Assuming Traditional Female Roles with Your Art Career (Curious Monday)

Is it harder to be a woman and have an art career?

I'm not talking about the fact that the art world is still male-dominated. I'm talking about juggling roles that are perceived to be held traditionally by women with your career as an artist.

©Elsa Bluethner, It Was a Hard Act To Follow
©Elsa Bluethner, It Was a Hard Act To Follow. Oil, 36 x 36 inches. Used with permission.

Do you find it difficult to be wife, mother, grandmother, caretaker, carpool-driver, housekeeper, and have an art career?

How or why is it harder to do this as an artist than if you were in another business?

What would make it easier? What could you do differently to make it easier on yourself.

And what about you guys? What do you think?

About Curious Mondays

Almost every Monday I ask artists about something that's been on my mind lately. Or, in the case of the above post, something that came up on a recent call or webinar.

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68 thoughts on “Assuming Traditional Female Roles with Your Art Career (Curious Monday)”

  1. The majority of the gallery shows, art books published, art sales, etc feature the work of male artists. Slowly, women are making gains in these areas.
    For myself, I started with Sunday afternoon painting, after all the jobs and tasks were taken care of. It made a big difference when I started my weekend by setting up my paints and beginning a painting, rather than leaving it until the end. What was most important? It was my painting and everything else fit in around it, not the other way around.
    Women have got to get beyond their timid mindsets, just being happy that someone compliments their work. They need to set consistent prices so they make a profit. All of these things Alyson helps us with!

    1. Thanks, Patricia. It’s nice that you shared how you started, by creating a Sunday afternoon practice, and that you put in that it was after “everything else.” You are right about the art being important and the rest can fit around it, yet I’ve lived my first decade of being a mom doing the opposite.

  2. Yes, I think it is harder to juggle the roles that women take on and to simultaneously maintain an art career. I began my career with kids at home and have grown my business gradually. While appreciated the flexibility that my art allowed me, I also don’t think that my family and friends viewed it as a career, but more as a hobby. Recently, my sister introduced me and our two sisters to her finance colleagues. Jeanie runs a construction company, Katie is a teacher, and Ruth doesn’t work. An offhand, but telling comment. When our mom needs to go to the doctor, or some other errand (like the very finance appointment we attended) I take her, because the others are working. I’m partly to blame for allowing this, but I’m not sure how to get through to people that my career is a job that I am passionate about!

    1. Ruth: Sounds like you need to have a heart-to-heart with your sister. “I know you didn’t mean to do that, but it hurt. I see myself as a serious artist, and I’d like for you to do the same.” Get her buy-in.

      Set your boundary by not allowing this to continue. You can do it! And then I want to hear about it – a full report.

    2. I was intrigued to see your comment, Ruth, because I know you through your work. My impression is that you work hard and smart. I have such a large respect for how you are crafting and building your business. You paint, show, teach, write and give back through volunteering. You’re one of my “go-to” artists that I use as models for how to develop an art career. You run a business!

      You did remind me of one thing, though, its odd how siblings and family see an art career. For example, when some of my siblings want advice or insight on the art business side of the house (my family is dealing with artist father’s estate), I’m often the last one contacted.

      Alyson, I liked your comment; always right on target! Best wishes to you Ruth!

  3. Yes, oh yes. I’ve had two “careers” – my first as a full-time art teacher in public school and now my second as a full-time artist and teacher from my own studio. The latter by far consumes much more of my time than the former ever did, and as we all know, school teachers work hours upon hours. It is because painting/creating takes tremendous amounts of time, plus the addition of running the business to keep things going, AND the household – which in my case is neglected regularly. I have a housekeeper (yay!) and wish I had a cook, a shopper, a laundress and an errand person. My husband has a full time demanding job with travel, so his availability is limited.
    I think male artists in general have someone taking care of the details for them…usually a wife!…allowing them more uninterrupted studio time or travel time for plein air painters. In my former life as a school teacher, I was able to turn it off at the end of the day and on weekends, with exceptions. It is reversed as a full time entrepreneur. I’m on 24/7 and frankly home keeping is not my priority any more than it is my husband’s priority. All that being said, I wouldn’t trade it for the former job again. Ever. I love this work I do, my adult students and my growth as an artist. While everyone in my circle is talking retirement, I’m revving up for more.

