Carving Out Time for Art with Suze Ford

I met Suze Ford through the thriving creative community on social media and was instantly drawn to her kindness, love of bright colors, and enthusiasm. I enjoy her insight on life as a full time artist and how she runs her business to make it work for her. She did a great job participating in The 100 Day Project and I was inspired by her dedication and ability to complete her 100 paintings in those 100 days (especially since I still have 8 left!) You can read about Suze’s journey on her 100 Day Project on her blog here. Recently, she has been flourishing on Periscope, having fun and posting live videos of herself painting in the studio.
Thank you Suze for being a fantastic role model to your children and to other creative people looking to find time to pursue their own passions. I’m glad to have you as part of this series!
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Tell us a little about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?

My name is Suze Ford. I paint colorful, inspiring, oil paintings with a flair of whimsy and abstract expressionism. I have a 16 month old and a 5 year old. Both Girls. I am a full time working artist. I do have my studio and office in my home so I can work as efficiently as possible. My children are at home with me, and my mom helps be through out the day juggle their needs and work.

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Has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?

My work has always been about finding serenity with in the chaos that happens in our day to day world. Each painting is a story that I feel needs to be told to connect with viewers. My stories have been told from a woman’s perspective. Now I have an added dimension of the viewpoint of a mother of two girls. Since having children my work has continued to grow along with my business. I create work just as much, if not more than I did before. My kids are “my why”. I create work to show them that they can pursue their dreams just like I am. I want them to believe in themselves and be inspired to create the life they want to live.

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Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?

Life as a parent is not easy, whether you are working a traditional job, entrepreneur or taking care of your kids and household full time. I think all parents can agree on this. I feel like every person has to find what works for them and their families to function and feel happiness. Create your business so it works with the life you want to live.
Being a creative entrepreneur adds in an extra element. The tasks of running a business are all there. But the importance of creating relevant fulfilling work is so important. After all, that is why most of us are artists. Right?
COTFA-Suze-Ford-Artist For me I have become an incredible “multi-tasker”. I carve out time every day to make work. Even if it is for 30 minutes. When you have limited time you learn to make the most of it. My time is as productive as it can possibly be. I feel like you have to take yourself seriously enough as an artist to dedicate your time. I don’t want to personally wake up one day and feel like I wasted the gifts I have been given.
My advice is to make your creative process a priority. I personally choose to get in my studio in the morning time. This is when I feel the most energized, with a cup of coffee in hand! If life get in the way of my schedule through out the day, at the very least I have dedicated time to my craft. If you want to do something with your art and grow it into a business, give it the respect and time that it takes the very best you can. If you take it seriously like you would any job you will see the benefits. You will begin to respect yourself more as an artist, and others will too.
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We all can make excuses for reasons not to create work. But, you have to tell yourself that any mood is a good one to make work. It will feed you to make honest work, that I think connects with people the most. So, create if you are having a bad day. Create if you are having an amazing day. Just create something.
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One other tip I will give is, make a space dedicated to your work. Have an area that if you go and paint, you can leave things out, where you can come back to it. It also will help that you have a separate area you can call your own. As a mother I know I put myself at the bottom of the list a lot. But, having my space to get away and work makes a huge difference for me. And, you don’t have to spend valuable time picking up, and setting up before and after every creative block of time you have.
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Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?

I have recently build my studio and office space in my house. I love it! I can’t see working any other way. I am able to be the most productive at home while still managing a household and enjoying my kiddos! I get hugs, kisses, and giggles through out the day. So, I don’t feel the “mommy” guilt as bad. It isn’t easy though. Sometimes work has to get put on hold because of my children’s needs. It is not easy to balance all of these things while I work at home. But, it is worth it. And, I thank God that I have a mother that helps make it possible.
I love to create with my kids. My 5 year old loves crafts and coloring. She is quite talented really. I even let her paint with my oils with my assistance! I have even created pieces with her that I see almost as a collaboration. Her freeness of mark making and inhibition inspires me. If I could bottle it up and drink it I would. She makes me a better person, and artist.
 COTFA-Suze-Ford-ArtistEvery day feels like chaos. But, I like to say its an organized chaos. Some days I feel overwhelmed and might shed some tears. I wish for a life where I could clone myself! Ha! But, I know that my life has so much more meaning with my family. And, I know that I am pursuing the life that I am supposed to live
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How does being an artist make you a better mother to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you? 

