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While we’re on the subject of portraits, this was a fun one…

A Mother’s Day gift, some sweet daughters wanted to give their mother a portrait of their grandmother. Working from an old black and white photo, we created a color portrait to bring out the beautiful auburn hair and red lips of this lovely lady. Here are some progress pictures of this watercolor commission:

Mother's Day Commission, 11x14 Watercolor

Mother’s Day Commission, 11×14 Watercolor

The sound of a few tiny footsteps brings me out of softly nestled dreams into the awareness of morning. It’s 6:45 on Sunday, and I open my sleepy eyes to a beaming, messy-haired and snaggle-toothed 7-year-old, who greets me with a whispered “Happy Mother’s Day Mom!”

Mother's Day breakfastShe holds a tray, taken off one of our nesting tables, set with her own well-intentioned version of breakfast:

  • a bowl of now-mushy cereal
  • a peanut butter granola bar
  • the “prettiest orange” she could choose
  • a little candy heart made out of tootsie rolls and leftover Easter candy
  • a small glass of milk
  • a rose pulled out of her dance recital bouquet
  • and a homemade card

Her Batman-footie-clad little brother comes pattering in soon after, with a handful of stickers and drawings especially for me. They also picked out all the yellow tubes of various paints from their own art kit, since yellow is my favorite color.

As I ate my – ahem – delicious breakfast, being eagerly watched by little expectant faces, I felt grateful for every too-sweet, soggy bite.

Peter Ilsted, "Girl Reading"Later in the morning, I followed a white rabbit down the Google trail, discovering art techniques and artists previously unknown. A Danish artist from the turn of the 20th century captured my interest, with his “Sunshine and Silent Rooms.” Peter Ilsted, along with several of his contemporaries, created paintings and prints of clean, sunlit rooms with calm, still figures…very beautiful, very peaceful, very quiet. The pieces were so calming, I couldn’t help but pause. It was as if the only sound to be heard was the rhythmic ticking of a clock on an unhurried day; snapshots of ordinary places, ordinary moments, yet full of beauty and grace.

Inspired by the tranquility of Ilsted’s work, I sat down in my own quiet, sunlit room and sketched my two older children, who were quietly playing with a few small toys at the coffee table. While drawing their busy little hands, my daughter’s crossed feet, my son’s little nose, I felt so grateful for the ability to absorb each detail in this every-day moment, and so happy to be a mom on this Mother’s Day.

Sunshine and Quiet Play, graphite sketch

Sunshine and Quiet Play, graphite sketch

“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world” -Elton John

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” -Picasso

Over the years, I have become adept at spinning plates. I can hold several sticks at once, get the plates spinning and keep them all going at the same time without crashing. Okay, maybe only metaphorically…but that would be a cool party trick…

I do however, keep a lot of things in motion as I live each day: 3 kids, 5-day a week job, and an art career are the main events, amongst all the other important and enjoyable parts of my life. People often ask, “How (and possibly why) do you do it all?”

Short answer: Because I’m stubborn as a mule.

I want to be a good mom. I want to be a successful artist. I want to do well at my day job. I want to keep things in order. I want to be involved in the art community. I want to enjoy life.

So I take Picasso’s advice and “vigorously act” to reach my goals.

Here’s an example of how that plays out in real life:

Painting with a baby

Painting with a baby

Yep. I put the baby next to me and go with it…I may have to paint or draw while singing silly songs and making ridiculous faces to keep her happy, but it works.

I draw during baby’s nap time, or on weekends while the family’s chilling. I have been known to draw with a little boy on my back at my art desk, because I was determined to finish up a piece.

I take a deep breath, try to reduce the inevitable stress of drawing with a kid on my back and tattle-talers in my ear, and remember why I do what I do: because I believe that it matters.

Because art is important to me, I find a way to make it happen along with motherhood, work, marriage and life.

I aim to never let the busy-ness of life overtake what is important to my life.

What is important to your life? What dreams are waiting for action?

The first step may be the hardest, and if your life is anything like mine, the subsequent steps to stay the course require effort and passion as well. In my opinion, each step is worth it.

“I want first of all… to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.” –Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea