It’s 3:12 in the morning on a Saturday and I’m in my old maternity pajamas while my two-year-old feeds me drooly cottage cheese and watches a YouTube video about PlayDoh animals to a dramatic nursery rhyme score. In an alternate timeline it’s 3:12 in the morning on a Saturday and I’m sipping Glenfiddich and fervently sketching out story-boards for my next conceptual editorial–skip skip, skip to my lou my darling, reminds the T.V.

I’ve been seeing lots of artists speaking out about fear and failure in the last week or so. Maybe there’s something contagious in the air. I’ve really been ruminating on perseverance and giving in to failure myself lately, maybe because I have too much time from lack of sleep, or maybe it’s just the dread of meeting my late 20s. The creative landscape around me is full of so many talented incredible minds, and for the first time suddenly everyone seems younger than I am. After spending my 20s fixing the mess of my teens, I think I’m going to come into my 30s with the freedom and excitement of a college freshmen.

Self portrait that put me into labor with my oldest, 2009

I took on the mantle of Mother on when I was practically a child myself at 18, and that weight has immeasurably steered the course of my art. Up until my first son was born I was riding the high of youth & ambition, that feeling that you are bursting with artistic genius (very questionable) and looking for your big break (also questionable). I was traveling, I was getting paid, I was learning, I was confident, but by the time I was 21 years old I had two kids, a broken heart, a busted camera, and not a whole lot else. 

This lack of autonomy hasn’t allowed me to pursue my photography in a *routine* way that many young artists do. Babies can’t live off hope and coffee the way I can, they can’t couch surf and hop on a plane for a meeting, they care nothing for deadlines, phone calls, and creative turmoil. 

David helping with set design, 2015

The road has been a cacophony of day jobs, diapers, night jobs, homework, photo jobs, and childhood wonder. It’s been dressing like a Playboy bunny and serving drinks to pay my bills. It’s been shooting an editorial while actively breastfeeding a newborn, and chasing toddlers around a studio. Living room photo sessions. Sleepless nights. Costume parties. Frustrated tears. Bribery with video games. Teaching, learning.  Having those bright new eyes has kept me seeing things the way that they do, with magic around every corner, and adventure just at the end of a brandished broken stick, doing whatever it takes to make the magic real. 

Finding the symbiosis of Mother and Artist is in seeing the two pieces not as contradictory but complementary. I’m still wobbly with the balancing act. Some days are still harder than others. 

Derrick, 2015

Instead of separating the Artist from the Mother–because I’ve really never known any different–the key I’ve found is embracing them both as part of being a Creator. The obstacles you have to tackle to make your art, whether it is family, illness, age, time, whatever, are pieces of that process. Being an artist is too personal, visceral, and real to deny the life that’s happening to you on the other side of the art. 

So, I let the hurdles inspire. Let them be the foundation. Bend the light to throw the shadows only where you want them. Involving your struggle allows the two entities to shape each other both into something greater.