Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Painting Parents - Rob and Lina Liberace

A watercolor of Ava by Rob, 9”x12"

How many children do you have? What are their ages?
Celia 15, Ava 13
How did your artistic career begin?

Rob received a baseball scholarship to attend George Washington University and graduated with an art major then went on to get his Masters there as well. He was teaching even before he graduated and soon branched out from there with teaching, commissions and gallery work in the DC area. I graduated with a marketing and art degree from Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana, then moved to DC and became a full time illustrator, working mainly for magazines at first, then doing both corporate Illustration and children’s books.
What is your Parenting/work/art situation?
Fortunately we both work from home when Rob is not teaching, which allows us to spend a lot of time with our kids. We both have studios here at the house.
In a Dual Art Career family how do you each support the other's artistic career?
It helps to have a solid marriage where we both respect one anothers opinions as well as one another's artistic abilities. That and wanting the best for everyone goes a long way. We have always been super supportive and do what we can to help each other find the time for creativity.

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

Rob keeps busy with teaching and painting, but is very good at dividing his time between work and family, where he is very much a hands-on dad. I only illustrates occasionally these days, turning down bigger projects, and fit in sculpture and painting when possible. We tend to take on too many extracurricular projects (we’ve done three home renovations since we were married 19 years ago) so there is never enough time to do everything.
Do you Lina, wish that there were more time for you to focus on art pursuits or do you feel content with the current balance?
Like many mom" artists, I would definitely like more time to focus on art pursuits. It is not uncommon while raising a family and keeping the household going. However, I put the much of the blame on myself, since I seem to have too many interests! The good thing is that most of my interests involve creativity, and I am able to release much of that creative energy by doing things such as tiling a mosaic floor patterned after floors I’ve seen in old Italian churches, designing and building a playhouse or even creating a flower bed. While the artistic fulfillment might not be exactly the same as painting or sculpting, it seems to satisfy that same need for creating things. I also tend to do a lot of the business side of things, which is the bane of every artist!

Do your children get involved with your art? We have always encouraged them to draw and work on their skills. It is inspiring to see them grow and their artwork progress.
Do they inspire aspects of your art? Rob has enjoyed using the girls as models from time to time since they were little. They are wonderful, natural models who seem to instinctively know how to pose. 
How has having children changed your artwork?  Rob has an extensive amount of work which focuses on the girls and never ceases being inspired by them. It got me off of the full-time illustration track, but I think was ready for that change.
How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
Rob tries to keep to a routine of painting during daylight hours when possible, and then has his evening open. He is better at switching gears more easily than I am.Most non-art related projects and work get done on the weekends if possible. I tend to work intensely on projects and finish them quickly, but end up spacing them further apart then Ilike to, with all that needs to be done with the house, kids and business.
How do you make decisions about division of family, household responsibilities?
I think we can safely say that we both give it our all. There are things he doesn’t do well and things I don’t do well so we compensate for one another and we both do what is needed. Rob tends to be the fixer and I tend to be the cleaner. I help the kids with their English and he helps with Math and Science. Rob will step in and make dinner any time I am obviously working hard on any project, artistic or not. By the same token, I try and lessen his burden when he is busy.
We can each be a bit scattered at times, but we figure that is the way artistic brains operate so we are very forgiving of one another when something gets overlooked (which happens more than we’d like to admit!). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a secretary and housekeeper!

Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?
As the girls get older, they are more self sufficient and there is more time for artwork. But even though we’re no longer changing diapers, the years of slumber parties and rides have taken over, so it is still not easy to find large blocks of time to paint. It all still requires time and energy, but in different ways. We both feel that having spent so much time with our kids earlier is paying off now, in that they both had a lot of love and a solid foundation. So while the teenage years certainly bring on new challenges, the ride so far is not as rough as it could be - knock on wood!
How do you encourage your children to be artistic? We encourage by example, although we have no need to try. Both girls seem to have it in their genes. They are always creating something. We are a family of mess makers!
Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic? It is a nice bonus that ours are artistic, but you never know when a child will be interested in art or have natural artistic ability. Our youngest made miniature models of all sorts of things when she was younger, and our oldest even made a dress out of newspaper one time. They are definitely self motivated. We are lucky that both our girls are natural artists so all we do is gently encourage them to develop their skills. We will have occasional family drawing sessions, which is always fun and inspiring. And, of course, Rob is a natural teacher, so his opinions are always in demand. We certainly do not feel pressured to do so. We have the philosophy that the girls should do what makes them happy, whether it is art or something else.
Ava’s copy of an illustration from the book “Giants
Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?   Like most artists, our children are inspired by artwork, whether it is ours or from seeing art on the art museum trips we take each year. When they see something that pleases their eye, they want to emulate it. Or not… once we were at the MET and the Rob had the girls doing some drawing. Celia was busy sketching a copy of some 15th century great master’s drawing and Ava was sitting next to her finishing up a nice likeness of Spongebob Squarepants! 
In addition, both girls are asked to “illustrate” their assignments at school regularly (it seems to be stressed due to the fact that it helps children memorize the material) and take great care to do a high level of work, even if it is just illustrating cells for a science class. It has definitely helped them with good grades and certainly hones their skills. 

