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.

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