hold a brush yet. But I count the days until she’s old enough to do all my grunt work, priming panels and such ;) Actually, she’s inspired me to child proof my studio out of fear of her getting too involved with my art. I’m stuck on using lead paint and hazardous mediums, so I modified a locking work bench/tool box to enable me to lock up my paints and brushes away when I’m not home. I even cut holes in the tabletop portion for medium cups and turp jars to avoid accidental spills.

Do they inspire aspects of your art?

Absolutely. Seth has always said his favorite subjects to paint are his children and I totally understand that now. I’ve just completed my first painted portrait of her and am already working on the next. I have a Strathmore tan toned sketchbook dedicated to little drawings of her sleeping and playing that I plan to continue throughout her childhood.

How has having children changed your artwork?

I don’t know that it has actually changed my artwork, aside from giving me new subject matter, but it has definitely changed how I approach creating work. Before Beatrice I could afford to tinker around with whatever little thing I felt like, or allow myself to get lost on the internet on days when I felt less than inspired. Now my studio time is more limited so I have to make an effort to keep myself focused on what I’m working on and make the most of my time.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?

Spending my late teens/early twenties growing up in a firehouse, I’ve always had the view that work comes before play. Even if, as in this case, ‘play’ is work. I never go out to the studio when there are chores still to be done. Before Bea maybe that was vacuuming or wiping down the kitchen, now days its washing the day’s bottles and making tomorrow’s batch.

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

She’s only 3 months old so I don’t have much to analyze here, but certainly her sleeping better has helped. The first few weeks I was too tired to do anything but sleep when she slept. Now that she’s on a better schedule and is (almost) sleeping through the night it has helped a lot with getting studio time as well as a reasonable amount of sleep.

How do you encourage your children to be artistic?

I plan to encourage her to be herself. If she’s artistic, great, if she’s athletic, that’s great too.

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

The only pressure I feel right now in relation to my life as a parent and as an artist is continue to make time for my pursuits as an artist. I feel that setting that kind of example while inspire her to chase whatever dreams and goals she may have, artistic or not. If she decides she wants to draw and paint I’ll certainly do whatever I can to gently encourage her and give her whatever instruction and guidance I’m able to provide.

Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?

There’s a painting I did of my wife hanging in our house that Beatrice loves to stare at, if that counts.

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

I don’t know that specifically being an artist has any effect, but I believe any parent who is committed to something their passionate about, be it painting, writing, woodworking, exercise, whatever, is going to have a harder time as far as time management goes, especially those of us who’s passions don’t pay the bills. However, I think that part of being a well-rounded, happy human being is pursing the things that make us happy and give us an outlet. And to be a happier human, I feel, makes one a better parent.
Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?

I don’t know. I don’t really know how I’m perceived as an artist as it is. I don’t feel like I perceive other artists with kids any differently than those without. My hope is that my work is what influences people’s perception of me as an artist.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A little Pallete cleansing

I have recently finished up two portrait commissions and have two more that I need to get started on this week, along with a  portrait sample for an auction to raise money for my son's school. I have not yet shown my clients their paintings so I do not want to post them on the blog yet but hopefully they will be available soon.

This past week I ordered the book Daily Painting by Carol Marine because I have been feeling the need to so some quick paintings in order to loosen up and relax in between commissions. I is a great book that covers so many practical issues of painting including selling paintings. Basically paint small,  paint often, paint a lot!

So today I painted my evening snack. Please forgive the photograph as it is only a quick snapshot taken under poor lighting but I wanted to show you the nights work. It is done in one sitting, alla prima and is 6x6 inches. In all it took a little more than an hour to paint.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Painting Parent - Ann Moeller Steverson

How many children do you have? What are their ages?
2 children, ages 3 and 6

How did your artistic career begin?
Ironically, I really feel like my artistic career began with the birth of my first child. In many ways it was a desperate escape/ outlet from being a full time mom. I also credit my husband.  I was a public school art teacher for 5 years and left when my first daughter was born. She instantly became my whole world and I lost myself in being a mom. I worked up to keeping a perfectly clean house, made a Pinterest enviable 1st birthday party complete with fondant tiered cake and even organized the sock drawer as a cry for help. 
By the end of year one, I was ready to go back to work teaching (really REALLY ready). My husband was very reluctant to see me go. He remembered the long hours that I had put into teaching and thought our daughter still needed me. As a compromise, he encouraged me to paint and sell my work. He knew I loved painting and had even sold a few pieces since college. I also think he envisioned it as a very much part time pursuit. I thought it sounded like a good deal.