I am hoping that my kids see that they can make a living doing something they love. Being an artist is a legitimate way to build a business and lively hood. In fact I will be as bold to say that successful artists out there making it in the world are some of the hardest working people I know. I want my girls to see that if you work hard and you have a passion you can achieve your dreams. I want them to know the importance of being yourself, and listening to your heart. Don’t let opinions of others or fears get in the way of your vision. To be successful in life you don’t have to go about it in the traditional manner, and down the stereotypical path. Blaze your own trail!

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Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?

My best tip is to try to find a family member that is willing to help. I know we all don’t have that luxury. My oldest child went to half day Pre-K school.This little bit of time was not only great for me, but awesome for her to learn and grow as well.
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I also, outsource things that are not my core expertise. For example I have all of my canvas made by a company. There is no way I have time for that, and my time is better utilized creating work, which in turn makes me money. I also have a marketing person, and web designer that helps me do things that it would take me hours to learn on my own.
My lifestyle has changed drastically. But, in the best way possible. I have weeded out the things in my life that are not important and don’t contribute to the joy of my family or the success of my business. I have wonderful friends that I make quality time for, but don’t pursue relationships that are not healthy for me. I feel an entire new purpose in my lifestyle. I have important core values that faith that guide me along the way.
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Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?

I have a huge long list of goals! But, my most immediate project that I am working on is a show with another mother artist, and friend of mine Jenny McCall. We are collaborating on a big show at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center here in Kansas City. The show itself is about celebrating and finding humor in life being an artist and a parent. Completing a show of this magnitude I hope inspires other artists to pursue a large goal they have set for themselves and not let anything get in their way.

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Carving Out Time for Art with Amy Hartelust

Today’s inspiring and candid interview comes from the lovely Amy Hartelust based in Memphis, Tennessee. In a culture where women are sometimes conditioned to pretend that everything is always fine, most of us know that is usually not the case, especially during huge life transitions! Thank you to Amy for opening up about her own struggle during that tough year of motherhood, and showing how having a child (and teaching children) influenced a change in her art and style. I think that she’s quite the role model to her young daughter – and showing others how to be the best version of yourself. I cannot wait to see your dream project of a “Young Apprentice” workshop come to life.

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Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
My name is Amy Hartelust and I am painter, educator, and designer based out of Memphis, Tennessee. My work is a study in floral arrangements and the flora and fauna of the South. After six years of teaching art full-time at an elementary school, I will be transitioning to full-time studio work with my 3 and a half–year- old daughter, Lily, by my side.

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Has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?

I think I began to see a major change in my process and approach to painting when I began teaching young children. This was about a year before I had my own daughter. Children have this unbelievable connection to what they create. Their marks and instincts are untarnished and their enthusiasm and confidence is contagious. I began to chase this same energy in my own work and as a result my painting style completely transformed.

When my daughter was born, that transformation only continued to grow. I gave up oils for acrylics because I wasn’t comfortable having certain mediums and chemicals around the house. That transition felt a little like learning to walk again in the beginning, but ultimately I think it has improved and complimented my style of painting.

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Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?

Finding the time to create can most definitely be a challenge when you have a little person who demands so much of your time and energy. I think the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is conditioning my brain to get into creative gear at a moment’s notice. I know when my most productive time of the day is, when those creative synapses are firing, and when the light in my studio is just right. But unfortunately, I can’t always count on being able to drop everything and devote all of my attention to my work. Luckily, my daughter loves to be in my studio with me so I am able to steal some time during the day to work with her and then I also work very early in the morning and late at night. I am a firm believer that if you are passionate about something you will make it work!
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How does being an artist make you a better mother to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you? 

After my daughter was born, I went that entire first year without making a single piece of art. I think I was overwhelmed with my new role as a mom and wasn’t quite sure how being and artist would fit into my new life.  I think that if you are an artist, suppressing your need to create is an incredibly unnatural thing. I spent that entire year walking around as a shell of myself. I was mentally and physically hurting and it was affecting everyone around me, including my daughter.

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I began to realize that my daughter was not getting the best version of me. She wasn’t getting to see the real me at all. So, I began to make art again and I lit up inside.As a result, my daughter did too.

It is so important to me that my daughter works with me in my studio. I feel like I have an obligation to show her that it’s okay to chase down your dreams and be true to what you love. I want her to be the best version of herself too.

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Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
Right now I am working out of a small spare bedroom in my home. It has wonderful natural light and it has plenty of space for storing my paintings. Lily has her own little corner of the studio with her own small easel and art supplies. I have really enjoyed this space but I am looking to rent a professional studio space in the coming months. I just recently quit my job as an elementary art teacher and I am going to devote my time to painting and teaching some private lessons full time. I think moving my studio out of the home will be a way for me to separate work and home life and keep me from some of the distractions that come along with working from home. Right now, the plan is to have Lily continue to join me in the studio!
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Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
One of my biggest dreams is to create a “Little Apprentice” program through my studio. I would love to be able to work one on one with young students, helping them develop ideas and techniques that are meaningful to them in a working artist’s space. Eventually, I would love to offer some scholarship opportunities to students in the Memphis area, who might not be able to afford the experience otherwise.

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Carving Out Time for Art with Lynne Millar

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I’m so pleased to share this lovely interview with Lynne Millar. She blends painting and motherhood so well, and the joy she has for her life and family is evident in her work and photographs on Instagram. Thank you so much for sharing your insight and photos of your beautiful family, work and space with us, Lynne!
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IMG_7189Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
I’m Lynne Millar, 38. I live in the Central/Bay Area of California with my husband, Steve, and our four kids: a son, 14, and girls 11, 8, and 5. I spend my days home with them (and often their friends – we live in a fun neighborhood with lots of other kids so there is often a constant flow of children running in and out), and working in my studio (in the back of our garage).
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I’m on instagram (@artbylynnemillar) and my website is: lynnemillar.squarespace.com.
Has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
I’ve painted, created, and taken art classes since I was a child, but was the kind of artist who did not often show my work to others until a few years ago. I made a decision to be brave (sharing something so personal as art is super scary for me) and take myself seriously as an artist about four years ago. Without a doubt, being a parent hugely influenced that choice. I want my children to develop themselves to their fullest, and find joy in who they are and in their talents/interests – so attempting to set an example doing that for myself helped me overcome some of my personal shyness and lack of confidence. I think it’s important for them to see how hard I’m working to achieve my artistic goals, and also, to see that I often fail (I regularly make really bad paintings!), but don’t quit. When they were very young, I painted mostly with water-based media because it dried quickly and was relatively portable (I’d move my pile of art stuff around the various flat surfaces of our house so I could grab a few minutes of on my projects here and there). As the kids have gotten older and I worry less about someone small thinking solvent is lemonade or something horrible like that, I’ve transitioned to using mostly oil paints (although I still love, love, love gouache and watercolor).
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Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
Time is without a doubt the hardest part of attempting to be an artist and a mother. I read in your previous interview with Sonia Brittain her observation that having children made her a more efficient artist because her time is so variable. I totally relate. If I’m painting while my kids are around, which is often the case, I have one eye on my canvas and one on the whirlwind around me (and also my ears listening for suspicious silences, which never mean anything good here). When I’m not actively working, I store up ideas, thoughts and notes in my sketchbook or on my phone and when I find a minute, try and jump right in and work like a crazy woman.
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But, while navigating through the daily chaos and carving out any consistent time has been a challenge, I like to think that all the crazy adds a depth to what I’m trying to express through my art that wouldn’t be there if my life was simpler. And also I realize (with sadness, actually) that it’s just a short time before things will change. My youngest is in preschool now, with kindergarten on the horizon, so finally some blocks of time where I’m able to focus 100% of painting are emerging. I’m pretty regimented about those precious preschool hours – as much as humanly possible, I try to take care of other household business so that during that time I can put my head down and work.
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How does being an artist make you a better mother to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you? 
I love this question! Being an artist totally makes me a better mother. It gives our family direction: like pretty much every mom, I try to be very mindful about the kind of lives I’m facilitating for my kids. (Mind you, the operative word here is TRY – I have not figured out the application of this to brilliant effect, and my kids still watch plenty of TV.)  In theory, I want the paintings I create to reflect the reverence I feel for nature and God; the joy that beauty brings into our lives. But if I’m not making a conscious effort to draw those things into our family life, I can’t reflect them back out in my art (garbage in, garbage out, my dad always said). For that to happen, we try our best to read great books, fill the house with music that makes us happy, get outside as much as we can, and be kind people.
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(school art, above, our Wayne Thiebaud project; below, our Gee’s Bend quilt project)
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Being an artist has also helped me contribute to our school community, which has been SO satisfying. When my oldest son was in second grade I started coming in to his class to do art-history based art lessons (that’s actually what I earned my degree in, I was too scared to be graded on my art and so I studied great artists instead) and over the years other parents have joined in, and we’ve grown into a thriving art docent program (this past year every single class in our school had a docent, which made me incredibly happy). Preparing and teaching those lessons are consistent weekly highlights for me. Kids are so naturally creative and it always fills my bucket to watch them jump into new projects so fearlessly. Plus, it keeps me connected to the art history-loving part of myself, which is really important for my work as an artist.
Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
Up until a couple of months ago I painted mostly in my kitchen – my easel was usually set up right next to our island where I could pile my stuff and set up still lifes, etc. It was kind of nice because I was right in the middle of things, but also kind of bad because I was right in the middle of things.
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Since I’m getting closer to the kids being off at school for longer periods of time, we finally converted the back of our garage into a studio so I have a dedicated space to work in (hooray!). But my art stuff usually trickles back in because if I’m still working when the kids are home, I like to be in the general area where they are.
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Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?
I think my main tip here is to try and take yourself seriously as an artist, and let that seriousness inform your choices (where you have control over them). I say no to many things now that seemed a lot more important a few years ago, because I’m committed to paint every day (every possible day – but man, with kids, things come up!).  Mary Oliver, in her book A Poetry Handbook says: “Writing a poem [or painting a painting] … is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to keep them: count on it, nothing happens.” So – make serious and consistent appointments with yourself to make your art. Believe in yourself enough to respect and guard your own time.
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Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
My goals – ack! So many! I just want to get better! I still feel very held back by my lack of formal artistic training. I’ve tried really hard to make up the deficit by studying and practicing and taking classes over the years, but there are so many areas in my art that I would like to improve on. Lots of workshops I’m dying to take. This summer my goal is to really focus in on figure drawing.

