Sunday, April 01, 2012
Back in 2010 I responded to one of Robert Genn's newsletters where he talked about juggling art and motherhood, and my response got published at the bottom of the clickback on his website. I couldn't believe at the time how many emails I got from artists struggling to juggle painting and motherhood, and I still get emails today from women who want advice based on my response. Because painting isn't a job with a salary and regular hours, I think a lot of women struggle to maintain a career in the arts when they first have small children. I've joked to my husband more than once that I could probably have a decent blog following if the only topic I discussed was art and motherhood! Anyhow, based on the response I've gotten from my comment on someone else's blog post in 2010, I thought I should go ahead and publish what I said here for my regular readers. It's two years later and I have some additional thoughts now that my kids are getting older - I might put some of those in an additional post if there's any interest. Anyhow, here's my advice for moms (sorry guys) - let me know in the comments if you have any additional advice:
I'm a professional painter and a mother to a sweet 4 year old daughter and 10 month old whirlwind of a son. I quit my stable chemical engineering job when I had my daughter so I could stay at home with her and paint. I didn't realize at the time how much work making a living as an artist can be, nor did I anticipate the number of times I'd find myself in tears due to the stress of it all and the feelings of inadequacy I felt as I couldn't be the best I could be at being a parent OR my painting career. Over the years, I've learned to just do the best I can do. I try to stay positive, I work hard, and I refuse to give up. Since I've had my children, I've been published in major art magazines, won awards at national shows, and been invited into galleries and shows. It's possible to be a parent and a successful artist. And while I can't say for sure, I'd like to think I'm a better artist because of my children and the creativity they bring to my life. My advice for Cedar Lee (and all the other frazzled artist-parents out there) follows:
- Paint when you can. Even if you can only carve out an hour here and there while the baby naps, or a few hours after bedtime, get in the studio and work. You need to adapt your working style to make spontaneous, short bursts of painting productive. If your baby goes to bed at eight, have a cup of coffee and hit the studio until 11. Sometimes those quiet hours at night are the best times to work.
- Get help. It's easy to think that you must be there for your child 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it will benefit you and your son to find a way for you to have a few hours of kid-free painting time on a regular basis. Find a relative or a neighbor who can babysit a few days a week, or find a school or daycare center that you trust. My kids go to preschool a couple of days a week. They love being with other kids, and those days are my days to paint, paint, paint! We all end up happier on the days we have together.
- Set your priorities. Are painting and motherhood your main priorities? Then drop the other things you're trying to do. I used to blog regularly, and loved doing it, but after I had my son I knew it was ultimately cutting into my painting time so I set it aside. I try to limit my internet time. My house isn't as clean as I wish it could be. My husband doesn't get a home-cooked meal every night of the week. But I spend a lot of quality time with my kids and husband and my galleries are stocked - those are my priorities.
- Focus. When you have time set aside for painting, make sure you paint. Don't check your email, don't return phone calls, don't clean your studio - just paint. You can do all those other things with baby in tow, so don't waste precious time procrastinating.
Having children has brought a sensitivity to my art that wasn't there before. Try to stay positive and stay in tune with the ways that having children can change your work for the better. And know that it gets better - that ten month old that gets into everything right now will soon be a four year old who loves to set up an easel next to you and paint, and before long that four year old will be in school every day and you'll be wondering where the time went. Don't focus on the dilemmas facing you as a mother and an artist - focus on solutions instead, and be grateful every day for the two wonderful and fulfilling jobs you have as an artist and a mother.
Thursday, February 02, 2012
This painting is of the mountains above Trout Lake, just South of Telluride, Colorado. It's one of those places that seem almost surreal in their perfection, and I've painted this location quite a few times and failed to capture it's grandure. This time around, I kept it simple and focused on the mountains rising up above the lake, keeping in mind how small and inconsequential I felt standing on that lakeshore.
One of my favorite writers, Donald Miller, talked about this feeling in his book, "Through Painted Deserts," and I love his wording:
"It strikes me as I think about it, how beautiful we find massive structures, either man-made or organic. I wonder if we find them amazing because they make us feel small and insignificant, because they humble us. And I remember feeling that way back in Colorado, that I was not the center of the cosmos, that there were greater things, larger things, massive structures forged in the muscle of earth and time, pressing up into the heavens as if to say the story is not about you, but for you, as if to remind us we are not gods."
This idea is one of the reasons I paint pure landscape. I love how when I'm outdoors, the details of my everyday life just drop away as I stand in awe, humbled.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Sooooo.... It's been a while! Anyone still out there reading this?
I've been thinking about resurrecting this blog for a while now, but just haven't gotten around to it. Seems like things are always coming up, and I keep up with all my artist friends via Facebook for the most part. But part of me thinks it would still be nice to post some coherent thoughts about painting here every once in a while.
I've been working on a new catalog of my work, and as I was writing up some text for it I thought it might be nice to also share some of what I wrote on the blog. So, as a way to get this blog moving again, I'm going to take the topics I wrote about in the catalog and expand on them here in the next few weeks.
