Today’s inspiring and candid interview comes from the lovely Amy Hartelust based in Memphis, Tennessee. In a culture where women are sometimes conditioned to pretend that everything is always fine, most of us know that is usually not the case, especially during huge life transitions! Thank you to Amy for opening up about her own struggle during that tough year of motherhood, and showing how having a child (and teaching children) influenced a change in her art and style. I think that she’s quite the role model to her young daughter – and showing others how to be the best version of yourself. I cannot wait to see your dream project of a “Young Apprentice” workshop come to life.
Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
My name is Amy Hartelust and I am painter, educator, and designer based out of Memphis, Tennessee. My work is a study in floral arrangements and the flora and fauna of the South. After six years of teaching art full-time at an elementary school, I will be transitioning to full-time studio work with my 3 and a half–year- old daughter, Lily, by my side.
Has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
I think I began to see a major change in my process and approach to painting when I began teaching young children. This was about a year before I had my own daughter. Children have this unbelievable connection to what they create. Their marks and instincts are untarnished and their enthusiasm and confidence is contagious. I began to chase this same energy in my own work and as a result my painting style completely transformed.
When my daughter was born, that transformation only continued to grow. I gave up oils for acrylics because I wasn’t comfortable having certain mediums and chemicals around the house. That transition felt a little like learning to walk again in the beginning, but ultimately I think it has improved and complimented my style of painting.
Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
Finding the time to create can most definitely be a challenge when you have a little person who demands so much of your time and energy. I think the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is conditioning my brain to get into creative gear at a moment’s notice. I know when my most productive time of the day is, when those creative synapses are firing, and when the light in my studio is just right. But unfortunately, I can’t always count on being able to drop everything and devote all of my attention to my work. Luckily, my daughter loves to be in my studio with me so I am able to steal some time during the day to work with her and then I also work very early in the morning and late at night. I am a firm believer that if you are passionate about something you will make it work!
How does being an artist make you a better mother to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you?
After my daughter was born, I went that entire first year without making a single piece of art. I think I was overwhelmed with my new role as a mom and wasn't quite sure how being and artist would fit into my new life. I think that if you are an artist, suppressing your need to create is an incredibly unnatural thing. I spent that entire year walking around as a shell of myself. I was mentally and physically hurting and it was affecting everyone around me, including my daughter.
I began to realize that my daughter was not getting the best version of me. She wasn't getting to see the real me at all. So, I began to make art again and I lit up inside.As a result, my daughter did too.
It is so important to me that my daughter works with me in my studio. I feel like I have an obligation to show her that it’s okay to chase down your dreams and be true to what you love. I want her to be the best version of herself too.
Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
Right now I am working out of a small spare bedroom in my home. It has wonderful natural light and it has plenty of space for storing my paintings. Lily has her own little corner of the studio with her own small easel and art supplies. I have really enjoyed this space but I am looking to rent a professional studio space in the coming months. I just recently quit my job as an elementary art teacher and I am going to devote my time to painting and teaching some private lessons full time. I think moving my studio out of the home will be a way for me to separate work and home life and keep me from some of the distractions that come along with working from home. Right now, the plan is to have Lily continue to join me in the studio!
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
One of my biggest dreams is to create a “Little Apprentice” program through my studio. I would love to be able to work one on one with young students, helping them develop ideas and techniques that are meaningful to them in a working artist’s space. Eventually, I would love to offer some scholarship opportunities to students in the Memphis area, who might not be able to afford the experience otherwise.