Carving Out Time for Art with Marissa Lee Swinghammer

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Meeting another Marissa used to be a rare occurrence, and though it’s becoming more common these days, I still get excited. Especially when they have “one R and 2 S’s” like myself. It was a pleasure to reconnect with this particular Marissa (Marissa L. Swinghammer of Marissa Lee Fine Art) on Instagram this past year. I knew her from Flickr back in the day since she used to work primarily doing woodblock printing and I would stalk all the printing groups. Her work had so much color, texture, and was so organic. It has been a thrill to see how her style translates to watercolor. Marissa inspires me because she is always challenging herself to try something new, hone her skills, and share her work. I wasn’t very aware of urban sketching and group meet-ups until I saw the fun her and her daughter were having all over Europe. I cannot wait to follow her lead and attend a session someday soon in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale! Thank you so much for your time, Marissa. I can’t wait to see what you do next.


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Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
I am an American Artist, Urban Sketcher and Illustrator living in the U.K., exploring Europe one sketch at a time and collecting inspiration everywhere I go. I keep a small studio in the apartment that I share with my husband and two children and have found the minimalist lifestyle helps keep the stuff under control so I spend less time cleaning and looking for things and more time creating and being with my family. I have two daughters, aged 4 & 7.

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Has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?

My children are four and seven and a lot has changed as the two of them have grown up. I would say initially my inspiration dropped and then plummeted during the toddlerhood of the eldest and pregnancy of my second child. Pregnancy wasn’t easy and a newborn plus a speech delayed preschooler occupied the majority of my life for a season. Once we moved past that challenging parenting stage my creativity started coming back, maybe around three years ago. But things didn’t really take off until a year ago when I started keeping a daily sketchbook and started finding inspiration wherever I went.
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Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
When they were babies I had to give up printmaking. My 200lb printing press collected a layer of dust and various household items getting stored on it. When I started creating art again it was during stolen minutes that didn’t gel with the laborious time consuming and messy printmaking process. Eventually I started to print again but then a new love for drawing, sketchbooks and watercolors took over and printmaking is once again put on hold. My advice to new parents would be to use those stolen minutes to create whenever you can and don’t sweat the changes in how you work.
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How does being an artist make you a better mother to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you? 
I’m a rather miserable mom and person without art so by default making art makes me a better mother. My kids grow up seeing me go into my little home studio and always having drawing materials with me. I always have something for all three of us to sketch with. We kill time while waiting with sketchbooks and drawing instead of iPhones and tablets.
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Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?

We moved to the UK from Boston in January and I was lucky enough to get a studio space upgrade from the move. That space is mine. But I am also an urban sketcher who treats the whole world as my studio. I have a pen, sketchbook and little watercolor palette on me at all times. Art with the kids is done in the dining room where all three of us have space to spread out and be messy. In Boston I loved taking my older daughter to the last Saturday of the month free events at the ICA and view art, the waterfront and spend time sketching together. Now I go on sketchcrawls around Oxford with her! There is so much to draw and it’s such an easy city to navigate on foot with easy access to London when we wish to go bigger.

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Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?

