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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.