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.

No comments:

Post a Comment