Friday, February 13, 2015

Painting Parent - Stephanie Deshpande

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

I have one daughter, and she is 13 years old. 

How did your artistic career begin?

When I was young, my mother would sign me up for art classes at the Danforth Museum in Massachusetts.  I enjoyed painting, and it came easily for me. As a teenager I spent hours drawing and painting on my own. I painted self-portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and copied reproductions of John Singer Sargent’s work.  When it was time to decide what to study in college, I thought that majoring in painting seemed too good to be true; however, I figured, since it was what I did best, I would be most likely to succeed in the face of competition and challenges.

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

Despite my optimism going into college and graduate school, once I graduated I realized that the job opportunities in New York City for an artist were limited. I found a job as a graphic designer instead of the teaching position I had envisioned myself doing. My daughter was born in 2001, and I continued to paint in my free time for a few years. But in 2005 I took a four-year hiatus from painting after feeling isolated from art world and not knowing what direction my art career would take.

What inspired me to start painting again was the vibrant art community I discovered on Facebook. After discovering all the talented artists whose work I admire, I realized I couldn't let go of my passion. I currently work full time as a Production Manager at a financial company, but this gives me the freedom to paint what I want and not worry about making a living exclusively by selling my art.

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

I paint approximately one painting per month in addition to smaller alla prima studies. Since I juggle many responsibilities being a single mother, I let my mood dictate what I work on.  I usually work on a painting for a week or two, devoting all my free time to it until it’s complete.  Then I’ll take a break from painting and focus on my daughter, friends, and other interests.
Sleeping Child 30x24

Does your child get involved with your art?

Before 2005, I mostly painted my friends in narrative compositions.  I have a few paintings of my daughter as a toddler, but it wasn't until 2010 that she became my primary model.  She was nine years old at the time and had a knack for performance as well as a natural ease posing for me. “Child Sleeping” was the first painting out of a series where she is the main figure.


Does she inspire aspects of your art?

My daughter has a great ability to position herself in precisely the way I envisioned. Of course, being a child, it was sometimes hard to keep her engaged while I fussed with perfecting the setup.  Recently, however, I witnessed a new change in our dynamic.  Now she wants to contribute her own ideas.  In my painting, “Let the Cards Fall,” I originally planned on having her sit at a table holding cards in her hands.  As I photographed her, I could not get the composition to look the way I pictured in my mind. So, we tried a few other ideas.  Then out of the blue she suggested letting the cards fall on her while lying down.  This couldn't have been more perfect.  I was happy to have her rebellious nature break some of the safe conventions I had been using.

Let the Cards Fall

How has having a child changed your artwork?

I would have never thought to paint children if I hadn't had my daughter. My paintings, however, are not about children. The themes are about human pathos and derived largely from personal experience.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?

Since I only have a limited time to focus on painting, I decided that I wasn't going to feel guilty about not being actively involved in other activities. My priorities are establishing myself as an artist and raising my daughter.  Although being more involved in my town or daughter's school would be nice, I decided it really didn't matter in the end.  I love having an orderly home because when everything is in order I feel more inclined to paint, but once I start working on a painting, all my focus is on it.

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

There were many factors which contributed to my 4-year break from painting that were not directly related to being a parent; however, now that my daughter is 13, it is much easier for me to paint since she doesn't need constant attention.

How do you encourage your child to be artistic?

When she was first born, I was determined to veer her talents away from art to math. I would sit in the park and review a math workbook with her, hoping it would increase her analytical skills. I thought it would be better for her to get into a more lucrative field.  She drew very interesting pictures as a toddler, but without any interference from me, she became more interested in gymnastics, singing, and performance.

Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your child to be artistic?
"The Fall"
Since painting is my strength, I did want to pass the skills I have on to her. A number of times, I encouraged her to paint or draw, but she wasn't interested. She has a talent for drawing cartoons and has a better imagination than I do, but she doesn't have the love for fine art that I had when I was a kid.

Have you seen your child take inspiration from your artwork?

I once heard on the radio that in a study of identical twins they found each twin developed unique skills despite their similar genes and environment.  It was hypothesized that when one twin was good at one skill the other twin felt compelled to find his or her own path.  Since my daughter doesn't have any other siblings and we spend a lot of time together, I feel like this dynamic is happening in our relationship as well.  She sees painting as my activity, and has never expressed interest in doing it herself.  She has many talents and skills I don't have, and I believe she will go in a direction that best suits her personality.

