Lianne Williams

Art vs Motherhood: How being a parent affects my art making

Creative Lifestyle, Family & LifeLianne WilliamsComment
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Being an artist or parent is not mutually exclusive okay?

Although I most definitely won’t be trying to convince anyone to have children if they don’t want them (Honey, you are more then a reproductive organs) I DO feel the need to defend some incorrect assertions over my life status as Mother.

Yes. I have children.

But I can still make art and I still have a valid creative contribution to make to this world.

If you’re a parent wondering if you could return to a creative career after children, or you’re dealing with inner conflict over whether to choose having children or making art, here are some of my observations of life being an artist who’s used her womb a couple of times... 

Progress is slower

I’ll jump straight in with the tough truth. Looking after small people, doing the school run, being taxi at weekends and the million other jobs we have to do eats into your time like you wouldn’t believe, meaning you may have less time to dedicate to your craft and therefore you may experience slower progress professionally compared to non-parents. But this is true for ANY career or profession. Yes. You still progress (and I believe make better use of my time then I did before I had children meaning I probably progress faster now!!) but you will probably get frustrated if you compare yourself to others who only have themselves to look out for. It can be really hard sometimes. When you’re up at 6am changing nappies and they’re up at 6am already working in their sketchbook it can suck. When they’ve been up all night finishing a commission I will have been up all night (like last night) looking after a poorly baby. But I have kids who say stuff like ‘mummy, you’ve coloured your artwork in so neatly today, I’m very proud of you’ and that is 100% worth it. Their childhood is TEMPORARY. I will get my life back in a few years.

But for now I just have to accept others will succeed earlier then me.

To help me through I pick and choose my other commitments to maximise the amount of art time I get without hindering my families quality of life. I rarely watch TV. I don’t have many hobbies or clubs. I squeeze my routine to make sure I’m getting the most out of my time whether that’s by minimising my housework commitments or figuring out short cuts, multi tasking or delegating. I value every single second, a skill I didn’t have pre-children. And no, despite what I overheard in the playground, I don't get up at 4am every day.

Top tip: Get organised and look out for 5 min pockets of time where you can squeeze in extra time for your art.

Damaging labels and stereotyping 

As a parent, and especially a mother, it’s easy to succumb to labels and stereotypes that seem to come with the role. 'Dowdy', 'thrown their lives away', 'boring', are just some of the cruel words used to describe mother that I’ve heard expressed over the past few weeks. Not to mention the young lady on Twitter who believed our vaginas had all died and gone to heaven (um... no... it doesn't work like that sweetie) You also get a lot of people who assume that now you're a parent you must do toddler crafts or gentle, twee illustrations for children’s books so can be a little surprised when you don’t. Or swear. Or have sex. Or leave the house. So to state the obvious: just because I’ve had children doesn’t mean I’ve regressed to a child again myself... but sure, I’ve felt that strong need to censor myself and take on a maternal role so nobody questioned my ability to be a good parent. ‘I can’t. I’m a mother now’ echos solemnly in my ears as I put away my high heels and Garbage albums. Not that it ever achieved anything in my favour. So forget fitting in to any stereotype and just do you.

You’ll meet ignorant individuals who aren’t mature enough to see beyond your role as a parent and that’s a good sign you should avoid them. You’ll also meet others who’ll think that you’ll need to be living a tragic, self-destructive bohemian lifestyle to truly be taking seriously as an Artist which will negatively impact your role as a parent in massive way. They too can get in the bin.

Top tip: You can keep your personal life private and not tell anyone you’ve got kids but what kind of life is that? They’re not something you’re supposed to be ashamed of. Don’t censor or change yourself for anyone. It WILL backfire.

Danger in the studio

A practical point I’ve had to take into consideration since being a parent is the fact that children and art materials don’t generally mix very well and some products can be outright lethal. Oil paints, mediums, cleaning products, blades, heavy easels are all hazards for innocent sprogs, or at best, an expensive waste that stains your floor.

I’ve lost a small fortune in ink, acrylic paint, glitter and canvasses due to little hands raiding my cupboards behind my back (they’ve even broken through safety locks) to access Mummy’s special things. Then there was the time they poured glue all over the dining room table. Poured glitter all over the carpet. Drew all over my commission. Twice. And hacked their hair off when I was on the phone. I suppose it’s similar to having a small but articulate puppy, with thumbs. But worse. No word of a lie I caught my daughters sneaking scissors and paint into their bedrooms in the early hours of the morning whilst everyone was still asleep and they were clever enough for one of them to KEEP GUARD and raise the alarm when they heard me coming. They were 4 & 5! So try your best to keep things locked away safely but better yet replace any toxic/dangerous items with safer alternatives for the time being so if they’re cunning like my children you can at least protect them from themselves if they do happen to raid you. I wasn’t safe even when I had an outdoor studio either. They have their ways. You’ve been warned.

