Thursday, January 28, 2016

Advice for Artist Moms Who Long For More Art Time

I ached to bring back my artist self

I missed the artist "me".  The "me" that had time to spend an entire Saturday with my brushes and a sheet of watercolor paper.  So as crazy and mixed up as that may sound to any non-artist types, I believe other artists (particularly moms) will be able to relate.  

My becoming a mom story is a bit different than most.  When I was 33 years old, we brought 2 children home ages 3 and 4...and I went from not-a-mom-yet to mom-of-two sibling group.  Life as I knew it was turned upside down but in a good way.  The changes in our lives and theirs meant we were always playing catch up.  I was very tired.  There isn't a word for how tired I was at that time. 

What can you do to keep the artist flame burning while pouring yourself out in dedication to spouse, children, job, or caring for a parent?  Many can attest to the fact that it's not always easy to be an artist while life is happening.  I felt lost, trying to find the way back to feeling like a real artist.  While visiting with other artists it was hard to say, "I'm an artist."  I fought the urge to say, "I used to be an artist."  I wondered how to keep some aspect of art interest alive during that season of my life. 

I've been formulating in my mind, what tips and encouragement I might give another artist in that place right now.  I know it feels like you are the only one but please take heart!  It will not always be like this... and there are ways you can keep the flame from going out.

5 Ways to Keep Your Artistic Flame Alive

1.  Squeeze some art into the between-moments.
Pause and give some thought to what you can make time for with your current restraints.  What can you do with short bits of time?  When you're waiting to pick up children from school?  When you're in the waiting room for dental check-ups?  While waiting for sports practice to end?

For me, it was reading magazines like The Artist's Magazine and Watercolor Artist as a quick afternoon reward while kiddos had rest time.  I've gone through them and added sticky notes to help me find favorite tips.  Now there's Pinterest!  Now is the time to get started gathering ideas for projects.  Find ideas that can be done in small amounts of time.  Find ideas for projects in the future when life changes once again.

Three books I love looking through...just lovely ideas to ponder over in the few quiet moments.  Watercolor A New Beginning by Ann K. Lindsay is just fantastic for beginners.  She's encouraging and hopeful, while giving a well-rounded foundation for watercolors.  Watercolor Made Easy by Janet Walsh is another valuable beginner's book.  The photos break it all down into simple to follow progression.  The Artistic Mother by Shona Cole will delight the senses with fantastic photography of lovely projects.  Her Introduction is titled, Why Should Mothers Make Time to Create Art?  In this book, you'll find inspiring ideas for tying photography into a variety of unique projects.

I enjoyed listening to creative podcasts while I cleaning the kitchen.  The Creative Mom Podcast was my favorite.  Amy, the creative mom, brings us along on her daily journey with whichever method she's exploring.  She's taken a break now but hopefully she'll be back soon.  Here's a link to the beginning episodes of the Creative Mom Podcast.   I've now discovered Artists Helping Artists podcast.  After listening to a couple of episodes, I'm excited to return for more.

If you'd like to explore more: Here's a link to 5 Podcasts to Spark Your Creative Soul by Rebekah Nemethy from

Watch the artists on PBS.  Just having a bit of time to get in touch with that part of your personality helps so much!  Search online for your local listings.  Gary Spetz' Painting Wild Places! With Watercolor airs on Fridays at 1 pm here in Montana.  Gary Spetz' website has more available.

2.  Engage your children in art.  
Watercolors, crayons, colored pencils and oil pastels are really fun and easy for them to use.  Sidewalk chalk is a great outdoor activity...let them draw on the side of the garage!  Hose it down later!  I remember walking outside to check on my son and he had drawn an apple tree mural on the back of our house.  It was so beautiful and not worth scolding him.  We had several fun art activity afternoons; I photographed a lot of their work.  Photographs will most likely last longer than the art itself.  When they discovered I was painting at my art table, they would get excited and say, "I want to paint, too!" and how could I turn them away?  I couldn't.  I didn't.  They still know that they can go make an art project anytime they like.  Did you know there are window markers and window crayons?  I recommend the markers...the crayons take a lot more work to clean from the glass.

Oh, quick tip:  Draw with Crayola markers on paper.  Take brushes and water...and paint over the drawn lines.  Instant watercolor effects!  Quick, fun, and kids can enjoy the experience, too.

(Now, we take a bunny trail off to see cute artwork.)

Taitum's lovely little puppy with a butterfly on it's nose.  There's a nice variation in the blues of the sky.  Children's art is just precious, don't you think?

A powerful volcano erupts as rocks come crashing down upon the trees below.  T.J. loved to create action and motion with excitement in his artwork.  He later moved on to pirate ship battles on the open seas.

Here we have a tiger striped cat with winking eye.  Taitum's furry subject has a very pleasing smile.

