Sharing the Creativity: Reflections of an Artist Mama

I remember the smell of fresh oil paint, the floors covered in clay dust, the walls splattered with paint and posters.  It felt calm and serene; I could hear the sounds of an Enya album playing in the background. I remember her hands covered in charcoal and oil pastel as they worked their way gracefully across the paper. She had an obsession with crows and intertwining tree branches. The palette was rich with bold, warm reds and oranges.  I wanted to be her. I wanted to mimic everything that she created.

While she worked on her art, she could have found a babysitter, grandparent, even an aunt to care for me. Instead my mother chose to include me into the world of art, the world of beauty.

Me at the age of 6 at one of my mother's art openings.
Me at the age of 6 at one of my mother’s art openings.

I remember at a very young age going to the open art studio of a local college to watch her and work on drawings with her. We would spend what felt like hours working on our masterpieces, exploring the studios, and frequenting the school gallery. This was her introduction to me to what she most treasured, and to what would bring me joy for the rest of my life, as well. I am sure no one is surprised that I am an art teacher and long to be painting in a studio.

Some of my most cherished memories are of when I was included in the creative process with my mother. That is why I now include my daughter.

I am often asked, “How do you find the time?” Simple. I invite my oldest to join me during this time.   I see myself in my daughter and how I longed to create side-by-side with my mother.  My daughter likes to get messy by mixing all of the colors of the paint together.  She loves working with a variety of materials to create the perfect piece.  

I see that it brings her joy to be working next to me.

To show me the progress of her paintings or sculptures.  

To compare artwork.  

To discuss the images that we have created.  

To be included.  

To feel needed and wanted.

This is our bonding time.  It’s unique, it allows her to explore new ideas, and it gives her a way to express herself freely.

preparing for a show with Zoey

I recently came across a video about how other artists have included their children within their art processes.  Their children were helping with the creation of work or being photographed as the subjects within their mothers’ piece.  It was beautiful to see the creative interaction between mother and daughter or mother and son.  Instead of worrying about the deadlines, the constant mess, the interruptions, they allowed the chaos to occur and fostered the memories that were occurring.

Of course it would be easier, and at times, quieter to lock myself in my studio and work alone. But when you are a mother of two, you need to find a happy balance, and that is including my children within this process.  

Benchmarks 2014
My oldest helping me paint an area of my bench at Iowa City’s Benchmarks 2014

I have also found that motherhood has influenced my work and brought on a whole new perspective.  I feel that my work brings my emotions to a new level.  I think deeper, and the process humbles me.  These feelings and ideas are ones that I never had before I became a parent. I feel mature and comfortable about my decision-making. Some of my more meaningful pieces include the images of my children.  I love the look on my daughter’s face when she sees herself painted on a canvas.

Art Opening at the Dubuque Museum of Art
Posing for a photo at one of my openings at the Dubuque Museum of Art

By allowing them to be a part of my hobby, my journey, and my happiness, I am allowing them to see the true me and  be a part of something wonderful.


Mary, a native of Rockford, Illinois, attended DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois where she received her BA in Secondary Art Education. In 2007, she moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa after accepting a position as a high school visual arts teacher with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She and her husband, Collin, who is a teacher in the Iowa City Community School District, reside in Cedar Rapids with their daughters, Zoey and Munroe. Zoey is five and Munroe will be turning one in October 2016. In addition to being a full time mommy, full time teacher, and writer for the mom’s blog, she is also a professional artist who has shown and published works both nationally and internationally. Mary enjoys traveling, painting, and most of all, spending time with her family.


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