Last weekend, when Maddie was sick, it made me remember a wonderful morning just a couple of days before with two visiting artist friends from Reidsville. After combing the creations in Eclection, Vintage Jane, and Renew, we sat talking away at Amalfi’s about how to be artists in and around our lives as mothers. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart, as I have tried to work this thing out for nearly 16 years now…pursuing art and all that it encompasses from learning to creating, to exhibiting. Motherhood is perhaps one of the most interruptive jobs one could have. No two days are alike. Just when you get them into the school years, so many other things arise, visits to the doctor, dentist, orthodontist, sports. And of course, sick days halt whatever artistic goal or path you had hoped to pursue that day.
Suffice it to say that I’ve been, for many years, on a quest to find a sustainable art, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it that way. A couple of summers ago, on our trip to Michigan, we met up with old friends there. The wife’s job was to work with companies to make what they do more “sustainable”. As I listened to her describe what this meant, I gathered that her job was to help companies do what they want to do in a more humane and gentle way both for their employees as well as for their clients and to the environment. Over the long haul, these new or improved ways of doing things would allow for resources to not be used up, for employee satisfaction and less burn-out, and clients who feel served over a long period of time. Something about what she was saying made me think that this was what I had been trying to figure out in my artistic life. At the time, I felt I was actually finding the answer.
When I began to paint and draw in earnest at the age of 32, I did so in and around the busy life of a mom of little ones. I grabbed whatever time I could when my children were napping or asleep at night to paint and draw things that would hopefully be purchased in an art show or gallery. Several years into this, it began to feel very difficult to keep up this pace. I was schlepping paintings hither and yon to broaden the exposure of my artwork, while soccer games, gymnastics, church activities, etc. vied for the same slots as the openings for these shows. It was getting increasingly harder to justify the expense of framing all the works on paper (my preferred medium), to buy the tubes of paint, etc. It was also getting harder to find space in our small house to store these paintings if and when they didn’t sell in the exhibit or gallery. It felt incredibly hard to work as an artist of this kind, trying to keep it up. I got to a point where if I only had 30 minutes to paint, well that just wasn’t enough time to really do anything so I just didn’t do any “art” that day. Several of these days strung together and became a year, then two, where I didn’t do any drawing or painting.
Fast forward to this post here, when I discovered Peter Reynolds book, Ish and Danny Gregory’s book, The Creative License. I began to work (play) in a sketchbook, getting down all the “paintings” in my head, using any and every medium I enjoyed, in any and every method I wanted to. Total freedom. Easy on the pocketbook. Much easier to store. Portable. Do-able in and around a busy, chopped up, life of a mom.
What has been most lovely for me is to find working in a sketchbook to be a sustainable art that I can participate in no matter the circumstances of my life. Though I can still draw and paint for an art show when I want to, I am no longer limited to that. I can draw and paint anytime, anywhere: when my kids are sick, or at the orthodontist, or at a college orientation day, or on trips, or at the hospital, or ANYWHERE!
This may not be important to some artists, finding a sustainable art, but it has been to me. And one must find the artistic expression that is authentic to them! This is also why I love knitting and crocheting…a portable art form that can be sustained in and around a busy life as wife, mother, and teacher.
**Note: The above sketch was made along with My Balloon Tree post. Again, one of those times where the meaning of it is unclear while making it. I see it now with me standing outside my home, Balloon Tree in the backyard with an endless stream of lovely balloons of creativity flowing from it.