  4. Juggling..yes, my first email was spinningplates…you know, the circus act of keeping the plates all spinning in the air, yup, that was me…full time job, arts and crafts business on the side, 3 kids and a disabled husband…then my email changed to all the stuff didn’t fall over the edge…and then it did…all come crashing down. That was over 6 years ago..3 losses later, my right hand “man” in my business, my husband, and then my BFF…my business gone, and my “dry brush era” as I call it, started…then I returned to art…in a new and different way, better. For me, not for the market, not for what people were expecting, for me and the gift that God gave me. But…back to juggling…with all the changes I moved to where my daughter and her family are and I now take care of my grandchildren…helping, raising, errands, pick up and deliver to and from school at times…now, when do I do art…because you just can’t turn a switch and say…now I will draw or paint or create. I’m 64 in another month or so and can’t multitask like I used to…I can’t turn it on and off. I need peace, I need rest, I need to contemplate what I want, I need, to create…much of my art now is intuitive and I also art journal, which is healing, and write poetry. After a stroke 20 yrs ago journaling is where I have found my “voice” again where speaking sometimes fails me. So, the weekends are mine…in time, and yes, there is still time, because I WILL it…the kids will be more independent, and they are little artists, how can they not be…more school time, more time for me…more help that we will entrust these little ones to…but for now…for’s the weekends, then longer weekends…then, who knows…I so do want to convert a school bus into a traveling art bus!! See ya!

  5. Being a wife, mother, taxi-driver, gardener, housekeeper, and volunteer was the hardest job I ever did. And I would add that I was not responsible for revenue as I took care of everything else in our household. My husband worked 12 – 16 hour days so he was not home a lot (though a great father.)

    As a result, I know I was mad and angry, but just kept going. I also decided not to go on many family activities because a few hours by myself. was pure joy, or at least time in my shop.

  6. Marrianna Dougherty

    Love what SONI wrote about above “I so do want to convert a school bus into a traveling art bus!!” I live alone, am retired from being a college academic advisor, and I still don’t get things done. I don’t make a schedule because something more important or interesting might come up. Which is all a bunch of BS. Having just finished the Creative Content Camp, I have ideas to put into place and ideas to write about for my blog. Have I created a content calendar yet? Nope. Have I really listened to all the Q&As that I saved and have on my older model iPod? Not yet but have the iPod playing in the car. But then I don’t travel much around town and I don’t have long drives to Phoenix/Scottsdale every month to see my aging mother. I’m a work in progress. But back to Soni’s statement about converting a school bus into a traveling art bus: Oh, I so often want to get a larger van that I could go camping in just to get away from electronics and everything else. But then I need the Internet to connect my photography blog and photography IG account and Etsy shop. So running away isn’t the answer. I could take a road trip alone to write on my laptop and edit photos on my iPad Pro. I never had an art career that I needed the extra income for. I used to sew tote bags and purses and sell at outdoor and indoor art fairs. But I was younger and still working. I think I’m rambling and ranting here and should probably get off her and create an editorial calendar and a calendar for when I want to edit images and the whole process of that. Thank you for the question, Alyson. Thanks to everybody who is commenting which is very inspiring.

  7. I’ve been self-employed as an artist/designer for 16 years, but being the primary care giver of my father since my mother died 5 years ago has put a clamp on my ability to get things done. I plan and keep trying to move forward, but his needs always trump my planning. I find my married artist friends have a lot more time and support because they have a spouse to fill in and get some of the necessary things done. Doing this as a single woman is very difficult.

    1. Dorothy: God bless you. So many artists are in that position. I had no idea how many caregivers were on my list. I hope you have a caregiver support group. I understand those are very helpful.

  8. I think women, in general, have grown up with the idea that we have to be responsible first and then fit our wants into any left-over time.Some artists I know have wonderfully supportive husbands who are out there helping them set up displays, talking up their work to friends – others don’t get that support. Some of us get the jobs that society doesn’t help with at all – like caregiving. It is very difficult then. I know that from many years that only recently stopped. But, even under those circumstances, you have to fight to have *some* time for yourself. It helps if you can be part of a group- especially with some men as we can see how they take care of themselves. There are some situations, however, that only women may find themselves in. I heard of one woman artist dropped by a gallery after she put on a lot of weight. I guess they thought she wouldn’t be so attractive at a gallery opening. Now, if it was a man, they would probably think he just looked substantial and prosperous!

    1. WHOA. I have never heard of a woman being dropped by a gallery because she gained weight. Did they tell her that? Seems like you should be able to file some lawsuit in that case. But what do I know? I am no attorney.

