Carving Out Time for Art with Kristen Abbott

“I have found that I am so much more productive with the precious couple of hours I get during nap time than I used to be with an entire uninterrupted work day stretching before me. There is simply no time to distract myself with social media or other forms of procrastination during studio time. Small children have a way of making you more efficient with your alone time while periods spent in their company become decidedly less “productive”, in the best way possible.”

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I met Kristen Abbott on Instagram back when I would scroll through painter’s feeds I liked to see if there were any babies . I was looking for artists with small children to share their stories. I was thrilled when I saw her little girl so that I could pester that girl’s mom and ask her to be in my interview series! I’m so glad Kristen said yes, since she is a lovely person and an inspiration. I realize this is a recurring theme.

A woman has a baby and may have some time to relax and enjoy this new role, then they start to feel the itch to create again (usually once they start getting more sleep probably!). When they do finally create again, they see that they’re more efficient and productive than ever. They’re also more willing to say, “yes!” and put themselves out there. Isn’t that a wonderful antidote to all of the people who say you cannot have 5 minutes to yourself let alone create art and be a mother? I sure think so.

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Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?

Hello! I’m Kristen Abbott, an abstract painter with an affinity for texture and drippy color. I have loved to paint since I can remember but didn’t recognize it as a legitimate career path for me until the past 5 years or so. Working as the studio assistant for the director of a contemporary art gallery right out of college changed my trajectory as an artist and I have been hooked on being a professional painter ever since. There’s no going back now!

A couple months ago I moved to Denver, CO with my husband, Bo and our spunky 15-month-old daughter, Ellington. This move sparked a new series of abstract mountain-inspired landscapes that I’m really excited about. I knew moving to the mountains would change my work in some way, but I didn’t expect for it to be quite this literal. I love it when inspiration strikes in unexpected ways!

Kristen-Abbott-Artist
Photo Credit: Crystal Reddick

 

 

Kristen-Abbott-Artist
Photo Credit: Crystal Reddick

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

Painting has become even more of a prioritized activity since the arrival of Ellington. For the first 5 or 6 months after her birth, I was content to get to know her and figure out my role as “Mom.” At the half-year point I started itching to get back into the creative cycle. This was jump-started by placing my work in a curated boutique and saying “yes” to being the featured artist for a live painting event. That was just the motivation I needed to start painting again every day. It created a goal to work towards and a direction to go with a specific body of work. There were challenges and stressful points, but it was the best thing I could have done to get back on track with long term goals. I attended professional development artist workshops, learned in art critiques, participated in a show with the local art league, joined the encouraging Instagram art community, and challenged myself to paint for a few hours every day. Those hours may be broken up (like when baby will only naps for 1 hour at a time) but the more they happened, the more my work progressed. Crazy how that works.

Kristen-Abbott-Artist

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?

Some days I can’t wait to get into the studio and others I have to coax myself into just adding a few brushstrokes to a piece in progress. Usually that starts the fire and then I can get lost for hours (if they’re available) in the flow of painting.

I have found that I am so much more productive with the precious couple of hours I get during nap time than I used to be with an entire uninterrupted work day stretching before me. There is simply no time to distract myself with social media or other forms of procrastination during studio time. Small children have a way of making you more efficient with your alone time while periods spent in their company become decidedly less “productive”, in the best way possible.

Kristen-Abbott-Artist
Photo Credit: Crystal Reddick

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 hope that my love for art will enrich my children’s view of the world and culture and that it will give them a space to express themselves. When they see me continuing to pursue my passions in the midst of the hectic day to day, I hope that it will give them the desire to do the same.

I want Ellington to know her mother loves and values her above any career interest, but also that her mom is passionate about other things—like art. I want my daughter to see me working hard towards my goals, pushing the boundaries, not letting fear limit me and courageously asking for more opportunities.

Kristen-Abbott-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?

Before moving to Denver, I had a fabulous studio in my home. It was my favorite room in the house and definitely the hardest to leave behind. Right now, we are living in a condo during the transition and I am learning to work in a smaller space without compromising my love for large scale work. It’s a puzzle, that’s for sure. But one I’m determined to solve.

I have already enjoyed watching Ellington’s creativity and tenacity develop. She loves to “paint” (usually with a dry brush) on canvases that are twice as big as she is. It makes my heart happy every time to see her swish the brush with such abandonment and then carefully dip down into her little toddler squat to load more “paint” onto her brush from a dry palette. I am looking forward to this creative relationship’s continued evolution and for us to be able to collaborate on future projects.

Kristen-Abbott-Artist-Daughter
Daughter Ellington at Work

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 have had to give up other forms of “down time” like TV and my house is not as clean as I would like, but carving out the time to paint is more important to me. I try to do mindless tasks (laundry, dishes, errands) when Ellington is with me and reserve the treasured middle-of-the-day-nap for painting or other art related tasks like photographing work. I try to keep the business side of art (computer work, updating website, emails, etc) to after she is in bed at night. I like to paint with natural light, so it limits my work time to middle of the day. I’m still figuring out how to make it all work with each new stage.

Kristen-Abbott-Artist

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

My top goals right now are 1) being juried into a competitive art festival here in Denver, summer 2016 and 2) finding the perfect fit for local gallery representation and a solo show. Saying those out loud is scary. But I’m definitely going to give it my best shot!

Detail from 36x48 mixed media on canvs


 

Kristen, thank you so much for sharing with us, particularly those big goals that are scary to say out loud. The best part of this series is reading everyone’s big goals and smiling to myself because I know they will become reality, on an actual day, not someday.

All photos by Kristen Abbott unless specified otherwise.

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