Discussion: How Do You Manage Being an Artist and a Parent?

Artist parent

I recently came across an article from Hyperallergic that made an interesting point I’ve considered but never put into words: there are unique challenges that come with being both an artist and a parent.

“In the popular imagination,” artist Daniel Gerwin writes in the article, “artists are not supposed to be responsible parents, changing diapers, and picking up their kids from school on time. Mainstream culture wants artists to be the romanticized ‘other’: shamans, enfants terrible, drug- and alcohol-fueled selfish geniuses who play the foil to a stable workaday existence. Our archetypes are the childless Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, or Picasso, whose concerns revolved primarily around himself.”

Yet, increasingly, artists are defying this stereotype, bringing up children while trying to find their place in the art world.

Challenges for Artist Parents

Gerwin’s article focuses on the fact that artist residencies often effectively exclude artists with children, who typically can’t get away from family life for weeks or months on end to pursue those kinds of opportunities.

But he also points out that the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying shutdowns have made it difficult for many artist parents to balance those roles.

Even outside of the present circumstances, balance can be a struggle, especially since so many artists work from home studios. Good time management is key for running a successful art business, but it can be difficult to stick to a schedule when you factor in the sometimes unpredictable needs of children—especially young children.

Add in the struggles of traveling to galleries and events, and it’s quite an undertaking.

Unexpected Benefits?

Despite the challenges artist parents face, Gerwin points out that bringing up children can be a powerful addition to the artistic experience. In his case, for example, he says, “having children has made my work lighter in its sensibility, more playful in its form and color, and deeper in its explorations.”

Many artists throughout history have even used their children as models, including Claude Monet. And contemporary artists, as Gerwin illustrates, have drawn endless inspiration from every aspect of parenting, from pregnancy to family life.

How Do You Do It?

If you’re an artist with children at home, how do you manage everything? What are your struggles? Has parenting influenced your art? Do you have any advice for other artist parents? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author: Mara Blackwood

Mara Blackwood is the Executive Editor of RedDotBlog

2 Comments

  1. Thanks to your Art Business Academy, your productivity schedule is a game changer for me and the family. It helps them all know when I am working and when i’m available. In addition to my studio and art business work time, I put lots on there involving family, homework time, dinner prep, family movie night etc. It has been very helpful for all of us. I really love the flexibility that being an artist gives me to be able to do more with my kids and family while they are young- as long as I keep the boundaries and stick to my commitment to art too! It works thanks to a very supportive husband and extended family who respect my efforts and don’t try to take up my art time with family needs (when possible). It doesn’t always work perfectly, but even if it works 85% of the time it’s pretty good!

  2. It is a flexible life so I have been able to be there for my son for all the milestones, at the school gates, at the Christmas plays, a constant presence. He is now 17 and quite independent but it is still difficult to carve out time to paint. I had to give up my studio when he was a baby and work from home.
    I really struggle with any distractions (suspect I’m on the ADD spectrum) and this year has been particularly challenging with him and my partner around the house so much more. I had a very productive year last year but hardly any output this year. Luckily in the UK we had a covid income support scheme for self-employed workers so that has helped over the summer, and I’ve been able to keep limited edition print sales ticking over, but I’m a bit nervous about the year ahead…

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