I started this interview series for many reasons. The main reason is that I want other mothers to know that they do not need to believe that they will never paint again after having children. I want them to know that there is a way to fit art into their lives, even if it changes or their process is different than it was before. Things aren’t necessarily better or worse, just different. In fact, so many of the artists have had positive experiences where after having children they became more efficient, focused, decisive, and confident with their work. As this series grew and I saw common themes emerge from artist mothers, I wanted to also interview fathers of small children to see if they had a similar or different perspective.
I am delighted to feature an extremely talented and accomplished artist (and father) to kick off this evolution in my series. Chris Feiro is one of our best friends, and is one of the people we miss most after leaving Philly. His family and my little family lived 8 blocks away from each other for the past 10 years. We have spent many holidays with them, gone through major life events together, and could not be more grateful to have them in our lives. He is one of the most hardworking and gifted artists I know, and after you see his work and read his words, I know you will agree.
Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
I am an artist working and living in Philadelphia, PA. I have one daughter, Anna, who turned 3 over the summer. I am an observational painter and primarily work with oil or charcoal. I work both in my home and in a separate studio space. I am also an assistant professor of painting and drawing at the Community College of Philadelphia. My work is at the following location: www.chrisfeiro.com
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
My approach and process hasn’t changed since Anna arrived. I became a father later in life, after painting for many years and having settled into a process and a working routine.
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?
My working routine for many years was to work during the day on my off days from teaching and on the weekends in the studio. At home, I work on still lives and interiors in the evening. Working in the evening allowed me to paint or draw every evening, regardless of a busy teaching schedule. I thought that when I had children it would be the daytime routine that would be more interrupted but it was a surprise to me that it was the opposite – it was my evening time that was most disrupted. It has been a difficult adjustment to not have the consistent, daily contact with my work. My wife also works full time and we both strive to spend quality time with Anna in the evening. After she is in bed, we are both often too tired to do much of anything. This evening time is something that I miss dearly and am striving to find a way to fit that back into our busy lives.
How does being an artist make you a better parent to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you?
Both being an artist and a teacher has influenced my parenting. In both making art and teaching it, you need to have a lot of patience. Being around so much art enriches Anna and hopefully makes her a more well rounded person. She draws and paints all the time and is interested in art. We take her to museums and gallery openings frequently and she is around us when we are discussing painting with friends and family. It is such a part of my life that I have to think her interest in it is connected to that. When she would cry at night as a baby and it was my “shift” to walk around with her, I would take her around the house and tell her about different paintings to calm her down – it usually worked.
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?
As I already mentioned, I work in the evenings at home. I use a spare bedroom as a studio space to paint still life but my interiors can be any view throughout our home. In the spring of 2008, my wife and I purchased a 19th century row house in Philadelphia. The character of the space immediately presented me with fresh painting and drawing possibilities: a basement with its dark and murky quality of light, a staircase with the challenge of both inward and upward movement into the space. As I have painted these subjects, they have opened themselves to me and my connection to them has grown deeper. I feel as though they could offer a lifetime of investigation.
I have always maintained a studio outside the home as well. I have always felt it is important to have a space separate from the hectic, busy schedule of everyday life. A place where you go to focus only on making work. This feels particularly important to me now after having Anna. For the past five years I have been in a studio space that offered tremendous views of Philadelphia and as a result focused much of my effort there on a group of large-scale city scapes. Unfortunately the building was recently vacated for conversion into condos, so I have been without a space for the past three months but am looking forward to a new space that I will be moving into in December.
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?
Anna attends preschool five days a week. We feel good about our decision for us to both work full time and have Anna in preschool. It is exciting to see how much she is learning and the friendships she is developing. We also searched for a school with a focus on art. Many of the teachers are visual artists and they do an impressive amount of individual projects and collaborative work.
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
My goal is to keep working. That has always been the challenge as an artist, regardless of having children. It is something that I always try to instill in my students – to just keep working.
Thank you so much Chris! If you want to see more of Chris Feiro’s beautiful work, check out his website or these 2 short videos he was featured in here and here. You get to see his art on display at a gallery in Philadelphia, hear him speak about his process and work, and get a glimpse of his adorable and hilarious little girl, Anna. You may also see me dancing like a lunatic to make children laugh in a split second cameo!