The work of artist Sarah Detweiler is enriched with personal, emotive and maternal imagery. I have been drawn to her work since I first discovered her Instagram feed several months ago, perhaps because her paintings remind me of my own emotional experiences of motherhood. Today I am excited to share with you more about Sarah’s practice and her experiences of both art and motherhood.
Tell me a bit about your art. What inspires you to paint?
My style is always in flux, but most recently I have been working in watercolor or gouache on figurative paintings driven by feminine narratives, especially motherhood. My inspiration is drawn from my personal experiences with life and my relationship with others. Art has become a barometer for my quality of life. If I am not being creative in some form, then something is wrong.
Can you share anything of your journey as a mother with us? How many children do you have?
I am a stay-at-home mom to my 2 yr old daughter, Mia. I have often compared raising a young child to a science experiment where the variables change every day. My creative thinking now serves a new purpose when I am trying to figure out how I am going to get my daughter to eat fruit today. Having a creative relationship with my daughter has always been a priority to me, and I had her making art as early as I could. It was a magical moment when I made art with her for the first time.
Do you feel that motherhood has changed your experience as an artist?
Without question. When I was pregnant, I made less art than I thought I would. I expected it to be a very creative time, but didn’t realize how much energy the gestation process would take out of me. I did not have high hopes for finding that creative energy in early motherhood, but I surprised myself by picking up the paints again when my daughter was only 6 weeks old. My medium changed out of necessity. I don’t remember it being a conscious decision, but I found myself painting with watercolors in place of oils. I think the watercolors offered the opportunity of having a finished piece by the end of the evening so I could feel a sense of accomplishment. I also noticed that bright colors replaced the muted tones that I used to paint with. There is no denying the color that my daughter has added to my life. Motherhood has also become the forefront of the subject matter in my art.
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?
I have always been most creative at night, which has its benefits and disadvantages as a mother. Right now it works because that is really the only time I can find to work on my art anyway, but it is extremely difficult to find the motivation after a full day of mothering. Often I will spend the day daydreaming about what I am going to work on that night. In the morning, my daughter loves to see what I worked on while she was sleeping.
I have to say that posting my art and images of my process onto social media has also become a part of my process in itself. Being a stay-at-home mom can be very isolating at times, and social media has offered an entirely new way of being seen or feeling relevant even if you are not exhibiting your work in galleries.
Describe to us your workspace. Where do you create?
I feel very blessed to have a room in my home as my studio. I lived in New York for many years and was accustomed to painting on my bedroom floor in tiny apartments, so this feels like a dream. Despite having a studio, I still spend many evenings painting with my watercolors on the couch in front of the TV.
I also created a corner in my studio for my daughter to work on her art. I look forward to the day where our art making can be a more parallel process, but for now, when she is working in the studio, I am assisting her or collaborating with her.
What positives do you feel being a mother brings to your artistic practice?
My artistic practice has gained even more value in my life since becoming a mother. It gives me an identity outside of being a mother, which is incredibly important to my sense of self. The inspiration that motherhood has provided for my art has been endless. One of the first paintings that I made after I had my daughter turned into an illustrated book that I am working on that was entirely conceived while nursing my daughter to sleep at night. Also, time has more value to me now, so the moments that I get to work on my art feel more precious.
What challenges does it bring?
There is never enough time or energy, but you do it anyway. I recently gave myself the personal challenge of making art every day for 100 days. I really benefited from the self-discipline it took to commit to making art every day, and posting it on my Instagram account made me accountable. It also proved to me that I could manage a regular art practice as a mother. Because time is a constant challenge, I recently made the difficult decision to take a hiatus from commission work because with the little time that I do have to make art, I need to use it focusing on my personal practice.
Being both a mother and an artist can be a difficult balance. How do you try and manage this?
Balance. That has become a magical word to me in motherhood. I don’t feel like I have it managed at all, but I “manage” by never giving up on the belief that balance is something that can be achieved.
Self care is important as a mother. Do you feel that being an artist benefits your parenting in any way?
I find being a mother and an artist to be mutually rewarding experiences. It is the days after I have had a good night of art making that I feel I am able to be most present with my daughter. My experiences as a mother then provide inspiration for my art, and it becomes a cycle where they keep giving back to each other. That is when I feel most complete.
Where can we see more of your artwork?