Art Before and After Children

Hello my dears! I’ve been so busy making art for the #100day project I forget sometimes how truly difficult making art used to be for me. It was never difficult to actually draw or paint. I wanted to so badly and had such a passion for it that that work never seemed hard, even though many times I had to re-work a picture many times.

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My children did become excellent models and helped me to learn to draw people and faces the way no other class had. I am so very thankful for them and the important part they played in helping me become a better artist!

No, art became very difficult to fit into my life. Whew, that is hard to write and sad. But the reasons are important. I was having babies, raising children, working, and all the time that goes into that. Once I had any free time I usually fell alseep!

I had a wonderful art education in a college that I loved with professors that actually taught us to paint and draw realistically. I did not know just how rare this was until I started looking at grad schools. Chanting Buddist prayers and throwing paint at old doors is not what I am paying my hard-earned money to learn. (Yes, that was a real example of a “star” grad student at a college my friend went to.)

Instead, we were drilled in art truths and led on creative journeys using those truths. I still remember the lesson on picking colors for shadows and how complimentary colors worked well for the depth they need. I went home, got out my Paddington bear I had always wanted to paint and using the truths I learned, I was successful beyond what I thought possible!

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Sorry for the poor picture- this is in a frame by a window!

My heart sang as I did art, but it sang too as I fell in love with my precious babies. It was so hard to set up to paint, especially in our tiny house at the time. There was no where to put a huge palette and a jug of water. Balancing a half sheet of watercolor paper stapled to a board was impossible while holding a little one. And littles are so curious about what we do. I couldn’t keep their hands out of the paint or off of the brushes or the paper!
Drawing wasn’t much easier. I have many drawings with baby scribbles on them. They are cute and fun now, but back then were just frustrating!
Even after they were older it was still difficult. Time was never on my side and a half sheet of watercolor paper took a long time to finish. Dear readers, I just stopped doing art! It just didn’t seem worth it. Every once in a while I would draw, but I didn’t paint for years!

I promise this story has a good ending. Here it is:

First, I went to go back to school to get my teaching certificate. I had wanted to be an art professor but we never had money for grad school and I didn’t get accepted to the only one in our state to offer an MFA at the time. Anyway my DD was about 2 1/2 at the time. My professor, Jackie Knapp, had us use journals to draw in and record our thoughts. This was the first time I had ever done something like this! My daughter was in daycare half the day because I was in class, so I had some time to myself to do art. That journaling really woke up a passion inside me. The best part? The journal was small and portable. It was easy to get it out and to use, and easy to keep it away from curious fingers! Moleskine had just come out with their sketchbook line and they were (and still are) lovely and perfect for a busy Mom.

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I started to draw again! But I still wasn’t painting. And I wouldn’t really paint again until 5 years later! I had had another baby, my DS, I was working as a teacher, and then we moved to the house we live in now. I was so excited that I would have room to have a studio! This, I thought, is what I need. A “room of one’s own,” that would allow me to paint. But it wasn’t a studio that was important. I first chose a room on the third floor for a studio but quickly gave this up after paying the electric bill to run the a/c up there in the sweltering summer. No paintings came from that as I was too far away from my children and they inevitably followed me upstairs, it inevitably turned into a playroom for awhile.

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I was also reading “Drawn from New England” a biography of Tasha Tudor by her daughter, Bethany Tudor. This lovely book showed me that I could be an artist and a mother at the same time. Tasha just worked at her kitchen table, or took her sketchbook with her in her sewing basket. I started to have real hope that I could juggle this.

Then, one day I found out about travel watercolor kits. I don’t know how I had missed these all my life, but I don’t think they were really around my area until a few years ago.  I saw one online and bought one off of E-Bay. I didn’t have high hopes, but I did have a Moleskine watercolor journal waiting when it arrived. I’ll never forget that day. It was a snow day and I was at home with my family. I painted some of my favorite Fisher-Price Adventure People. I. Was. Hooked.

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This box is very petite (about 3″x6″), but packs a lot of power!

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It was so easy and small and portable and you could pack it up and take it anywhere- all over the house, outside, traveling! And the paint was artists’ grade watercolor, which I had never used! How can that be? Five years of art school and always student grade- it was cheaper friends. I will never go back. This paint was luscious, easy to mix, easy to blend, just gorgeous and bright! (All colors are Winsor & Newton artist grade.)

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Then I went on a hunt. I found other things to make art making easier. Travel watercolor brushes that you could close so the bristles wouldn’t get ruined by a toddler, bags to keep my kits in, a 1/2 size French easel I could throw in the car, more small journals, and lots of colored pencils! Friends, I have been in art heaven ever since, and have never looked back.

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Of course, over the years as my babies grew into children, things became easier. They moved out of my bed into their own, developed their own interests (my daughter now paints too!) and (sadly, Lol) started to leave me alone! I have more time now, but it makes it so much easier to paint when I don’t have to get out all the studio-sized art supplies. My mini studio just hangs around in a basket and I take it everywhere with me so I can do art all day long!

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I haven’t used a full-sized palette or easel for over 14 years! But I use my little studio almost every day. During the school year I do my whole evening routine after school so that dinner is ready and cleaned up quickly, lunches are packed, I’ve exercised, etc. Then I have a lovely couple of hours to potter around with my art supplies before bed.

I did get a studio, just a couple of years ago. We gave a lot of furniture away and moved our Heywood-Wakefield dining set upstairs to the spare bedroom. It fit beautifully and now everyone congregates there to work on art or be on a laptop. But I still prefer my little portable studio!

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I want this post to encourage you to do whatever it takes to make your passions fit into your life. I hope, if you are struggling making art, you find some good ideas here. If you want to make art, but don’t feel that you are “good at it,” I also want to encourage you to keep going. I have used Sketchbookskool for many years as a wonderful resource to inspire me and to hone my skills. They have classes for all levels with wonderful artists. Here they are on Youtube with lots of free, short video lessons perfect for busy artists!

With love and arty encouragement to you from Kansas Street,

-Jaime

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