  9. I turned my art hobby into a full time career about a year ago. My husband and I have a 4 year old. Yes, that was and still is very a very scary transition. I find it difficult to convince people that my studio days (my studio is currently in the living room) are actually work, not just “me time”. When I schedule time to create, I don’t answer most phone calls, do the laundry, cook dinner or any other chore not art related. If studio time is on a day when my family is home, I usually need to pack up everything I need and work elsewhere. I constantly feel like I need to actively defend my time against well intentioned interruptions. When my husband (not an artist) was working from home, he could just tell everyone that he was working and they automatically respected that time.

    When I leave the house/studio to do work in a gallery or at an art show, that time is respected, but I feel like the time to create is expected to take a back seat to everything else in life. How can I have enough work to exhibit if I don’t have time to create?

  10. I’ve often envied male artists who have the women in their lives handling most of life’s daily tasks!That being said, they usually have the pressure of being the main financial support too if they succeed as artists. Being the primary caregiver for the past 4 years for each parent in turn, I agree with Dorothy that the needs of the person cared for, trumps painting time. Recently I’ve managed to carve out a half week for myself, however everything else, the shopping, doctor appointments, household chores- often sadly neglected- still needs to be done during “my” time. Hiring help is out of the question since my husband is basically supporting the three of us. In that way he has been remarkably supportive. He handles cooking duties too. But he is also growing impatient with the art being a break even or even, in recent years, a losing proposition. And I’m growing increasingly uneasy being so financially dependent. I wouldn’t trade being an artist for anything. So I’m furiously working to implement what I’ve learned from Alyson during the past year, as the specter of the dreaded “real job” looms if I fail.

  11. What great question! And yes, I have been the chief cook, bottle washer, caregiver (kids and mother with Alzheimer’s and husband [autistic as it finally turns out!]), packer and mover, and full time nurse occasionally, throughout his military career and hostess during his academic career, for 3 months shy of 50 years when he decided to serve me with divorce papers and move out, leaving nearly everything in my lap. So almost (this is going to be a long process, I think) newly single and trying to be excited about new beginnings and mourning the donation and pitching of what seems like most of my previous life and arts – sewing and marbling – both space intensive processes. And BTW, I am 73, still lugging grid wall, and feel like I should be on a cruise sipping wine. And my doing shows was always by myself and a great source of pleasure and satisfaction. And true confession, pretty much starting over in a far away locale is really scary! Thanks for the opportunity to kvetch! I am sure I am not alone!

    1. Caryl: Yikes! That guy has some nerve! I’m feeling a sense of adventure in what you write. You can do this. And you can find a new life just for you. Sending good thoughts your way.

  12. Allyson Do you have male artists participating with your newsletter? I am curious. All the women who have commented so far voice the same thing which I could also do. My observation of male colleges is their wives do take care of many of the “annoying ” details of running art as a business. Recently at a plein air festival I commented to the first prize winner that he would like his recently launched Brand New Website. He said “o that’s the job of the Missus.” How many times have I turned around looking for my intern. O it’s me. My Board of Directors O it’s Me. There are a ton of great artists out there and other ambitious callings filled by women but we are all handicapped by our roles in society. It has taken many years for me to get where I am but I am hoping that the future will become less cluttered for those that follow. At the least we have very full lives as artists, mothers, granmas, housekeepers, gardeners, bookkeepers but the joy found in working our art is unique. Have to be fierce and strong keeping to the call of art making. Artliveslong, D

    1. Diane: There are definitely men on my list. One bold one commented below (so far).

      God help my husband if he ever calls me “the Missus.”

      Are women handicapped by their roles or because they fall into the traps of those roles?

  13. I am a single mother with an 11 year old daughter and a 16 year old son. I originally launched my art career when they were 1 and 6, when I was married and a stay-at-home mom. At that time, my biggest challenge was keeping my curious daughter away from my paints. I would paint after they were tucked in for the night or during naps. My paintings were selling well from the beginning and I was getting steady commission requests, 100% online. Then life happened – divorce, getting a full-time job and going back to school full-time to complete my bachelor’s degree, taking on full custody solo. I had to put my art career aside for a few years.

    Last year I jumped back into my art career with both feet as soon as I completed college. I think in some ways it is easier because my children are older and have things to occupy their time. I usually paint on weekends and try to squeeze in an hour or two here and there in the evenings through the week. This time, rather than strictly marketing online, I talk about my art career with co-workers at my day job and I have made a point to get out in the public at a couple of art shows. Since I had strictly sold online previously, some of the responses I have had in these face-to-face interactions were unexpected. I’ve had a couple of people say it must be nice to have a husband support me so I can just stay home and paint, then when they find out I’m single parent and work a full-time job as well they comment that it must be hard on my kids that I put my art before them. I’ve had others find out I have a day job and respond with “Oh, so this is just a hobby…”, and vice-versa, I have had co-workers see my work and say “Oh, you’re a REAL artist – I thought it was just a hobby. Why do you work here if you can do that?”

