Paula McGurdy

Each time we hear from another person, I'm in awe of how everyone is so willing to share the details of their lives with refreshing openness, and even vulnerability. It makes me smile how proud her young son is of her work. Paula's work is vibrant and I am particularly drawn to the delicate dashed marks which carry our eyes around her compositions, connecting one colored area to the next. Enjoy Paula's lovely work, and the corresponding lovely words. Thank you, Paula!

Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
Hi, my name is Paula McGurdy. I live in Dublin, Ireland with my husband and 2 little ones, my son has just turned 6 and my daughter is almost 3. I studied Fine Art, Drawing in Art college in London but have just recently returned to Ireland. I am a full time Mum and working artist. 


How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children? 
Although I was brought up in quite a creative family, I was a late bloomer, in terms of getting really interested in art. I had been managing a shop selling lots of art supplies and it dawned on me that I would prefer to be using them rather than selling them, so I quit my job and pursued Art college. At the time I had no children and my husband was super encouraging, I got a place in art college in London and we made the move. Not long after I graduated I found out I was pregnant. I worked part time in a major gallery in London and worked on my own work in that time. Then things slowed down once I had my son and it took quite sometime getting back to creating.
I guess, that was when I was working on my most valued and beautiful creation (my son!). I returned to work part time, before having my daughter, so there have been a lot of ebbs and flows in terms of my creative process. I think I have actually been more prolific since having children as it’s as if I feel more of an urgency to make and create in the time I’ve been given, generally once the kiddies are asleep! It has forced my work to move on a smaller scale too and more recently have been using watercolours as they are way to pack away and quick to dry. 


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?
My little lady still naps during the afternoon so sometimes I use that time to finish the drawing aspect of my work and take photos. Most of my painting I do in the evening time when the kiddies are asleep. It doesn’t always go to plan, my son is a sleeper but my daughter, not so much, so I tend to work in batches. When it’s quiet in the evening. I will lay out paper and paints and paint 4 or 5 as I’m sometimes not sure how the following evening will pan out. 


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 love bringing the kids to see art and head out to galleries. It might only last a short time, but I know they appreciate it, in particular my six year old son. During the summer we went to quite a few kids art workshops, which they loved. I think both of my kids see how fulfilled I am with doing my art and how this in turn, makes me happier. I feel like that time spent creating is a great way to recentre myself and helps me connect with my mind and body and in turn makes me more able to give quality time to my kids.
My son is so sweet as he proudly tells people that his Mammy is an artist. Some new paints arrived the other day which he was very excited about and asked all sorts of questions about different types of paints and wanted to sit down and paint together, although this is a more recent thing with him as he was never hugely interested before. He tells me he’s more interested in ‘sculpture' of the lego variety :) My daughter is very much hands on and could spend ages at the table colouring, cutting, sticking and painting, which I love, but I’m certainly not a natural crafty mum, it’s very much mind over matter for me.


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?
We just recently moved from London back to Ireland, which has been challenging in some ways, including leaving my studio space behind. We are currently in a 2 bed apartment with no extra space for a studio. I realise how fortunate I was to have that space to create in London. I now have to pack my things away at the end of the evening, otherwise little hands will claim it in the morning, which is one of the reasons I’m working with watercolour. My workspace is the kitchen table. I know this is only for a season, so I don’t mind so much,. We are currently in the process of buying a house so I’m looking forward to having my own designated studio in the future. 


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?
About 6 months after my daughter was born I took on far too much work, with no childcare it was all a bit too much. I regretted not enjoying more of those precious times, rather than feeling stressed about not getting things done. I’ve come to realise, that trying to get anything done with the littles around is just too frustrating for all involved. Carving out time is the only way! It’s how I manage my time. Like most parents, evening times can be sacred time to yourself, but it’s what you choose to do in that time. Sometimes it’s a choice over not meeting up with a friend, or watching the next episode of the latest tv drama or not having a glass of wine in the evening ;)
Since moving to Dublin my littlest has started going to play school 2 mornings a week, it’s only 3 hours per morning but it’s been amazing to have that time after the stress of moving country and starting anew with our family, she loves it. She does so many crafty projects and it’s really opened up a group of new friends for her. The first couple of years with a little one is so intense but it’s lovely to see how my daughter now wants to be more independent and that in turn means that I get a little bit of me time too!


Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
I am a dreamer and have lots of dreams about my work, where it could go etc. This year I would love to get my new website up and running and start selling my paintings and prints again. The big dream would be to have gallery representation! Ideally In the long term, I would love to have my own studio space and be working part time as an artist whilst still being there for school pick up and being able to spend time with my kids.