There are so many times I want to reach through the computer and hug people. I'm one of those people, no apologies! I'm constantly amazed at how much goodness there is in our world. Each day, people generously share their honest and vulnerable stories with others. They encourage each other, cheer them on, and make them not feel alone when they don't have people who understand them in their "real" lives. When I received Trudi Murray's email, my heart swelled with the emotion and rawness that she shares here. Her story reminds us that we have this one beautiful creative life that we can live, but we have to take advantage of it. Trudi, when I make it London again someday, I'm visiting your studio and giving you the biggest hug. Also, when my son is a teenager, I'm using your cleaning techniques! Genius.
Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
Hi! I’m Trudi Murray. I’m an artist and illustrator living and working in leafy and beautiful South West London, UK. I make large paintings in acrylic and mixed media. I also illustrate, make collages and I keep a daily sketchbook journal. I’m married to Alex, and we have three children, age 16, 14 and 11.
You can find me and my work at:
- Website: www.trudimurray.com
- Instagram @trudi_murray
- Online Shop: folksy.com/shops/TrudiMurray
- Facebook: Trudi Murray Art and Illustration
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
Mine is a story of coming back to art. I’ve always been creative, constantly painting, baking or crafting, since I was a kid. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the confidence to take Art at University, although I dearly wanted to. I did English instead, and although I loved writing, art kept pulling me. I kept painting for myself, in a hobbyist sort of way, but felt frustrated about not properly developing my artistic side. When I had my first baby, soon after University, it was like something clicked OFF in my brain. I can’t even say why, but I let it happen. I put my paints on a shelf and watched them slowly harden. It was as though I felt my own painting life was over!
It turned out that my first tiny baby was quite happy in art galleries, snuggled in a sling. I think I have changed a nappy in most major London galleries! It was fantastic, for a while, and fed me, artistically. But when one baby became two, the combination of toddler/sticky fingers/priceless art exhibits /baby/pram/breastfeeding/London Underground quickly became untenable. I gave up trying to get into London to the galleries.
All was not quite lost. I did lots of arty stuff with the children at home – baking, crafting, making huge models from cardboard boxes. I even ran an art activity at the local playgroup every week. The kids loved all of it. I loved it too, but sometimes after they were in bed, I would draw scratchy, angry pictures with their art materials, still frustrated and missing my own, grown up creative self. I had somehow allowed motherhood to take over my own needs. I definitely should have carved out time for my own art! Eventually, I gave up even those agonised doodles. I was really enjoying being a Mummy, but the dwindling self confidence and increasing sense of isolation that came with it, for me, was becoming a silent, but powerful problem.
Then, over just a few years, I lost both my Mum and Dad. Somehow once you hit the bottom, the choice seems easier. Stay there forever in the dark or get the heck out. It was now or never. Was I going to live this one precious creative life, or let it slip past, catalogued only by those angry late night doodles (and 3 amazing children!)? I picked up a pencil one day and started to draw (or maybe claw) my way up to where I am now. It’s been hard work. I committed to myself to draw every day, good drawing or not, and just keep going! That was 5 years ago now! I have wavered constantly, especially in confidence, but I’ve rediscovered my own style, and now I feel confident and strong in it. I paint every day and sell my work all the time. I can’t actually express the joy of it! I don’t know – and I do know – why it took me so long to make time for myself. But it is a dream come true. (At last!).
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?
Now it’s easy to find time. Having denied myself of it for so long, I’m fiercely disciplined about it. When the kids are at school, that’s my time. I work like mad until from 9 - 3pm, then I work like mad at being a Mummy, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework and occasionally mending broken teenage hearts (!) until about 11pm. I thought having children was hard work when they were little, and I was right. But this teenage stage is just as tricky!
I’ve recently discovered that exercise is one key to all this. I didn’t know it was so good for us (or maybe I didn’t listen). It really clears my head and I try to do an hour three times a week, early in the morning. I think it does help to keep that old lack of self confidence at bay.
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?
I’m so happy now that my kids can see me doing what I truly love, and making it work! It’s so great to celebrate with cakes for tea when I sell a painting. It feels super amazing to be here, and of course the older two have seen the whole journey. I think there’s a value in that, and I’m pleased to be both vulnerable, and triumphant, in front of them.
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?
I have a gorgeous loft space that my husband Alex insisted we convert, so I could use it as a studio. I scoffed at the idea, at the time, but his persistent vision for me over the years is another reason I found my way back to painting. I’m so grateful to him.
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?
My best domestic tip is to time your tasks – actually time yourself doing them one day with a stopwatch, and write a list of what takes 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes etc. That way, when you have a few minutes spare, or while the kettle boils for a cup of tea, you can whizz off to do a domestic chore that you know will fill that time nicely. By using those ‘lost’ minutes I get a surprising amount done around the house! Of course, sometimes it’s nice to just gaze out of the window too.
I refuse to outsource household tasks at the moment. I would rather make sure the teenagers in the house learn how to clean a bathroom! We all do the cleaning together at the weekend, with loud music on. Some of us grumble about it, but it gets done..!
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 had so long to think about my goals that crazy ambition is my middle name! I have a mega-list of things I’d like to do, and I’m just ticking them off, one by one. I’d love to illustrate the children’s books I’ve written. I want to make huge paintings for galleries. I’d like to have a solo exhibition. I’d like to be shipping more and more affordable art through my little online shop. I’d love an agent, or someone to run the business side of things one day! I’d like to license designs for wall art and home décor and children’s products.
But my dream project would be simply to be able to carry on.