I recently had the pleasure of discovering and interviewing artist Roxanne Vise. Not only is her artwork inspiring, but her blog Creative Tempo gets the creative juices flowing. In her interview below she talks about making art, being a mom, and creative parenting. As a psychotherapist and art therapist with a private practice in Silver Lake, I’ve seen art increase the bond between parents and their children, as well as help parents manage the high demands of parenthood. The amazing thing about art is that it’s a powerful thing, and is accessible to everyone.
Can you talk a little bit about what types of art you enjoy doing?
Yes, I’d love to! I’ve tried most forms of art over the years: plaster, iron sculptures, wax and wood carvings, pottery, ink washes, different forms of paint. I’ve even made my own media. I’m constantly evolving and find myself gravitating to a media which suits the moment and the art I want to create.
I could go on about all that, but right now I love encaustic and acrylic paints. They’re fast, unexpected, full of texture and full of possibilities. When my time is limited or I’m on the go, I sketch with graphite or do ink or watercolor. Those are great too, more meditative.
Is blogging a form of art? How does blogging impact your creative expression?
I feel that it IS a form of art. Especially now, with my new blog, Creative Tempo where I’m writing about the meaning in creativity, about layers of an artist’s journey, my journey and rediscovering primitive exercises that get to the core of all that and writing about it to encourage other artists. Blogging offers another form of expression and for me helps my creativity to not be bound up in one media.
Discipline is another area where blogging has impacted my art. The discipline of showing up, expressing thoughts on creativity, engaging and then taking my own writing to heart – it’s really a big circle for me, I get back much more than I give. And this huge desire I have to help other artists – blogging has given me the platform to do that.
When I first started blogging in 2006, It was like a controlled explosion! Back then, I just had my new baby and loving it. When he was about six months old, I craved getting back into the studio, but my old ways of creating – marathon days just painting and flowing – I knew weren’t possible. Also, encaustic can potentially cause harmful fumes and I did not want him exposed to that for even a short time.
To feed my creativity and also be a full-time mom, I began a blog. After that initial explosion calmed down, I found my writing turning toward art, talking about my latest piece or whatever, but I had no mission or discipline, it was only for me. That first blog, Artist + Mom planted the seed for many things.
If I picked one thing where blogging has impacted my creative expression it is that I find my self thinking about my work in an extended way more than I did before. My art is outside of myself in an new way, not just on new platform (blogging), but reaching for deeper meaning, by writing about it.
How has your art changed since becoming a mom?
I started sketching again. Ways of creating that I can do in slices of time or can easily interrupt – mini moments instead of marathon sessions – and I work smaller.
Are there parts of yourself as an artist that are in direct conflict with your role as a parent and how do you negotiate that?
My urge to create is often so strong so strong that I’m compelled to drop everything and do it. One of the lessons I’ve learned and practice is to adapt with each moment and allow creativity to flow from whatever I’m doing – play and creativity acre closely related and feed each other.
How does being creative help you cope with the demands of being a parent?
Thinking creativity helps me to see the possibilities in a moment. Whether it’s a situation or a task. When I use a creative approach it helps make a demanding thing not so hard and often even fun. For example, in a battle for control and instead making the lightest shift in perspective or making it all a game and suddenly everyone is laughing and being goofy and working together.
Does art help you build awareness of the difficulties of being a parent? The enjoyments?
Art builds awareness to everything. But, what art/creativity really does for my parenting is that it allows me to be aware of the possibilities more than the difficulties. It helps that I’ve always had a huge sense of wonder about life and am naturally observant. But, even if someone is not, creating cultivates that.
Observing and having a sense of wonder about the impossibilities of life, about parenting about the birth of a child gives me the belief that anything is possible. Cultivating this sense wonder creates the effect that the little inconveniences are really new opportunities to observe differently.
Does art help you express some of the emotion that you experience as a parent, both negative and positive?
I don’t ‘take out’ a strong emotion onto a painting – if that’s what you mean. For me, it’s like a shedding when I begin to create. I have a ritual or ceremony that I use to get into that creative space where only wonder, love, meaning and truth exist. Any lower emotions are left at the gate so-to-speak and purified through the process. If I get into this zone enough – it’s intoxicating! So, I’d say the process of art transforms.
How has art helped create a bond between you and your children?
Kid’s are so cool – so naturally creative! It’s only when they start to get taught society’s rules they enter a time of conditioning and all that creativity gets bottled up and they lose it or hide somewhere.
As an artist-parent, it’s like common ground between us. A place where we can get messy, laugh and connect. It doesn’t matter if we are painting, squishing mud or putting on an elaborate theater show – it’s such a gift.
There is such joy in my son’s eyes when we are playing wildly together – me just being there – showing that he matters, that his play is important. It is so powerful to see that, to feel that.
I feel that having children is an opportunity for a parent to find their inner child and begin again.
Are there some easy projects you could recommend to people who feel uncomfortable making art with their children?
Even regular play things, like Play-Doh, sidewalk chalk, throwing a sheet over the furniture to make a tent – it’s all creative. The extra difference is when a parent get’s in the action – squish the dough, squash your parent-size body into the tent – that’s what’s important.
But, if a parent wants to try something more artistic there are lots of ways to begin. Depending on the age of the kids – little ones can paint with a paintbrush and just a cup of water on the sidewalk. Tear up colored paper then glue it onto a larger sheet as a collage. A really easy and fun one is to take popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and googly eyes from a craft store – start about 3/4 of the way from the bottom of the stick and wrap the pipe cleaner tightly around the stick all the way to the top and either cut or tuck in the end. Glue the eyes to the top and you have an instant little puppet – so easy for little ones to help with! Before you know it, you have a whole family of them and they can travel everywhere with you.
Projects for older kids that I love are a creating a silhouette show (draw or trace a shape onto dark poster paper, then cut it out, tape it to a yardstick, hang a sheet, shut out the lights and let the show begin!). Fabric painting (tear or cut strips of fabric then pick out shapes and make a fabric painting (animals, landscapes, trucks – anything!) by gluing them to a board.
How do you participate when the kids are making art?
Sometimes we do art side by side. I’m working on a painting and my son is painting too. Often, I’m simply the assistant, “Hand me that sponge, Mom.” he says.
Some parents have not done art in many years and feel like they cannot because they are not creative. Is there any advice you could give a parent in this situation?
My strong belief is that each person is creative. Creativity is a human need, the spark of life. There are different forms of creativity and many levels of development, experience and blocks – but, everyone is. Sometimes just redefining what the word ‘creativity’ means can make a big difference.
If a parent really wants to be creative, they often already know what their blocks are: fear, judgements, time-management, procrastination, too powerful (need for a masterpiece), too difficult, whatever. They come up against them every time they think about creativity or attempt art.
If a person chooses to be ‘not creative’ – that is certainly a choice, whether made consciously or not. For those: If not for you, then for the sake of your children. Without being melodramatic – at the very least, allow yourself to play.
For those who truly want to create, but are stuck in some way: Grab your life, your chance and don’t let anything block your way! Use those blocks, traumas and experiences as tools to get it out there! Don’t beat yourself up because of wasted time or any other scoldings – just begin. Start where you are and GO!
I find that those will the most fear of art are often the best artists when they move past the threshold of creating. The choice to begin and keep going makes all the difference.
Here’s an inside secret….Some artists even joke about and say things like, “Thank goodness there are so many people too scared to be an artist – or there would be too much competition!”