So, stay tuned!
Friday, April 09, 2010
Sorry for the long absence, but I've been having to neglect the blog in favor of getting some actual painting done! In the interest of getting work done for galleries and shows, I think it's probably going to be a few months before I can think about blogging again. In the meantime, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and check my website for new work.
I get a lot of emails from people who read my blog and are encouraged by the fact that I'm juggling being a mom and a painter, and I want to thank all of you so much for that. It's rough, but possible to do both, and having this blog has been a nice way to keep in touch with others who are in the same position. Keep in touch!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Fellow Colorado painter Dan Schultz posted a thoughtful blog today about developing one's style, and it got me thinking about my own style. I've only been painting landscapes for about six years now, so I've seen my style evolve pretty significantly as I improved my skills. Recently, I feel like my paintings have been getting more refined as I spend more time trying to get things right. I used to be all about thick paint everywhere and bold color. Now I'm more interested in the contrast between hard and soft edges, thick and thin paint, and the use of greys to make the important color notes pop.
Yet however my style has evolved, I feel as though my paintings still look like mine - they still have a bit of my own signature style. I guess it's a bit like handwriting, in that I can't really pinpoint the elusive quality that makes my paintings mine, and I don't spend much time thinking about it. It just IS.
What do you think about style? Do you think a lot about your personal style, or do you let it be?
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Well, it's a new year and I'm not even going to begin to attempt to status my 2009 goals to see how I did. That train derailed quickly when I got pregnant, and there's no point in beating myself up about what I didn't get done this year!
Instead, I figured I might as well make a short list of some of the things I DID manage to do this year, just to make myself feel a little bit better (even though I'll still be internally beating myself up). So, here are some of the things I'm proud to have accomplished this year:
- Had a painting accepted into the Salon International show
- Participated in the Colorado Governor's Invitational
- Survived 5 months of all-day "morning" sickness
- Managed to keep my art business afloat despite aformentioned morning sickness
- Got invited to join a great new gallery
- Had a successful two-person show in August
- Moved into the gorgeous new house my husband built
- Started working in my roomy new studio
- Gave birth to a beautiful baby boy (sans drugs!)
- Sold more paintings than I painted
- Had my work featured in and on the cover of the local tourist magazine
- Had my studio featured in the American Artist "Studios" magazine
- Awarded "Best of Show" in the November FineArtViews Contest
Overall, 2009 was a tough year for me, mainly because I had a rough pregnancy and couldn't physically do a lot of things I wanted to do. It was totally worth it though, and I know I can get things back on track with my art this year. I'm thankful for my kids and my health, and thankful that I get to do what I love for a living, so in the end it's all good.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sorry I've been MIA for the past couple of months. I tend to blog in my free time, and there just isn't much free time when I'm trying to meet all of the needs of a three year old and an infant and keep up with painting! I also apologize to those of you who have emailed me who I haven't had time to respond to. I love hearing from people and I feel badly when I don't reply quickly - hopefully I'll get caught up in the next couple of months.
Luckily, Owen is in that nice not-yet-mobile-sleep-half-the-day-away phase right now, so I have been painting. I had sort of planned to take an informal three month leave from painting so I could just enjoy the baby phase, but a few weeks after he was born I was all excited about painting again so I got the studio all organized and got back to it. Given a choice between cleaning house or painting while the baby sleeps, I think I'd choose painting anyday.
I've been busy getting caught up on my mailing list and financials, which I've totally neglected for months, and I'm working on some goals for 2010. Mostly though, I'm just trying to do some good paintings when I have the time, and experimenting with some new techniques and ideas.
Most artists will tell you that you should paint everyday, or as much as possible, so you don't get rusty. I agree with this for the most part, but I've also noticed that my art tends to grow when I take time off for big life events. When I had Aspen, and now having Owen, the time I took off gave me more appreciation for my art, but also a different sensitivity for things when I returned, and my style shifted a bit accordingly. I don't know how to explain it, but it makes returning to the studio more fun.
Anyhow, hopefully I'll be posting more regularly in the new year. In the meantime, this is a tiny little painting I did a few weeks ago. It's just a color study, and I was also working on edges a bit since I tend to keep everything a bit too sharp sometimes. I'd love to make this into a bigger painting - I love the contrast between the hot sunlight hitting the willows, and the coldness of the snowy landscape.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Just wanted to announce that our little boy finally decided to make his grand appearance! His name is Owen Matthew and he was born on October 26th at 5:09 pm, and weighed in at 7 lb 13 oz. I'd been staying at my parents house that weekend, since I was so close to my due date and we live so far from the hospital. Nate managed to get down the mountain just in time to get me to the hospital with a couple of hours to spare. We're all happy and healthy - I'm just resting and recovering and adjusting to a new routine with two kiddos.
