4.18.2014

Creative Mothers - Interview with Robyn Wolfe

This week's Creative Mothers interview is with Robyn Wolfe! If you don't already know her and her work, now you do! I love, love, love her illustrations! They are beautiful, colorful, and full of so much life. The thing that stood out the most from Robyn's interview is how her art and creative process changed, in a good way, once she had kids. I think it's important to realize that art and creativity are ever changing for the good of the art and the artist.

What has helped your art change? How has your art evolved because of those changes?

Robyn, thank you again for a wonderful interview and for sharing your insights!


Robyn Wolfe
twitter: therobynwolfe
instagram: therobynwolfe
pinterest: waldorfish.com

1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating?
I can’t really pin it down to one concrete memory….my earliest memories are more like a collection of polaroid’s floating around in my head. I have a recollection of a pair of hi-top sneakers I drew at summer camp once, and then there’s an image of 3 mountain lion cubs I sketched and gave to my mom for Mothers Day one year. I was 10 years old, maybe? I was raised around music too…piano & viola lessons in childhood, I played in the orchestra through high school. I kept a diary throughout my childhood too….it was mostly based in reality, but there was definitely an element of creative writing there too ;)

2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.? I’ve always sort of suspected it, but for a variety of reasons haven’t really made room in my life to explore the possibility until the past 5 years or so. I grew up under the impression that being an artist wasn’t an especially practical way to make a living, and so never put much energy into it. Only as I have approached middle age have I realized that being creative is one of my natural expressions.

3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore? 
I create because it brings me back to me. When I’m not creating, I start to get grumpy, anxious. I create to earn a living. I was approached this past Fall about illustrating a children's book. The Journey of Analise  will be out this summer! I am blessed to have a found a way to weave my need to create & my need to pay the bills together. That’s been the focus of this entire year really.


4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed or enhanced the way you create?
There was definitely a lull in creativity in the first years after my children were born. My brain was focused on finding enough hours of sleep and making enough breast milk! About 5 years ago I went through a divorce and some major life-shifting (all for the better) which is really when the re-expression of my creative self began. My children were 5 and 3 years old at that point. Prior to children, my art was based very much in realism; a lot of sketching & drawing with the goal being to get as realistic a likeness as possible down on paper. After children, my work has completely shifted. I would describe what I do now as whimsical and slightly (on purpose) imperfect. Really the shift is a direct reflection of my parenting experience! Children are whimsical…mine have helped me start seeing the world in a completely different way. And the intentional imperfectness of my work has helped me shed a lot of anxiety I experienced when creating in a more realistic manner.

5. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges? 
Something we come up against here at our house, is the children sometimes feeling like their work needs to “be as good as” our work (my husband is an artist also). There was a period of time when my son was younger when he flat out refused to draw at all because he could never reproduce on paper the images in his mind. At that point, I stopped drawing around both children. All the work I did happened after they were asleep (or not at home). We had a lot of conversations (in the context of art, and a lot of other things too) about the fact that at their age, children are LEARNING…that all the skills the adults in the house have came after YEARS of practice. We also talked a lot about how the only way to get better at ANY skill is to KEEP DOING IT.  Things are better now. Both children create daily (yay!) and have eeked out their own work spaces in our studio. Also, whenever I’m frustrated with a piece I’m working on, I let the children know it. I talk about what I’m not liking about the piece and a few ways I might attempt to fix it. I let them see that whole process play out. They now understand that it happens to EVERYONE, and that usually, there is a way to change/alter any “mistake”.


6. Do you ever involve your children in your art? Do they inspire, help, mimic your projects, ask to learn, or be involved in your art?
Yes, and Yes! As I mentioned before, learning to see the world through their eyes has shifted my own work in a direction that I love. And we do a lot of collaborative projects together.  One of our favorites is to draw a landscape/background on the chalkboard in the studio, and then have the kids draw in their own details. They love it, and incredible stories unfold!

7. What have you sacrificed in order to make art? 
I can’t think of anything…at least not anything that was worth keeping in the first place.

8. What have you gained from creating art?
Control over my time (which has led to significant improvements in my health), and a return to a much truer version of me.

9. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I see myself continuing with illustration. I’d like to get a few more children’s books under my belt…. Illustration is my favorite form of storytelling!  I have ideas for a few stories as well, so I can picture myself teaming up with a writer, or maybe writing them myself.

10. At this time, what could you sacrifice, change, or simplify to help reach your artistic goals? 
I made HUGE life changes last year to change & simplify in order to reach my artistic goals. For the moment, I feel like I’m on path.


11. Do you homeschool? Do the kids go to school? How does this affect your creativity and art making? 
We have done both. At the moment my children attend our local Waldorf school. Both my husband and I do some teaching at their school (to their respective classes). It feels really good to still be involved in that part of their lives.  Although it is not the reason we chose school at this point, it has definitely opened up my time during the day for working on creative projects.


12. What does a typical day/week look like? Are you a morning or night person? Do you stick to a schedule or create whenever you can? 
Ha. I’m neither a morning or night person. Middle of the day person, maybe? My week is loosely scheduled around some teaching commitments, and I generally meet with my business partner one day a week as well. Everything else falls into place around those events. Earlier this year we launched Waldorfish.com, which creates modern resources for Waldorf teachers & families. It’s been ridiculously exciting to watch that community expand around the globe!

13. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers on? Inspiration, wisdom? 
I’m not sure how well I can put words to this, but I’ll give it a go….there isn’t a day that has gone by (since re-shifting my priorities last year) where I’m not totally terrified. But along with that terror comes the bliss of controlling my own time, and pursuing work that fills me up. Georgia O’Keefe’s words bounce around in my mind daily:

“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”




14. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you? 
I am fortunate to be part of a large community of creative mothers…to name just one would be extremely difficult.  They share a few traits in common though, namely the desire to model for their children what living an on-purpose life looks like. To call them writers, photographers, coaches, and artists hardly begins to encompass the rich work they do.

***



Creative Mothers is a weekly blog series here at Days With The Grays that helps to share, connect, and inspire creative mothers from all over the world. All right here, in one place. 

Are you a Creative Mother, or do you know one? Want to be interviewed? Send me an email at info@dayswiththegrays.com and I will send you the interview questions and info that I need. 

4.17.2014

My First Art Event!



This past weekend I had a table at the Made in Monmouth event. It was my first time having my artwork out in a venue like this, and honestly the first time I was able to interact with others looking at my work. Some even purchased paintings, which of course was a plus!

I definitely need to work on my set-up and display, but that's why I did this, so I could learn where I needed to change things. I met a lot of very talented people and look forward to doing more of these in the future. My table neighbors were two amazing jewelry artists Mirror Mirror Accessories and Lammergeier Natural Jewelry. They were great to talk to and learn from. Thanks ladies for being so awesome to this newbie!

My mother-in-law was such a great help with getting ready for the event. She cut all my mats for my watercolors for me. Thanks again Mama Geri!

4.09.2014

Creative Mothers - Carrie Mac - Writer, Artist, & Storyteller

I have been following Carrie on twitter for a while now and a few weeks ago I finally downloaded some of her stories at The Story Forest. Well, she is amazing! I love that many of her stories incorporate homeschooled characters that my kids can relate to. I have to make sure to download some more for our move across the country.

Her description of creativity stands out the most for me and is so spot on, "For me, creative expression is as tantalizing as a new lover, as mind blowing and addictive as any drug, and as deeply satisfying as an exquisite meal.  It can also be as frustrating as unrequited love, as confusing and brain-muddling as any drug, and as harmful as a poisoned feast. "  

I often feel being creative can be a love/hate relationship and it does have a way of it's own sometimes. Even if creativity isn't really a person, it can definitely feel like it, and balancing a relationship with it can be challenging. 

Thank you so much Carrie for sharing your creativity and insights into being a creative mama!


Carrie Mac
writer + artist + storyteller

1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating?
My earliest memory IS of creating.  I remember lying in bed at night and spinning elaborate tales involving my teddy bear, and then trying to make them into books and being intensely unhappy with the result.  That's come in handy now when I watch my eldest struggle with her ideas about creativity and perfection.  I can relate.  I still struggle with that.