Two of Celia’s self-styled outfits.

In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier? Rob is very good at dividing his time between work and family time. Lina has a more difficult in transitioning from one to another, so when she paints, which is not nearly so frequently, Rob will try and fill in to keep the household going. Being an artist is like any job in that it takes time. The good thing is that it is something we can do at home.

Some of Lina’s sculptural pieces.

How has having a spouse that is also an artist affected your career and also your daily life?

I think it affects our connection to one another, our home and how we live. Our lives are rich and full, in no small part from our artistic vision.
Do you draw inspiration from each other in your personal work? Definitely. It would be pretty difficult not to be inspired by Rob’s work. He is always surprising us with beautiful paintings, inkings and watercolors. On the other hand, he recently painted a lovely watercolor after seeing something I was working on, saying he was inspired by the sensitivity of my drawing. He also saw the quick pace I had to keep for illustration jobs and realized he didn't need to take so long to finish a painting.

Lina's oil painting of a wren, 9”x12"

Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist? Our family life is first and foremost. Being good parents is more important than being successful artists to us. As intense as Rob is with his art, he is probably even a more intense and caring dad. If we go to any sort of art related function, we bring our kids with us if it is at all possible. This may or may not always be the ideal thing for people who invite us, but with us, if you want us, that often means the girls will be in tow. They have always been well behaved and at home among adult artists so it never seems to be a problem. We’ve had at least one overseas art trip with students each year for the past decade. I think we all (including the students) believe having the kids along enriches the trips.
People who know us all often tell us that we have it all since we have a great family life but also the ability to work on our art. I think people respect the fact that we are putting so much of our energy towards our children, but still maintaining a balance.
Are there any other things about balancing painting and parenting that you would like to share?  In an earlier interview, I (Lina) said that “You can have it all but not all at once.” at least from the mom point of view. I still think that is mostly true, although as the kids get older, it gets easier to mix the two. All artists who are making their income from their art have to be able to juggle two very different elements - art and business. Having children just adds a third ingredient to the mix, which keeps us grounded in real life.

One of several of Robs paintings of Ava as a harlequin, 16x20

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Painting Parent - Blair Updike

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

I have two girls, ages 4 and 6.

How did your artistic career begin?

Although I’ve painted on an off since I was about 17, I’d say that the career/professional part only started 2 years ago. I hadn’t painted much for about a 10 year period because I worked, and then I had children. When my youngest was about 2 I decided to paint her. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d enroll in a portrait drawing class at the local college so that I would have some dedicated art time on a weekly basis. I started watching David Leffel videos and attended The Art of the Portrait Conference that spring and it just exploded out from there.

Alla prima sketch I did of a friend's newborn.
 Suzy painted him also.
What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

I have the girls with me full time because we homeschool. This is advantageous in terms of the big schedule because we can come and go as we please, so it accommodates my erratic travel schedule, but it’s also difficult in terms of the small schedule because there are really no extended breaks in my day. We school at the studio every day, so I am in my space, but there’s no chance that they’re going to leave me alone for any extended amount of time so that I could focus enough to paint.   

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

I may prep or do quick fixes on paintings during the day, but I get most of my painting done at night. I drink tea or coffee before dinner, so I’m committed because I won’t be able to sleep after that, and then go paint after the kids are in bed. I like to start paintings on Sunday afternoons and then work a couple of nights during the week. I try and make a goal of getting home before the sprinklers come on at night, but I only make it about 10% of the time, so then I have to dart through the freezing sprinklers in the dark in order to get into my home. Last thing you want to do after a hard night’s painting.