    It would be nice if people just appreciated the actual work rather than pass judgement or offer opinions on your lifestyle. It seems that, as women, we are expected to do it all, and yet if we DO actually manage to successfully juggle everything, we fall under scrutiny with others looking to point out any perceived short-comings.

    1. Hi Alisha –
      I’m so glad you’ve been able to find a way to keep your art going, and your work is beautiful. I think people just don’t know how to respond to artists in an open way. Most people are envious, I think, my sister included.

    2. Thank you, Ruth – I really like your oil and wax works! It does sound as if your sister is jealous as she doesn’t give your art career the credit it is due. I’m finding those are typically the types who suddenly boast about knowing/being related to you once they meet someone who is familiar with your work.

    3. Alisha: Egad, people are rude! Remember, though, that it’s about them, not about you. Their comments say more about them than they do about you.

      How do you respond?

    4. Alyson,

      To those who say I must not have time for my children or don’t make them a priority in my life, I respond: “Actually, they are very encouraging and super proud of me for following my dreams.” I absolutely love that my children talk about their dreams and goals and do so with full confidence that one day they will achieve them. For me, it’s important to encourage them to pursue their passions in life, but it’s equally important to show them that it takes perseverance. They get to observe my mistakes and learn from them right along with me, and they get to celebrate the successes. They truly are my biggest fans.

      To those who downplay my art as “just a hobby,” I respond: “I consider it my other career. No one ever told me there was a limit on careers.” (and say it with a smile) Granted, the first time it was said, I did not have this response ready to come back with. I think I barely managed a weak smile.

      To my co-workers who ask why I keep a day job instead of painting full-time, I respond: “I’m here for the health care benefits.”

  14. Hi Alyson, Thanks for you putting this question up for Curious Monday. I have wondered how other artist women are juggling as well. I follow some artists that I admire on YouTube and a couple of them talk about working in 90 minute blocks then 30 minutes off to eat or go for a walk and then back to 90 minutes of focused creativity. I was looking at my schedule and I was wondering if he had a pre-block of time in the morning to start the washer, unload the dishwasher and make breakfast for everyone or was that the first 90 minute block. Then was he using one of the evening 90 minutes to cook dinner and fold the clothes that he would have had to have moved to the dryer earlier in the day, then get the kids in baths? Since they are men, I am guessing that their wives are taking care of “all of that.” I have two sons ages 10 and 6 and we homeschool, so I’ve felt like there is no way to ask how these guys or others that I follow, how are managing to do some much of their art, without sounding like I am just “whining” or “looking for excuses.” My boys are wonderful and are involved with their activities so just this year, I’ve started to carve out some time to start my art again. My hubby supports the three of us and is encouraging, but he’s fed up with his job and I do feel the pressure to make a living with my art. Similar to Theresa, I too am “furiously working to implement what I’ve learned from Alyson during the past year, as the specter of the dreaded “real job” looms if I fail.” I’m focusing on my studio time and building up that practice of art making so that when I can take one of Alyson’s classes, then I will have work to put forward into the business side instead of now where I am focusing on the creating. After a 10 year gap while my oldest grew (he is autistic) I feel that I am struggling to relearn the technical aspects of my art. I am a photographer, of landscapes and metaphorical landscapes, and my work is mostly conceptual. I was never a great technician and I am afraid that what little I knew, went out with “mommy brain,” so I have been utilizing to re-learn some technical aspects. I really appreciate this topic today and getting to read all of the comments. This has been so very helpful. Thank you.

  15. I sometimes think the greatest crime committed against women was the idea that we are somehow SUPPOSED to do it all. We should have children, a husband, a career and a clean house. I think that’s the stupidest idea ever. We aren’t supposed to juggle that much. Men don’t! If they have a career – that’s about all they have. They either have a wife doing everything else for them, they are single, or they >ahem< hire someone to do the things they don't have time for. As far as being an artist, I know plenty of single men who are artists, and don't have a wife helping them with their careers. Most of them don't have kids or aren't the ones caring for their kids. They are more aggressive about getting their art into the world, they are more assertive about finding opportunity, and they do get more help from the art world powers-that-be. They also seem to be better about shameless self promotion. Even with Alyson's wonderful help and advice, I still feel like those kinds of things just don't come naturally to me. I like to think I can find a way to be myself, have a healthy relationship with my husband and family, and still be a great artist. If you read art history, though, the world seems to have some kind of love affair with the "male artist genius," and most of those men were completely dysfunctional when it came to relationships with others.

