Carving Out Time For Art with Ashlee McClung

“Squeeze the time in somewhere, anywhere! Even if you feel like you’re moving at a snail’s pace (like I often feel) you’re still moving and that’s better than not moving at all.”


I met Ashlee McClung through the online creative community, and have been so impressed with the way she has thrown herself into painting this past year. If you read her About page on her website, you’ll be even more inspired. I like that she is so candid about what she’s tried in the past, how her dreams and goals have changed, and how she keeps evolving to find what feels right for her and her family. This line in her About page made me smile extra wide – “Mark and I both agree that becoming parents gave us some kind of crazy drive to reach for our dreams.”

How wonderful is that? How much does that go against what society (at least in America) is constantly telling new parents? That you will never be able to pursue your dreams, find the time, get any sleep, insert X negative comments, etc. Sure, being a parent is insanely hard. I am writing this on a Sunday after what feels like several hour long battles trying to have my son eat and maybe go to the bathroom finally. But, I snuck in an hour to paint instead of folding laundry, and man did that feel good. So kudos to the McClung family for being inspiring and awesome. Thank you for sharing, Ashlee.Ashlee-McClung-Artist

Hello! I’m Ashlee, a 30 year old artist living in Dallas, Texas (originally from Beckley, West Virginia). I love painting with with bright, happy colors and playing with different angles and shapes. I also have an interest in graphic design, interior design, and photography. I have one daughter, Emerson, who is 2 years old. I graduated college with a degree in elementary education and taught first and second grade for about 4 years before I called it quits to pursue a more creative path.

Emerson attends a Mother’s Day Out program (an affordable preschool-like option we have in Texas) three times a week from 9-2. The other two weekdays are spent with me at home and on the weekends we’re lucky to have my husband Mark home with us.


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

While I was pregnant I had pretty much decided that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom and that I would try to get back into a business/career when she was older. Things changed in a huge way for me after Emerson was born, I became extremely inspired and felt the need to really do something with myself (which came as a big surprise, I did not anticipate feeling that way at all).

Before I had Emerson I was not as aware of time and not structured with the time I did have, and didn’t set goals like I do now. When Emerson was a newborn and spent a lot of time sleeping in my arms, I read on my phone and really started getting into instagram and found some amazingly talented and inspiring women. I also spent (way too much) time on Pinterest and found enormous amounts of inspiration there as well. I found a couple of bloggers/writers that really set a fire in me (Elise Blaha and Tiffany Han). The blogs led to podcasts, which I listened to when the only way I could get Emerson to sleep was driving her around around in the car. It was like the dots were slowly connecting for me the first year of her life. I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in years a little before her first birthday.


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?

Oh it was very difficult when I first started getting into painting to find the time. Basically, if she was asleep, I was painting (and her naps were unpredictable and usually short in those early days). After she started attending her Mother’s Day Out program, it became much easier. The time I have while she is at school is sacred to me. I don’t run errands, shop, or sit on the couch. I go into my studio, turn up my music and I don’t come out until it’s time to go pick her up. But even having this time is sometimes hard because painting is only one piece of the puzzle when you’re running a small creative business. So although I have that time and I would devote every minute of it to painting if I could, I also have to write blog posts, take product photos, edit said product photos, get items ready for shipment, answer emails, and respond to social media.

There are times when I have to give up sleep and get up early or give up family time so that I can finish a painting. My husband and I got rid of cable so I don’t really watch TV anymore (I really miss HGTV though). My advice – squeeze the time in somewhere, anywhere! Even if you feel like you’re moving at a snail’s pace (like I often feel) you’re still moving and that’s better than not moving at all.


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? 

Making art is my therapy. It makes me happy, it makes me feel like I’ve completed something, it gets out my creativity energy. It makes me a better me and Emerson deserves the best me. I hope she sees that you truly can do what you love and to follow your passions. Always follow your passion.


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 paint in my “studio” which is really an extra bedroom in my house. I love that my room is all white- white walls and white floors. If I could improve the space I would definitely add more windows. Emerson loves going into my studio. She doesn’t get to visit it often but when she does we paint and color together.


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 husband and I don’t have any family near us so finding childcare was something I knew I had to do if I ever wanted to start taking my art more seriously. In Texas there are Mother’s Day Out programs that are much more affordable than a typical day care/pre-school and I am so thankful to have this resource available to me. I would say the thing I struggle with the most is keeping up with the house and laundry. When I’m home working I sometimes have tremendous guilt if my house is a mess and I’m not cleaning it. This is something I’m working on and trying to get better with by daily maintenance. I know there are a million cleaning schedules and cleaning calendars on Pinterest but I’ve found one that I always go back to and I feel like it’s pretty simple and manageable. 


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

I would love to work with the Land of Nod or West Elm. I would love to get my hands on a wall and do a huge outdoor mural, and maybe a children’s book down the road.


Thank you again, Ashlee! Good luck on those big dreams. Maybe you, Jaimie Myers and Hannah Betzel should all paint a huge mural together someday!

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