This week's Creative Mothers interview is with Robyn Wolfe! If you don't already know her and her work, now you do! I love, love, love her illustrations! They are beautiful, colorful, and full of so much life. The thing that stood out the most from Robyn's interview is how her art and creative process changed, in a good way, once she had kids. I think it's important to realize that art and creativity are ever changing for the good of the art and the artist.
What has helped your art change? How has your art evolved because of those changes?
Robyn, thank you again for a wonderful interview and for sharing your insights!
1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating?
I can’t really pin it down to one concrete memory….my earliest memories are more like a collection of polaroid’s floating around in my head. I have a recollection of a pair of hi-top sneakers I drew at summer camp once, and then there’s an image of 3 mountain lion cubs I sketched and gave to my mom for Mothers Day one year. I was 10 years old, maybe? I was raised around music too…piano & viola lessons in childhood, I played in the orchestra through high school. I kept a diary throughout my childhood too….it was mostly based in reality, but there was definitely an element of creative writing there too ;)
2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.? I’ve always sort of suspected it, but for a variety of reasons haven’t really made room in my life to explore the possibility until the past 5 years or so. I grew up under the impression that being an artist wasn’t an especially practical way to make a living, and so never put much energy into it. Only as I have approached middle age have I realized that being creative is one of my natural expressions.
3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore?
I create because it brings me back to me. When I’m not creating, I start to get grumpy, anxious. I create to earn a living. I was approached this past Fall about illustrating a children's book. The Journey of Analise will be out this summer! I am blessed to have a found a way to weave my need to create & my need to pay the bills together. That’s been the focus of this entire year really.
4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed or enhanced the way you create?
There was definitely a lull in creativity in the first years after my children were born. My brain was focused on finding enough hours of sleep and making enough breast milk! About 5 years ago I went through a divorce and some major life-shifting (all for the better) which is really when the re-expression of my creative self began. My children were 5 and 3 years old at that point. Prior to children, my art was based very much in realism; a lot of sketching & drawing with the goal being to get as realistic a likeness as possible down on paper. After children, my work has completely shifted. I would describe what I do now as whimsical and slightly (on purpose) imperfect. Really the shift is a direct reflection of my parenting experience! Children are whimsical…mine have helped me start seeing the world in a completely different way. And the intentional imperfectness of my work has helped me shed a lot of anxiety I experienced when creating in a more realistic manner.
5. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges?
Something we come up against here at our house, is the children sometimes feeling like their work needs to “be as good as” our work (my husband is an artist also). There was a period of time when my son was younger when he flat out refused to draw at all because he could never reproduce on paper the images in his mind. At that point, I stopped drawing around both children. All the work I did happened after they were asleep (or not at home). We had a lot of conversations (in the context of art, and a lot of other things too) about the fact that at their age, children are LEARNING…that all the skills the adults in the house have came after YEARS of practice. We also talked a lot about how the only way to get better at ANY skill is to KEEP DOING IT. Things are better now. Both children create daily (yay!) and have eeked out their own work spaces in our studio. Also, whenever I’m frustrated with a piece I’m working on, I let the children know it. I talk about what I’m not liking about the piece and a few ways I might attempt to fix it. I let them see that whole process play out. They now understand that it happens to EVERYONE, and that usually, there is a way to change/alter any “mistake”.
6. Do you ever involve your children in your art? Do they inspire, help, mimic your projects, ask to learn, or be involved in your art?
Yes, and Yes! As I mentioned before, learning to see the world through their eyes has shifted my own work in a direction that I love. And we do a lot of collaborative projects together. One of our favorites is to draw a landscape/background on the chalkboard in the studio, and then have the kids draw in their own details. They love it, and incredible stories unfold!
7. What have you sacrificed in order to make art?
I can’t think of anything…at least not anything that was worth keeping in the first place.
8. What have you gained from creating art?
Control over my time (which has led to significant improvements in my health), and a return to a much truer version of me.
9. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I see myself continuing with illustration. I’d like to get a few more children’s books under my belt…. Illustration is my favorite form of storytelling! I have ideas for a few stories as well, so I can picture myself teaming up with a writer, or maybe writing them myself.
10. At this time, what could you sacrifice, change, or simplify to help reach your artistic goals?
I made HUGE life changes last year to change & simplify in order to reach my artistic goals. For the moment, I feel like I’m on path.
11. Do you homeschool? Do the kids go to school? How does this affect your creativity and art making?
We have done both. At the moment my children attend our local Waldorf school. Both my husband and I do some teaching at their school (to their respective classes). It feels really good to still be involved in that part of their lives. Although it is not the reason we chose school at this point, it has definitely opened up my time during the day for working on creative projects.
12. What does a typical day/week look like? Are you a morning or night person? Do you stick to a schedule or create whenever you can?
Ha. I’m neither a morning or night person. Middle of the day person, maybe? My week is loosely scheduled around some teaching commitments, and I generally meet with my business partner one day a week as well. Everything else falls into place around those events. Earlier this year we launched Waldorfish.com, which creates modern resources for Waldorf teachers & families. It’s been ridiculously exciting to watch that community expand around the globe!
13. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers on? Inspiration, wisdom?
I’m not sure how well I can put words to this, but I’ll give it a go….there isn’t a day that has gone by (since re-shifting my priorities last year) where I’m not totally terrified. But along with that terror comes the bliss of controlling my own time, and pursuing work that fills me up. Georgia O’Keefe’s words bounce around in my mind daily:
“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
14. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you?
I am fortunate to be part of a large community of creative mothers…to name just one would be extremely difficult. They share a few traits in common though, namely the desire to model for their children what living an on-purpose life looks like. To call them writers, photographers, coaches, and artists hardly begins to encompass the rich work they do.
Are you a Creative Mother, or do you know one? Want to be interviewed? Send me an email at email@example.com and I will send you the interview questions and info that I need.
I'm no longer doing Creative Mothers interview, but this will remain as an archive. Thank you for all of the love!
About the Series
Let's face it, being a mother can be the most challenging, and the most rewarding thing. Being a mother who needs to be creative can be even more challenging, it can even feel lonely at times.
So let's dig deeper into the lives of creative mothers, share their amazing work, and get some insight into creating while parenting. Hopefully, inspiring other artistic, creative mothers, and women who may one day be mothers themselves, along the way.
Explore Past Interviews
Suzi Banks Baum
Shelli Bond Pabis
Elizabeth B. Borowsky
Kellee Wynne Conrad
Kisco Print Shop
Art by Megan