Working in the Arts & Graphic Design

Parent Q&A

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  • Where to host art workshop?

    (2 replies)

    I'm looking for a studio, workspace, community center or other location in Oakland/Berkeley where we could hold an afternoon or evening art workshop for about 20 adults - please let me know if you have any suggestions.  Bonus points if the space could be donated (it's for a fundraiser for a nonprofit), but I'm open to paying for space as well.  In a perfect world, the place would have some tables to work at and be okay with us consuming wine.  Ideas? Thanks!

    Dear Practical Mom,

    I run a non-profit in Oakland called Chapter 510. We rent out our Downtown Oakland space for arts workshops. If you are interested contact Tavia Stewart

    tavia [at]

    Contact Sticky Art Lab, on University, and go check out their space.  I think it could work well for you.

  • Back to Art

    (3 replies)


    I am a single parent, mom of two 21&18  young men, last one ready to go to college. As you can read underlined here, I will be passing from a super busy life, taking care of my boys activities to a ME time... Say what? :) I have a great group of friends, I exercise, and dance and am a very happy person. But, there is one thing that I have to go back and do again, ART. It was pART of my life, I graduated in Sculpture in Italy, but once I got pregnant of the first boy, that was it. And am so eager to restart again. I am ready! Please guide me about where to work with more adult parents, on clay and plaster- learn and cook my pieces, without being so expensive. Thnx!!!

    Try Studio One. They have inexpensive clay classes and also open studios you can use. Good for you for getting back to art!

    Good for you! The world needs more beauty right now :)) Try the Richmond Art Center or ASUC. Also, if you don't mind driving, the City of Walnut Creek has lots of community art classes...

    I love Laney College in Oakland.  Great ceramic studio, teachers and a wide range of student population in age and diversity.  Sign up now because it's so popular the classes fill up.  School starts Aug. 22

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Considering career switch to Graphic Designer

Sept 2010

I work in the public health field and my government job is driving me crazy (bureaucratic, redundant, ineffective, no control over work products, etc.)--my independent, creative nature is being stifled. I'm drawn to graphic design because I'm looking for a career with creativity, flexibility, and variety. I would also like to be self-employed. I'd like to hear from others in the field.

1)How does someone with a non-art educational background become a graphic designer? 2)What kind of training/education is needed? What's the reputation of UC Berkeley's Extension Graphic Design certificate program? 3)Is a 3-year MFA degree necessary? 4)What are your major likes/dislikes about your job and this industry? 5)What percentage of your time is spent doing what? 6)What is the employment outlook for this field? Is it competitive? 7)What do you wish you knew about this profession before you trained to become a graphic designer?

Thanks. anon

I've been a graphic designer for 30 years and still really love the job! Beware, creativity is only a **small** part of the profession (for me, maybe 10%). I was an English major who took design classes after college. I studied at Laney, Extension, and CCAC (now CCA). I think the less expensive classes (Laney/Extension) are a good way to get your feet wet, but the CCA classes had higher expectations and really taught me how to be a designer. The long hours and sometimes brutal critiques tempered my personality for the profession. I only took 3 semesters of intermediate classes at CCA and then started working; I don't think a degree is necessary. Education in this field is expensive--in addition to tuition, you'll need a Mac and the Adobe Creative Suite. These are not quick applications to learn, so you'll need lots of practice. There's a lot more work for web designers these days, so I'd recommend concentrating in that field. Your design skills will still come in handy, but companies are getting more green and more frugal, so print design isn't what it used to be (so many printing plants have gone out of business these last 5 years). I'd also suggest taking digital photography and film production classes, as this adds to your skills portfolio. Things I wish I'd known: design technology is constantly evolving, and you have to be open to learning new skill sets. You also need to work ergonomically and learn to use the mouse with your other hand (I've spent a chunk of change at the chiropractor's.) Also, be prepared for working weekends and nights. When there's a deadline, you'll need extra childcare. Good luck! Love Design!

In a word: NO. You would be entering an extremely competitive field that is becoming more competitive every day what with all the jobless designers out there trolling for business. And good luck getting a full-time job without tons of experience and skills out the wazoo.

Do you like working for $25/hour in the Bay Area? Because that's about what it's coming to.

Yeah, it's creative and all that... but make sure you check out the 'all that' part of the biz before you get into it. Trust me when I say it's about a lot more than spec'ing fonts and PMS colors. -- been designing too long

Think very, very carefully... I've been in the industry for almost 20 years and many of my peers haven't been steadily employed for months.

