A few weeks ago I was asked by We Work to share my studio space here on my blog. I wasn't sure this particular request was so fitting for me because the space where I currently work is not very glamourous or pretty. I see other artists' studios and swoon with envy... some day I'll have a great space like this or this. But for now, I make do with a carpeted room (not so great for paint) that used to be a garage (luckily, there is no lingering garage smell). But mostly, it's not really photo-worthy because I share the space with my five-year-old daughter who claims most of the room as her "playroom", and it's usually littered with stacked blocks, tiny farmhouse animals and various pint-sized costumes.
I was going to decline sharing my space at all, but then the other day I got an email from another artist mama who asked me for some advice about working alongside children in the studio. And an idea hit.
Maybe I'm not here to share a *beautiful* studio space, but instead, maybe I can share a *functional* studio space that works for you and is fun for kids (if you're also an artist parent). That said, I only have one kid, so I'm not sure how any of this would translate to more than one. But I will say that we have playdates often with Veda's friends, and sharing the space with that going on is easy and fun. I think as long as I let go of my wanting the studio to be clean and organized all the time, it's better. It's a mess, and that's ok.
So here are my tips/ideas on what's worked for me:
- Veda has her own art table. It's the exact same size as mine, which was not intentional, but I think it made a difference. She feels her art is as important as mine (because it absolutely IS!).
- There is lots of fresh paper (white printer paper and construction paper) and art supplies out at the ready at all times. This means there are tins of colored pencils, tubs of crayons, sleeves of markers, scissors, rubber stamps, watercolors and brushes on the table. I think this is super important because she never has to stop and get stuff out to begin her art. It's always there. And she always uses it. She's even in the studio before breakfast making art until I tell her to stop and eat.
- Keep play dough or Playfoam (affiliate link) near for impromptu sculpting. Playfoam is great for us because it doesn't stick in carpets. (Then they can draw what they sculpted! Or draw a "scene" for their sculpture to live in.)
- Snacks. Each kid is different, but my kid is an eater. Like she eats constantly or she's hungry. So I usually have several snack options on hand in the studio/playroom for her to grab on her own. Things like raisins, fruit, crackers, string cheese, etc.
- Audio stories. I wrote about Sparkle Stories on Facebook the other day. You can read that post here. I just love Sparkle Stories because Veda just loves them, and they engage her brain and imagination without using a screen.
- When Veda was younger, she loved it when I printed out what I was working on so she could work on it with me. She'd color my sketches, help me with finals and finished half-done pieces in her own way. I loved her input, and she loved helping with the grown-up art.
- I sometimes set up different "scenes" for her to engage in if I have a particularly heavy workload that day. So I will erase her easel drawing board so it calls to her to create (blank slates are hard to pass up!). Or I'll lay down a blanket for a pretend picnic with felt food and a stuffed animal guest or two. Or I'll set up her play tent with cozy pillows and books she hasn't seen in a while. (I keep a stash of her books and toys hidden in a closet and sometimes switch them out to pique her interest with "new" stuff.)
- And my last tip is: be willing to let it all go. Sometimes getting work done in a certain time frame just doesn't happen, and that's ok. I always work ahead of deadlines just so that if I see Veda needs me, I am there. She's my first priority always, and because I work ahead of schedule, I can always finish up in the evening after bedtime or work when my husband can take her for a bike ride or something. I try to make a choice to feel spacious because I really do believe it is a choice. Not always, I guess... sometimes you have a tough deadline to meet (hello babysitter!), but if I set myself up to feel spacious, that means I'm an engaged parent and an engaged artist. Works for me.
Anyway, I hope somebody might find some of these ideas helpful. If you have any other tips for working as an artist with kids, I'd love to hear them -- please leave a comment! I think that as we share, we grow and serve our little picasssos better, too. :)