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Musings of a mother-artist


Yesterday I was asked a question I hadn't considered before - "How do you navigate between your roles as artist and mother?"

At the time, I was being interviewed by Linda Clark, who has designed a Mother-Artist research project for her Doctor of Creative Arts,* and perhaps (I hope) I managed to sound at least a little bit intelligent and considered, as I bluffed my way through an answer to that surprising question; but the jist of my response was - I don't.

Mothering and art happen side-by-side in this house. Like many things, it takes numerous forms, and some days it goes more smoothly than others. Some days we art happily together as a family, and some days I try to sneak away for 15 minutes of quiet studio time and am too closely followed by the drone of sudden-onset hunger pains and sibling rivalry.

But no matter how it works out, the kids are a major source of inspiration for my art-making. From being my long-suffering models when I want to draw a body part in a certain position to the funny things they say or dream up, they take me to places my brain wouldn't travel on its own. They help me look at the world through fresher eyes. They keep me in touch with the joy of creating for the sake of creating. And my art wouldn't be the same without them.

Sometimes the inspiration comes from the nature of parenting, the helping to calm, the search for a small distraction to the moment's drama, and recognising the value of all the daily touchstones of our lives.

And other times, Anna will sneeze so hard she insists that she has seen the future.

Yesterday I watched Yula, my Mr 4, creating an "underpainting" for me in the studio and I recognised myself in his approach. The way he mixed and spread the paint across the canvas was a celebration of texture, of movement, of colour with no concern for form.

Anyone familiar with my recent work will be able to cast their minds to my abstract backgrounds. I do like to throw a bit of paint around. I like to pour from the pot, to mix on-canvas with whatever is at hand - rags, wipes, combs, sponges and fingers. And I like to layer, swipe and sway, creating a dance across the canvas. Perhaps something of my children has rubbed off on me and not the other way around.

Yes for me, mothering and art is definitely a two-way street, and a joyful one, which seems to require little if any switching of mindset. I am often thinking of things I need to do for the kids while I am painting, and probably even more often thinking about composition and inspiration while cooking dinner or supervising bathtime.

But that is my story - and I'm interested in yours. How do you navigate between your roles of artist and mother? I'd love to know.

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*Fellow creatives, did that pique your interest(!?) - the Doctor of Creative Arts is a new degree offered by the University of Southern Queensland and is currently in its first year.


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