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

Being an artist may make it harder to be a parent because art is time consuming and often done in addition to another job.  Inadvertently, one may not focus on the child as much as a parent whose primary interest is raising children.  I hope having my own goals and ambitions allows my daughter to be self-reliant, and shows her the importance of following her dreams. 

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

At this point, most of my favorite artists have children, so I don't think it affects one’s perception of the artist.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Painting Parent -Terry Moore Strickland

matter deep publishing

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

Kyle 28, Carly 25, Amy, daughter-in-law, 28, Will, future son-in-law, 26

Amy, Kyle, and Carly.
How did your artistic career begin?

I was an illustrator/graphic designer with a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Central FL. My first career job was in the imprinted sportswear industry, think T-Shirt designs back in the heyday of screen printing, designing for zoos, surf shops, Sea World, Busch Gardens, Kennedy Space Center, the Smithsonian, and many others. My last commercial job was for a publishing company that specialized in board games and books. I had some interesting jobs in between, including courtroom sketch artist for the Thomas Blanton, 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Turning forty made me reevaluate my life priorities. I attended the University of Alabama in Birmingham for three semesters, to refocus on fine art. I began making large figurative work, entering regional shows and devoting myself to painting full-time. By 2005, I’d given up my commercial work entirely and have never looked back.

Did having young children influence when you made a career switch to being an artist?

Will as The Mariner
I made a career choice to go into commercial art because I knew that when I had children I could go freelance and be able to work a round their schedule. I switched to painting full time more for self fulfillment. I had always painted on the side but knew I had more in me that needed to be expressed, and that I deserved the chance to see if I could make it painting. I honestly did not know if I would like doing it full time. but I love it.

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

We love our current parenting situation. Our kids are so cool! They are young adults and live nearby for now. We make the most of having them around by hosting a weekly family dinner night where we all get together, even the pets. Our dinner conversations are stimulating, touching on matters of art news, social issues, publishing, politics, feminism, pop culture and everyone’s latest project. In fact, in 2011, as a family we launched Matter Deep Publishing as a result of a dinner table conversation. We realized we had in the family elements of everything we needed for a publishing company, and we all had work we wanted to publish. Carly was graduating with an illustration degree, and Kyle had a professional writing degree, both from Savannah College of Art and Design. Amy, also a SCAD graduate, had written a young adult book, and I was working on The Incognito Project and wanted to do a book about it as the last element of the project. My husband, Dan is also a writer and we are about to publish his first novel. We’ve published Carly and Kyles’s children’s books, a novel by Kyle, and young adult novels and urban fiction by Amy. Will has written a children’s book; Carly has designed art show catalogs including from the Women Painting Women shows from the last few years.

Amy, as Athena
When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?

I work every day, juggling the duties of a studio artist, gallery artist, painter of commissions, small business owner, teacher of two classes at Forstall Art Center, and Matter Deep Publishing CEO and editor.

Do your children get involved with your art?

They are beyond supportive, I would call them, and Dan, integral to the process. They are amazing models and I have painted them many times. They have a great eye for art and I rely on their critiques for concepts and painting. They have definite ideas about what makes provocative work and feel free to share with me. They don’t know how to fix a problem but see things clearly so i can tackle it. We all work together on everyone’s projects. Dinner night frequently evolves into brainstorming sessions about everyone’s current projects, our individual ones as well as Matter Deep’s. With some families, this might be too much togetherness, but from the beginning we have encouraged everyone to have identities and interests that are separate from the family.

Do they inspire aspects of your art?

Watching them change and grow has inspired many paintings. I’ve done work about coming of age, choices made in life and the inevitability of turbulent change. These are all things present in my life and made clearer by my observations of their lives.

How has having children changed your artwork?

Being a mother has given me life experiences, strong emotions and much to think about. All of those things, the good, the bad and the ugly get translated in to work. Motherhood is the great joy of my life, and about so much more than changing diapers, braces and funding their college education. It’s about the relationships with my children and now our growing family with my daughter-in-law and future son-in-law.

Husband, Dan in Mad Science
How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
I delegate where I can, and make art a priority. I am in a sweet spot with the children grown as far as time to work on my career. I started seriously painting when they were in their teens, and they were thrilled to see me excited about the work. My husband has always been super supportive too and would take over kid stuff at night so I could work or take a class.

