Ann Marie Coolick

I'm excited to share a peek into the life of artist Ann Marie Coolick, who is a full time artist and mother of three young boys who makes art a part of their daily lives. By being forced logistically to change her process and medium so that she could work in shorter bursts while watching her children, it led to new discoveries and growth. It led her to where she is today as an artist, and where that future path is taking her. Frankly, I'm grateful that it led to the abstracted geometric quilted color paintings she's doing that are beautiful. So thank you, Ann, just for making me happy! Ha! This is a common thread I keep seeing with artists who are parents or going through transitions. When they can see these life changes as a creative challenge to be solved, they are more likely to find that time to create somehow. If it means that much to them, they find a way. (This makes me think of plants bursting through the sidewalk). By keeping that momentum, even if it slows down or shifts dramatically, they prevail.

Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?

Hello! I’m Ann Marie Coolick and I’m a painter from Arlington, VA focusing on geometric abstractions and landscapes using only palette knives.  I’ve been painting professionally for over a decade and have three little boys ages 2, 4, and 6. We just made it through the “fog of birthdays” as they all had birthdays last month (two of them on the same day!).


How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?

Being a mom has completely changed my painting style including processes, techniques, and subject matter. Gone are the long uninterrupted mornings in the studio and obsessively exhaustive detail work. The birth of my first son was also a huge transitional period because it happened to coincide with the end of my five year residency at the Arlington Arts Center.  I started painting in a corner of the kitchen in our tiny bungalow and began painting exclusively with acrylics and palette knives with a style leaning more towards abstraction. I started painting quickly in little spurts throughout the day and learned that the quick drying time of acrylics meant little wiggle room for mistakes but I could quickly add layers upon layers. I also started becoming inspired by my immediate surroundings: the bamboo forest in my backyard and the beautiful old trees in my neighborhood of WW2-era craftsman homes.


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?

Every day I have to do something to further my creative path, whether it be taking my kids to an exhibit, working on my website, emailing clients, or spending hours painting in the studio (on lucky days!!). Painting is such an ingrained part of me, but it has required extreme measures in time management. Before kids, I could make painting a priority and still divide the remainder of my time between friends/family and long distance running.

Now my idea of running is taking the boys out in the double jogger past all the neighborhood construction sites, often with a boxed-up painting en route to the local FEDEX. Thankfully I always figure out a way to fit painting into my day, whether it be when my youngest is napping or after my kids go to bed.


How does being an artist make you a better parent to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you? 

Art is such a huge part of our lives and I like to think of my boys as my tiniest and most energetic  studio apprentices.  They tag along wherever I go, whether it be gallery hopping  or hanging shows.  We talk about art, we critique, and we color together. They see the bliss I have when creating and making things with my own hands. My wish is that they find this same happiness when they grow up, whether it be as an artist, sculptor, builder, or whatever their true calling may be.


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?

Five years ago we renovated our tiny bungalow and added my “Painter’s Loft” (aka the title of my blog). It is a cozy upstairs space to work quietly away from the chaos downstairs . The boys also have an easel upstairs and my 6 year old is finally showing an interest in painting and drawing. He excitedly teaches me how to draw things he’s learned in kindergarten art. It melts my heart. My younger two would almost always rather build legos or play trucks!


Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?

We always involve the kids in everything; it’s our way of life. My husband works long days and we often just have Sunday as our family day so we have to streamline and take turns to get anything done. “Date nights” are often spent on the couch with Chinese food and a bottle of wine, but that is perfect for this time in our lives.


Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?

I’ve been building a series of geometric quilt-like abstractions and would love to show it in it’s entirety in a gallery setting. I’m also itching to paint big. My largest pieces to date are 48” x 48”.