MY KIDS FORCED ME TO PAINT
I’m a mother and I am an artist. I am a lot of other things too; but Mummy and Artist are the two identities that shout the loudest. And I wouldn’t be an artist now if I hadn’t been a mum first. My kids forced me to paint.
Of course, this is not a case of infant extortion, although they’re pretty good at emotional blackmail!
Like everyone, I painted as a child at school and I loved it. But then, following a crisis of confidence in my late teens, I didn’t paint regularly for over a decade. Life happened, I studied, travelled, worked multiple jobs, married, renovated our house, had our first child. And then when our daughter was 20 months old, we had a son.
The demands of two tiny children suddenly left me pretty fraught. I desperately wanted something for myself. It sounds clichéd, but that’s probably because so many new parents experience this. I had to drag ‘Sam’ out from behind ‘Mum’.
So, after the initial newborn fog had cleared, I picked up a paint brush. And rediscovered how glorious it is to create with no real purpose. To just let loose and make. I loved the process, and I loved the outcome. Actually not strictly true; like all creatives, I generated a lot of rubbish before getting to the good stuff. But I was so proud of what I had made anyway.
This was mine. I painted almost always at night, after the kids’ bedtime and before my son’s first night feed. My husband would ask why I wasn’t in bed; that I needed sleep. I needed this more. So many mums I talk to say they stay up, even through exhaustion, just to have that precious time to themselves.
Don’t get me wrong; I love being a parent and I am so grateful for our two children. But it is also hard and it can be all consuming if you don’t look after your own needs. For some parents it could be watching a box set or taking an uninterrupted bath. For others it might mean going back to work, or working towards a fitness goal. For me, I paint.
As time has passed, and my kids are a little older (now 4 and 2), my need to create is slightly less desperate, but still very powerful. It has become part of my life with my family and these two roles have blurred. The kids and I spend a lot of time painting and creating together. And they are very present in my artistic style and practice. I hoard their drawings and creations to copy and emulate.
They are also my biggest cheerleaders if I need a creative ego boost. I’ll ask if they like a piece of my work and they will reply with great earnest, ‘It’s bootyful Mummy.’ and ‘I’m very proud of you.’
The children are my constant inspiration, but the main reason they make me a better artist is because they push me to find something for myself. And they make me want to show them what it is to do something that you love. I may have come to it eventually, but it took the intensity of motherhood to push me to paint, and eventually, to come to the decision that this would be my career.
I’d love to hear what you think! Have you experienced any of these things as a parent or a creative?