2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.? 
I've always been a creative person.  I wanted to be a writer from about the age of four or five, and that was always entwined with drawing and illustrating too.  I wanted to make stories, in as many forms as possible; written, spoken, illustrated, imagined.


3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore?
I need to be creative.  It's not an option in the least. If my creativity was taken away from me, I would surely perish.  And I'm not exaggerating.  For me, creative expression is as tantalizing as a new lover, as mind blowing and addictive as any drug, and as deeply satisfying as an exquisite meal.  It can also be as frustrating as unrequited love, as confusing and brain-muddling as any drug, and as harmful as a poisoned feast.  Yet, if I couldn't write or make art,  I'd go crazy.  The kind you don't come back from, or which would forever darken one's soul.



4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed or enhanced the way you create? 
I've been a professional writer for about twenty years now.  It was much easier before becoming a parent.  I had more time, more money, and more energy, and no one made any demands on me at all. I've never had a 9-5 job, or any full time 'real' job of any kind, so until my mid-30's I could dedicate as much time and money and energy to making art and writing and daydreaming as I wanted.

Since becoming a mama, I've become much better about using whatever slice of time is available to me, and to create 'on demand.'  I've become much more economical when I'm creating new content, or when I need to devote my complete attention a task, like manuscript evaluations from other writers.

I'm constantly triaging my projects so that I can dive into the ones that need urgent care first whenever my mom, sister or partner have the kids and I have time alone in my office.  Things like emails, author appearance bookings, replying to fan mail, submissions, selected research, some copyediting, and almost all my illustration work I do when the kids are around.  Now that they are 2.5 and 5 years old, they're much better at busying themselves while I work.  This did not come naturally though; I've been encouraging the kids to do their own thing ever since they were old enough to not be in a carrier nearly 24/7 and/or constantly nursing.

 5. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges? 
Focus.  When I have time to myself, I need to be able to apply myself almost immediately, which goes against my nature.  I love being alone; I like to read, daydream, wonder, draw, have a bath,  listen to music and podcasts, clean the house, do laundry ... but all of those things have to plunge to the bottom of my priority list when I have time to myself.  If I have uninterrupted studio time, I have work on original material, or heavy edits., or I won't meet publisher deadlines.  When the kids are with me, I try to keep the focus on them, but I am a daydreamer and genuine flake by nature, and so my head is often in the clouds, thinking about my creative projects  This results in forgotten appointments, unpaid bills, dirty kids, neglected chores, and the fact that if my partner didn't do all the grocery shopping and cooking from scratch, we'd all starve.

6. Do you ever involve your children in your art? Do they inspire, help, mimic your projects, ask to learn, or be involved in your art?
All the time.  We work alongside each other.  When I sit down to work on an illustration, the kids almost always get their sketchbooks or a piece of paper or a mess of art supplies and flit to and from the table while I stay put.  When I'm not in my office, I work at the kitchen table.  That's our family 'atelier,' where all of the kids' project resources and art supplies are, all at kid-level and readily accessible.  We do project-based home learning, so the kids always have something that they're working on or interested in, along with the freedom and time to dig deep into their interests.


7. What have you sacrificed in order to make art? 
I don't feel like I've sacrificed anything.

8. What have you gained from creating art?
A life fully lived.  Truly, anything less would be truly unbearable.

9. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I launched The Story Forest last fall, which is a website that sells quality, original audio stories for children, with a focus on homeschooled or unschooled characters and stories from an attachment-focused family perspective.  I'd love to be able to dedicate some marketing money to that project and see it gain popularity and traffic.  I'd like to get a few of my picture book projects published.  I have an eleventh and twelfth  YA novel at their respective publishers.  I have a collection of short stories that I'm shopping for a home for.  I'd like to figure out a way to sell my original prints as nursery art more easily.