Do your children get involved with your art?

I use my kids as models a lot. I’m more comfortable practicing techniques or new ideas on my own kids than on a commissioned portrait. I look forward to the days when they can act as studio assistants and wash brushes for me.

Do they inspire aspects of your art?

They inspired me to start painting again, but beyond that they reawakened my awe for the world as well as strengthening my empathy. I think studying your own child with such love eventually turns you into a better observer of people in general, so you catch the nuances of their character more vividly and can hopefully bring that across in paint.

How has having children changed your artwork?

I’ve gone sappy. I absolutely love to paint children in their element when they’re climbing, or splashing, or when they’re completely enthralled by something as simple as a bucket of sand. I’m not naturally someone who is drawn to either children or motherhood, but I’ve really developed a joy for seeing them in their element and trying to capture those sweet, free moments in paint.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?

My house is constantly in a state of flux (but that’s partly because it only takes my kids like 30 minutes to destroy 2 rooms). I often have to choose between painting and a home cooked meal and painting usually wins. Fortunately, I have a husband who considers my painting very important, so he’s amazingly tolerant and accommodating.

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

It’s only getting easier as the kids get less demanding. My girls are already pretty self-sufficient and good at occupying themselves, but I look forward to the days when they’ll be able to sit and read for a couple of hours while I paint.

Suzy's first oil painting from when she was 5.
I had a still life set up and she painted at the same time.
How do you encourage your children to be artistic?

I don’t believe in training small children or giving them much direction when it comes to art. I haven’t really encouraged them beyond making materials available. We keep pencils, pens, crayons, paints (all washable) where they can get them whenever they want. We had to make a change over to bound sketch books because my floor was constantly littered with the reams of paper that they’d run through daily. They both draw for at least an hour every day with no encouragement from me.

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

I love the idea that we’re going to be like the Wyeth’s or something, but I don’t feel any pressure.

Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?

My oldest sometimes paints the same life models or still life set ups that I use, but generally they’re on their own paths.

Suzy with her painting of the baby.
In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?

I think it makes parenting easier because we always have so many interesting ideas floating about. We meet people, go to historical reenactments, visit landscapes that I probably wouldn’t have touched had I been in some other profession. Because I frequently have historical or cultural subjects in my paintings there are so many other disciplines involved that my children have the opportunity to learn as they come along with me, whether we’re talking academic disciplines, or things or a more material nature like sewing costumes, or making props.

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

Laura's drawings. Age 4.
People tell me all the time that they don’t understand how I make time to do it, so obviously there is a perception that mothers have no time for anything else. Hopefully my life as an artist helps people change the way they perceive parenting. Having interests of your own is part setting an example to your children, so parents need to find that time to invest in their own development.

Are there any other things about Balancing Painting and Parenting that you would like to share?

Everyone’s going to jump on me for this, but I have to stick up for the dads who paint. I hear a lot of women saying “I had to put my family first and spend all my time taking care of children, so I couldn’t paint until that was done, it’s so much easier being a man.” I think about what it must be like having painting as the primary source of income with which to support a family, and that does not sound easier at all. It sounds horribly stressful. I also think about the men I know who work normal jobs and then come home and try to find time to squeeze in for painting after family time. It’s not easier being a father who paints. It’s just different.  
Because we homeschool, and I can just haul them wherever I go. I have a lot of freedom to attend events around the country. This was from a plein air competition in Marble Falls Texas. I was awarded 1st place and the girls got to enjoy the bluebonnets and adventure around Texas.

A recent plein air study I did of the moon rise
while the girls played on the lakeshore

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Painting Parents - Anna Rose Bain

This weeks Painting Parent is
Anna Rose Bain

How many children do you have? What are their ages?  I have one daughter, Cecelia, 3 ½ months old.

"The Wait and the Reward (30x30")
How did your artistic career begin? I sold my first portrait when I was twelve years old, so I guess that’s when it began! I always knew I wanted to be a professional artist. I was self-taught and focused entirely on drawing in graphite and colored pencils, until entering college, majoring in art, and committing most of my time to the discipline of oil painting. After getting married in 2008 and moving from the Midwest to the Dallas area, my husband supported me in the decision to pursue a full-time career in painting. It started slowly at first (note the year: 2008!), but gradually took off as my name got out there and my body of work grew and improved.