Top tip: Children aren’t stupid and know your pens/paints/paper are better then their kiddy versions so after I’d removed the particularly dangerous stuff I agreed with my children that they could use my things, but ONLY with my supervision. I then knew at least they’d know how to use them properly/safely and hopefully wait for me to assist them. So far so good. When they got older I started to buy them their own quality art materials so they didn’t feel tempted to sneak off with mine. It’s helped set boundaries, show my belief in their abilities as artists themselves (why shouldn’t children have good art materials- their creativity is just as valid as mine?) but they do still leave the lid off the glue stick and my eldest now has a very expensive taste in stationery. It’s a sacrifice I’ve had to make.


This could just be me but I’ve found most opportunities to network as an artist are completely antisocial to my life as a parent.

No. I do not want to come out at 8pm to meet you. I’ve just put my children to bed and frankly I want a bubble bath to wash baby puke out of my hair and to read a book.

No. I can’t pop up to London for lunch, as much as I’d love to, because I need to stand in a freezing playground and collect my children from school.

No I can’t sign up for that evening class or art retreat because I have children who will need to come with me and they’re really really really distracting and might escape if I’m tempted to hold a conversation or look away.

Make these events child friendly and then maybe we can talk. Babysitter??? I’d love to, but that’s not cheap. £50 a go, at least!! So if it’s one thing I’d change as an artist, is how accessible artist networking events are. The internet has been a life saver in that respect and although I can’t be as sociable as some people it’s only a matter of time before I can get back out there.

Top tip: Look out for other creative parents and network with them. They get it.

Your children can influence your work

This should be an obvious one but the process of growing and raising a child has a profound impact on who you are and what you think whether you like it or not. All of a sudden you become responsible for the survival and happiness of another human being and it changes you and it can change the art you make. 

There is wisdom to be found in becoming a parent. 

Not superiority, or a life purpose... Just wisdom. An adventure. A perspective. And those stories, lessons and feelings DO creep into your work. For instance, I found my portraits became a lot more self referential after I had children as I tried to figure out who I was after this momentous change in my life. I’ve seen other artists suddenly explore feminism or their religion or politics. I’ve seen others quit art entirely to focus on the challenge of being a mother and others who’ve done the opposite and take their art business seriously for the first time in their life now they’ve got children to provide for. Others use their artwork to process their experiences of becoming a parent- grief, joy, humour as a form of therapy. Some people carry on exactly as before but they may collaborate with brands that create children’s products or support working parents. Some might just draw or paint their children and find a new style. Or like me your art starts to reflect on what’s happening to your own understanding of life. Your world expands.

Top tip: Go with the flow. Artists are constantly evolving- why shouldn’t our work change when we experience parenthood? 

I’m 8 years into motherhood and feel that I’m a better person for it, and hopefully, as a result, a better artist.

I don’t really think of what ‘could have been’ for me if I didn’t have my children.

You make your life what it is in the moment and I rarely dwell on alternative realities. Sure I considered pushing my career more, investing in childcare, sleeping less... I could have built my career first and waited to have children later in life. But I didn’t and I still sold art and I still make art that I’m proud of.

If anything I’ve made my best work as a mother, maybe because of growing up or simply valuing my creative time more... maybe it’s completely unrelated. I don’t know. But that’s the interesting thing- it happened regardless of what I’d expected or planned because I’d put my mind to it regardless of my situation. It was never a case of having to choose between one path or another. I was always going to do both.

My challenge was to forge my own path, and that was scary.

If this is you right now rest assured there are so many paths. So many options. Whatever you’re dreaming of COULD work for you. Have kids. Don't have kids. It's a life either way.

[Feel free to ask me absolutely anything about being a mama who makes and I'll answer in the comments below- I’m happy to discuss everything and anything from labour to organisation tips. There's no such thing as TMI in my world so just go for it. I've given birth. Nothing shocks me anymore :D ]

My Happiness Project: FEBRUARY, 'Connecting with Others'

Creative Lifestyle, Family & Life, Style & GlamourLianne WilliamsComment
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This February I’ll be aiming to Connect with Others for my Happiness Project

After several weeks of being pretty much house bound either from being heavily pregnant (seriously, getting in and out of the car was hard enough) and then last month just spending time getting to know my new son, I'm a little nervous to enter February knowing I've set myself the challenge of Connecting with Others for my Happiness Project.

