If you’re an artist who has recently welcomed a bundle of joy, this guide will help you keep creating and improve your process.
Before baby, I was used to taking my time in the studio. My paintings were never rushed or on a time schedule, they just took as long as they took. My natural pace for innovation was perfectly balanced and totally uninterrupted. Painting was a lifestyle for me that was highly emotive and immersive.
I did try to keep up with this Parisian style artistic process, however I quickly found out (the hard way) that this wasn’t sustainable with a very young child. When my daughter was born, I knew life would be different. I just didn’t know that EVERYTHING would change, including my creative process. It was a surprise that the way I used to create was simply never going to work the same again…Or at least not for a very long time.
This was difficult for me. Having a child forced me to grow as a person, and as an artist. No one really likes to acknowledge this, but growing is uncomfortable. I was suddenly outside my comfort zone with something I had been doing my whole life. The truth is, my creative process had never been challenged before. I had been creating the exact same way uninterrupted for years. I had no idea how stagnant my process had really become. The shakeup of adding kiddo to my crew eventually improved many areas of my work. There were setbacks too, but I have been able to keep the essential elements of my old creative process and blossom into a better one.
Deliberate Methodical Approach
There is a schedule, and we stick to the schedule. My little one knows when she takes a nap that “Mommy paints.” She mutters this mantra over and over as she drifts off to sleep and it’s one of the happiest moments in my day to day. Examine your kiddo’s daily routine and take advantage of naptimes. If you don’t have a schedule pay attention to your child’s natural ups and downs to help create a daily routine that works. Try not to deviate from your schedule or it will likely fall apart and you’ll have difficulty regaining your studio time.
The structure of my daughter and I’s joint schedule has improved my consistency as a creator. I am much more regular and eager to paint since I only have specific times I am able to do it. I used to feel like I never had enough time to get everything done, but having less time than before has actually increased my production rate. Popping into the studio every day has become habitual behavior and I’m producing high-quality work steadily. My previous creative habits were binge cycles wherein I would produce a lot in a short period of time and then promptly burn out for weeks building up again for the next insane studio phase.
Work Smaller & Don’t Rush
The most obvious change to my process is that I don’t work so large anymore. Unless I have a commission. Smaller pieces feel more manageable and I’m able to get farther on them in a shorter amount of time. The urge to rush is counterintuitive in my art, but I’m so used to rushing as a mommy. I’m always rushing to the potty, rushing to the store, rushing to catch the little peanut (who is surprisingly quick.)
Invest In Organizing your space
Having shorter creating periods requires better organization. I realized that early into my new career as a mommy that I had to get serious about convenient organization for my supplies, and projects. I was wasting a shameful amount of time rummaging around looking for paint tubes, pencils, and other basics. My memory evaporated after baby so without having specific places for my tools I would constantly misplace them. I also had to get better at organizing my paintings. I now give much more thought to the prep and planning of paintings I create, considering the order of creation based on how long each will take and what series they belong to.
Higher Quality Materials
It’s true, a talented and skilled artist can use anything to create a masterpiece. But, higher quality paints and brushes allow you to have more ease and less labor in your production. Once I returned to the studio elevating my tools to a higher professional quality sped everything up. I find myself breezing through a painting with a lot less exertion. High-quality professional supplies extend your efforts and ultimately improves your time management. Don’t let your precious time get gobbled up by having to overwork with subpar materials.
Because painting is such a big part of my life, it is something my daughter loves being involved in. If I need a little extra time painting, or if she had an unfortunately short nap I will set her up with my table easel, some craft paints, and deal with the mess later. She’s incredibly manageable and happy emulating what I am doing. By including her in small ways with my work she’s become comfortable with the time I need to do it.
While every child is different, it’s worth it to trial and error different approaches to get the little one to respect your work time. Some babies love playpens and will happily self entertain for a while, others (like my cutie-pie) just can’t. Find out what temperament your child has and construct a ritual that surrounds your studio time.
These concentrated create-sessions are far more fulfilling and satisfying than my previous all-day painting procedure. I don’t wear myself out, and I’m able to take advantage of my natural energy cycles. “When people work productively for ninety minutes and then take a break, they’re more in sync with their bodies’ natural energy levels and maintain a higher energy level throughout the day.” (Rewire Your Habits by Zoe McKey) I split my day into two studio times, the first when my kiddo naps for (2 hours if I’m lucky) and the second after she’s tucked in bed for the night, I paint for about 3 hours. All those hours are high-performance studio time which amounts to getting way more done than I ever did before and I don’t get tired at all. If you can, arrange your studio time to coincide with your more energetic times of the day.
Young children are overwhelming. Raising a happy, healthy kiddo, who is well adjusted, and kind is an intense consuming experience. I took a lot of time off from painting to focus on my child and I fell into a mindset that seems to be common for a lot of full-time mommies. I felt like I couldn’t do anything, except take care of my baby. Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with doing just that. But the problem with that belief (for me) was the attached sense of hopelessness, which I was worried would lead to a sense of lost identity, or even resentment later.
Before I could step back into the studio, I had to weed out the toxic idea that I did not have the ability to balance my creative work with my full-time parental responsibilities. I had to let go of this fear about it not being possible for me to do both, and do it well. Because I felt drained and exhausted all the time I was apprehensive to get into the studio and back to the work that makes me happy. I needed to change the way I looked at my art-making, and completely reconstruct my way of creating. Once this happened, painting turned into an outlet for me to re-charge and I started having more emotional control and professional success.
Energy Creates More Energy, You Can Do This Mommy!
You’ve got to be open and ready to change things. Artists hold an archetype for being flexible in personality (which is true in many ways) but not so much with our creative processes. I (like many artists) am used to channeling inspiration in a unique and specific way to communicate through my art. Making changes to how I do this was absolutely difficult for me. If you struggle with these changes, take time off from the studio and come back to it when your confidence is restored. Remember that growth is not comfortable, things will feel messy for a while but it will be much better than before.