Art or Motherhood? Motherhood and Art

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Remember Venn diagrams? Those interlinked circles you used to have to draw in maths lessons at school? I can’t say I have ever consciously used one of those to illustrate anything since I put my O-Level days behind me, but I couldn’t help being reminded of them today, as I reflected on the relationships between what I now see as the two great interlinked circles of my life: Art and Motherhood. What is the overlap between these circles, these activities, these two essential parts of me? How much of one of them must inextricably be part of the other?

Knitting a tension square which becomes a hat when a small voice asks, “Is that for me, Mummy?” Is that about art (or is it “only” craft? … another discussion entirely, and not one that concerns me too much here) or is it more about being a mother to M? Or is it both in equal measure?

Cutting, tearing, gluing, sticking, drawing … My daughter and I, collaborating on an art project (or more usually, a vague serving suggestion of mine which she’ll end up completely overturning), bossing one another around until a picture happens, occasionally something joyous but more often a bit of a mess. Is that always, mostly or a little bit “art”? It isn’t the art that goes into my sketchbook or gets commissioned, but it is art, nonetheless. How much of that art is about me just trying to be me rather than me trying to be a mother? And does it even matter, if we’ve both had fun? (The white scribble is, she tells me, “a big planet”.)
 
M blowing streams of bubbles that pop and splat all around us as I rapidly take photos, almost 50 of them, which I then sift through once she’s in bed, keeping only the handful that please me, and using them to create a Flickr mosaic. That’s an artistic endeavour, right? Only she’s the one who inspired it: the one who started the game, made the bubbles, insisted I watch her and went about being as photogenic as a person can be.

The overlap, the intersection, the shared space between Art and Motherhood: it’s a hard thing to calculate, and can often seem frustratingly non-existent. Once you start to notice and celebrate this kind of symbiotic creativity, though, it becomes a joy of huge proportions.

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Real painting

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“I’ve been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it.” ~ Steven Wright

Saturday morning, and I am seated in the kitchen, my table easel and gouache paints set up ready for action, my laptop displaying an image chosen from the Reference Image Library at WetCanvas.com and a series of knitting podcasts (mostly recent episodes of Cast On and Sticks & String) lined up to keep my ears entertained as I paint. I have several hours of alone-time available for artmaking. Rare bliss!

It’s been a long time since I experienced the joy of taking my time over a picture. I am learning about these Schmincke paints: how to mix my limited secondary palette, how to apply them to this support (I know little about the pack of five painting/pastel boards that a friend gifted me a while ago, except that this is my first time experimenting with them and the surface seems very happy to accept the gouache). My work in progress:

I will finish the freesias over the next few days, having decided that from now on, I should set aside at least one or two evenings every week for painting. I have slid into a habit of doing very little creating during evening hours, but the restrictions which prevented me from doing so when my daughter was really little aren’t relevant now, and these are cumulative hours I know I could be using much more creatively. I simply need to turn up at the easel and get on with it. Why that “simply” should often turn out to be so much harder than it sounds has been examined very perceptively in Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland (a book I would highly recommend to anyone struggling with what they’d consider “artist’s block”) but I’m happy to report that today, on this sunny, solitary Saturday spent at my kitchen table, I got to a point I haven’t reached in many months: one where I felt that painting – yer actual painting, not just stolen moments with a sketchbook and pen – was possible again.

Autumn song

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How strange, two weeks ago, to find ourselves transported from Greek summer to English autumn in the space of a few hours. Strange, but magical: the England we returned to was the one I love, one of yellow, russet and crimson, of crisp blue morning skies and the smoky damp of dark, chilly evenings. The colours of the season have found their way into everything I’ve put to paper since then.

Melody on one of our many leaf-collecting expeditions …

… one of which inspired an entry in my sketch journal …

… another, a gloriously messy – but at least somewhat structured – two-hour painting session with Miss M herself …

… yet another, a playdate with materials, textures and compositions for this month’s CMP trading-card exchange on the theme of “A Song”. I’ve had great fun experimenting with combinations of gouache, acrylic, poster paints, gold leaf, pen, collage and spray varnish – all in the pocket-size ATC format.

The finished card:


ATC Original (2.5″ x 3.5″) “Chanson d’automne”
Mixed media on cardstock

Even this sketchbook doodle ended up sporting shades of sepia, burnt sienna and blue …

Breakfast with … me!

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Miranda from the blog community Creative Construction: Life & Art was kind enough to approach me for an interview about juggling creativity with motherhood.
The article, Breakfast with Emma-Jane, is up today!