Patterns, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 20x24
So several folks asked me about the use of paintings supplies and materials during pregnancy. I wrote a rather lengthy post about my studio practices a few years ago and after rereading it I think it is still accurate. Since I didn't actually paint though while I was pregnant, I can't really offer much advice other than to say that one of the main reasons that I didn't paint during those times was because I was leery of the effects of using oils while pregnant. I had heard so much conflicting info on art supply safety, but in the end I just didn't want to risk it.
However, y'all got me started on the pregnancy thing so I will tell you what kind of art I did do while having babies.
When I became pregnant with my first little baby, I wasn't really doing any painting or drawing. I owned a small company called redesign (see picture of my product line here and had been making handmade clocks, picture frames, mirrors and boxes. I was taking them to trade shows in NYC and doing pretty well, selling them to small gift shops and catalog companies (Ballard Designs carried one of my mirrors once) but then we moved to Utah and poof! most of my business dried up. I was still filling an order or two when I got pregnant, but I let everything go after that. We were already raising our adopted son too, so I decided that I wanted to focus on being a parent. But because I was so incredibly tired, I mostly ended up watching the entire O.J. Simpson trial while growing that baby. My son might not realize it yet, but he learned everything about the trial of the century while in utero! He was conceived, born, and almost walking between the time of the murders and the acquittal.
When I was pregnant with my second baby, I was filled with unbelievable energy and that's when I really started to miss making art. I still didn't feel comfortable using oils, so I decided to focus on drawing. I went to a figure drawing class each week, where everyone watched me get bigger and bigger, until one week I brought the baby to class with me and she slept in a car seat next to me while I drew the figure. I haven't looked at those drawings in years, but at the time I felt like I was doing the best figurative works I had ever done. I mostly used charcoal or graphite woodless pencils, which are still my favorite thing to draw with. Also during this time, I taught myself how to knit and to sew and began making a quilt. Never did finish it, but I do still have a box of squares stored away. Someday.
I kept up with all this after my oldest daughter was born (still had awesome energy) and even decided to take a volunteer position at the local arts group where I organized the visual arts department, scheduled classes etc. And that is when I took a pastel workshop with artist Colleen Howe. I fell in LOVE with pastels! They were easy to pick up and put down, great for someone with three kids, including a toddler and a baby, I love the drawing aspect and the colors! Wow! That was how I began using saturated colors.
While I was pregnant with Ginger, my third baby, I still did the occasional pastel, but at that point our house was bursting and the only place I had to work was in a very small three season porch, right next to the cat litter. So mostly I just kept up with the knitting and sewing. Right after Ginger was born, we bought a larger house and I spent several months overseeing the remodel it needed. I fell in love with that whole process and learned more about plumbing, electric and how not to get ripped off by the sub-contractors than I ever thought I could learn. Once that project was finished and we moved into the house, I really felt like I would just die if I didn't get back to painting. I had my own studio (don't get me started on how big and beautiful that space was or I will cry) and was able to get a few hours here and there and for awhile a neighbor girl came in and played with the girls so I could paint. I was also doing some pastels during this time, but frankly once I picked up the oils again, I wasn't quite so interested in the pastels any longer. My boxes of pastels are still tucked away and someday I will pull them out again.
Anyway, I have often regretted taking so much time off from making art, but now I see how much those other activities really feed into my current work. So I just try to do what I can to be a good parent AND to make up for the years that I didn't paint. I am a firm believer in silver linings.