It's a field that's been devalued due to the abundance of free templates, software that the average person feels comfortable with, and cheap overseas competition. Few people want to pay livable wages for the skill, talent and knowledge. To get an idea of the level of frustration, there are a few videos people have made - go to YouTube and search ''stupid clients'' and view the first two that come up... To answer your specific questions:

You need an education. It's not enough to feel crafty/arty - you need critique, background, understanding. Online can do for some requirements but best to get real people. A real classroom situation will provide you with networking, job leads, motivation. You need people to know you, recommend you, guide you.

Can't speak on reputation of Berkeley Extension.

MFA - no. Bachelor degree - probably.

What I wish I knew? Wish I got in on the web stuff earlier and kept my brain limber instead of trying to learn too much rather late... Good luck!! Ellen

I saw you got a couple of fairly negative responses, so I thought I'd write in with my point of view. I've been a graphic designer for the past 10 years or so, and I love it. I don't have an art degree. I started out in marketing, working for a start-up that was so cash-poor they let me do their ads, web site, brochures, etc. in-house. It's not the typical situation, and who knows if you'd ever find something similar, but it sure worked for me. I got tons of hands-on, practical experience, not just in the art side of things but in business, working with clients, managing deadlines, taking criticism gracefully, etc. (And those are all big aspects of it -- it's not just drawing pictures all day, although I do a fair amount of that, too.) When I got out of marketing, I started telling people I was a graphic designer, and slowly built up a clientele, mostly through word of mouth, and now have a solid little business. It helps to know lots of entrepreneurs - most of my work is with small businesses. Do I wish I had a formal art school education? Maybe a little. But I've yet to run up against something I couldn't figure out on my own or someone who wouldn't hire me because I didn't go to CCA. How's the pay? Less than I made in marketing, but so much more rewarding. My advice? Don't drop everything and switch careers. But take on some volunteer/charity design projects, enter some contests (Woot, Threadless, Spoonflower, Minted, 99Designs and many other websites run regular competitions to design cards, tee shirts, fabric, logos, etc.) and pay attention to the feedback you get. Get your feet wet, see how you stack up against others and if you really enjoy the process, and then make a decision. The design business isn't all sunshine and kittens, but it's not all doom and gloom either, in my experience. Happy Designer

How do I become a Graphic Designer?

June 2009

Two years ago I started to do some basic web design and absolutely love doing it. I have a couple of clients and truly enjoy my line of work. I want to do graphic design as well, but don't know where to start. Can anyone give me some direction? Should I take a class or start learning specific software? What software do you need to know to do good graphic design? joj

i am a graphic designer (with a bfa in graphic design) and went to art school to study it. a lot of people think that graphic design is just knowing ''software'' but it is far more then that. i would recommend taking some introductory design classes at a local art school---typography especially. you really need to learn how to organize information clearly--that is part of what graphic design is all about. i would recommend ccac or art institute or academy of art. but first you might want to take a few classes at a community college or extended learning center to make sure you really want to put the time into it. i think berkeley extension has some good graphic design classes that you can take at night or one weekends. there is a lot more to design then simply knowing photoshop or illustrator. of course you have to know them--these are your tools. but you can't just call someone a ''painter'' if they know how to use a brush and paint. good luck! designer

Most print designers use Adobe InDesign, though some use QuarkXPress or Adobe Illustrator. Perhaps Berkeley Extension or the continuing education department at CCA offers courses. Good luck. --20 Years as Graphic Designer

Return to Graphic Design after LONG hiatus

Nov 2007

I graduated in 1994 with a degree in graphic design. I worked in-house in marketing departments fo a few years, and then left the business all together in about 1998. I went back to school and got a BFA in sculpture in 2004. Here I am ready to get back into the graphic design field, but I have NO idea how to start. I have had about 3 jobs fall in my lap in the past 6 months. All were start up companies that just needed logo design, there would be nothing beyond that. I do strictly Corporate ID, and print design. I have no experience in web design and frankly it does not interest me. Do any of you graphic designer mommies have any tips for me on how to break bak into the business? Thanks -Starving artist

post samples of your work on creative hotlist on the communication arts website. It's been a great resource for me. juli

I'm a production artist with no web skills (alas), and have been steadily employed in the Bay Area for over 15 years in print-based jobs.

BUT - to survive in graphic design in the future, you do need to know more than ever - web and print. No longer can you stop at just the logo design - you should know how to Photoshop it on 10 different items, animate it in Flash, and mock up a website. The CS3 applications are amazing and make things faster and easier than you could imagine - but there is the expectation and pressure to know ALL apps now. However, is an EXCELLENT resource for online training. Well worth the subscription. Start there!!