    1. So true about the male “genius” Artists being in dysfunctional relationships! Love your comment about not expecting to “have it all”, not all at once anyway.

    2. Interesting comment Karine. I don’t have children, but I do know what it involves and it surprises me that with so many demands on their time and attention that women with kids have any time for creative thought, let alone actually making some art.

      Here’s my suggestion: think about making a series of small works, ie works that can be finished in 4 to 6 hours. By working on a series you will have the satisfaction of working on a larger concept, but will have a sense of achievement as you complete each one. If you have a partner or supportive friend or family member who can take the kids for a weekend you could use that time to brainstorm the entire series. Even better is if you can physically leave the home and go somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed.

      Here’s an example of how the process might work:
      1) decide on the size of the works, eg 20 to 30 centimetres square (8 to 12 inches).
      2) in your journal draw 20 squares of the exact same dimension
      3) Do a series of rough sketches – remember this is the brainstorming phase, perfection is not required. You are trying to work on the basic design elements
      4) Go back and think about the palette you want to use for each work – use pencils or watercolour to to “list” the colours

      At the end of 2 days you will have done all the “heavy thinking” so the process of getting started on each piece will already be laid out. Of course as you work on the pieces you will develop the ideas further, change and add things, but you won’t have to snap out of mum mode and into deep artist mode in an instant.

  16. Someone (wink, wink) taught me “no excuses” and, while I am of an age where I can no longer efficiently multitask, I can cut back on things (social media) and make time for my art. My family respects that.
    Right now I am grappling with a different kind of problem. One of our four precious times to see our grandson far, far away, is in August when we take care of him (age 5) while Mom and Dad teach a class out of town. We have done this four years and we love the alone time with him.

    The dilemma is that this time overlaps with my very favorite art show to be in. The show is fun and rewarding in many ways. One year it worked out for me to do the show then go, but for the last three years and next year, the time they can have a dorm to do the class is at the heart of the art show. My husband offered to go alone which is nice but makes me jealous.

    What to do? I am not getting younger and I love the show. On the other hand, our grandson means the world to me and very soon he won’t need us. My heart says to forget the show again. What do you think? Thanks for listening.

    1. Gail: This is tough, and I certainly have no definitive answer for you. But perhaps there is another show or opportunity that could supplant this one. ??? Can Bill go ahead of you and then you join him? (Not sure of the time overlap.)

    2. To me it seems perfectly reasonable to give yourself 1 out of every 4 years to do what nourishes you. Rather than going to your grandson, perhaps your husband could fly and collect him and bring him back to you place so you could both do the show and have time with your grandson.

  17. My problem is weird… I have a career that makes me a lot of money, and it’s not art. I want it to be ART!! So I juggle the needs of my family along with the needs of a caretaking career (mental health therapist). I do think that women have a harder time than men because of the implicit expectation that so many things in the family home will be somehow “taken care of”…but it’s sure not by THEM. It’s by the women.

    I got a housekeeper. I have a 14 year old and a husband who is more than willing to do his fair share or even more. I have great difficult setting the time aside for myself because it always seems that something from my therapy practice needs doing. And because it makes me good money…hard to turn that down. But I do realize it’s NEVER going to turn around unless I start treating art the way I do my therapy practice, so that is my goal. I’m taking Mondays off work now and they are for painting. My goal is to get more of the weekend for my artwork and crunch down to getting everything done for our life (all those errands) on Saturday. I also found out my favorite grocery store will allow you to preorder groceries and they’ll have them all packed up if you spend more than $50 it’s free, so that will free up 2+ hours each Saturday!

    1. I have a similar situation to Shari’s. I work Tues-Fri as a self-employed physical therapist, but I am working toward more art time and less PT time.
      I started taking Mondays off about 10 years ago while I was helping my Dad care for my Mom. Once Mom passed 2 years ago, I declared Monday as my art business day. Any time anyone refers to Monday as my off day, I am quick to reply that Monday is my art business day…and so are weekends and evenings. I decided that I had to declare this out loud or else everyone would assume I was available for random chores—including me. I try not to schedule any appointments on Mondays unless they are art related.
      I am fortunate to have a husband who has truly shared the household load with me. He cooks, I clean, and we do our own laundry. (My least favorite chore is grocery shopping so I try to do big trips a couple of times a month. ) We truly shared child rearing while our sons were at home ( the oldest just got engaged at 24 and the youngest is 21 and a senior in college)
      The key for me was deciding what I wanted, declaring it, asking for whatever help I need, and not apologizing for or devaluing my decision to make a living with my art.

