Monday, March 12, 2018

Painting Parent - Molly Johnson

How many children do you have?
We have 5 children and 5 grandchildren ( equally important because I am prime babysitter for one of them and available when needed for 4 of them)
What are their ages?
29, 27, 25, 23, 21; 9, 5, 4, 2, 1
How did your artistic career begin?
I always loved drawing and painting as a child so it seemed natural that I would pursue that as my career. After graduation from The American Academy of Art, Chicago I worked in art departments doing small renderings for grocery ads and machine magazines while doing some side commissions of architectural renderings. My husband and I married at the age of 22 and wanted to begin our family right away so we chose for me to be a stay at home mom.  I was so busy taking care of children and the house that it never bothered me to only have limited time to pursue my work. The older woman next door kept telling me, “ In a blink of an eye your children will be grown, cherish these hectic times.” (Boy was she right!) During the next 10 years I did some freelance work but mostly did personal paintings for my family and lots and lots of kids projects. I enjoyed being home with the kids and knew that my time would come to jump back into the art world.
What is your Parenting/work/art situation?  
My five children are now grown and on their own but I am the prime babysitter for my 5 year old grandson. My daughter is a single mother and they live with us. I walk him to and from school each day and he is at my school/studio until 5pm when we close each evening. I own and operate The Academy of Fine Art, an Art Renewal Center approved Academy here in Wisconsin. We are a full time academy/atelier. I am one of the instructors, the administrator, groundskeeper and the janitor because I also own the large grain mill that houses the school, my studio, a small gallery space and my husband's machine shop.
Do you now or have you ever worked other jobs while pursuing your art.
I was strictly a stay at home mom until my youngest was 2, it was then I started teaching art classes at a small grade school.  They let me bring him with me when I taught which worked out great because all my other children were enrolled in the school. When my youngest turned 10 and the need for me to be available all the time lessened, I started diving back into my art career with a huge amount of passion. So, yes, since my son was 2 I have always had another job outside of my house and studio. I have been the art teacher for grade schools, high schools, tech colleges, art centers and private lessons and I also ran the office of a family business. Many times I held two or three of these at once. I always had my schedule set that I would be home to make supper and help with homework. Because most of my jobs were art related I felt as though I was creating all day everyday. About that office job, not sure why the family chose my right sided brain to run the office, but I did gain many business skills that are helpful in my art career now. And I found out that I am able to tap into my left side when necessary.
How to you preserve time and energy for your art. Are there ways that your art benefits from your other job?
I profit from scheduled studio time. I often announce to the family ahead so that they know of my plans. I am lucky that my job is in the art field because I learn so much from the students, but with that also comes the frustration of wanting to be in my own studio working on my own projects and commissions.  
When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?
I try to arrange a full day a week for my studio, (preferably a week day when my grandson is  in kindergarten) and I work in my studio on mornings that the school is running efficiently and I am not needed and also on afternoons when another instructor is scheduled to teach.  As I get older, I can sense when I am too tired to be in my studio. I need a fresh day, a day where I wasn't behind the computer all morning or teaching a class. On days that I am tired, I will spend time in my studio putting ideas together for my next piece, framing, or going through art books. Just spending time in the studio energizes my spirit.
Do your children get involved with your art?
When the children were small, they wanted to have their hands in everything I did. That usually meant that I put my things away and we did art projects at their level. I do the same with my grandchildren, I do not want to spoil their desire but I want to keep it at their level for them and for me.
As grown-ups they have never had a desire to join me in my studio. I do have one son that loves to be creative with drawing and hands on art such as wood carving and jewelry. My children and grandchildren do model for me and for the school, sometimes under duress, but I usually win.
Do they inspire aspects of your art?
Yes, my children and grandchildren are huge inspiration for my pieces. Maybe because I am surrounded by them so much I just want to capture each moment of time before they grow up.
How has having children changed your artwork?
Everyday I wake up I am thankful for my family. The innocence of the little ones playing and the beauty of the older ones becoming adults often set the stage for many of my pieces.  Maybe having children has forced me to sit back and observe more because I do not have the luxury of painting on a whim. And when I paint them, I am painting what I know.
How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
I am super tidy, probably to a fault. I like my house in order before I go to the studio. I feel more energized if I know there are not tasks waiting for me at home. I try to straighten the house every morning before I come to the school/studio. And before I return home for the evening, my studio is straightened up  and ready for the next day. Is my house perfect? Absolutely not, but I know that I can work with it the way it is.
Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?
I think the grade school age to 16 was the hardest. When they were babies it was easier in the evening or nap time to create, after 16 they could drive and had friends to hang out with and were not needing me as much. But in grade school there was homework, extra curricular activities and lots of cooking and cleaning. I did not have as much time for my studio, but because I was teaching and doing demonstrating most days, I felt lucky to at least have that.
How do you encourage your children to be artistic?
We have always had art projects going on in the house; tie-dyed clothing, Batik, basket weaving, Pysanky eggs, wood burning, sewing, birdhouse making etc. My goal was to let them find creative outlets that they enjoyed.
Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic?
Nope. My father is a civil engineer and my mother is a nurse and they were not disappointed that I didn’t follow their careers, to each his own. My motto is, “ You can be what ever you want to be, but do your best at it. “

Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?
My children have taken my hardworking entrepreneurial spirit to heart. They watched me go back to art school full time in my 40s with 5 teenagers at home and hold a 30 hour per week job and love every minute of it. They saw my husband kick it up a notch and do cooking and cleaning so that his wife could pursue her dreams. I see them succeed in their jobs now and know that I played a role in shaping these awesome humans.
In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?
With any passion you hold as an adult, being a parent can be difficult if you have to now schedule time to do your favorite things. But you cannot replace those times with your children. They are more important than anything and in a blink of an eye they will be grown. Trust me. I do not regret putting away my supplies and playing with my children. Did it hold my career back? Oh, I am sure it did but it was worth it. The memories of camping trips and lazy summer days with the kids will outweigh any sold painting I may have created. Having to wait for my career to begin fired the passion within me when the time came.
Do you think it effects men and women differently, being an artist and a parent?
I do not know if I can answer this one. I have seen so many scenarios. Dad working and mom creating; Mom working, dad creating; both working and creating as a team. Bottom line is that someone has to bring home the bacon and someone has to take care of the children. Your hope is that your spouse and children will see your dreams and help you make them come true, no matter what your passions are, and as a family you can make it happen together.
Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?

Only positively. Many of my successful friends that have decided not have children to pursue their careers praise my husband and myself for making it work. Again, I know that I may not be now or ever as far in my career as those who have been working hard at it for longer, but I am OK with that. My friends know that with me family always comes first.

No comments:

Post a Comment