Women Painters - Having It All!
A fellow female painter once said to me, "Galleries don't take women seriously. Women are rarely offered solo shows because they are too busy taking care of their children, parents and other obligations". She also asked me if "I supported myself solely with my painting sales".
That really hacked me off…initially. That woman had bypassed having children in service to her art. My sales at that time were not impressive. But the conversation played over many times in my mind and it really opened me up to how it related to my painting journey.
I started in the work force as a graphic designer. After 7 years I began freelancing so that I had some freedom to work at home and have a family. These were the days that you got 6 weeks unpaid maternity leave. It's so much better today for younger people with 6 months off and paid maternity leave in many cases.
So...the children came and yes... children are a distraction, a wonderful one. I closed up shop on my graphic design business and when my children were young I began studying painting. At times I would be frustrated that I couldn't get enough painting time in... they needed me! One day I made a conscious choice, this would be the time to study and practice my trade...there would be plenty of time down the road to pursue galleries, sales, shows etc. My child raising days were finite. My husband John was/is a fantastic parenting partner. His career was taking off and I would support his path while I stayed at home with the kiddos. Occasionally I took workshops, sometimes weeklong and out of town. John did the single parent thing while I was away. Marriage is a shared responsibility if it's gonna work. I took the long approach...and my kids thrived! No regrets.
Today, I have grandchildren. My passion for painting has only grown. My husband has always supported my painting, traveling, teaching and pursuit of advancing my career. I could not do it without him. I am fortunate to have great gallery representation, membership in top tier plein air painting groups, I teach workshops and am fully engaged in a profession that gets me up every day...and looking forward to that blank canvas!
And occasionally life happens! Last summer my daughter fell and broke her back. She was ordered to wear a back brace for 3 months and told she could not pick up or carry her 8 week old baby...let alone keeping up with her 4 year old daughter. So John and I moved into a little house on the farm for 3 months to take over some parenting duties. I didn't paint for 3 months. We enjoyed amazing sunsets over the farm every evening! Those sunsets are now documented in my paintings. My painting didn't suffer. I jumped back in and I think the break was actually good for me.
I have many male painter friends and many of them are equally supported by wives and partners. No one takes them less seriously because their partner allows them to pursue their painting passion! Those spouses also help financially, working to provide health insurance and added income. And Yes! Those men take an active role in parenting. This is 2022 and as women...we can have it all... but maybe not all at once.
So, carry on! It takes patience and a willingness to support one another. Take your time and do it right. The Long Approach is worth the wait.
Pamela B Padgett