Before I had children, if I had an idea for an illustration, I could dash into my home office and start working on it right away. I could stay up until two in the morning if I wanted, just to work on my art.
Then I had children. My office turned into the nursery. I couldn’t stay awake past 10 pm if I wanted to. There was no time for art just for art's sake, and I questioned whether it was something I should be making time for anyway. But here's what I learned:
If you are an artist, and you remove art-making from your routine entirely, you may be neglecting a big part of your best self.
I realized my approach to art-making was going to have to shift. I set out to find solutions to balance my creative life with this new, wonderful (also hectic, messy, sleepless) life that I had as a mother.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Make a traveling studio
I filled a small backpack with my most essential drawing supplies. Wherever my infant fell asleep for a nap, I pulled out the backpack and spread out next to her. Some days I threw my backpack in the front seat of the car. If the kids fell asleep in their car seats after a day in the park, instead of sitting in the car and waiting until they woke up, I opened my travel notebook and began drawing.
2. Set quick timelines and limited colors
I started working smaller and faster. I set my alarm so I knew what time to put down the pencil no matter what. Narrowing down supplies and pre-picking a small palette of colors actually made me more focused.
3. Create an Art To-Do list
Just because I had morphed into a busy new mom didn't mean creative ideas stopped coming to me. So in addition to my shopping list, I started an “Art To-Do List”. Any time I had an idea for a new drawing, I added it to the list.
Writing down my ideas gave them value, and that felt good.
Later I would scroll through the list to see what I really wanted to make. A lot of things never got made, and that was OK. But if an idea was important to me, I found the time to see it through (and sometimes I made it in the car!).
4. Create with your kids by your side
Spread out paper and supplies and start drawing next to your child. Chances are they are going to want to participate. Don’t worry about an end goal. Just draw. Let your lines overlap with theirs. Let them pick colors for you. Talk about the drawing out loud. You may be surprised to find how freeing it is for you, and how fun it is for them. And if you’re lucky, you just gained a half hour of creativity time alongside your favorite little person.
Maybe you can’t make everything at the speed and the volume that you used to. But if you use that as an excuse to stop producing entirely, you’ll end up feeling empty.
SO WORK WITHIN THE POCKETS OF TIME YOU HAVE, THE SUPPLIES YOU CAN CARRY, AND SET NEW GOALS THAT ARE ATTAINABLE.
Through your example, your children will learn that art can exist wherever we are, and with whatever material we can find. And you never know, they might be the one to inspire your next great big idea.
Do you know what it feels like to crave more personal art time? Let me know if you've found solutions that work for you.