10. At this time, what could you sacrifice, change, or simplify to help reach your artistic goals? 
I've spent many years honing our lifestyle to suit my creative needs, and my family's needs as a whole. We have no debt, live extremely frugally in a small condo in co-op housing in a vibrant, diverse, walkable neighbourhood.  We don't have a lot of stuff, and we stay out of stores as much as possible, so we don't acquire much.  We make do with what we have, or we make do without, for the most part. This frees up money, time, energy and both physical and mental space for us to focus on what gets us excited; being together as a family, learning, making, playing, doing, dreaming, traveling.

11. Do you homeschool? Do the kids go to school? How does this affect your creativity and art making?
We homeschool.  When I was doing all my reading about homeschooling, I found Lori Pickert's book "Project-Based Homeschooling; Mentoring Self-Directed Learners".  So much of what she writes about rang true for what we were doing already.  My partner and I both follow our own passions as parents and individuals, so it makes sense that we'd encourage our children to do the same.  I've set up our family studio in our tiny kitchen, with quality art supplies and resources at the ready.  As for time alone to write, my mom and my sister both take the kids regularly, and I have the most supportive partner, which makes all the difference.


12. What does a typical day/week look like? Are you a morning or night person? Do you stick to a schedule or create whenever you can? 
We're usually up by 7am.  Every morning while the kids eat breakfast and play and work, I sit with my coffee and toast and read.  Usually for a good hour or more.  The kids have learned that I am mostly unavailable to them until I put my book away.  This makes for a happy mama ready to take on the rest of what the day holds.

As for a typical week?  It changes, but this is what it looks like right now:
Mondays we have a regular homeschool park play date with a bunch of spectacular folks.
Tuesday I work in my office while my mom is with the kids.
Wednesday and Thursday is our family weekend.  My partner is a chef, so her days off are always mid-week.  I use one of her days off as a second writing day.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are flexible; with lots of time at home.  Those are my partner's longest days, so the kids and I have oodles of time to putter and play and make and explore.  And go to the library.  We have 150 books out at a time.  No kidding.
We also love to travel, so we're always planning a camping trip or adventure.  Costa Rica, San Diego, Halifax, Whitehorse, Toronto, Ottawa, Mexico are all places we've gone since having kids.  We recently got back from five weeks in Mexico, where I did a lot of writing at a local cafe off the plaza in the small town we stayed in.  You can read all about it on the blog! www.carriemac.com
As for when I write or make art?  Whenever I can.  I'm not precious about requiring a minimum of time, so I dive in whenever I can.  Ten minutes is better than zero minutes, and mastering the use of ten minutes makes two hours feel like a luxury!


13. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers on? Inspiration, wisdom? 
Simplify as much as possible, so that there's less to do.  Free up time, space and resources wherever possible.  Under-schedule.  Practice saying 'no' to invitations and new obligations.  Resist the urge to take on new tasks or responsibilities.  Resist the urge to explain why you can't/won't/don't want to do something that will take time away from your creative process.  It's nobody's business but yours and your family's.  Streamline your calendar so there is as much white space as possible.  Streamline your bill paying, household tasks, shopping lists too.  Stay offline when you have a slot of time to be creative.  Delegate!  Supportive spouses ROCK.  Consider your own needs before attending to those of others. Give yourself permission to let the kids stay in their pajamas all day, feel free to wash the towels only occasionally, and get the kids to do their fair share of the tidying and chores.  Leave your kids alone; they will get better at it over time.  You don't need to engage with them every waking moment of the day.  Step back, let them be, and start taking time for you.  Draw, read, imagine, wonder, write, create.  Don't underestimate the importance of your own needs in the name of 'putting family first.'  Instead, know that you need to be fulfilled in order to bring your best self to your family.  Find out what makes you tick, and go for it.  And don't make excuses.  Either unapologetically make and take the time, or don't.  But don't make excuses.


14. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. 
My twitter buddy, Sam ... she does amazing house portraits. http://instagram.com/houseportrait and her twitter is @_sambo_




Creative Mothers is a weekly blog series here at Days With The Grays that helps to share, connect, and inspire creative mothers from all over the world. All right here, in one place. 

Are you a Creative Mother, or do you know one? Want to be interviewed? Send me an email at info@dayswiththegrays.com and I will send you the interview questions and info that I need.