Kay Bradner came to visit when my daughter Anna was five weeks old. She brought with her a copper plate and etching tools in order to make a portrait of Anna as a gift for us. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. The true gift she gave me that evening was the way she demonstrated living in the world as an artist. At the time, I was (and still continue) to be very sleep-deprived and all of my creative resources had been channeled into parenting. So Kay drawing Anna was an especially sweet gift – both honoring my daughter at five weeks old and reminding me of my own creativity.

Kay is a wonderful painter and printmaker who has raised an equally creative daughter. That night I asked Kay for advice about being both an artist and a mother. Kay shared how over twenty years ago when Claire was born, Kay was a single parent running a printmaking studio out of her home. Each day there were about eight people who arrived to work with her there. She would just slip Claire as a newborn into the front part of her apron and carry on her business. She even taught a workshop with Claire sitting in a bouncy chair. She says she did all this out of necessity – there was no option to stop working. As an artist mom, she gave me this advice…

  1. Find creative projects that can be done in very small intervals of time. Long, sustained periods of concentration are impossible to come by in the beginning – but anything that can be done in small snippets of time can be really rewarding.
  2. More than ever it is important to make art that fills you back up, so that you are replenished by your art endeavors and can bring that energy into parenting. Have fun.
  3. It’s really ok to step away from an art career for a long stretch time. It will always be there to return to. But your child will never be such a youngster ever again. Give yourself permission to take as long as you need to get back to your artwork.