    2. SWEET, Shari! I am looking into grocery delivery, too.

      And, if I’m reading you correctly, you’re right. Women expect more of themselves than men expect of women. I used to think I had to cook dinner every night because my husband made more $$ than me at the time. That’s despite the fact that he told me every single day that I didn’t need to do that.

      Let’s give ourselves a break.

  18. Corinne McNamara

    For years, I fit art into my day as I could, and what I made became expected for Christmas, birthday, hostess, etc. gifts and cards. My cards (collage, sketches, mixed media, watercolors) have become family gifts and often framed, but they take time. I keep trying to develop my work and skills beyond cards, but it is hard.
    I don’t think my husband sees the cards as more than an hobby and convenience – “I need a card for ….” or “Do you have 40 extra Christmas cards?” The unspoken message is “Drop what you are doing and make one (or 100).” It isn’t that I don’t like making them, but it’s the assumption that I can be interrupted or that it is “no big deal.” (When I found that he never got around to sending those 40 cards, I became less likely to drop everything.)
    I’m 70 and my outside job is essential. My husband’s view of helping is idiosyncratic and becoming more limited as his mobility decreases.

  19. Oh How I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. I have a twisted story to share so take the time to read it through. I knew young that I had to make my own way because of situations in the home so I have worked since I was 12 to provide things for myself that my large family couldn’t provide.

    I was brought up in a home full of boys that I learned how to stand up to them in different ways. I came into my full time art career at age 36 when I quit a salaried position as a night manager at a Pre Press Plant with regular bonuses, a zippy car and a sweet home on the lake. I quit and walked away after working nights since I was 18. I was single and very hard working woman.

    I rented my home and lived in a friends home to hope to pay for my new path with art in my life. I met a man 6 months after being out on my own. I knew very little as to who he was or is in the community of Nashville and the southeast, only knowing that he was a great teacher to a woman who was showing at a gallery that I worked at part time for commission.

    If one thing I know I am tenacious and have been since I was young being determined to make art as a living eventually. This man who is a abstract expressionist and had a substantial role in the evolution of Nashville’s art scene was the guy who would ignite my career into high gear! He was older than me but I had no clue what was to come. I came into the art scene bassackwards!

    I was directly placed with a person by something unexplained as an act of divine intervention. We became close and very good friends and eventually married. I wanted children but because of his age I had to make the choice to marry him and continue with my art career or not. I chose art.

    I was projected into another world that I had no knowledge of how it worked but his way. He did things the old way. I learned the hard and the old way, yet I learned a lot about every aspect of art making like an old master. I felt like we were the greatest team within our home and the way we felt about one another. Yet I did feel quite inferior to his status and it took years for me to own who I am as an artist.

    I worked even harder to have my own voice totally different than his style of painting or sculpting. I did it! It was hard to be married to a master and it be always about him never me revered or referred to first in any conversation. I was seen as a tag along for a while and I paid my dues with peoples snide remarks which made me tougher.

    I did start to sell my paper pieces about two years after I met “the man.” I traveled the world and did art wherever I travelled and taught art along the way on these trips, he never wanted to travel with me, not fun. Then things started happening in our life that were out of our control, one of my parents died and I was the only one of the siblings to be there. A lot of odd hard things have happened.

    Talk about it being hard as a female artist, I have never been respected by any of my siblings that are all men for my career. There are things that I loved about this relationship and now am paying the price for. The other part being, that I did not get educated about the modern side of doing business and that I came in at the top all I had to do was show up and make art full time. I respect this gift and have never forgotten where I have come from.

    Did I mention that I was the caretaker for my parents for 20 years too, financially and long distance from Nashville to Florida. That was from my 40’s up till a few years ago when one of my brothers decided to help out?!

    There’s a twist to this story now. I am now caregiving my mentor and ex husband who has Alzheimer’s. It has been an extreme contrast in my way of life, making art and meeting my financial needs. I had him move in two years ago and I’ve been balancing so many of things in my life. I thought I was tough but this time in my life I have felt as if I’m being initiated into the modern world of art by fire.

    I also have felt that the years he gave to me, to Nashville’s art foundation and to other artists as a mentor teacher as first class artist is part of my gift of caregiving in helping him through this very hard part of his life. Quite frankly I do feel that women have been seen as nurturers and caregivers but the tides are changing with stay at home dads.

    1. Lisa: I’ve been lucky to watch you throughout this period. My heart breaks for you, but it’s also deeply in awe of your fierce determination.

