Perhaps one of my favorite artists on my Instagram feed the beautifully vibrant and minimal paintings of Meredith C. Bullock bring me such joy. I have been keen to have her share her experiences of running a successful art business whilst being a mother to her small child and I was super excited when she agreed to do an Artists Meets Mother interview last year. Unfortunately shortly after her responses to my questions appeared in my inbox I became very sick in pregnancy and my art practice and my blog had to be temporarily shelved whilst I focused on mine and my babies health. Since completing this interview Meredith has safely delivered her second child and is taking a temporary break from her art business to focus on mothering her boys. I am none the less very pleased to finally bring to you today our interview from last summer. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have.
Tell me a bit about your art. What inspires you to paint?
Art is how I understand myself and the world around me—it's how I process what I see, what I feel, what I experience.
What inspires me is endless, honestly. But what directly and most closely inspires my work are past and current experiences and how I process them emotionally.
I recently minimized my art practice and work to fit into more pockets of time as a stay home mother. Previously my work would take days and multiple layers of paint to complete. I missed the feeling of completing a piece of work in a day like I used to before I became a mother. So I looked at my process and figured out where I could minimize my process in order to complete a painting in a sitting, better yet, in an hour or less. I stopped mixing paint and instead started to use ink, I traded in canvas for paper, I stopped layering my art to complete the painting in one sitting (no drying time), and I simplified my gestures into more precise shapes. All of these changes made a huge impact on my work visually and emotionally. I started to prefer the bold yet minimal lines and found I could (or had to) articulate my emotions with more clarity.
Describe to us your workspace. Where do you create?
My art studio is in my home just off the kitchen and as you walk into our main home entrance. It offers me the ability to create in unexpected moments, during naptimes, and at night or early in the morning if I wish. I often wish I didn't have to share my studio with the entrance walkway of our home, or better yet even have it in my home at all, but I know for certain I would never have enough time to create if I had to drive to a separate location.
Can you share anything of your journey as a mother with us?
My journey as a mother so far has been quite a roller coaster! At first I couldn't believe the immense joy and love I felt. I honestly didn't know I could love anything the way I loved my son. After a few months I started to miss my old life and the freedom (and sleep) I once had. Especially my creative life. I was just coming off the 100 day project of creating nearly everyday then I went to..
creating nothing for weeks, maybe even months. It was hard, really hard. But eventually after 3 or 4 months I started to find more time to create and around 8/9 months we hired a nanny to watch my son a few days a week. Then when he was a year, when he was breastfeeding less during the day, we enrolled him into daycare a few days per week. He continues to go to daycare 2 days per week and is enrolled in next year's program for the same thing. We're expecting our second baby (another boy!) in July so we're unsure how everything will look when we have two boys but we're excited to find out. I imagine the first 6 months will somewhat easy for finding creative time because the baby will be so little and my older son will be going to daycare 2 days per week. But what I have learned from my past experience is to not expect too much or plan too much because you just never know how everything will pan out once the baby comes. So we're going to take it one day at a time.
How many children do you have?
I have an almost 2 year old son and another boy coming in July.
Do you feel that motherhood has changed your experience as an artist?
It definitely has. Becoming a mother changes everything. It changes the amount of time you have, the emotions you have, the energy you have, your interests, your focus, and your expectations. Because I desire to be the best mom I can, I mould my creative life around that. So that means less time creating and more time mothering. It also means my passions of being a great mom comes through my work and often times my son along side me as I create. I recently created a painting while he painted his own painting beside me. Just when I thought I was finished he moved my paper and caused me to mess up my work. I was a bit angry but attempted to fix it. Then he grabbed my brush as I was painting and messed up what I was doing again. I was so frustrated, I yelled at him. Then I continued to repair the painting to what I thought would look nice and the guilt set in. I realized my art was far better because he 'helped' than it was before he had any part of it at all. That right there is artist meets mother.
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?
If I can help it, I plan my creative time without my son. But sometimes there are times I paint with him in my studio. I like the idea of collaborating with my son but haven't embarked on that journey yet, except for the accidental example I mentioned earlier. We do create crayon drawing together all of the time but I consider that art more fun than real artwork I feel I'm still learning how to blend him into my studio time. I imagine it'll get better and easier with time and age.
What positives do you feel being a mother brings to your artistic practice?
Wow, great question! Becoming a mother has made me a better artist. Because my time is more precious than ever, I'm required to be more intentional about how I plan my creative time, which urges me to be more intentional about why I'm creating and what I'm creating about. My work is stronger because of the intention. I also feel because I'm a mother now I want to be the best I can be for my son to show him that...anything is possible whether your a mother or father or whether you're a stay at home parent or work full time. I want to show him being an artist is possible and beautiful and I'm hopeful he'll enjoy the experience of being surrounded by art and a mother who loves her life and what she does.
What challenges does it bring?
It's certainly easier to create whenever I want and wherever I want. As a mother it's simply not possible. So the challenge is letting go of this idea of painting all day and night for days on end. And accepting that at this moment and stage of motherhood it's simply not a reality.
Being both a mother and an artist can be a difficult balance. How do you try and manage this?
The best way I balance anything, especially motherhood with creativity, is with being intentional and by planning as much as possible. I take the time beforehand to plan what I'm going to paint, about so that when I drop my son off at daycare I can jump into painting the moment I return to my studio. It also means my schedule and planner is full of notes, priorities and timelines.
Self care is important as a mother. Do you feel that being an artist benefits your parenting in any way?
I'm more balanced, calm, happier, and full of joy because I do what I love and therefore I'm a better parent.
Where can we see more of your artwork?
My most recent work along with the best descriptions are on Instagram. You can also find more on my website at meredithcbullock.com