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.

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