      When someone meets you, you don’t come off as strong. But, boy, you’re strong as hell.

      You are one amazing woman.

  20. Something that’s helped me carve out time to make art is having a studio/gallery in town. Our town is small and rents are cheap. I rent a two-room storefront. My studio is in the back with a retail area in front. I don’t get a lot of customers, which gives me all day to work. Then, when I’m home, I can take on the role of mom and keeper of the kitchen. I do still struggle with having enough time for everything, but this helps.

  21. The replies here are amazing, nothing I can add there!
    But I do highly recommend the documentary movie, Who Does She Think She Is??
    (Sorry, couldn’t decipher the html below, it’s…different!) :^D
    I bought a copy when it first came out, shared it with many of my fellow female artists. Then when we left Keene, NH, I left it with another artist friend and told her to pass it forward.
    Thought-provoking, worth a roundtable discussion. In fact, my copy came with suggestions for such.
    Your local library may have a copy, too.

  22. Get a grip – in any other corporate or business environment many of you would be labeled as whiners! Men, women, whatever – make great art, treat it like a job, set boundaries like you would for any career, and get moving! Form a team to support your efforts, it ‘s impossible to do it alone, at home or in your business – be confident, stay focused and be a player! Nearly 25 years in an industry outside of art has conditioned me to be a survivor – put your thick skin on and figure out how you’re going to make YOU a priority!

  23. Yes! Signing one daughter up for mountain bike racing, helping buy the shorts, socks, jerseys and getting the other child her soccer cleats, providing healthy meals, listening to stories of teachers, friends, things that challenge them, this all takes time. So does making art.

    I am making the time to make art first, and the house keeping is falling through the cracks, the dinners don’t always get prepared before hunger strikes and the laundry sits on the couch in piles. I say oh well, I am very content working, and that makes me a better mother in the end.

  24. I wouldn’t know, being a guy. One thing that I am certain of, is that being an artist is not easy for a guy either. At the risk of sounding uncharitable, I have never heard a guy carping about not being able to paint or carve because he had to mow the lawn, fix the car, roof the house, take the kids to an ice cream social, repair a faucet, shovel the driveway, help with the dishes, putting the laundry away, and doing some of the cooking, etc., etc.. I’m not saying that guys aren’t thinking, this is a drag, They simply are doing what is necessary, trying to fulfill the non-artist responsibilities in order to get to the studio. If you want to talk about how burdened you are, try spending a couple years in a war zone. (And, there is a check below that says, “Which person would be best to know for your art career: plumber, curator, veterinarian, or pilot?” The answer to get this note posted is curator. My answer should be plumber, who would get me out from under the sink and into the studio.

    1. Hi Gubster, it seems brave of you to chime in and your comment was not uncharitable. My guess is that guys aren’t “carping” about those activities is because those are weekly (mow the lawn), annually at worst (fix the car), every 10 yearly (roof the house), never in the case of every man I’ve met (take the kids to an ice cream social), every decade (repair a faucet), daily (shovel the driveway), once in a while (dishes, putting the laundry away, and doing some of the cooking). There is a difference with all day, every day, 24/7 and activities that really are just “sometimes.” There is a difference with the kiddos. At my house I am the “go-to” person for every and all things. Once awhile they approach Dad, usually to ask him “where’s Mom.” lol. I also am in charge of all things outside – the garden, the mowing, the shoveling of the driveway, and the car maintenance. My hubs does a 40 hour a week job and my job is “everything else.” Seems fair enough and I am doing my best to also do my art. As far as “If you want to talk about how burdened you are, try spending a couple years in a war zone. ” my guess is that many women artists are also veterans. And, one of my favorite artists is Frank Capra, who made very poignant war time photos while in wars, but even then he wasn’t unloading a dishwasher every morning, he was focusing on not dying, and creating his artwork. Every one has challenges and I really appreciated that this Curious Monday was about making art while being female. So much about art and art making on the internet and art magazines and the guys that I follow on YouTube and Instagram are all about guys making amazing art. I admire their work and I have wondered how they are also getting all of this other life stuff done, or if they are having help in the background. As one of the people who do all of the chores in the background, it’s nice to see how others juggle as well.

