Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being an Artist is like Being a Parent

Trying to juggle my life as an illustrator and stay at home is like trying balance on a beachball while spinning plates on sticks. It’s nuts. It takes every last ounce of energy to just keep everything from crashing to the floor.

As I sat on my bed this morning trying to make sense of my life, it occurred to me that being a parent is rather like being an artist. Sure, they are completely different worlds, but when you think about it there is an undeniable number of comparisons: chaos, heartache, hard work, and a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I’m sure other artists with kids out there would agree. Here are a few examples of what I mean.

No Instruction Manual

There is a tremendous amount of resources out there for both parenting and illustrators. So much in fact that it’s overwhelming. I often wish that there could be a single instruction manual that told me exactly what to do. But there’s not. Trial and error, are our teachers. They can be rather harsh, but it’s the only way we learn.

Each path is different. No two artists are the same. No two children are alike. What works for some may not work for others. We have to find our own way. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in life is trust your own intuition. Human beings crave structure. We are to taught to follow rules and guidelines from a very early age. To think independently can be terrifying! However it is absolutely essential for parents and artists. No one can tell you how to do your job. You have to learn to trust in yourself, take chances, and embrace the chaos. Only then can you live up to your full potential.

Good Days and Bad Days
There are times when I feel like my artwork is fantastic. I’ll finish a piece and then not be able to stop looking at it. I’ll peek at it throughout the day to admire my brilliance. But then the next day I’ll turn around, see the same piece, and want to rip it too shreds. I’ll see nothing but the inconsistencies, the amateur touches, and mistakes. Those are the days I just want to take all of my artwork and burn it in a faraway field, never to be thought of again.

Parenting is the same way. Sometimes I’ll think, “Man, I’m such an awesome mom.” My son and I make cardboard box castles, we go on nature walks, I may even get him to eat a few vegetables. But then come the days when I can barely pull myself out of bed. My son sits in front of the TV, and I stare at the computer screen like a zombie. He eats goldfish crackers and plain, white, store-bought bread while I guzzle coffee just trying to maintain sanity.

Good days and bad days. There’s no way of predicting when they’ll come and go. The key is to enjoy the good times while they last, and learn to forgive yourself when things go wrong.

Fear of Failure
Failure. This is my worst fear, both as a parent and an artist. What I’m just pretending to be something I’m not? What if I never become a professional, published illustrator? What if I’m not cut out for motherhood? These fears plague me every single day of my life. Most of the time I manage to keep them at under the surface, but then someone may make a snide comment about my parenting, or I’ll receive a rejection letter from an agent or editor, and those fears break lose and I become lost in a sea of insecurities and despair.

Fortunately my passion for illustrating and love for my son always reign victorious, pushing those fears back under the surface, but they still lurk, waiting for the next opportunity to pounce. Someday I hope to be rid of them for good.


Never am I more happy than when I get lost in the lines and color of my work, or snuggle up to my son to read him a bed time story. These are the moments I live for. They make up my identity as a human being. There is a quote by Arsene Houssaye, “Tell me what you love, and I will tell you who you are.” I am an artist. I am a mother. These are two facts that will never change for as long as I live. It is who I am.


  1. Love this post! They do seem very similar. I hope that means we can use lessons from one with the other.

    1. Thanks Catherine! I think that as I continue to grow the lessons I learn from both parenting and illustrating definitely compliment each other.

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