What is your Parenting/work/art situation? My husband and I both work at home. My painting studio makes up 25% of our house and is the first room you walk into when you enter our home. There are pros and cons to this situation, as I can fully care for my daughter without paying a babysitter or daycare. I can also teach out of my home studio and paint at whatever odd hours necessary to get the job done. The cons are that I only get 20 minutes here, or an hour there, to spend focused on my painting. This makes for slow progress, and it’s difficult to get back into the “groove”, with so many interruptions.

When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine? My husband is able to watch Cecelia during the evenings and weekends, so I get a little more time to paint then. There is really no routine, otherwise. I paint whenever I can. I walk past my easel every day. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I leave my palette and brushes out and make one or two strokes in passing—while holding a baby—after noticing something that could be improved…

"Cece at Three Weeks Old (6x8")"
Do your children get involved with your art? Considering my daughter is only three months old, YES – she has gotten very involved, by being my model several times already. It was easiest when she was a newborn and would sleep for two hours at a time. Now that she’s awake more during the day, I try to paint and sketch her whenever I can, but it’s a lot harder.

Do they inspire aspects of your art? All the time. As a commissioned portrait artist, I often paint children, but since having Cece, she has inspired a greater empathy and depth of feeling in my paintings. She has also been the subject of numerous alla prima studies, and I included her in a self portrait called “The Wait and the Reward” that went completely viral on the social media sites.

"Sharing Secrets (20x16")",
How has having children changed your artwork? I feel like my work has gotten exponentially better since becoming pregnant and having a baby. I can’t explain why, exactly, but there is so much more love now than ever before. Art was my first love – but now I have an overflowing love for this darling girl, and somehow it gets transcribed into my paintings. She is a permanent part of my world now, therefore, a permanent part of my art.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks? Well, the house is usually a mess. J I still manage to do dishes and a load of laundry here and there, but I’ve had to let a lot of things slide that I’m normally on top of. It’s a small price to pay.

"Lullaby" (22x16")"
Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways? Since my daughter is so young, I can’t really say yet. It’s harder and easier in different ways. For example, it was harder when she was a newborn because I had no idea what she was doing… but easier because she slept more. It’s easier now because she’s more predictable and I can read her cues, but harder because she’s becoming more alert and awake during the day.

How do you encourage your children to be artistic? Cecelia sees my paintings every day. She sees how much value art has in my life. She will be raised to appreciate art fully, and if she is so inclined, she’ll be an artist too.

Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic? No, not necessarily. My husband is an engineer, so I feel that our family has a good balance. She can be whatever she wants to be, and we will encourage her to develop her talents, just as my parents encouraged me.

In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier? It’s hard because I have a constant battle in my head. I love my daughter, but I also love my art. I’m always wondering if I’m doing enough for Cecelia, but then again, wondering the same thing about my art. In that sense, it makes being a parent harder because I have to constantly check to make sure I’m giving enough of myself and my time to my daughter, without letting the art take over my life and cause me to become a neglectful parent! One good aspect of being an artist and parent… I’ve learned how to be patient!

"Elegant Lines (22x28")"
Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist? When I first got pregnant, I was very worried about this. I thought that students would stop coming to me, that my gallery would stop asking for work, and that collectors would stop collecting, because suddenly I would become “just a mom.” But I have found the reality to be completely opposite! My art has taken off, as students, collectors, and commissioned portrait clients now have a new way to relate to me. It’s like becoming a parent has made me more “real” and approachable. It’s also made my work better, and people recognize that.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Painting Parent- Ricky Mujica

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

I have a daughter who is nine and a son who is two.

How did your artistic career begin?

I began to get work in the field of illustration toward the end of my senior year in college. My first big assignment was for Reader's Digest. I did several paintings for a John Le CarrĂ© short story, called the “Looking Glass War”. Those illustrations sadly, never got published. But it got me started as a professional artist.

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?

I have two children. During the days, I'm “Daddy Day Care”. My wife gets home from work, we eat, we put the children to bed, we talk a little, then I shoot off to my studio to get some work done. Lately, that's been getting harder and harder to do that because my little one is two years old, is full of energy, and is kicking my butt! I'm cutting down on that schedule until my little one starts preschool.
On Mondays, my sister in law takes care of the kids and I sometimes put in 20 hours on that one day. Sometimes I can pull myself away from my family and work a full day on Saturdays.
No art on Sundays. That is the sacred “family day”. My wife and children get my undivided attention on Sundays and don't have to compete with a drawing pad for my attention.