Start networking: Join AIGA InDesign User's Group Attend Adobe launches and promos Sign up with agencies:
are just a few - more advertise on Craigslist and Some agencies are better than others. Most will make you take a test on-site in the applications, and some will offer training. But, if you are a parent, temping is not the most parent-friendly way to get started. It works best for those with a LOT more flexibility. But since you a)have a degree and b)real experience, you shouldn't find it too hard to get back in the game. Good luck! Ellen

1) Get your portfolio together of the stuff you like best (the stuff you'd like to do more of). On-line portfolios are great, because most of your work will be word of mouth and folks can show other folks your portfolio even when you're not around.

2) If you are going to look for freelance work, make yourself a professional looking business card. (No ''print it yourself at home'' stuff. The cheep, 4/c, quick-print, on-line places will be good enough if the design is good.) And CARRY THEM WHEREVER YOU GO. I meet potential clients at the playground as well as anywhere else.

3) Get familiar with Adobe Creative Suite 2 or 3 (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop). I used to be a Quark-head but have no doubts about switching over and think that's the way things are going for most companies. ''Real World Adobe In Design CS2'' (or CS3) by Blatner and Kvern is a great reference. Blatner also does free on-line seminars through the Adobe website specifically geared toward Quark-to-InDesign folks.

4) Talk to everyone you know and tell them about your on-line portfolio and that you're open for business. I did an email announcement, but maybe even a cheep postcard announcement would be good or better. And get back in touch with the folks you used to work with. They may be your best connections. Clients build up slowly.

Working independently is both good and hard. About half of your ''work'' time will probably be spent on accounting, billing, writing letters of agreement, and any other aspect of your business, let alone the hardware/software expenses, health insurance . . . The other half of your time will be the actual design/production work. So, bill what you need, I'd say no less than $50/hr., but really, more is better if you can get it (to cover all that non-billable time/expense). ''The Graphic Artists Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines'' book is also a great reference.

And think about whether you'd rather work in-house, as a staff person. Either way, the portfolio, business card, learning the software, and talking with everyone will help.

Best of luck! max

Getting into an Arts Administration job

March 2007

I am interested in entering the field of Arts Administration and would like advice or resources for doing so. I am happy to begin with volunteer work or a part-time/ internship position in order to gain experience, but would also like to hear any advice that others may have. I should note that I have a MA degree in Industrial Design. Thank you for any feedback that you can offer.

Apply for some jobs! I made the transition from retail to arts admin (specifically theater) when I was about 26 or so. I later (at 33) completed MS in Arts Management - but didn't need it to break in to the business. I just had a great opportunity to attend Boston University while working for a non-profit theatre in residence there so I snapped it up. I'd be happy to talk to you further about it - but my main suggestion will still be the same. Just go for a job. If you have a Master's you can transfer all kinds of skills to the arts - remember, it's all just business - but with a twist.

The Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership is a loosely organized group of educators, policymakers, arts administrators, teaching artists, parents, and others, that joins people in Alameda County who believe in arts learning for every child, in every school, every day. If you have an interest in the educational side of this world, you should check out the website and try to attend some events. You'll have a chance to get a really good sense of who's doing what, as well as to meet lots of individuals. If you check the ''resources'' part of the website, you may find some organizations you'd be interested in getting to know. Website is Kathy

Mid-life career change--graphic artist

May 2006

I am interested in becoming a graphic artist at the ripe old age of 48. I had a career in the law for many years before having two kids and have been out of the work force entirely for over six years. I am a pretty artistic person and had a studio for a while, but want to find something artistic that is gainful employment as well. Am I dreaming or is it possible to break into this field now, or is it dominated by twenty- somethings? Do graphic artists have to pursue a degree program? What kind of hours do most of you work? Is part-time work even possible? Where are the best local schools? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Need to draw

HI, I am a painter of portraits and landscapes, but I am making a career change too. I want to do book and magazine illustration rather than graphic arts. Graphic arts may be logos, but it is also web design (which I am studying on my own) and the use of a lot of different software, rather than drawing skills. I visited the admissions at the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco, because they have a big graphic arts program, as well as illustration. The two often go together. There is a small library there of significant books that you can browse through in the waiting room, and stay as long as you want to read them. These books explain everything! I love working in Photoshop and Illustrator, but I am not interested in the software products for graphic arts, which include animation and filmmaking, and by the way it costs a fortune to study, mainly because they would take too long to learn and there is too much competition from competent graduates in that field for me. Hayward also has a graphic arts program I understand.