Being self employed means that I'm used to working alone but with that comes occasional, but very intense, loneliness.

I don't have colleagues per say. My work happens a lot online. I can spend weeks working on something completely alone and not even realise. And being the primary carer for my children means I have even less free time to socialise or network with other adults unless they're also mentally stretched parents too- which isn't exactly the type of people I would instinctively choose to hang out with... don't get me wrong, mums & dads are awesome, I just want friendships who I have more in common with then just the fact we have children.

For the most part I prefer living my life this way. I find being around people for too long exhausting (fun, but yeah... EXHAUSTING) and although the idea of going to an event alone or going on stage doesn't bother me on the most part I have a real problem with engaging in small talk and allowing my true humour and personality to shine unless I’m with people I know really, really well. I’m a typical INFJ.

Still, having fulfilling relationships is a fundamental part of human happiness and if I isolate myself for long enough there’s a very good chance my mental health will start to suffer. I feel loneliness very, very deeply if I’m not careful. It takes me to a dark place and despite the unhealthy and over romanticised stereotypes about artists, when my mental health suffers I make crap art... if I make any art at all.

I knew that after having my baby it would be important for me to make sure I was making an effort to maintain contact with others, not just for this stage of my life (it’s well known that new parents can suffer greatly from loneliness) but connecting with others is also vital for my long term happiness. I don’t want to be one of these women who vanishes from society after having children or forgets to see their friends. I want to continue to meet new and interesting people... forever... not just at baby groups or at work.

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I’ve been recommended the book ‘How to win friends and influence people’ which I see is considered a classic. So far it makes a lot of sense to me and I’ve made my months quote, ‘You can make more friends in one month by taking an interest in other people then trying to make them interested in you’. Because I admit... I really struggle with this. For two reasons.

The first being my own ego whispering incessantly that others will most definitely, absolutely, find me boring; utterly, painfully boring, or rude, or stupid, so it’s imperative (see ‘life or death matter’) that I tell them all the interesting things about myself before they judge me poorly. Then the second reason, as a result of being bullied and ignored by my peers at school, I’m actually truly petrified of asking people about themselves. There’s this very potent fear that I’ll be rejected for: crossing the line socially, or intruding, or ever considering myself worthy enough to even think I was allowed to talk to someone. To the point where I wonder if I’m allowed to wish you happy birthday. Or if I can compliment your outfit. Or say hello. Or EVEN look at you. I know that sounds crazy but you have no idea how many times I’ve been slammed for saying ‘Hi’ at someone, or even just wanting to sit down at a desk. Stuff like that rots inside of you. 17 years later and I’m still punishing myself and carrying on what a room of bitchy little girls started. Those little girls still have a say on whether I make eye contact. I’m 33.

So this month I’m challenging myself to:

Try small talk

A real weakness. Even though I genuinely find talking about the weather interesting, beyond that, I’m stumped. I can talk about myself but unless you offer a bit of information about yourself I’m screwed. Learning some scripts or conversation techniques is my first port of call I think. If I’m prepared, I can learn how to chit chat comfortably. I’m prepared to try it if it means I come across friendlier but I’ll be honest... I’m VERY sceptical about making friends as an adult now. I promise to remain open minded though.

Smile and make eye contact

I can do this some times, maybe if it’s a lovely sunny morning and the children are in a good mood and I’ve already spoken to a few different people but most of the time there’s a fear that if I make myself warm and approachable someone’s going to come along and try and burst that bubble. There’s always someone looking for a fight isn’t there? Keeping my head down and chanting ‘I’m invisible, leave me alone’ has worked quite well for me but it’s starting to back fire because even though I do avoid confrontation I’ve also become invisible to all the people who might actually like me and support me. Don’t get me started on dating. Nobody ever noticed me. Ever.

It’s so bad now I actually even get stepped on sometimes.

So if I need to smile and make more eye contact to get people to see me, I can try. This will be one of the harder tasks this month but I will try. 

Love Languages

This is a fantastic concept (check out the book if you’re interested) which discusses how everyone likes to receive love in different ways. Some of us feel loved when others give us physical affection, other people like gifts, verbal declarations... it’s very interesting. There’s a quiz to find out what your love language is and then when you know what your family and friends prefer, you can focus on demonstrating your affection for them in a way they can truly appreciate and vice versa. Often clashes occur when the wrong language is being spoken between people. This month I’ll be trying to implement love languages more into my interactions with others (since it’s Valentines Day this month) as well as make my own love language clear (I like face to face quality time if you haven’t guessed). Anytime I focus on love languages the people around me seem to really appreciate it.

