Balancing Parenthood and Your Art Career

Lori McNee and her kids

It seems a bit ironic to be writing this post on balancing parenthood and your art career since I officially became an ‘empty nester’ last month. That’s right, my three kids are all out my house and leading their own lives as young adults. One just graduated from grad school and now is a 3D artist, one is in college and my youngest is working in California. I am proud of them all, but it is a big transition for me and I am grateful to have my art career.

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago my Facebook friend, Jennifer Phillips who is a fulltime artist and a soon to be mommy asked me for some advice on balancing parenthood and an art career. I posted her question on my Facebook Fan page and asked my readers to help answer this question for Jennifer. Below you will find the stream of interesting and very helpful answers from some talented artists.

My own art career emerged between loads of laundry, during my kids’ nap-times and late at night. Goal setting and focusing kept me motivated. Back then, I was a wildlife artist and so I entered the different duck stamp competitions, entered art festivals and donated my art and illustrations to organizations like the Nature Conservancy and the Wolf Education Research Center. All of this helped build a solid foundation for me as a professional artist. Years later, what a joy it is to see my young adult children and my own art career thriving! Our children truly are our greatest works of art –  I hope these tips below help Jennifer and the many other young people who are balancing parenthood and an art career! ~Lori 

young_artist_.jpg Jennifer Phillips 

Hi Lori McNee - I was wondering if you had any articles you have written to help on this topic: I will become a full time mom in January for the first time. I am currently a full time artist. I would like to hear from moms out there who are also business owners – what’s your secrets to juggling both full time momminess and maintaining keeping your business going? How do YOU keep marketing and your art biz a float? Anyone know of any blogs or artists besides yourself? Please share!

Advice from my Fine Art Tips Fan Page readers:

Diane Sharon Van Wyk I used to stick to drawing when my children were little – this prevented mishaps and their breathing in toxic fumes. Once they went to creche I could paint again.

Adele Droblas the best tip is 2B organized! that way you can handle more things well!

Claudine Johnson Intner When my kids were very young, i made art during nap time or late at night. Now that all three are in school full time, i work while they are at school. I try to keep housework and errands to a minimum during that time. I had my art space while they were younger, in the corner of the den so I could be art making with them nearby. Now i have a basement studio which is great because i can leave everything out and don’t have to worry about the kids getting into it.

Amy Coon-Kenyon Set hours for ‘creativity’ time and stick to them. 9-4 would be creativity time and family time would be the remainder of the day. I try to stick with weekends as family time also. Its all about balance and being committed to it.

Kelly Dombrowski Two words… baby gates LOL I had a room that I gated, he could see in. My living room was baby proofed and I had a good ear. When he was real little I’d bring him in with one of those “play stations”. Then the swing, and a playpen is always an option. The trick is to keep him safe and you free LOL! Eventually it got to where my time was at nite only. That’s where there were more kids.

Monica Nelson The best tip I could offer is learning patience with oneself, sometimes there is only an hour and that is a reality. Painting in layers and working more than one piece at a time is very productive for me. If I have 6 hours, fabulous, if not, I can pick a dry painting and work it the next day. I’ve found its more about consistency and flexibility than hours being “painter mommy.”

Pam Sharp I have that problem as well. My solution being a single parent and full time artist was to hire a nanny. I found a college student that had a rather flexible schedule and could work reasonably. I schedule her for 3 4 hour blocks so that I can paint. Also the. iPad has worked well when the nanny is not available

Melissa Twentey Gryder I struggle with this daily. I couldn’t do it without the full support of my husband. I have a routine of spending time with my son during the day and working on marketing, business side at that time. I have a studio in my house and am able to work during naptime and after dinner. Fridays I am lucky that my husband is home…so that day is fully dedicated to painting. It is a constant struggle, but I am doing what I love and am able to keep my kids at home with me at the same time. I just would like a few more hours in the day :)

Toni Grote Art My daughters are now 21, 18, 15 and I have been working on my art business all their lives. Now that they are older you would think I would have all the time in the world to work on my art but that is not the case. I am still running the younger one around and involved with her activities. I think my advice is to be easy on yourself, you will never have enough time to paint, and the house may always be messy (I would rather create than clean). But, for me, I have been blessed with the biggest gift of all, being there as the girls were growing up. I believe this has resulted in great relationships with my daughters. Practical advice would be work with mediums you can set down at a moment’s notice, acrylics were the best for me. Working with smaller formats makes it easier when it comes to shipping and creating a finished product. Try not to spend too much time on the computer….Best wishes to you, new mom artist!

