Dear Laura and Friends,
I seem to write an annual post about being an artist and parent this time of year. HERE is last year’s post. I suppose I’ll make this an annual post. On the verge of spending a lot more time with my two young sons I always start to plan how to maintain my studio practice. I am primarily the caregiver in the summer given my hours as a teacher while my husband works full time (although he does have a very flexible schedule) but lately my schedule has changed and I have picked up some hours teaching at Redux Contemporary Art Center and Trident College.
This summer in between teaching and parenting I must squeeze in the time for a regular art practice. This is always a decision. I often hear people say they do not have time for their art practice and I know how that feels having a life full of responsibilities to a job (outside of being an artist), household, people, pets, garden, local organizations, reading, politics, etc (you can come up with a list of your own I am sure). In the beginning I always felt defeated by how little time I do get for my art in the summer. I want to be realistic of course, but I don’t believe the choice to stop working is the right one. I have done this and it has taken me months to get the gears going again. So, again, I say this is a decision.
I always have grand plans at the beginning of the summer and I usually get to perhaps 20% of them. That 20% is better than 0%! Sometimes I fall into the trap of saying “so many other people have so much more time than I do (insert whiny voice)”, but I now say f-that. I always have my mornings to write ideas, my evenings to be with my work, and the in between times to sketch or add a piece or two to a sculpture. These small movements forward are important and I now know they define and inform my practice as a whole. As a good friend told me “you must see your practice for the forest and not the tree”. Yes, when I think of twenty years from now and how I might look back at this time I have a feeling I will realize how raising my children and teaching are such an integral part of my process and that an ebb and flow of productivity is a natural element of that. And guess what….that is what I create art about! My work is all about being a woman, mother, and teacher.
Another important point is how acutely aware I am that to live in this century and have the right to even be an artist and mother is pretty amazing. It was not too long ago that this conversation would not even exist because women artists were not taken seriously by the general public. THAT is a great topic for another post.
My point in sharing all this is that so many mothers and fathers out there have this struggle and I wanted to say don’t stop working over the summer. Find a small thing that you work on every day or maybe it is just once a week. Maybe it is a time for reading that book on that artist you have been wanting to learn more about or some literature on contemporary art or seeing (taking the kids) to an art exhibit every couple of weeks. It is a great time to reflect and think if there really is no time for getting your hands dirty in the studio.
This summer I plan on developing a series of drawings I have been thinking about for the last few months. It will be a series about my experiences as a mother I can tell you that much, but I hesitate to expand further since I never really know where my thoughts will end up once I get into the work. I plan to work on this early in the mornings (I get up faithfully at 5:30am when I have a quiet house and nobody needs me) and tucked in between moments during the day (this is my first summer with my studio at home so I will be interested to see how much I do get done). I don’t work at night because I am just too tired and my creative brain just isn’t there.
I hope this helps all of you out there rethink the potential of summer if you are caring for young children. It is a great opportunity to take a deep breath with your children, spend some quality time with those you love, get things in perspective, write, read, and make the most out of pockets of time during the day. Everyone has pockets of time, it is just deciding to use them to your advantage rather than letting them slip away with the summer heat.