This one is just fun!  I'm sure there's a story but I can't tell you what it is.  Sister and brother, outside, maybe tennis with a tennis ball in flames?  I get more enjoyment just loving the soft washes of blue and bright reds and yellows.


3.   Photography goes anywhere and anytime.  
Take your camera or smartphone or tablet everywhere.  Keep it charged and ready to go.  I always have my camera!  I took a camera with me wherever we went.  My children are no longer phased by taking up to 300-500 photos a day.  You are already giving so much of yourself, this is one way to take care of you.  My eyes were aware, tuned in to what was all around me.  Because of it, my skill for framing the composition in the view finder really developed.  Over the past ten years, my collection of art references is incredible.  Now, there's time to start using them.

In that raft, I brought my camera in a freezer zip-lock bag and my basic travel art kit.  I enjoyed the view of the lake, mountains and lake shore all alone.  My children, on the shore were running and yelling and splashing...while my husband kept them safe and occupied.  Please...just 5 more minutes.

My most bare-bones-simple art kit for weekend outings consists of watercolor paper in a zip-lock bag, juice container for water, brushes, and travel watercolor set.  Paper towels and a sponge are in there as well.  The reference books cover flowers, plants and berries of Montana and the Rocky Mountains.

4.  Change up your medium and method.
Maybe the type of art you do will need to adapt to life right now.  More sketching, art journaling, rubber stamping... what would be more practical for the circumstances?  Remember this is not forever.  Rubber stamping fell into being my outlet for birthday and thank you cards.  I wish I had tried Yupo synthetic paper all those years ago.  Open up your mind to other alternatives.  I know I was feeling like none of it was REAL art but that's not really the point.  Shut off the voice that says it's not authentic.  This is all about being creatively connected now.

Rubber Stamping and Greeting Cards
Start with a few beautiful stamps, a black Stazon ink pad, and card stock.  Add a bit of colored string, a paper punch and a roll of washi tape.

My current plan for the next set of cards, I place the bird stamp on a watercolor paper background.  The soft washes of watercolor will be a great place for this pretty little bird.

ICAD or Index Card A Day

I didn't stick with it but others have with great success!  I started last summer and then felt spurred on to do more with my art.  Using standard index cards and the art supplies of your choice, do your creative thing with an index card.  I cut watercolor paper to the size of an index card so I could use watercolors with better success.  It's a more manageable project to work into each day.  Tammy with Daisy Yellow organizes a 100 day challenge during June and July.  Here's a link for more information on ICAD 2016.  She'll have more information up in April 2016.  She'll give a list of idea prompts; it's up to you whether you use them.

The few index cards that I did complete.

Day #1 of ICAD 2015

Sharing a bit of doubt and hesitancy, I wrote down a challenge to myself.  It's so worth being brave, finding that the creative spirit is still alive.  There's so much waiting for my brush to describe with shape, light, and color!

Day #8 of ICAD 2015

This is a quick little watercolor (#7)  that came from the ICAD 2015, which is now framed and on display near my desk.  I can't believe it came from playing around, exploring with no grand expectations.  See there?!  An ICAD led me to achieving more and feeling excited about art again.

5.  Examine your routine for your best creating time.
Look at your daytime schedule.  When are you at your best for art?  Morning or afternoon or evening?  Are weekends better?

For me, I've learned that I can get a load of laundry going and start the dishwasher first.  Anymore and I'll be sucked into housekeeping mode.  Getting the house clean first might feel good but I'm so tired; drawing and painting take a lot of energy, too.  If I'm all drained when I get to the art table, I'm not going to do my best work.  In the end, I just feel cheated.  Not all of it needs to get done today.

I usually try to be in the solarium/art studio by 10 am.  That gives me a block of 3 hours before lunch.  I return in the afternoon for about 2 hours.  I am learning that the remaining housework can wait until late afternoon.  I can fold laundry and do the ironing in the evenings.  I am learning to keep the quiet daytime hours for art related creating time.

When you're aware of the pockets of time, keep in mind the projects you could work on then.  Fill a basket or bin with the basic supplies needed.  Then when the time is right, pull out the basket and give it a go!  It's going to take a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for you.

Now, how about you?  

Do you have some helpful suggestions of your own?  

Can you relate with a creative desire that fights the routine?  

How have you been able to blend art into the fabric of life?

What's your favorite way to add a little art touch to the in-between moments?

I am currently working on a series of four paintings of poppies.  I've been finding it a challenge to get back into the groove of painting.  Feeling pulled in a variety of directions, trying to keep social media updates coming, I know it's painting I need to be making top priority.  Yesterday, I spent some time playing around with making short videos of my painting process.  A new goal of mine: one day I'll have brief videos to share.

So let's meet up back here soon!

-she must make art.

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