Stephanie Hock’s colourful paintings tell the stories of the people and the communities around her. Her work always brings a smile to my face, as a mother of four children, Stephanie’s paintings are filled with the magic of childhood – a vibrant reflection of family life in the USA. I am keen to learn how she manages to balance motherhood and her art – the two careers she loves the most in this Artist Meets Mother interview.
Tell me a bit about your art. What inspires you to paint?
I am fascinated by humanity, from youth all the way up to old age. I love to paint lifescapes and capture the stories of humanity wherever I find them. I like bright, happy colors and impressionist shapes. My training began in graphic design, so I’m always pretty mindful of the lines, composition and design elements of a painting. Childhood, especially, fascinates me because there’s so much innocence and energy. I love to capture the wonder of it. Cities and urban scenes are also a favorite of mine because they’re always bursting with so much life. I love standing on a busy corner and listening to snippets of all the stories that are passing me by. I majored in art, but I minored in sociology and I think there’s an influence in my art of these sociological snapshots of what life looks like.
Can you share anything of your journey as a mother with us? How many children do you have?
I had four children in four years, twin girls and then two boys that came very close together. You get the family that comes to you, and it’s been a fun adventure to embrace the chaos that is ours. My biggest dream when I grew up was to be a mother and I feel so grateful that it came true and I get to be the one raising these four beautiful souls everyday. I’m definitely not as patient as I should be and I sometimes let Netflix run a little too long for them so I can get stuff done, but we also make a lot of great memories together and sincerely enjoy each other’s company. I think that’s one of the funnest things about having kids is all of the new, close friendships I’ve gained. They’re hilarious and creative and wise and they make my life so much better.
Do you feel that motherhood has changed your experience as an artist?
Absolutely! For one, it’s given me millions of reference photos. I was pregnant with my fourth baby when I really felt strongly that I needed to pursue my art professionally. I questioned myself, it seemed like such a crazy time to really launch a business. But I did it anyway and I’ve been amazed at how the two have grown together. There are some beautiful things about nurturing a career and nurturing a family side by side. They both force me to stop and slow down and roll with the punches and be flexible. When my kids interrupt me it sometimes stops me from overworking a painting. When I disappear to paint for a few hours, I come back to my family energized, refreshed and much more patient. I need the breaks. They love to be in my studio with me and work on their own projects and I love encouraging their creativity. It’s important to me that all of my children, but especially my daughters, believe that they can grow up to be what they want to be. I love that my example has given them permission to dream. Being a mother has also helped me see stories to paint that I probably would’ve missed otherwise. I feel maternal about all kinds of souls in my paintings and want to pull out the good in them the way a mother would. I often paint children but from a parents’ perspective and it speaks to the many emotions you have from that vantage point watching a child grow. Whenever I talk about my art, I can’t help but bring up motherhood because I feel that my two careers are very intertwined in a beautiful way.
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’ve learned as I’ve gone that there are parts of the business my children can be involved in and parts I need to shut them out of and work alone. It’s a nice idea that they can always be next to you, sweetly creating, but when they’re whining or too underfoot or I have major deadlines, I need to be professional and “go to work” (aka shut and lock the door). Lucky for us, my kids are used to the ebb and flow and it works out. I love to let them help with parts they can’t mess up too much, like gessoing my boards. Sometimes I’ll work on things in the family space and they love to see what I’m doing or sit by me to do their homework while I work. I make copies of my drawings that I give to my kids as coloring pages. One of my favorite things is having special “Mother/Daughter Art Club” nights where I take my two oldest to shows with me and we talk about what we like and don’t like. I hope to do the same thing when my sons get a little older. Sometimes we all go to a show together and they get really excited if I’ve won a ribbon. It works out when the next night we go to their reflections show and I can celebrate the ribbon they’ve won. I want our family to have opportunities to cheer every member of the family on, including the mom. Moms are so self-sacrificing for the good of the family, but I think it’s healthy for kids to see them display their talents as well.
Describe to us your workspace. Where do you create?
I have a small room in my house that’s right next door to our playroom. When I don’t need to focus too intensely, I leave the door open and can listen to them all play while I work. They wander in and out and I’ll often ask them to critique what I’m working on (kids are great for blunt honesty). I listen to music a lot while I work and I have one daughter that loves to come dance in my studio while I paint. There’s a great creative energy flowing through our two rooms as they imagine all kinds of worlds in their play and I create worlds in my paintings. I soak up that energy and I think it finds its way into my work.
What positives do you feel being a mother brings to your artistic practice?
Having a family life to juggle with my work life has pushed me to really be organized. I don’t have the luxury of sitting around for hours waiting for inspiration to strike. I show up every day for the two or three hours I can carve out, I work hard, get as much done as I can, let go of what I can’t, and then go back to my busy family life. When I was pregnant with my last baby, I took a workshop with several other artists for five days. I was by far the youngest in the class and they kept marveling at how and why I was there when I was pregnant and had three other little kids at home. I looked at them and thought, well, what’s the other option? I put this off for years and only paint when my family’s grown and I’m retired? These years will be chaotic either way, but the painting might just save my soul. Now that I’m a few years into it, I can see the wisdom of starting right then. It takes a long time to grow an art career and I’m grateful to do it while I’m still young with plenty of energy. It’s wonderful to contribute to my family’s financial health and to take us all on vacations while my kids are small and still living with me. And then on those vacations, I get so many reference photos and can come home and paint from that for years. Motherhood and art feed each other, and I am fed by both
What challenges does it bring?
My children are still all under the age of seven, so they always need supervision. I have a wonderful husband who’s a wonderful dad and he carries so much of the family load when I’m working, but it’s tricky to always navigate who can take care of them when I have work things. It’s been liberating to have daytime hours now that my oldest two are in school all day and I look forward to more freedom as they all get to that stage. Sometimes it’s hard to get interrupted so much when I’m trying to work or have their needs thwart my plans. I do 90% of my business out of my home, but there are times when I’m gone at night for events and my kids miss being kissed goodnight.
Being both a mother and an artist can be a difficult balance. How do you try and manage this?
I think it’s going to look different for every single family, and I’ve learned that even in my same family it looks different every season. When we have kids in t-ball every night, I have to be flexible about how I fit my art hours into the day. When my kids are all home all summer, I have to readjust when I work and when I focus on doing things with them. I am mindful of my relationship with my husband. We make great business partners and we can hand off parenting reigns smoothly to one another, but we also really prioritize time when we can be alone and talk and stay connected. I love when he comes and sits in my studio and talks to me while I work. I lean on him so much and value his opinion above all others. I would never be able to pull off motherhood and art if it weren’t for his partnership.
Self care is important as a mother. Do you feel that being an artist benefits your parenting in any way?
Being connected to a world outside my home regularly has surprisingly helped me relate to my kids as we discuss situations they face. I can empathize with rejection when I’ve just dealt with it too in the last week. A few days ago, we shared similar experiences of peers who were unkind and arrogant to us and how we handled it. I also have a really strong network of artist friends, several of whom are also mothers. We meet regularly to support each other and talk through issues both in our families and our careers. It is so good for my soul and helps broaden my perspective as I raise my children and grow my business.
Where can we see more of your artwork?
I am grateful to have work throughout the year in two galleries in Salt Lake City: David Ericson Fine Art and Evergreen Art Gallery. I participate in a lot of local shows and markets and also always have work available on my website, http://www.stephaniehock.com/.For more art by inspiring mother artists follow our Instagram feed @ArtistMeetsMother.
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