April 2022: Art and Motherhood

art and motherhood

How does art and motherhood work together?  I’m about to have my first baby & I’ve been thinking about this over for the last nine months. 

I’m currently sitting on my bed at home with my dog Nina Simone snuggled at my feet. Today is my due date and I’m having all the feels of excitement, anxiety and everything in between. This will probably be my last creative journal entry for a while as baby should arrive soon (hopefully sooner rather than later!) and I’ll be taking my maternity break of four months from my studio, all going to plan! 

art and motherhood
With my fur-baby Nina Simone

I did some research into learning about how other artists have approached art and motherhood which unfortunately hasn’t resulted in much insight as not many artists have written about this. Actually, the most read article I found was by the Guardian which spoke to 50 female artists about the impact of art and motherhood on their careers. The article didn’t leave me feeling confident about the current and historical view of artists who become mothers however it did shed some light on possible change. 

On this note, I thought it would be a good idea to share what I’ve done and how I’ve felt about art and motherhood in the hope it may help another fellow artist who has been pondering the same thoughts. 

My paintings:

The life of an artist has an element of precariousness therefore you always need to be prepared for that email, phone call, studio visit that can result in a sale or help you progress. With this knowledge, I’ve put a lot of time into organising my art practice around my baby’s arrival. 

Firstly, I divided up my week between admin days and painting days and knew I had to be productive. I’ve had a good pregnancy but I definitely have had a few days where I had no energy and had to factor this into my productivity & planning. Prioritising my body over my work was new and took a while to accept. I tend to keep quiet regular hours at my studio but if I was late due to something pregnancy related, I learned to be OK with that, simple as!

Secondly, in preparation for the months ahead, I began by evaluating which paintings I had available and what I needed. Last year I sold out of large paintings and so the beginning of this year was spent making new large paintings. I really love this new body of work and feel proud that I got them finished as there were definitely a few days I struggled!

I made these paintings during my third trimester and some days I just physically didn’t have the energy or right headspace to paint. In hindsight, I learned from the bad days. If I hadn’t recognised & accepted that the studio day I had planned out for painting that week wasn’t going to happen, I would have laboured my work resulting in lazy painting which is not how I like to do things! 

art and motherhood
Rock Roulette, 2022, oil paint and oil bar on linen, 80x80cm £1500

Instead, I was as flexible as I could be. If I wasn’t in the mood to paint, I did admin and if I wasn’t in the mood for admin I just gave myself a break, went home and plonked in front of the tv. Sometimes, it’s best to just give in and then go back to what you need to do when your head and body are up for it, particularly when you’re pregnant and baby brain becomes very real!

Now, with these new paintings, I now have a good stock of small, medium and large works available. Everything feels in order as they are photographed, up on my website, ready to be viewed & they’ve already been busy! One of these paintings has just been selected for an exhibition in NYC, which is very exciting. You can find out more about that show here. And another six of these paintings have just been accepted for the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead this coming May. Again, glad I planned out my time and prepped for when I’d be too pregnant to produce work otherwise I would have missed out on these opportunities.

My studio:

I’ve sublet half my studio space at Delta House Studios. Subletting my whole studio would have made more financial sense but I opted to only sublet half because I wanted to be able to pop in and out of my space. This became imperative as I didn’t want to lose touch with my painting practice.

I know from experience that some studio days are spent just looking and thinking about the work on the wall. I wanted to give myself the opportunity to do this otherwise I may develop a ‘fear’ of going back to the studio, letting those thoughts we all dread creep in- how do I do this again, can I do this, where do I begin- which has happened to me before.

art and motherhood
Mirrored, 2022, oil paint and oil bar on linen, 80x80cm £1500

I also spoke to a lot of my peers in the studio, other moms and dads that had gone through this transition between art and motherhood/fatherhood. 

Having these conversations gave me confidence as they were honest and open in terms of work productivity, finances, sharing duties with their partners and scheduling dedicated studio time. The only negative conversation I had was with an elderly male who has been in my studio block for years & declared that children ruin an artist’s life!

This echoes the Guardian article I opened this chat with as he had decided not to have children in fear of sacrificing his art practice. This can be read on different levels. For me I’m choosing to look at a comment like this as a generational and gender difference, his views are extremely different to mine, they won’t change so in a way it’s pointless taking them into account.

My Website:

As I manage my website myself I feel like it’s an ongoing battle/ love affair! I’m not very techy and can get frustrated when I cannot figure it out but am thrilled when I click a button and magically everything actually looks and works the way I want it to.

It’s a work in progress and for now, knowing that all links are working, it’s accessible and the contact page is prominent for people wishing to inquire about a painting, it will do. I’ll still be available throughout my maternity break via email and Instagram DM. I feel quite grateful that I can still have this access to my audience. I imagine breastfeeding and returning messages at the same time or perhaps I’m being too ambitious? I’ll just have to get back to you on that one!

To any artists planning on having children, I hope this chat has helped in some way- thanks for reading, Aisling

Aisling Drennan is an award-winning abstract artist with a London, UK-based art studio.

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