Open my Home

Due to work I regularly move about and usually my home is in a state of packing, unpacking or renovation. Our house is at the stage where we just need to find a lampshade for the dining room and I think we’re done. As a result I’m feeling ready to welcome people into my home. Until now I’ve been quite wary of inviting people in. My doors have always been shut because I didn’t want people to see the mess, the ugliness (We’re in property development so we live in houses that make financial sense rather then homes that talk to the heart- I didn’t even see our current home until we had the keys and were moving in). But now it’s time to change that. My doors are open. Come in for tea. Wine. A chat. Stay over. Play dates. It’s all good. I want to make my home a sociable, welcoming place to be. Once upon a time I actually wanted to run art groups or classes from my home... what happened to that person? Maybe it's time she came back.

Witness others

When it comes to love one of the most profound observations I’ve heard is that our greatest need as individuals is to live a life feeling like we’ve been truly witnessed by someone. That’s what love is to me. Knowing that someone had really seen me. All of me. And has behaved in a way that has allowed me to feel safe being seen. Physically, emotionally, intellectually. Does that make sense? I suppose it includes all those ideas about ‘being yourself’, ‘feeling comfortable’, ‘having unconditional support’, ‘knowing that you were heard’. Now I know I can’t change anyone, nor should I expect anyone to witness me just because I've asked for it, so instead I’m going to push myself to lead by example and really witness those around me. I’m going to listen more then talk. Ask questions about them more then share more about myself. And watch people. Especially my children. Because they deserve to be witnessed more then anyone. I'm hoping this will in turn improve my observational skills as a creative. People are interesting right?

My Goal:

Establish friendships that mean something to me and improve existing connections. 'It's not what you know, it's who you know'.

Why I Blog publicly rather then privately

Creative Lifestyle, Business & BloggingLianne Williams2 Comments
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And it's not as ‘self indulgent’ as you'd imagine.

I started my first blog back in 2003.

Back then most blogs were literally just an online diary. Every day you'd upload a text post (No photos etc. This was back when we had animated backgrounds and auto-play 8 bit music) and that was that.

If 12 people saw it that was great. If you got a comment that was impressive.

Now-a-days I get tens of thousands of views. Things are SO much different now. Bloggers can be multi millionaires. They’re often labelled ‘influencers’, even ‘experts’. Back when I started blogging, sure, some people were very popular and had ‘big’ blogs, but for the most part it was an obscure niche, a past time, and not many people even knew what a blog was.

I used mine to record my inner monologue... consider my thoughts of the day, practice my writing, vent, keep in touch with friends and update them on what I was up to if they weren't on my MSN or MySpace. Sometimes I got creative with it, I'd upload quizzes, photos, artwork, jokes I liked. It performed much like a Facebook profile before Facebook existed. There was nothing else to it. However, even then, I still couldn't answer that question... why was I sharing all this stuff publicly?

Even now, when blogging has a thriving community and industry behind it, how can I justify sharing content or blogging online if I'm not using it to expand my business or make money?

How can I blog such intimate details about my life, just for fun?

Some friends/family found the idea of a blog, and even a website, alien and intrusive.

Couldn't I just email my friends? Couldn't I keep my blog set to private? Why did I want to blog at all? Why did I use my real name? Surely a paper journal would suffice? Wasn't it arrogant to think anyone would find my life interesting? Wasn't it dangerous to put myself online? Isn't it all just 'keeping up with the Jones' or 'showing off' or 'being self indulgent?'

And even though I didn't have the words to describe why I was doing what I was doing, and why I preferred the format of a blog over a diary, I knew deep down it was about connecting. Not necessarily 'attention seeking' or 'showing off' (and I've considered those possibilities with an open mind) or even just marketing myself or networking in a professional sense... it was more then those things, it was something far more complex then that.

I could only begin to explain my relationship with my blog after recently coming across a concept discovered by Henry A. Landsberger, called The Hawthorne Effect: The tendency that individuals work harder or better when they are being observed.

The Hawthorne Effect was discovered during a study of workers at a factory in the USA when they realised that whilst under observation the productivity and performance of the workers improved, and when the experiment was finished, performance reduced back down to normal levels.

This sounded very familiar to me.

It's also why I think many creatives and bloggers worry about their audience numbers... if you don't feel like you're being watched, it can make us give up and or put less effort in. We like to perform.

Nobody tells a singer or a dancer that they should do it all in private and never have an audience... so why should writers, creatives, bloggers?

