Vibrant colours and beautiful floral forms, the work of artist Julie Marriott frequently brightens my Instagram news feed. Her work in many ways radiates the joy of nature. I am more then excited today to bring you this Artist Meets Mother interview where Julie shares with us her practice and why she feels that it is better to strive for "harmony" as a mother artist opposed to "balance."
Tell me a bit about your art. What inspires you to paint?
I love to paint the lush beauty of nature in bright, joyful, expressive colors. Florals are my favorite subject and my primary medium is acrylic. I also am a surface pattern designer, which means I create patterns to be printed on textiles and other products. Each of these art forms presents its own unique type of creative “problem” to be solved, and I love that unexpected adventure! Fundamentally, the act of creating a physical object that I can hold and enjoy is wonderfully fulfilling to me.
Can you share anything of your journey as a mother with us? How many children do you have?
My husband and I have one child so far, our daughter, Violet. She just turned two-years-old, so you could say that I'm still comparatively new to this whole mom thing! I chose to quit my job as an art instructor to stay home with her full-time and am so happy with that decision. Violet has a sweet, curious, playful personality and has recently been saying “mama paint!” when she sees videos of me painting or she wanders into my studio. She LOVES to paint with her own set of art materials and I hope to foster and encourage that creativity as she grows up.
Do you feel that motherhood has changed your experience as an artist?
Yes! Becoming a mom definitely made me realize in a new way how important art-making is to me and has given me more focus. Honestly, in the very early days I felt pretty frustrated because I had all these ideas I wanted to work on, and no time! I’d never had that type of driven urge to create before. When our lives settled down into more of a routine, being faced with little pockets of free time forced me to be way more intentional about what I wanted to do with my art. I also felt a drive to build a more serious business around my art, which has been my focus these last two years.
Tell me a bit about your process. Do you involve your children in your art at all or is your time spent creating time for yourself?
When Violet gets a bit older, I would love for her to join me in my studio. But for now, nap time is my art making time! I’ve been really blessed that she is a great napper, so I use that chunk of time primarily as studio time. Some days I prep for an upcoming painting workshop, do computer work, or take photos. But if it’s a painting day, that is my favorite! I usually squeeze out my acrylics and get straight to work, free-handing my composition onto the canvas and fitting it together organically like a puzzle as I go along. I often use photo references for individual blooms, but rarely for the whole gathering. The adventure of not quite knowing how the painting will end up is exciting! Pinterest is my favorite go-to inspiration resource, so if I get stuck as I’m painting, I often hop on there to find new color palettes and flower varieties.
Right now, I’m working on a series of paintings I call the Garden Girls that incorporate the human figure along with my florals. Because they are on a larger scale and are a bit more complex, I sketch out my basic composition onto the canvas with a Prismacolor pencil before I start painting.
At this stage of my life, acrylics are my best friend because they dry so quickly and allow me to get more done in a sitting. Often you’ll find me hitting up my painting with a blow dryer to get it done even faster!
Describe to us your workspace. Where do you create?
My studio is in one corner of our house’s spare bedroom, which also doubles as our home office and extra storage space! The walls and most of the furniture are white, which keeps the space bright and airy. Even though it's tiny, I'm just thankful to have a dedicated space where I can make a mess and not worry about cleaning it all up at the end of the day. I still remember my art professors in college saying that it’s ten times harder to gather the momentum to create if you have the barrier of setting your space up every time. So true!!
I have a little drafting table by the window where I work on my smaller paintings, my trusty turquoise IKEA cart for all my painting supplies, and two small bookshelves for all the rest. My foldable travel easel hides in the corner until I need it for larger canvases. A recent addition to my studio (and my new favorite thing!) is a shelf I built above my desk to display my finished paintings. It's really inspiring to have those around me as I work.
What positives do you feel being a mother brings to your artistic practice?
Becoming a mom really forced me to become way more focused and purposeful with my time in the studio, which I know has propelled my personal style and art business in wonderful ways. Also, being a mom who hopes her daughter will grow up to be a good steward of her unique gifts and strengths has encouraged me to make the most of the creative gifts I’ve been given.
What challenges does it bring?
Limited time is always the biggest factor. Also, I would say switching back and forth between “mom mode” and “art-making mode” throughout the day is a challenge. It’s hard to step away from a painting or design project I’m completely immersed in when my block of creative time is over. Life just has to be more structured now. I don’t have the freedom (or energy!) to stay up super late working on a projects anymore because my kiddo doesn’t sleep in!
Being both a mother and an artist can be a difficult balance. How do you try and manage this?
I recently listened to a podcast where the host said that “balance” is the wrong thing to be shooting for because it gives the impression that all areas of our lives need to be equal. Instead, “harmony” is a better way to look at it, where the different parts of life in their different proportions harmonize and don’t battle one another. I love this idea! I think what helps me harmonize my various responsibilities as a wife, mother and artist is having regular times of day that are designated for different duties. Often, I’ll wake up an hour before my daughter to give myself an extra chunk of time in the studio so I can relax and enjoy our day together even more.
Self care is important as a mother. Do you feel that allowing yourself the time to create benefits your parenting in any way?
For sure! Being creative is a big part of who I am as a person, so my creative outlets are definitely like a breath of fresh air. Having dedicated time to create is so fulfilling for me and I hope it makes me a happier mom!
Where can we see more of your artwork?
I’d love to keep in touch with you! Please visit juliemarriottart.com/keepintouch to see more of my work and join my colorful Friday Studio Notes newsletter.
You can also find Julie on Instagram @juliemarriottart.