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

I covered this in the previous question. But I would also like to add that whenever I can, I like to draw or paint my family members. I try to crash some of my friend's classes at least once a week in order to paint from a live model. I also keep a sketch pad so I can sketch constantly. I usually fill a sketchpad in about a month.

Do your children get involved with your art?

My daughter loves to draw and will often pick up a drawing pad as a form of relaxation. She is nine years old and really loves drawing cartoon characters. She has expressed interest in developing her skills and I think I will start teaching her soon. She has enjoyed museums since she was a baby and has been to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris at least six times! My son on the other hand is too unruly to take to museums at the moment. Funny how different they are from each other.

Do they inspire aspects of your art?

Yes they do. The work I do as an artist, (not my illustration work), is driven by empathy. I want to deal with life and death, joy and pain, with the human condition. My wife and my children constantly inspire me and even if they aren't in my painting, they are in my thoughts as I paint.

How has having children changed your artwork?

Before I had children, I was completely happy doing illustration. My children have inspired me to attempt to make the paintings I want to make. I now want to tackle tougher subjects. I want to talk about the human condition.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?

Ha ha! The other household tasks never get done and as a result my wife is always annoyed with me!

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

My daughter is nine and I was at the point where I was getting in full days while she went to school. But now, I have a two year old and painting during the day (except on Mondays when my sister in law babysits), is hard! It's very, very difficult to get the work I want to do done. That will change a little next year when he starts preschool (I hope!).

How do you encourage your children to be artistic?

I don't, I just like to take them to museums and I like to draw in their presence as much as I can. That's as far as I go for now. I want them to come to art on their own and not because I pushed them to it. If they decide to become artists, fantastic. But if they don't, I'm OK with that. I just want them to be happy.

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


Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?

Yes. Many times when I pull out a sketchpad to draw, my daughter and my son will do it as well.

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

It's a tough thing to be completely present when you are with your kids if you are constantly thinking about painting. It's very difficult to pull myself away from my kids in order to go down to my studio.

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

I haven't noticed.

Are there any other things about Balancing Painting and Parenting that you would like to share?

I used to put painting above everything else in my life and my relationships suffered for it. Now, my family is first. I'm happy to drop my brushes anytime, anywhere, if my family needs me. It's important to paint as much as I can, but if I have no one to share the journey with, it just isn't worth it.

Painting Parent - Casey Childs

Today Painting Parent Casey Childs talks about providing for family with his artwork. I met Casey and his wife at the Art of the Portrait Conference and they were both so nice.

"Flight" 20x30 Oil
How many children do you have? What are their ages?
We have 3 boys, ages 9, 7, and 3.

How did your artistic career begin?
All growing up I was known as the one who could draw, but never considered painting as a career until I was in college. After college I worked as a graphic designer for 11 years in an effort to have a “real job” until I decided to take the plunge 5 years ago and paint full-time; that's when my professional art career began.

"Afternoon Repose" 30x24oil
What is your Parenting/work/art situation?
I work out of the studio we built next to our home, and my wife stays at home with our kids. This situation works out well in that the studio is just far enough away from our house that I can step away and entirely focus on painting, but close enough to allow me to be involved with the family.

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

My schedule is like any other full-time time job, I work Monday-Friday with the weekends off. Sometimes I'll work weekends if I've got a tight deadline. My daily routine is in the studio by 9am, a short break for lunch, and stop painting around dinnertime to come in to spend time with the family. Sometimes I'll head back out to the studio after the kids are in bed for a couple more hours.

Do your children get involved with your art?
They're always around the studio and see me working and they'll usually attend art shows/events with us. I show them what I'm working on in the studio and things like that. Sometimes they'll give me an impromptu critique, that usually sounds something like, “You still need to fill in that area that doesn't have paint on it.”

"Playlist" 30x20 Oil
Do they inspire aspects of your art?
Of course! My painting ideas come from the experiences around me. I've painted portraits of my boys and have used their activities as inspiration for other works.