When my oldest daughter started at a public pre-Kindergarten my youngest was fifteen months old I started a childcare swap with a local mom with a similar aged child. We kept that up for years until my family moved here. Those precious hours of alone time every week were life changing for me without the high cost associated with childcare. Finding creative ways to make time for art is an essential that I hope more full time moms with a creative passion find for themselves as well.

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Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
I am in transition currently and this question has kept me up trying to come up with the best response. The best response is the truth that I don’t know just yet. Ask me a year from now. Last year was all about skill building, this year is skill building plus networking. Living in a new country has given me so many opportunities for both but I am just getting my feet over here. I would like to go to Surtex and sign with an agent. Or maybe I would like to go back to grad school here in Oxford? The options are still very open for me. 
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Carving Out Time For Art with Kristine Brookshire

I met Kristine earlier this year and loved the bright palette she was using for her work (then known as Olive Twig Studio). It has been fun to watch her work grow this year as she’s switching gears a bit. I’m amazed at how she manages to paint at all while caring for her twin toddlers and an older daughter. Some days I struggle with one toddler, but I love her wording below about how this is a busy season of life but it’s a short one ! Thank you for sharing a sneak peak into your life, Kristine, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish this year and in years to come! 
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Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?

I’m Kristine Brookshire and I live in Southern California with my husband, my four year old daughter and my 20 month old boy/girl twins. I am at home with my three kids full time and I squeeze in time to paint when I can.

I sell my art in my Etsy shop KristineBrookshire.etsy.com and you can find me on instagram @kristinebrookshire and on Facebook.  

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Has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?

I definitely feel more inspired since becoming a mom. The creative side of my brain is always working. I keep a little sketch book in almost every room of the house to jot down an idea when it comes to me. When I started my business a little over 8 months ago (my twins were not even a year old then!) I was painting nursery art on wood. The more I got in the groove of painting again, the more it became about what I was interested in an less about kid stuff. 

I’ve also found that watercolor suits my life a lot more than acrylics. It’s so much easier to start and stop in little spurts throughout the day, less mess, and more portable. In the past my art was much more drawing based, but since having my twins I have been suffering from “mommy thumb” – which is like Carpal tunnel, but a different nerve that is being aggravated. Watercolor is easier on my hand than drawing too. 

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Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?

It’s hard to find time to create, but because taking care of my three young children is so physical, I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Sometimes I think I’m too tired to paint, but if make myself start, I always get a surge of creative energy and I’m able to put in a few hours. My husband travels abroad for work quite a bit, so it’s a lot of work taking care of all the little guys on my own, but once they go to bed I have the house to myself. Painting is such a more productive way to spend the evening than watching tv, and it even adds to the family income!

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How does being an artist make you a better mother to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you? 

I think it makes me a better mom, because my children can see me finding time to do something that I love, that makes me happy. I’m using my talent to make beautiful things, contribute to our family financially, and bring other people joy. 

Art is just a part of our daily life. My daughter knew all of her colors before she could count to 10 or say her ABCs. She roll-plays running an art business more than being a princess or fairy and I love it! She tells me she will sell me her art for “26” or that she needs to take her art to the post office.

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Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?

I have a little studio space in our laundry room. There is actually quite a bit of storage in there, and a sliding glass door, so there is fresh air and light. I can leave my art mess out and it doesn’t get in the way of our meals, and the kids won’t get into it (usually). I’ll often bring my watercolors downstairs to paint on the kitchen table though. My daughter has her own set pan watercolors, and she paints in a cookie sheet (less mess!). It’s so cute when she encourages me on what I’m working on. I wish the space was a bit bigger to be able to work large scale and work on the floor. It’s a very narrow room. At least San Clemente has nice weather year round, so I’m able to work outside sometimes. 

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Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?

I hire housecleaners once a month to do a deep clean of the house, because I need to save all my hand strength for my babies and my art! I’d much rather be painting than cleaning house, so a portion of my profits go to that and it’s so worth it. 

Every time I think I have a schedule down with the kids, they change! My twins just switched from two naps a day to one nap a day, so I’ve been readjusting. My oldest daughter will start preschool two days a week this fall so, that will be a new schedule that will hopefully give me a little more time to do art. It is just a busy season of life, but it so short, and it is a blessing be able to stay at home with my children.  

kristine painting

Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?

I’m planning on joining the my city’s local artist guild soon. I think it will be nice to meet some local artists and put my work in some local shows. I’d love to do large scale art again like I did while getting my BFA. Small scale art is just easier to do with my current season of life. Also, the instant gratification of painting small is good motivation while I’m trying to find my artistic voice again after a long dry spell. But I have big dreams for some big art! 

nude