Brooke Rothshank – a mother and artist
Artist Brooke Rothshank has found an ingenuous way to juggle mothering her three young children with pursuing her creative passions. If you ever feel like you can’t find the time to do the things you love, this may just be the inspiration and practical advice you’ve been looking for…
Since Brooke was young, painting and glass blowing have always been an important creative outlet for her. And no one understands this better than her husband of 14 years, Jason, who is a full-time studio potter.
Add in three much-loved children – aged seven years, three years and three months – and finding the time for Brooke to work and create is understandably challenging.
“When I am parenting and not able to get in the studio for long stretches, I feel like I am not a happy person or mother,” Brooke shared. “But when I have time to be creative, I have more patience for life around me.”
“It’s easy to spiral into feeling like I will never have time to make art again… but then I remember my pre-kid self that also did not feel like she had enough time to do it all!”
Taking small but consistent steps
Brooke’s lightbulb moment came when she realised that her work should be more about the process and less about the outcome. This is when she decided to paint one mini painting per day for a year, instead of working on a larger ‘masterpiece’.
“Before I started the year of daily mini paintings, I had a two and five year old and was not feeling like there was enough time to really accomplish anything in the studio,” Brooke said. “But once I started doing the daily miniature paintings, I began to feel like I had some better balance. My husband was on board with supporting a daily painting routine and encouraged me to post on Instagram and Facebook for accountability. Initially I was only working during my two year old’s naps and while the five year old was at school.”
Breaking the work down into bite sized amounts, and making it a consistent priority, was how Brooke managed to complete 365 paintings, including a number of commissions, in just twelve months.
“When you are parenting small children, devoting time to yourself each day simply for self-care, can make a radical difference,” she said.
“For me, knowing that I would start and finish a mini painting each day was very satisfying. It reminded me of my artistic identity, but in a way that was not over-thought or too serious. If I didn’t like it, no big deal. I knew I would paint another tomorrow. It was low pressure but kept me making.”
“It became an exercise in letting go of worrying about how what I made would be received,” she continued. “I just didn’t have time to start over so whatever I made that day was what would be posted. Eventually it became more for me about showing up to complete and share the daily work than about what the work actually was.”
Embracing the season you’re in
Brooke also acknowledges that there are different seasons in parenting, and that she needs to re-evaluate her priorities from time to time.
“Currently, I am not doing a daily painting and I do miss it. Right now my daily commitment is to take a walk in the woods. It is the thing I need most to feel good,” Brooke said.
“Walking is a time when I process ideas, so I consider this germinating studio time. I keep a sketch book and jot down ideas and plans for when I am able to work with them.”
“If you allow showing up with your passion every day to be enough, then you develop in a way that is not possible if you are only working when you ‘have enough time’,” she explained. “And if you are in a season of just showing up, set a goal for down the road and then be ok with where you are now.”
Letting go of perfection
Brooke’s experience has also taught her to not be stifled by the need to be perfect, to compare, or to worry about what others think.
“By committing to a daily miniature painting and being accountable for it by posting on social media, I was able to loosen my grip on ‘is this perfect?’, or ‘how will this be received?’, and was instead exposed to opportunities and connections that never would have materialised, had I been focused on overworking the ‘perfect’ piece,” Brooke explained.
“Once I finished and image and put it out there, it didn’t matter if I liked it. It was out of my hands and I had to move on to the next thing. Less time to dwell on ‘what does everyone think’ became a helpful tool for me. Of course, by working each day, one naturally improves and learns, so that is a bonus.”
The daily mini-paintings also acted like a visual journal of Brooke’s day, and the images selected were often based on her personal life experiences.
“The daily minis generally felt intimate and precious to me in the moment. Often the image I chose to paint had something to do with the immediate day,” she said.
“They were playful and reenergising in a way I would not have anticipated, had I not been pushed to make them because of the time constraints I was under.”
“People seem drawn to that intimate feeling and the whimsy of something so small. Some of my favourites are probably the TV dinner, the gummy bear and our dog Pearl.”
Getting your kids involved
Brooke and Justin regularly invite their children into their studio to create their own artworks, and involve them in their art shows and exhibitions.
“I think we foster a love of art in our children when we enjoy, appreciate and participate in the arts ourselves,” Brooke enthused.
“Allowing ourselves time to experiment and play in the arts is an important part of self-care but also part of teaching children to not be afraid to make mistakes or experiment. It’s part of living dynamic lives.”
About the artist
Brooke Rothshank attended the International Guild of Miniature Artisans School in Main, U.S., and now teaches miniature painting at the school. Her work as a miniature artist has been exhibited around the U.S. and featured in both Miniature Collector and Dollhouse Miniatures magazines. Brooke has illustrated three children’s book for Herald Press. A selection of her works can be purchased on Etsy.
Check out some of the many gorgeous designs and follow Brook on Instagram @blrothshank