How has having children changed your artwork?
Having to provide for my family affects several aspects of my artwork: how much I produce, subject matter, and sometimes even how long I work on a piece. I need to be willing to let them go in order to sell enough work make a living.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
It's all about balance, but so is life. I try to make time for other responsibilities around the home as well as get all the painting done I need to do. And some days I'm better at it than others. It's a constant struggle.

Light and Shadow 16x10 Oil
Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?
I'm very lucky that my wife has been very protective of my time in the studio so I can get the work done that I need to do to provide for the family. Now that my boys are getting older there's more activities, ball games, karate, etc that takes me away from my work so I just have to focus more when I'm in the studio to get everything done.

How do you encourage your children to be artistic?
I think just by letting them express themselves, but that doesn't necessarily mean painting or drawing.  If they have that artistic inclination in them, it will come out as they are allowed a way to let it out. We go through lots of tape at our house. Lots.

Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic?
Not really. I want my boys to be whatever they want to be. I always joke that I don't want my boys to be artists since we all know how tough it is to succeed as an artist.
"The Bookstore"24x15

In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?
It's hard because you have to provide for your family and that puts a lot of stress on you as an artist. And a lot of artistic decisions have to be made with the almighty dollar in mind. I've been fortunate to be able to do the work I want to do as well as provide. I think it's easier because it can give you perspective--that painting isn't everything and all the success/failures aren't as important as what happens within the walls of your home.
Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?

Being an artist, just by the nature of what's required to succeed, is a very selfish pursuit. I think its sometimes implied by those in the art field that you're not a true artist if you don't give up everything for the craft.

"Fallen" 21x11
Find Casey on

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Painting Parent- Aynslee Moon Smithee

How many children do you have? What are their ages?  I have one child, a daughter, s
he is six months old.

How did your artistic career begin?  I always loved to draw.  I grew up making drawings of images I found in National Geographic magazine; I would also draw horses frequently because I wanted one but my family lived in town, not on a farm, so I couldn’t have a real one.  Deep down I always wanted to be an artist, but I started out as a journalism major in college because I thought it was a more stable career path and I enjoyed writing.  In my second year of college I discovered oil painting and changed my major to art.  I have been painting ever since.

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?   Right now I am working on commissions, personal work, and teaching both private and group lessons out of my Lowe Mill studio.  Sophie (my daughter) comes to the studio most of the time.  When she was between one and four months old, it was very easy to get a lot of painting in when she was with me.  She was mostly just eating and sleeping.  Right now she is a couple of weeks away from being six months old, so she is very alert and active; she is rolling over, grabbing and looking at everything.  She is also extremely vocal; she is already saying “Momma.”  I love having her with me, caring for her, and getting to watch these developments, but it has become much more of a challenge to paint while she is with me.  My husband is a big help though; we are working on arranging our schedules so that he takes the evening/nightly duties a few times a week.  That way I can have some focused time to myself in the studio.  I do manage to do a lot of painting, however, when she takes a really good nap at the studio.  I have a Pack and Play set up and she is starting to get on a steady napping schedule.  Painting while she naps has made me a faster, more proficient painter.   “Nap” painting is teaching me to get the important compositional elements down first and to put greater value on the beginning of the painting.  I think the environment at Lowe Mill is wonderful for Sophie as well, getting to watch art happen on a daily basis and being surrounded by such a variety of creative people.

Do you now or have you ever worked other jobs while pursuing your art. How to you preserve time and energy for your art. Are there ways that your art benefits from your other job? When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine? 
 Since finishing my B.F.A. and M.F.A. I have taught at colleges in an adjunct capacity.  Although the pay isn’t the best, the benefit to teaching part-time is that I can teach and still have a lot of time to paint, and of course now parent and paint.  I don’t have many of the extra duties and pressures that come with being a full-time faculty member.  My art definitely benefits from teaching art.  I think that having the responsibility of teaching something makes it not just mine anymore, and that gives me greater purpose and more drive to improve myself in the subject so that I can better teach the students as well as push them to learn, explore, and keep moving towards their best selves and their best work.  As far as a regular routine, I make it a point to be in the studio at least four days a week, but the actual paint time varies according to Sophie’s schedule.

Do your children get involved with your art? I hope that when Sophie is old enough she loves to make art too; I plan on setting up a little area in my studio for her to make stuff.  I would also love to make some collaborative pieces with her and do a show.