I'm sure I'll be taking it easy on the art (and blogging) front for a few months, but I'm already itching to hit the studio. We'll see if I can squeeze in a few hours of painting sometime in the next few weeks!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Being an artist and a mom takes a lot of focus on keeping things organized and balanced - on a good day I struggle to get things done, but I seem to have completely lost my balance lately.
I'm due to have this little guy any day now, and the waiting game is about to drive me insane. I'm ready to have a cute little baby to snuggle and take care of, and to have my body back and start moving forward with my family and my career. Not knowing what day he's going to make his grand appearance is making me crazy, and I'm just trying to keep myself busy so I won't get too impatient.
This has been a tough year. I've struggled to keep up with the art side of things -between 20 weeks of morning (ALL DAY) sickness and a handful of minor complications that kept me heading down to Denver for doctor's appointments, I've just been trying to keep my head above the water and keep the few commitments I had made earlier in the year. I missed deadlines for a bunch of juried shows, declined participating in some other invitational type events, and haven't been providing all of my galleries with new work like I should. I managed to prepare for my two person show in August and keep up with demands for work from galleries that were selling well, and that's about it.
It's easy to beat myself up about what I missed this year, and worry about whether it sets me back, but I keep reminding myself that it's just a season, and that I have to stick to my priorities. Fact is, this is probably the last kid I'll have, and I want to spend some time enjoying him as a baby just as much as I want to make sure I don't miss a thing about Aspen as she grows up. My priority this year has been my kids, and as tough as it is to swallow, I know my art will be waiting for me when I get back to a point where I feel well enough and have enough time to really focus on painting again. In the meantime, I'm doing the best that I can, and trying to enjoy the process along the way. It's not easy, but at least it's always rewarding!
Monday, September 14, 2009
I have to say, after looking at everyone's pictures on Facebook and attending a couple of classes myself, I'm pretty envious of those who got to attend the whole event! It was really well organized, and the group of instructors was top notch.
On Sunday morning I attended Scott Burdick's lecture on using photographic references for painting. For those not familiar with Burdick's work (www.scottburdick.com), he paints fantastic figuratives of people he encounters on travels throughout the world. His work are lush and full of life, so I was curious to hear more about his process and his view on using photos to work from.
The lecture didn't disappoint. Scott showed hundreds of slides of his work, as well as some of the photos he worked from for particular paintings. He stressed the importance of working from life on a regular basis to gain the experience needed to allow you to provide info that a photograph can't, but also stressed the importance of using photos to paint certain types of subject matter or locations. Here's a snapshot of a plein air painting he used to illustrate the color subtleties that a camera can't capture:
The thing that struck me viewing the slideshow was how luminous and energetic Scott's paintings were compared to the actual photos he painted from. He takes very good reference photos, but when he paints he takes the reference further and injects life and emotion that the photos lack. I work from a combination of photos and studies, so seeing his slides gave me something to strive for - if I can't be improving on the photo in my painting, I shouldn't be painting it!
In the afternoon, I attended a critique session with Kevin MacPherson. There were about 25 artists at the critique, and we had all provided one or two digital images of our work for Kevin to review prior to the session. Kevin had spent a lot of time preparing comments for each person's work, and interspersing images of our work with examples of masterworks that showed what he was trying to say. It was really valuable to hear the critiques of everyone's paintings as well as my own, and Kevin has a great sense of humor that kept us all entertained through it all.
The first painting I submitted was one of my personal favorites. I had entered this painting in a couple of juried shows and been rejected, and wanted to know what was up.
Kevin's critique of the painting was mainly that it had too many hard edges all over. There are also some issues with repetitiveness in the pine trees on top of the cliff, and competition between the two front cliff faces for attention (he suggested possibly darkening the cliffs in the middle ground to make the front cliffs more important). Overall though, it was all EDGES EDGES EDGES.
Looking at the painting, I totally agree. I think it's taken me a while to get to a point where I could absorb this critique. A year ago, I might have fought similar comments, thinking that the hard edges are a part of my "style". Over the past few months, I've changed my thinking and have been starting to incorporate more variety into my edges and brushwork, so I was in a good place to hear this critique.
The other I submitted was a larger painting of aspens that I did earlier this year for the Colorado Governor's Invitational show. I was proud of this painting and it has received a lot of compliments, but there were some things about the foliage that had been bugging me, and I could never put a finger on exactly what my issue was.
Kevin liked the painting but got down the main issue right away - the foliage of the aspens on the right was mimicking the hillside angle, and the cloud on the left was mimicking the shape of the aspen foliage. It was like an aha moment to me - I'd been so stressed about getting the colors and foreground of this painting right that I didn't even notice the issues with repetitive shapes up top! He also pointed out that he liked the lost and found edges in the aspen on the far left, and suggested that I incorporate some of that into the rest of the painting (again - EDGES EDGES EDGES).
Overall, I came out of the critique with an understanding of some of the bigger things I need to be working on, and it gave me a little bit of a kick in the pants to continue to work on improving my work.
Now that I've been all inspired, I just need to find some quality time to paint before this little one makes his grand entrance in about a month!