I'm lucky to know Krista Rothwell in real life. She is one of my husband's closest colleagues from his former job and was a great support to him when he was an art professor. Besides the work connection, she's just a wonderful person. When I'd go down to visit them for a work event with a new baby or toddler in tow, she always looked out to make sure I had food, or help if needed. Her son is a few years older than mine, and I appreciated her advice on being a mom, working full time, and finding time for herself. While reading her answers below, I would never have guessed that she struggled with these things so much in the early days. I appreciate this honesty and know it will resonate with our readers. Other things that are awesome about Krista? She does roller derby, has a wry wit, and has a half-pipe for skateboarding in her garage. Thank you so much for being part of this, Krista! We miss you.
Tell us about yourself. How old is your son? Where can we find you? I am an artist. Mostly I paint and draw but I love mono-printing and textiles as well. I have a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia but my education has been an extended journey. I transferred to several art colleges throughout my education; living in some big cities like Washington, D.C. and New York. I grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland in a tiny town with one stoplight; surrounded by corn fields. As you can imagine there was not a lot of exposure to the contemporary art world. Going to art school was a learning experience for me in so many ways. Eventually I was able to finish at Moore and immediately got “a real job”. In truth, art has taken a backseat to the requirements of earning a living and supporting my family but it is always present no matter how many obstacles I’ve created for myself.
I have a son that is five. You could say he is my most amazing creation to date. Certainly he is the center of my world but I’m finding ways to be selfish and learning that is important and ok. Currently I live out in the woods surrounded by nature. It's my happy place.
Facebook: Art of Krista Rothwell Instagram: @ludakristahhh Website: www.rothwellcreative.com – this is a shared site with my husband and, I’m sorry to say, it has really old work up at the moment. I’ll be working on a simple independent site over the holidays and hope to have it launch in the New Year with all of my recent work.
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children? I don’t always have a lot of time to spare so I’ve learned to work smaller and to explore drawing. Last year I started making these super quick sketches on file folders at work. I use only the supplies I have in my desk including my new favorite medium, white out tape. I give myself about 20 minutes to finish these but the results are energetic and fun. It's sort of a sketch book, in a way, but I don't carry it with me. It’s a creative way to find time for art while working a full-time job at a desk. My inspiration hasn’t changed; it’s simply increased with a little human around. I absorb more inspiration from his wild, sensitive, and creative thoughts and mark-making.
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? There is this stigma that moms have to be perfect and the earth and moon have to revolve around their children. My world definitely shifted when I had my son and I think the pressure to be the best mom even paralyzed me. I feel like I failed myself and my family, early on, by denying myself time away to be an artist. I know now that it is a good thing to be selfish sometimes. It shows your family that you care about yourself. After almost five years of pressuring myself I finally set aside time to create. I'm lucky that my full-time job is somewhat flexible and that I've been there long enough to have more than enough vacation and personal time; It allows me to take an entire day off to spend in my studio. When I'm not able to take a whole day I tend to work small or I’ll use the time to clean and organize the studio. Those kinds of things are just as important to the process as actually making the work. Now that I have allowed myself to let go I've become fairly prolific in the studio. I try to include art-making into activities with my son. I have even made room in my studio space for him so that he can come explore while I work. He loves to check in on my progress; I enjoy to talking to him about what I'm making. He is the most honest judge of my work. It's fantastic criticism because kids don't sugar coat anything; they keep it real.
How does being an artist make you a better mother to your son? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you? As they say artists have a different way of seeing the world around them. Whenever we do family things they always tend to come back to something creative. Even when we are just playing with toys I think we offer creative thoughts/solutions/ideas. I hope he learns to keep an open mind and to consider all points of view. These apply to so many areas in one’s life not just art making. Ultimately, though, I hope my son understands the importance of doing what you love no matter what obstacles get in the way.
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 son? I have a studio space in my house. When we were looking to buy a new home it was important to us that we have designated space for my studio. It's actually a spare bedroom that we don’t really need so its intent from the start was to be a work space for me. I resisted having a space at home before my son was born because the house can be so distracting. Now that my son is around it allows me to make art whenever I have time without having to drive someplace else; I’m still accessible if needed. That has to be my favorite thing about the space – that I can walk in there anytime, in my pajamas if I wanted, and just look at things or make a mark or prep for a new piece. Sometimes want to be able to make work while on the couch with my husband as he watches a game in the evening. During those times I take a small lap desk and gather a handful of drawing supplies. Also, I make sketches during the work day at my desk when I can.
Like I said before, I've set up an area in my studio for my son. He has his own easel, table space, and supplies. We've done a couple of paintings together but he is more interested in building things with his hands. Play-doh and play sand are the most popular mediums for him. When we are in his playroom we get creative with Legos. It is fascinating how quick and thoughtful he is with those bricks! In this way he is more like my husband who has always been good at thinking in the third dimension. I learn a lot from watching them build.
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? A good friend told me once, "It's important for you to have time for yourself regardless of what that entails. Your son will see that and know that his mom is a person and not just a mommy." I didn't quite understand that at first but I think she was trying to tell me that finding balance is the ultimate goal. I feel like I’m constantly working to find that balance. Right now I pay for someone to come twice a month and clean our house. It sounds a little snooty but it really makes a difference for me. I can't keep up with everything. On those days that I take off to work in my studio I can't spend half the day cleaning the house but I'm the kind of person who would do that because it bothers me. So, having someone help maintain has been a gift. I also happen to have a great partner who is more than happy to give me time to do things for myself. Sometimes I get commission work that I need to concentrate on during the week so I depend on him to take care of our son while I work. He does a great job and, of course, he loves to play. Now that our son is more independent it's much easier to do things for ourselves. In the early days, after he was born, all I could concentrate on was caring for him. Getting dressed was a major accomplishment. Every year I feel like I get a little more freedom and now I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. It takes a lot of effort, by everyone including the support system around you, to create a balance that works. We’re not completely there yet but we are on our way.
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project? Currently, I have one big goal: to have a part-time job and spend the rest of my time in the studio making and selling work. This is a goal that is going to take time and involves many steps. I'm creating a new body of work right now that I hope to show someplace local just to get it out there in the world and hopefully it will present other opportunities to consider. I'm also working with a family member on an independent website where I can show and sell work, take commissions, and share sites of artists and friends that inspire me. I've been lucky this year with commissions and I want that momentum to continue so getting my website ready is crucial. I’m committed to making art again. I’m focusing and intentionally making decisions that fit with what I want for my life as an artist. This is not easy and is often confronted with great fear but I refuse to stop. Being a mom has taught me perseverance.