I should point out here that though it sounds like a just picked up painting one day as a stay at home mom, it wasn’t that big of a leap. I studied art in college and had taken lots of studio classes, but I majored in graphic design. I worked at an ad agency for a year and decided it wasn’t for me. I went back to school to get my masters in art education.  I first really got the oil painting bug during that process. My painting teacher at the time even suggested that I could have a career as a painter, but probably not while teaching public school full time.

During mommy year #2 I painted some at home, and while it went pretty well, I found I really needed some out of the house time with adult people to talk to. I took the paintings I had made and went to a local critique night (gulp) at an artist coop called the Huntsville Art League. They were nice and I started to make some artist friends. Huntsville Art League then opened up some studio spaces, and I rented one. I let my daughter spend some time in mother’s morning out (a part time childcare program). I went there to paint away from the dishes and laundry, and I had a reason to put on pants. It was awesome.  

When my second daughter was born, I knew I still was the same person and could keep pursuing the same goals. At six weeks old for her first journey out into the world, she went with me to an oil painting workshop with Pamela Clarkson. She nursed, and napped, and was passed around to fellow art friends, and I managed to listen and paint some. When I was at home with her I painted, read, and napped. The sock drawer stayed out of order. I had let my studio space at the Art League go while I was on “maternity leave,” and when my application was accepted for a studio space at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment (which I deem the real happiest place on earth), I jumped on it. It has become my heaven/ haven, and it’s all been expanding from there. 

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

It is continually evolving and I am constantly seeking balance. I love to work and could easily work all the time since I have such interesting things to do. My kids are pretty much in school/preschool full time at this point. I am an adjunct professor for 3 classes this fall (to help make ends meet for my family) and I teach art lessons (to help make ends meet for my art supply habit and studio rent). About a quarter of my teaching time is in the evening, with my husband at home with the kids. The way my schedule is laid out, it should leave between 15 to 20 hours a week of solid painting time in the studio. I am usually the one to take kids to the doctor or dentist etc. Somehow with two kids, that seems to happen at least once a month) and other kid/ life interruptions happen, but I try to be flexible. Occasionally a whole week might pass without me working on one of my personal paintings, and then I start to feel very off balance.  Teaching is a natural part of who I am, but I’m trying to keep my focus on being an artist who teaches, not vice versa.

When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?
Lowe Mill has public hours from 12-6pm Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and Friday 12-8pm. We are required to keep 12 public hours per week (“don’t throw me in that briar patch”). I try to be there during those hours as much as possible. I sneak in some mornings when it’s quiet too if I’m not teaching. Saturdays are hit and miss due to family things. I work out ideas and research on the computer during the evenings at home.
Do your children get involved with your art?
I have a very strict do not touch Mommy’s paint stuff rule. However I frequently request family critiques of my work. My daughters often offer their suggestions and advice and are never without an opinion. 

Do they inspire aspects of your art?
Absolutely. My favorite portrait is of my eldest daughter. Since people are my favorite subject, I feel lucky that I will have them as model references and plan to paint them often for the rest of my life.

How has having children changed your artwork?
As mentioned before they were the catalyst of it all. I have continually grown as an artist since they entered my life. They are also great motivation to continue to strive to reach new levels to be able to help provide for them while doing something I’m passionate about.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
Back when we first decided that I should pursue painting seriously, I decided I could have a clean house or paint. I chose and continue to choose to paint (it lasts longer). Nothing could have prepared me for the increase in dishes, laundry and cleaning adding kids to a household causes. I feel like I work hard at it, but really just enough for us to survive. My kids have good food to eat, clean plates to eat off of, and clean clothes to wear (even if they often come out of a laundry basket). That’s about as far as it goes.
How do you encourage your children to be artistic?

I give them free and constant access to art supplies and pretty much no direction at this point. Anything they do is fabulous. If they ask me how to do something I do my best to show them.

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

Ha ha. No. I feel guilty like I’m leading them into temptation. They both already say they want to be artists when they grow up.

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

I think being a parent is hard regardless of your profession. The flexible hours seem to help though.

Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?
I have no idea. I hope not at all.