After some consideration I realised that for me it also doesn't matter if the audience likes what they see. Rejection is just a natural part of the experience- their attention as an audience alone, positive or negative still contributes to my productivity (it's probably related to positive/negative ego strokes). The simple fact is the knowledge that someone could be watching me is enough for me to commit to blogging... because I don't want to let them down. I want to be on my best behaviour. I want to put on a show for them. 

An audience also seems to provide me with another benefit. By having an audience I will think up better and bolder ways to entertain them. I will try new things, push myself to reach my goals and in turn improve myself as a person.

If it wasn't for my blog I wouldn't have sold art, learnt CSS, HTML, Photoshop, tried brush lettering, baked a rainbow cake, or took myself as a creative seriously- when other people take you seriously, when your audience takes you seriously, you start to wonder...  maybe there’s some truth in it. I wouldn't have been published without my blog. Nobody would have found me or known of my work. I wouldn't have met hundreds of wonderful artists and individuals who genuinely believe in me and what I make. Who buy what I make and read what I write... even if it’s 'whiny' or 'self indulgent' that week. I wouldn't have exhibited. It's even healed me and allowed me to make big changes in my world.

Blogging publicly is a win-win situation.

This is why switching to private as a blogger and as an artist doesn't make sense for me. Why would I make things harder for myself? 

Now I know that's a lot to attribute to just one silly website, but yeah, my blog has been a brilliant way to keep myself accountable and moving forward. More so then my education. More so then social media. More so then life coaches. More so then my own family and friends. Its nagged me, disciplined me, consoled me. It's given me more work and opportunities (and in an industry notoriously difficult to find work in) then my CV and qualifications ever did. It's kept me in touch with people who've been better friends then people I've known my whole life. And of course, it's produced an income: A small but undeniable bonus.

With all the talk about social media addiction, unplugging, detoxes and blogger burn out in the news right now I frequently ask myself, could I have achieved all these things without my blog, by just keeping a sketchbook or a journal? Could I quit the internet? Shut down my blog? I'm not sure I could function without it- certainly not as well. 

It all goes back to that desire for an audience. The audience is vital. Where would I find an audience for my sketchbook? My diary? Who would I check-in with? Look for feedback from? Teach? Entertain? Encourage? I don't live in an artist community. I don't have a willing audience in my social circle. And besides... why can't I have both? Why can't I have a blog that connects me with the world AND an artist community in person? Why can't I blog publicly AND write privately?

Why does it even have to be so black and white?

Then it dawned on me. When I work on my blog I am effectively working on Me.

The process of deciding what to share, putting in the work to create content, live up to my expectations of myself, learn new skills, find the self confidence to share that (regardless of its loved, hated or seen at all) is why I blog.

That's the core reason.

I could also mention the following:

  • Blogging allows me to meet like minded individuals 
  • I am able to explain techniques, processes or ideas in more detail through my blog that I might not have time for in person or via social media
  • I'm creating a resource- a place for people to go to and enjoy. I am making something.
  • I can showcase my portfolio easily for clients as well as show them my other skills and interests
  • I am securing a business that is independent to social media and not reliant on those platforms. If Facebook closes one day it doesn't affect my career.
  • I collaborate with individuals and brands I wouldn’t get the chance to meet otherwise.
  • I can share what I know with the world without the expense of hosting classes or publishing a book.
  • Blogs are a convenient and simple way to keep in touch with people or for new audiences to find you.
  • I can dream aloud and by talking about my dreams I often get help/advice/opportunities from my readers which I wouldn't have been offered otherwise
  • Blogs can generate income. You can also blog for free.
  • I learn new skills, from constructing the blog itself, to running a business, to just the things I learn that I discuss in my blog posts. It's a constant education.
  • There's a schedule to follow. And blogging can help establish a routine if you work from home or are self employed.
  • It's a great way to relax and off load tension, as well as seek support and help.
  • There is a community feeling to blogging. You can always find someone to turn to or get advice from.
  • I feel like there's a sense of legacy with a blog. I hope this is something my children will read when they're older and it will stay around long after I've stopped blogging.

Blogging, for me, is a self reflective tool. When my blog looks good, I’m doing good. When my blog is quiet, I’m probably struggling or stressed out.

Obviously my reasons for blogging may change one day. When Instagram first launched (and I’ve been on it since 2011) it was a fabulous alternative to blogging and one that suited me far better, but sadly they’ve effectively killed off the audience aspect of it now so I’m back to blogging. If something better comes along, if my audience in real life becomes stronger I may put blogging to one side- I don’t know. I’m aware my needs might be different in the future. Things change. People change. But for now, this is how I like things.