I would be willing to show you some things that would get you drawing, because you would have to present a portfolio. If you have some good ideas for logos, maybe we could collaborate and I could trade with some drawing skills for you. I find that local businesses will hire us for illustration and some graphic arts and it is good to just begin with what you already know. You were a lawyer, you have good contacts. How about we work on a logo for your beginning artistry? Suzanne

I've been a graphic designer for about 16 years. Yes, it is a ''creative'' job, but not the self-expression kind. Basically, you are hired to solve business/communication problems. A company needs an indentity or a website, and you have to channel their ''personality'' or ''brand'', not yours. I also notice that a lot of designers these days (especially the ones that are older and have been doing this for a while) are getting marketing degrees or certificates and some even MBAs. The emphasis on being able to solve ''business'' problems is growing.

Another thing to consider is that most designers these days need to be willing to do online/web design. I suggest taking a look at for the job listings. 85% of them are for online design professionals. So that means knowing Flash and how to create webpages/sites (not to be confused with programming, which is really a different skill).

I guess bottom line you should be interested in problem solving. How to solve the communication/marketing problem, how to solve the design execution problem, and then how to solve the implementation (technology) problem, i.e. how do I build this in flash or with html and .css? (or both).

That said, I love what I do. I have worked in both big agencies and been self-employed, so there is a lot of flexibility with this career. And it pays very well. Good designers with online skills are in demand.

Now, if you want to be paid to draw, then you can always be an illustrator, or even a fine artist. With the web you can reach a global audience and sell your work to the masses! People are buying art and cool tshirts like crazy. Check out for tshirts designed by artists and designers and see for artists who are selling their work online (there are tons of these sites, by the way).

Good luck to you, and no you are NEVER too old Paula

HI, I think it's great that you moving forward with a job change. It's hard to stay in somethihng for so long and not feel bored or what to expande and use another part of your brain or body, oops, am I talking about myself?? Anyway, I AM working as a graphic designer and have been for many years. I thought about not answering your posting because I thought I would be too burnt out to have any good answers (I am thinking about a job change also). BUT that said, here goes... I think the first thing you must do is learn the computer programs that you will be using either InDesign or Quark Xpress, AND Photoshop and/or Illustrator). I think the best way to learn is to take a longer class where you can do projects (Laney, CCA, UC Extension?), not the three day intensives. I think they combine the basics of design with the computer these days so you will be getting both. Getting a few books about type and design is a good idea to start thinking about it. Pick up brochures, flyers, posters, newsletters, any printed material that you are attracted to and figure out why you like it: the color, open space, the font, the photos, look at all the elements, get a feeling for your own aesthetic. I'm not sure if employers are looking for a degree or not, They wnat you to have some experience, which is harder to list on your resume when your just starting. But if you can make some samples of items you've designed and make those part of your portfolio, you're on the way. Oh, the portfolio and resume are REALLY important

As far as the field being open to twenty-somethings only, I don't think it is. There are SO many places you could work, that want someone who is fast and good. You may have to work at a lower rate of pay at first to get the experience, which is pretty much the same in all fields, I think. You can also freelance. That might be harder at first, just because it's great to work around others when you are starting. You can ask questions of your co-workers, and give feedback on projects, all that you can't do when working for yourself. I work full-time, in a flexible environment, so I can also leave early if there is a family emergency or sporting event. I also worked for myself for many years. they both have their good and down sides. If you like to spend time alone, manage your own schedule, freelancing is great, on the other hand if you don't like husseling for work (you really have to sell yourself in the begining), and working longer hours at times, freelance might not be your first choice. I think it's good to try both though to what you like.

One word of warning, this is not a field of art that you are working with your hands very much. You are pretty much sitting at a computer and, as you know, that comes with it's own problems. Also, I find that what this field is about is pleasing other people and being a good problem-solver, both in your design and also getting the client to explain what they want. You must be organized and clear. And with practice you can give the client what they want without agonizing over a design to the point where you end up making $2 an hour!

You might try looking on craigs list to see what jobs are out there and calling around to ask more about the jobs and what they are looking for. It might be helpful to say up front that you are thinking of going into design as a career and what words of advice can they offer.

I, myself, am going to move on (eventually) to something that involves being outside and combines art and gardening! I haven't figured it out yet, but until then I'm staying organized and clean.

good luck!! graphic designer who wants out soon

Hi: I have been a graphic designer for the past 8 years. It is defintiely a younger field with designers coming out of school in their early twenties. You really don't need a degree as all that is important is your ''book'' (i.e. talent) but it is hard to put a book together without some projects - in school you would get ficticious projects and start that way and replace them with the actual projects you worked on in the real world. Another thing to consider is the age disparity in the work force - you may not fell comfortable with a 30 year old art director telling you what to do (they might also feel uncomfortable with it). In this field, usually by 48, you are senior art director or you own your own firm NOT starting out as a ''junior designer'' - but if that is something you think you can work around...