  25. My or my! I was approached in 2009 by an accomplished and revered 72 year old painter following a visit to his studio who looked at one of my paintings and said to me “This is money in the bank”. The following day he phoned me at home, at 7 a.m. and offered to “help me along with my progress, if I was interested”. Here began a two year mentoring relationship where the mentor had another agenda. I was starving so I stuck it out, until he said I could become his Camille Claudel… I have never shared this story before, so this is very difficult. He used to say to me, “women cannot make it in the arts unless they are young and pretty”. He told me I was too old, and called me a second class citizen (because I was poor and live in a hovel), despite the fact (he said) I could paint better than he. There were so many head games! I cannot believe I fell for the dangling carrot… I ended the relationship and kept quiet as he had a lot of pull in the industry and I did not want to jeopardize my career. He passed away in 2014. I am moving on at my own pace and believing in the process of what must be, despite being a woman in my 50s. I could make an amazing art movie with this story…

    1. Good golly, Elsa. That is NUTS. I know you’re a stronger person for it, but I sure am sorry you had to go through that.

      Thank you for sharing your art in this post.

  26. Funnily enough I had a fairly smooth art career when my children were small. I had lots of contacts wanting me to do portraits of children. I don’t remember struggling with commitments like housework. It all seemed to fit in smoothly. I remember one day being late picking up my 5 year old from school because I’d lost track of time, and explaining to the teacher – she instantly commissioned me to paint her brother-in-law.

    Things changed when I became physically disabled. But that is not a women’s issue.

    Nowadays the thing that takes me away from painting is the people calling on me for emotional support. It takes too much time to get their problems out of my head so I can focus. I can’t paint A, when my head is full of B’s problems.

    At least being disabled, nobody calls on me to do anything physical!

    1. Jennifer: Oh, boy. Being the emotional support for people IS draining. I hope you can put some boundaries around that.

      Love the story about the teacher and the commission.

  27. I put my art on hold as a SAHM and helping run a family business. A divorce sent me back to school and I worked until my teenager left home. My then BF planned a cross country room all so we could work our finances so art was my career. My son decided to return to the nest and moved in with my parents since we were no longer where he wanted to attend college. When I started looking for a job to help with his college expenses he told me “no mom, this is your turn, you have given up everything to raise me and you deserve the chance to be a working artist”. I’m not sure he understands what a powerful motivator he is and how his belief in me makes me work through my roadblocks because I want him to be proud of me. I’ve since married my BF and he forgets I have stuff to do but I just remind him my job might take more hours some weeks. But it is a jugle most days between the feelings of what I should do as opposed to making art.

  28. Yes!
    I am coming out of care taking two elderly parents, now down to one (sadly) and it is so hard, especially with a job to support myself on top of it.
    I think women put a lot of detail oriented time into things/planning and that takes more time.
    We do it right!
    I think self care is the key. Meditation, yoga and time to settle the mind.

  29. Really enjoying this site and found it after searching under Artists Salons. I’m interested in putting together an Artists Salon group in my community and getting back to painting. This site it great and this appears to be a lively group.

  30. I think that each creative process: artmaking, relationships, business/entrepreneurship, takes 100%…and this is the case for all of us, except that women still have to confront traditional roles as to what is expected, and what we are trained to do.
    I would love to have Alyson address the issues of how exactly people do divide up their time, and what those motivators are…as it is critical to be in the studio, yet 50% of time needs to be spend on marketing, and also we need and are committed to relationships, life tasks and maintenance, and need also time off for rest and inspiration! This outside of crises, care giving, travel, etc. It seems that we are advised to do it all full time, and that is not possible. I think we can put all the tools in place, find what works best for us, and how that changes, and accept the juggle! Thank yo Alyson, for bringing up these salient and intriguing issues…it is great to share.

  31. I am not quite sure how I found this blog this morning. Maybe because I really need to start thinking deeply about where my art fits into the world? I’ve been in a position for a long time where it was difficult to do much with my artistic gifts. I was single for nine years after a horrible divorce. I lost my home at one piont & had to move in with parent’s…the same parent’s who never supported my talents as a young person. I would paint to deal with my pain when I first moved there, only to have my mother create conflicts with me. She’d tell me “my piece looked done & she didn’t know why I kept working on it….” It finally got so exhausting to combat her every time I just stopped. Life was busy with my working part time in retail & my freelance interior design business. I have been able to put my gifts to use in renderings & a few projects… I also got married a year ago in October & everything has changed. I suddenly don’t have the family drama…well I don’t live with it anymore…I have space but I’ve struggled adapting. My heart was longing for expression & I have started painting again with the hopes I can market my work. I just have no idea where to start & how to keep the momentum going as I frequently have to put my paintings aside to do other work. I still have the two job’s now a new husband & a teenage daughter…my son is 18 now & a lot more independent so it has eased my schedule up a bit. I just need to figure out a plan.

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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