Peggy Martinez, Artist The #1 reason why there are more male artist in history books than females! I love having the convenience of an art studio in my house but feel that my family doesn’t take it serious. There is still the expectation that house cleaning, car pooling, groceries and dinner just magically should all fit in…OMG, did I just say that out loud??

Lisa Rogers Whitener I’m in complete awe of all these moms who have been able to balance their families with their art. I have enjoyed reading all of their comments. I was never able to do that and didn’t really get back to it until close to the time they both moved out. Of course, I worked full time, and still do, so I’m still having a hard time getting in all the painting I want to.

Jacqueline Adams Most things are said already. I stoped with art when she was born. Picked it up at the beginning of this year, and worked late at night. Now she is 4 and goes to school (1,5 month). Now I can work a few hours during the morning and still…. late at night :-)

Lani Woods I took a sabbatical for 3 years for baby-creating (my kids are 16 months apart). :) Once the kids were in preschool I began committing an hour a month or so to painting since I was also working full time as an office manager. It would often be an hour after bedtime or early Saturday morning before the kids got up. Since I was so rusty it was hard to get back in the saddle, but with patience and persistence I have reached the level of commitment I have today (4 hour blocks at least 4 times a week). Once my kids started elementary school I “retired” my office career and I now consider myself a professional artist. I take my studio time very serious and don’t allow for distractions, calls, or emails. My non-studio days are dedicated to the admin side of my art career, as well as helping my husband part time in his office. I often make Saturdays a fun family studio day and make art with my kids, involve them in my painting process and let them make choices (colors, brushes, etc). They love it, and it’s incredibly rewarding for me too. Best advice is to not allow that little critic voice in your head hold you back or bring you down. Also don’t allow yourself to make excuses for making art (give up TV, turn down social invites, etc). Keep your priorities in check. Ask friends and family to help (if they are worthy, they will support your choice to be an artist). Power through your pieces, especially the ones you think are complete failures. They help you learn. Raising kids, working and balancing time for family, self, career, and art is challenging but totally possible. :) Good luck!

Kathleen Hill My two were raised with my work station sitting out. There was no studio back then. Each one decided that they would try making mommy’s work a little more interesting, but that only happened one time each child. So artwork was created in between child care, laundry, baking cookies and everything else. I now have two adult children with families of their own and a deep appreciation for art and determination!

Terri Lynn West schedule time for yourself and plan ahead make multiple meals and freeze. Allow children to have responsibility and contribute to the daily workings of the home from an early age. LET GO of what cant be done= the world will not end.supportive aunt and uncles can sometimes take kids to soccer games etc…

Tina Santiago I am a mommy to 5. I have learned to work my art into our lives by keeping all my supplies in a mobile cart that I can move wherever the family is. I work on my pieces whenever I can here and there, in between cooking and cleaning and helping with homework. When the baby is in the walker or the sling. Every moment adds up and eventually I find I have a finished piece.

Kylie Fogarty – Australian Artist Have you ever told yourself I’ve got five minutes and then been amazed at just how much you’ve got done in those five minutes? Get yourself in a habit of doing “just five minutes” on your works each day, it amazing the effect it has, you either: look at the composition in a fresh new light, hone in on the one element that is bugging you and set it right for a longer period of time, find yourself refreshed for just being around your work and in the moment or start for those five minutes and continue happily until you are needed elsewhere, oh and if you can do it and the subject allows, working through the night is a great one too, you know where the kids are and you have peace and quiet!

*****

Thank you to all my Facebook friends for contributing their valuable advice on parenthood - I really appreciate your support…happy creating and parenting! ~Lori

I hope to meet you on Twitter and Facebook and Google Plus! ~Lori (If you want to see what I paint, please check out my paintings)

Here are a few more articles you might enjoy:

About Lori McNee

Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, and landscape oil paintings. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of Idaho, serves on the Plein Air Mag Board of Advisors, and is an Ambassador Artist to Royal Talens. As the owner of FineArtTips.com, Lori blogs about fine art tips, marketing, and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist. As a social media influencer, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. She is a keynote speaker, has been a talk show host for Plum TV, writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market. Also, Zero to 100,000: Social Media Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses.

Comments

  1. I wish this was posted back in 2006!!! Then, I started a blog called, Artist+Mom when my son turned 6mos. I was going full steam for 3 years then realized that I had to start from scratch – not try to rework my old routine.

    Now beginning again… started a new blog called, Creative Tempo about finding that rhythm..

    Quick tips: grab mini-moments, sketch when you can’t paint and realize that play is related to creativity and will nurture it.

    • Congratulations on the new blog. I really like the name of it, I will check it out! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and extra tips.

