You Have to Get Creative to Be Creative as an Artist-Parent

This one took to visual art early. And she sometimes still draws on herself, now a teen.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to be a practicing artist and mother of young kids in the most expansive of times. But throw a global pandemic on us that keeps our little ones at home or away from regular childcare and tosses our creative processes and rituals out the window… well, life could get messy fast. Or leave artists without practicing their skills for months on end, feeling adrift without production.

I speak first hand! Having a baby at home and wanting to reboot this website with regular weekly content has been harder than I anticipated! I figured I wasn’t the only one who was both struggling with their creative work AND could use a little inspiration. Here are five different get-art-done tactics and some wisdom from other local Fayetteville artist-mamas.

1. Constantly Be Planning
Jason Feifer, dad and editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, recently posted a great series about how he likes to spend a lot of time pulling topics together, considering questions and options, letting ideas simmer as he takes care of his kids or home tasks, and then planning his work before sitting down to write. After all this mental cogitation, the actual writing is fast and focused. I love this process for creating original work. I often find myself ruminating while rocking the baby to sleep or picking up ideas while we’re out riding around.

Muralist and mama of four (9, 7, 3, and a new baby!), Lacey Crime has become masterful at planning: “Since the pandemic I have become more motivated and driven. I have actually landed more commissions during this time than any other. I am realizing the importance of being consistent with my work and trying to set goals that take me out of my comfort zone. Mainly by getting word out there that people could use a custom mural they just don’t realize it yet.”

2. Play Over Perfect
Incorporate playtime with the kids into your creative process. Kids want to do what you’re doing! Why fight it. Instead, use their natural curiosity to increase your own playtime and output.

Mixed media Artist & Mama of three (13, 9, 8), Jen Hancock found inspiration this way. “My creation process became a little tricky to manage during the onset of the pandemic. Routine and my normal means of gathering inspiration were thrown out the window, and my focus shifted to managing online crisis-schooling and keeping everyone from losing their mind. Honestly, it was so overwhelming at first I fell into a complete creative funk. There was so much going on, I had a tough time focusing, and my creation space had turned into a classroom. So I did what I love to do and got creative! I stopped thinking about developing my business and dug back in to why I love to create. My youngest is my art buddy, so I snatched her up and we started working on small projects together, and drew inspiration from everything going on in the world. We created art together as a family to stand up against racism, and to ease our minds and escape from the reality of being stuck at home. Slowly, but surely we’re finding our way back into a routine, and I’ve become truly inspired by stepping back and refocusing.”

3. Change Your Goals
We all had different goals, both personal and professional, for 2020 at the start of the year. But with the novel coronavirus acting like an 8 month old tossing all her toys around the room with our lives, resetting goals is probably something we’ve all done at least once this year.

That reset could be shifting into smaller chunks. In Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, Laura Vanderkam writes about doing the smallest possible step that will allow your brain to recognize forward momentum. Maybe that’s writing one hundred words or doing a single sketch or putting together a single staff of notes or dance moves.

Or you could go the other direction, and work towards one large outcome or project rather than several you may have identified back in January (aka another lifetime).

Graphic Designer and mama of two (6, 8), Betsy McElwee has learned a lot about the work goals she wants for the future. “I’m focusing on bigger picture projects that require more thought process and less fast paced turnaround on small jobs. I’m fortunate in that I haven’t seen a huge decrease in work, as I have steady client base and agency work at a local company. But these strange times have definitely provided insight to the type of work that I want to be doing, and find fulfilling and worthwhile.

4. Nurture Rituals
Find your best work time (if you can). In the book The Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide for Fitting Creativity into Your Life, Shona Cole writes: “Are you a morning or evening person? If morning, consider getting up a little earlier to complete a specific item on your art to-do list. If evening, get your evening chores out of the way and stay up an extra thirty minutes.”

Also, have a dedicated space (no matter how small). Again from The Artistic Mother: “It is important to have an art table, desk, or craft room. It does not need to be huge or fabulous at the start, but it needs to be functional.”

Visual Artist & Mama of two adorable girls (5, 7) Katlin McFadden is grateful for this time and space: “I have a studio in my apartment where I work on my art daily. Sometimes I get up at 5 am to paint until my kids get up for school and I also paint in the evening hours when they’re watching a movie or in bed. My output has improved because I spend a lot more time at home in my studio producing work. I wasn’t really sure how I would be impacted but this time of focus has been a wonderful growing period for me and artist and I’ve produced some of my best work.

5. Find Accountability
Partner up! Have weekly creative sessions with another artist parent. Use deadlines to your advantage (preferably imposed by someone else, real or fake) to get moving on making. And don’t be ashamed to ask for help! From your parenting partner or other quaren-team adult, if you need help with the kids in order to have creative time, or help from your fellow creatives in getting motivated or finishing your work.

Graphic Designer & Mama of three littles (1, 5, 7), Chanai “Genie” Winborn has a great accountability team at the creative co-working space she runs with her husband! “I connect with creative supporters both new and old everyday on social media, mainly Facebook and those that are members at Creative Space Station and people that may come by the station looking for creative help.”