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

Of course the baby stage is time consuming but finding good child care is always an option. I was a member of a baby sitting co-op when my kids were young. It included many mothers who worked freelance or part time, and to this day my best friend is someone I met through the co-op. Having a partner in parenting is crucial. I was lucky to have a husband that never thought spending time with the kids was babysitting. His good relationship with the kids is a testament to that attitude.

Kyle as a knight for The Incognito Project.
How do you encourage your children to be artistic?
When they were young we did a lot of art projects with them, theater, writing, etc. We let them explore whatever they wanted to do. Now, with the publishing company we encourage the same thing.

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

No, we let them do their own thing, and encouraged them to be passionate in their pursuits. If anything, we know that being in an artistic field is a tough way to make a living but I think they are somehow hardwired with creativity, so maybe it was inevitable.

Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?

Yes, it is interesting to see threads from our conversations show up in the writing, in one ofmy paintings or one of Carly’s illustrations.

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

It’s important to realize that we are in an age now where the younger generation is realizing that parenting is a a two person job. Men want to be part of the experience. I read Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg recently, and she brilliantly explained how it is doable for women and men to both have a career and have their lives enriched by children. Women can have children and not have to put their career life entirely on hold. For this to happen we must continue the important work for pay equality, healthcare for everyone, and family maternity leave for men and women. We must raise our boys to support the women in their lives, not solely as financial providers but supporting her choice of career. Girls need to be taught to expect and ask for those things as their equal right as a human. Being an artist is a difficult career, yes, from a financial aspect it’s tough. However, there is a flexibility in the life of an artist that lends itself to parenting.

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

Maybe, especially since I came to the fine art world late. Now however, I think the work speaks for itself and most people come to know me after knowing my work. I have had people tell me that they thought my work was done by a man. So maybe my gender is more surprising than my status as a parent.

How have each of your children felt influenced by your artwork and what they have learned from watching you develop your career as a painter?

Carly as The Seamstress
From daughter Carly: I think Mom's work itself has definitely influenced my own art. She tends towards realism and narrative work, and I think you can say that about my illustrations as well. I think the biggest influence on me though, was her willingness to make art *with* us when we were children. We'd sit at the kitchen table and paint one week, make clay sculptures the next. We'd talk and laugh and she'd teach us advanced techniques that we thought were super cool. It taught us that the act of creating is fun and collaborative. This is something I think we brought into adulthood with Matter Deep. Every project we make for the company has everyone's input and everyone makes their mark on it somehow.

The main thing I've learned by watching her career develop is that no one can read your mind. If you want something, an opportunity, a gallery show, a learning opportunity, you've got to ask for it. Take the chances you have. You'll never regret trying an opportunity, but you might regret letting one go.

From son Kyle: That's a really hard question to answer. To get at how I was influenced by my mother's work would be to imagine life without her. Art has become such a huge part of who I am because of my mother. It has helped me with critical thinking, creativity, and overall my appreciation for the beautiful and the sublime. Without being raised by my mother, I would imagine the world as a really dreary place. ( a link to Kyle book Mars 01 )

From daughter-in-law Amy: From the first day Kyle showed me Terry's work, I was in awe. So seeing Carly and Kyle walk up to a painting in progress and go, "Nice. The eye is weird" and watching Terry give a frustrated groan and then set to fixing it—I think that has made it much easier to give and take critique as a family. If someone so talented can gracefully accept feedback and make changes, and Kyle and Carly are never hesitant to give it, then I know that our family is a safe space to bounce ideas around and become stronger together.

From Will, our future son-in-law:
The primary thing that strikes me about Terry's career is that she never stops thinking about it. She loves her work so much that when she's not in the studio, she's fantasizing about being back in the studio. Any topic of conversation will relate to her paintings somehow. In fact, she turns every experience into a learning opportunity to further her development as a painter. For example, she found some spiral nails while gardening, which fascinated her with their texture of rust and caked earth. Unsurprisingly, those nails showed up in her smaller studies, months later. That kind of single-minded dedication to her profession is her most inspiring quality. It is clear to me that she has chosen her work because she finds a greater appreciation for life through it's practice.

Children's Book by Carly Strickland