How having a kid has impacted my work as an artist

by Molly Mansfield

 

Though my husband and I waited quite a while to have a kid, we always knew we wanted a family. I never really thought through though how this would affect my making art and how little time I would have after becoming a mom. And yet, I couldn’t’ve imagined the breakthroughs I would have in my work and the joys of discovery I would share with this fresh young mind.

I have been painting for over 10 years now, but before my little Luther was born I worked solely with oil paints. I struggled for years with finding vision and what I wanted to say with my work. When I painted I felt like I was just refining my technical skills rather than really expressing myself. 

 

 

After my son was born I found myself with a lot less time and I started experimenting with watercolor. Very quickly I started to envision my future with this new medium. I spent about a year playing and experimenting and I slowly began to develop a style. As a new mom, watercolor was so much more accessible to me with the ability to start and stop at any point, minimal cleanup, less toxic, and the ability to paint from my kitchen table. It was a hard decision to officially make the switch. Going from “oil painter” to “watercolorist” just didn’t sound good. But I started paying more attention to myself and realized that when I thought about starting an oil painting, I hesitated and came up with so many excuses about why now was not a good time. During the same period, I couldn’t stop thinking about my new work in watercolor. It consumed all of my thoughts, and filled all of my free moments. For the occasion to paint, I quit watching tv, I quit other forms of crafting, I gave up my neat freak tendencies and let the house be a little more messy, I didn’t even want to go out. (Not that I ever did, I am a major introvert and this whole writing a blog post thing, scares the bejesus out of me.) It was then I realized that I loved this and decided to allow myself to evolve and grow as an artist instead of staying safely inside of this box that I had subconsciously put around my work. Once I came to this conclusion, I felt so much freedom and the inspiration really began to flow.

As a parent, i want to show enthusiasm for my son’s interests, and oftentimes this means letting go of my agenda to enjoy with him what he is engaged with in each moment. My little boy is very curious and observant. So I forgo watching the pigs when we visit the farm in order to collect sticks. I let go of my idea of getting some exercise when we go on walks in order to stop every 3-4 steps to identify a flower or pocket a sacata shell. Luther has slowed me down and enlarged my interest in the world. The world is so big and there are so many things to understand and each one deserves one’s full attention. The way that this translates into my work, is that it has allowed me to notice some of my simplest and most delightful moments as a child, of being around plants. I basically grew up at my families garden center. I have so many Images in my memory of plants in pots in trays in rows that are very dear to my heart. It seems like a no brainer that I should be making paintings about these experiences, but it took a sweet, shaggy haired, barefooted, dirty little boy to show me that what I have and really want to share is worth talking about. 

 

 

Lastly, having a kid has pushed me to get my life organized and get stuff done. I am a full time mom, but am more productive now than before I had a kid. Time has become very precious to me and I’ve stopped wasting it away. I started using a paper planner for the first time in my life. I write down everything. I set aside the mornings to play and engage, undistracted with my boy. There are times when i’ll give him an activity that will engage him for a bit while I answer emails and do other admin stuff. I do Instagram, planning, sketching or reading during a short nap and I have 3 hours after he goes to bed before I have to be in bed, to paint. I try to start painting promptly at 8 so I can get my 3 hours in! Scheduling has allowed me to be more intentional both when I’m working and resting. I can relax and stop thinking about my to do list and even turn off my phone because I know that adequate time is already scheduled to get my work done. 

Of course there are things about being a parent that are really really hard. Like not having any time, money, privacy. But the joys are indescribable. My art practice is now so much the better because of having this amazing human in my life. Here’s to having kids AND following your dreams.