      Thanks for stopping by-
      Lori

  2. Lori

    Thank you SO much for this post. It touches so well on the struggles we have to make everything balance {something I am not doing very well at the moment LOL} Extremely inspirational hearing how others fit their creativity into their family.

    • Hi Helen, it is fun to see you here! I am so glad you enjoyed this post. Art is a way of life and I hope this post helped others find a ‘way’ of balancing creating and parenting!

      Best-
      Lori

  3. My son was a collaborative kinesthetic conceptual work of art who arrived when I was in grad school.
    He was always my sidekick with a safe place in my studio when he was small, and materials of his own when he was older.

    Your child is the most important thing that you will do, the deepest connection you will ever have. My big regret was that I always had to have a day job AND do my art work, but I will NEVER regret any time that I spent with him.

    About five years ago I had a retrospective of 25 years of my work. I flew my son back from the west coast (To VT) for the opening to see his “neglected childhood made visible.”
    LOL! It wasn’t easy, but guess what! He’s an artist- a free lance graphic designer, doing well with his own business. So it seems to all have worked out.

    • Hello Liza, what a powerful comment you shared! Kudos to you for doing your best as a young mom and artist. The twenty five year retrospective had to be an emotional experience. Looking at my old work brings back lots of memories for me too…
      Our children truly are our greatest works of art!

      Lori :)

  4. Great to read everyone’s responses!
    Since I’ve had my baby (who is now 10mths) I have taken the opportunity to rekindle my art flame. I have a very happy baby which is lucky. It got a bit harder when she started to crawl but I have pretty much got it all child proof now. I agree with one of the readers its all about making sure they are safe, using the playpen sometimes, the bouncer, the jolly jumper can give you 20minutes. When she is awake I usually do the cleaning that is easy like folding washing or washing up, a quick mop of the floors when she goes to bed and then I can spend time making art. A very supportive partner too helps who loves spending time with his daughter and lets me ‘close the door’ to my study so that I can concentrate on my art and business side of it.

    • Hello Neen and thank you for contributing to this post! I used a playpen at time too. I have good memories of visiting with my babies who were alongside me in their playpen as I dabbled on a little painting.

      Thank you for the visit!
      Lori :)

  5. I agree with the comments which point to a supportive spouse as the most important factor.
    When my now-grown children were little, my husband spent many weekends as a “solo” dad while I was traveling to shows.

    Some of their fondest memories are of their father taking them to movies and restaurants and on hikes while mom was away working. They ended up with a very close relationship and I had the peace of mind knowing that all was well. Thanks for writing on this important subject, Lori!

    • What a treat to see you here Carolyn. Thank you for your wonderful comment. You are so lucky to have had such a supportive husband and wonderful role model for your children. Unfortunately, my ex grew jealous of my art career even though I always put family first…but, that is another story!

      Cheers-
      Lori

  6. I love your article, Lori! Your life sounds very similar to mine except my kids are still teenagers and living at home. Next fall though (2012) my oldest son will be going to college. I’ve had my own home-based art business for 10 years now selling custom art online through 2 websites. I don’t know if I ever ‘really’ figured out how to balance my home life with my business. I just know that we’ve somehow managed–through prayers and perseverence–both financially as well as emotionally. Thus far my kids are fantastic and I’m thrilled that I’ve been so involved in their lives. I’m grateful beyond words that I’ve been able to keep my family my priority. It can be tough but it’s all so worth it!

    • Hello Jane, yes your thoughts on parenting and rearing children sounds much like mine. I don’t know how I have juggled it all, but somehow I have…and yes, those prayers really do work! Thanks for sharing here. I appreciate the comment.

      Cheers-
      Lori

  7. Oh, what a battle that is. But I love your post and the suggestions. For myself I have to have a very stoic attitude of “no whining” with myself. I get up at 5 to paint and if I am lucky I can get in 2 hours but usually it is more like 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. But I have silent time to paint while people are sleeping. This works best in the summer, I must admit. Other tips: swap sitting time with a friend. I have a friend and we do 4 hour swap sessions. I order my groceries from a delivery service periodically. I work at night. I paint in acrylic so the clean up is easier and paint dries faster. and I paint fast fast FAST! Also I have a little easel set up so my 5 year old daughter can paint with me. I don’t get as much done but I learn a lot from watching her.

    Also, don’t underestimate the importance of seeing new art and staying engaged with what is going on. I take my kids to galleries and museums to catch up on what is happening. My small children now know that one does not climb on the sculpture. (Not jumping on furniture has yet to be mastered, however.)

    Thank you again for such an inspirational post.

    • Hello Amantha,

      I like your name, very unique! Thank you for sharing your ‘balancing parenting tips’ with us. None of this comes with a manual, so we all just do our best!

      Happy creating!
      Lori

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