If you’re an artist-parent, how has your own creative process changed in 2020? Drop a comment and let me know!

Summer Afternoon Color

Sunlight streams through clouds over mural on Old St in downtown Fayetteville, NC.
photo by devra thomas

Do you know of a cool art thing anywhere within Fayetteville city limits? Let us know where it is so we can grab a picture of it!

Or maybe you already have a cool photo of Fayetteville art [people/object/place]? Let us know so we can feature it for our Final Friday Photo!

Celebrating my Birthday by Celebrating Local Culture

Dateline: 7/17, aka MY BIRTHDAY!

Since it’s my birthday, I thought I’d write about some of the things art-related I adore about my home here in Fayetteville, NC. When we moved here in Jan 2019, I figured there would be a thriving arts scene, since the Arts Council here is so active. But as I’ve gotten to know the artists who call the “City of Misfits” home, the depth and breadth of art here takes my breath away. For a small Southern city filled with a young, fairly transient population, Fayetteville is an incredibly creative place to be. Supporting these artists and this community is truly a gift to myself.

Downtown Public Art: downtown Fay continues to steadily “glow-up,” as the kids say. Part of the transformation is the public art that is on display throughout the area. A few pieces are permanent installations (“Winged Glory” by Jack Howard-Potter at CFVH Medical Arts building, Venus Flytrap at edge of Person St), but many are temporary, which adds to the delight of visiting downtown on a regular basis to discover something new. And I can’t forget the incredible mural on the rear of the Capitol Encore building (which is actually the school’s entrance)! It’s easily one of the best places for sweet selfie action.

“Windowstone” at HQ library. It reminds me of pi.

Cumberland County Library Art Collection: Did you know the library houses an incredible art collection and regularly puts pieces on display? I want to do an entire post/series on this amazing asset. I mean, the library system here is an incredible asset all on its own, and to have the art on top of that? ::mimes mind-blowing::

Singer/Songwriter Lisette at the Open Mic, Oct 2019

Open Mic night at The Coffee Scene: this was my first inkling of how varied and talented the artists are here in Fayetteville. If you’re not checking out this Sunday/Monday night event, usually hosted by the Godfather of Poetry Neil Ray, you’re missing out. Check the Fb page for when they livestream if you can’t be there in person (once we’re post-Covid restrictions).

STS Season 19-20 kickoff party. A raucous gathering. Good times.

Sweet Tea Shakespeare: I have a feeling if the Bard were suddenly transported to modern-day Fayetteville (I cannot WAIT for the next Bill&Ted’s movie!), he would adore this inventive theater company and the all-encompassing productions they are known for. STS shows are on the edge of being immersive theater (their drunk Shakespeare show arguably are immersive theater) and you want to show up early and pay attention through intermission so you don’t miss any of the character interaction/musical numbers/actor banter going on. They’re trying very hard to offer additional expansive content right now during Pandemic 2020 and I can’t wait to see what brilliant artistic exploits will happen once theater goes live in-person again. Do yourself (and them) a favor: become a Patreon supporter and get access and insider perks!

Hanging out at LeClair’s, May 2019

LeClair’s General Store: I love soaking in the laid-back creative vibe of this coffeehouse/vintage goods/handmade art shop. Perfect for solopreneur working, small group meetings, or pre-theater drinks (it is right across from Cape Fear Regional Theater). Pat and his team do an exquisite job curating and displaying beautiful merch.

Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra: I have loved classical music since I got my first cd: Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with my first boombox, Christmas of 1990 (such an arts nerd from a very early age). So of course I am thrilled to have the FSO here in town. Their season typically has 6-8 concerts performed at venues around town, including Methodist and Fayetteville State Universities. Maestro Stefan Sanders does an incredible job illuminating audiences about the BTS of classical music.

Sculpture show at Botanical Gardens, summer 2019

Cape Fear Botanical Gardens: Visiting the BoGardens is always visually inspiring, any time of year. The holiday lights tour was so much fun; the touring sculpture show was like a scavenger hunt for adults. It’s easy to spend a morning here, meandering the paths and enjoying the different gardens. There’s even a mini-amphitheater, which I’d love to see used for some theater performances (I know it’s happened in the past, but I haven’t personally taken one in yet)!

These are just off the top of my head, in no particular order, and reflect the tiniest portion of the breadth of art available here in Fayetteville. After the pandemic is over, I’ll celebrate my birthday in high style by visiting all of these, and more!

What is going on here?

Thanks for checking out this new venture! I’ve long dreamed of combining my journalism background with my arts administration skills and publishing a magazine dedicated to celebrating local arts & culture. And since I find myself living in Fayetteville, North Carolina, what better place to use than here!

This magazine (yeah, I’m going to call it that, even if it is a blog currently) will focus on sharing the stories of the amazing artists that call Fayetteville home. We’ll do interviews. We’ll publish poetry and short fiction by local authors. We’ll talk about performances and jam sessions. We’ll delve into the history of the arts in the area. We’ll showcase interesting public art found around the city. Think of this as the story behind the art, not just a listing of what to go see.

And because you can’t get to the 50th piece without starting at #1, now I’m over that hurdle!

Get out and support local art!

~Devra