Do they inspire aspects of your art?  Definitely.  I did a solo show at eight months pregnant called “The Strange Meditation of Waiting” and it was a beautifully introspective body of work about the subject of shifting and changing.  The images were charcoal on panel with a few other mediums added here and there, and most of the images were of my body during my pregnancy.  My current work focuses on the subject of motherhood.  It is expressive of both the tenderness and wonder of motherhood and the daily struggles of learning to be more selfless and more patient than you ever thought you could. 

How has having children changed your artwork? Sophie is bringing a gentle quality into my work, infusing it with a fresh spirit. `I am making smaller work and I am painting in a more gestural manner.  My goal is to enjoy it, do the most I can in the amount of time I have, and not over-analyze every step of the painting.  I have a bad habit of over-complicating everything, and I get in my own way a lot.  Having Sophie has actually helped me with that a great deal.  She is teaching me to accept all of myself, and I think this is changing the way I think and paint in a wonderful way.  There is a Bible verse in which God says to Moses “I am who I am.”  As human beings we often have trouble accepting all of who we are.  In painting as well, I have trouble accepting what I feel to be a less than perfect artwork.  This has often resulted in me overworking paintings or not beginning paintings at all, or getting stuck in the middle due to being overly critical of myself or the work.  With Sophie, there are times when I work on a painting for just an hour, and then she wakes up and cries and I have to look at the painting and say, “for today it is what it is.”  And sometimes, that is enough and I have made a painting that day that says what it wants to.  And if it is not yet enough, I am able to have faith that it will be, just not today.   Sophie is teaching me about the art of being content in the midst of process.

How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?  It has made me much quicker at household tasks, and sometimes I do household tasks at really odd hours.  Sometimes I allow things to get a little messier than I used to.  When it’s between dirty dishes being dirty for a few more hours or even overnight, and a solid painting session, I choose the painting session.  I’ve also gotten better at asking for help when I need it.  If I ask Jacob do some extra cleaning so I can go paint, he’s a sweetheart and he does it.  

How do you encourage your children to be artistic?  By bringing her to the studio with me and taking her to openings.  I also read her the book “Hailstones and Halibut Bones” by Mary O’Neill.  It was my favorite childhood book; it is poetry about color and it has beautiful illustrations.  I also read her “The Art Spirit,” one of my favorite art books, out loud.  This way I get to reread it and while it isn’t a kid’s book, you never know what they’re absorbing so some early art theory can’t hurt!

Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic?  I don’t.  I hope that she loves art (in all forms) and maybe even becomes an artist herself.  But her interests may be totally different from mine, and her father is an engineer so she may end up loving technology.  I hope she ends up loving both art and technology, maybe combining the two in a really interesting, adventurous way.  But mostly I hope to raise her to be faithful, courageous, smart, and kind.  If she has a good heart and a good work ethic, then she will be wonderful at whatever it is she chooses to do.

In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?  The most difficult thing for me is worrying about money.  I worried about it before I became a parent but I worry about it more now.  Even though I am married to a partner with a full-time job, I still worry about how much money I bring in.  I want to be able to help Sophie with opportunities as much as possible until she is old enough to help herself, and so I sometimes stress about selling work or finding a tenure-track teaching position.  As far as making being a parent easier; I have gotten to be with Sophie and watch her development; I haven’t had to put her in daycare full-time.  As an artist, my time is flexible and I mostly work for myself, so I can set my own hours.  I think this has been good for her and for me.

Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?  I’m not sure yet on this one, but it may.  I think becoming a parent has shifted my identity, adding a new dimension to it, so I think this must affect perception of myself and my work, from my point of view and that of others’.

Are there any other things about Balancing Painting and Parenting that you would like to share? My best advice is to take it day by day, and don’t get frustrated or be hard on yourself when both don’t go perfectly.  On some days I’m an excellent parent and not a great painter.  On other days I’m an excellent painter and not a great parent.  There are some days when I don’t get to the studio at all but that’s okay, because parenting is everyday.  On the days I don’t get to physically paint, I try to take note of the many emotional moments with my daughter, her smiles, her tears, when she sleeps and when she wakes, the way she wraps her arms around my neck. I think of these as artful moments in and of themselves.  Life influences art and art influences life, so you can be devoted to painting and be devoted to your children.  The key is that each is what it is for that day; it may not be perfect but it is enough.