A good school to check out would be CCA (California College of Arts). That is where I went; started in my mid twenties and even then I felt much older than the majority of the student body which was comprised mostly of kids right out of high school. And school will only teach you how to be a compentent designer (you will learn the programs and work on formal visual problems) but the rest is up to you. Would be happy to talk more about it with you. 

To become employed as a graphic artist you don't need a degree. No one will ask you where you went to school or when. But you will need a portfolio and one of the easiest ways to put a portfolio together is to take classes. The classes will also help improve your skills, introduce you to other design students and help you with networking. One of the best ways to get started, without having to take the plunge and quit your current job, is to take evening classes through Berkeley extension. They have an excellent program in the arts and you will find people there from all ages and career backgrounds. If you want to dive in more seriously there is the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Their classes are excellent, but more expensive. But remember, you don't have to do their complete program. I recommend staying as a long as you need to get confidence and a portfolio. Another way to get a portfolio is to try and do work for small companies. They usually can't afford to hire agencies or even experienced freelancers but are very appreciative of having someone improve their logo, brochures or website. Good Luck! -- Kathi

Partly it depends on what sort of work you want to do (web, print, etc.) and what types of clients (personal, small biz or big accounts) you want to go after. When I switched from marketing to graphic design a few years ago, I pretty much just started telling people I was a graphic designer and people started giving me work. My only formal graphics training was back in high school, but it helped that I had been working with designers at my previous job, so I could talk the talk, and I already knew the Adobe products inside-out - if you don't, I'd start by taking some classes in Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. UC Extension, while lacking the cache of someplace like CCA or Academy of Art, has some well-priced basic classes - check out their catalog at You'll need to buy the (pricey) software you plan to use. Outside of the art stuff, research a good contract and any other legal paperwork you'll need - business license, self-employment taxes, etc. - it's easy but fatal to forget about the business side of things. Lastly, before you start advertising, try doing some free or spec work for non-profits, startups, etc. to build up a portfolio. A good practice project is building your own website with your online portfolio. It's rewarding, but it is still work

Hmmmm... Couple of issues - 1) Being artistic doesn't necessarily translate well into graphic design. They are not always transferable skills/talent. I've seen a lot of terrible design done by painters and jewelry makers, but one of the best designers I worked with is also a very successful sculptor...

2) I'm 40 something and the designers in my age bracket are either in a big corporation or freelancing (and neither group is exactly happy or thriving).

3) Degree programs absolutely give you a bonus. It means you've learned the current computer applications, you've been stimulated, inspired by and humiliated by others pursuing the same goal. I got my degree b.c (before computers), and learned some hopelessly outdated skills, but that degree gets me noticed, and I still remember how good others were, and gained a better understanding of why and how they were good.

4) Hours can be stupid if you let them. I'm freelancing, and I'm often firing up the mac after the kids have gone to sleep and get queries on Friday afternoon for something done on Monday. But if you work in a more corporate environment (that is NOT advertising - notoriously insane), it can be better. Yes, part-time is possible, but you have to go into it with a ''ready to do full-time'' attitude to get a complete understanding of how it all works and know the ropes.

5) Talk to counselors/advisors at CCA or Art Institute. Work on a portfolio. To get into most decent programs, you have to show you have aptitude, so design some pieces.

6) Keep an eye on Craigslist and Creative Hotlist just to see what's posted, what they look for, where the jobs are.

7) Never say never! Hey, it's a lot easier than me going into law! Working Mom

I found this link which pertains mainly to Graphic Design, it's description and available courses and colleges. Suzanne

Hi ~ I was a graphic designer for 14 years and changed careers to become a career and business coach - which I've doing for the last 5+ years. I recommend researching a variety of different schools and see which ones have the classes/schedules and types of course work you are most interested in - they will give you a broader range of skills and more importantly, how the 'business' of graphic design works. Seek out and have informational interviews with graphic designers that you know and find out what they did, what works and what doesn't these days as well. Design programs can last anywhere from a year to 4+ depending on the level and depth of what you want to learn. I did a 1-year program at night through the Art Institute which gave me a certificate of Graphic design and landed a job out of school and I had a successful career for many years. The great thing about design is it is something that you can do from home as a ''freelancer'' or go to work for someone else. There are lots of possibilities out there. Michele

Need to Draw: your message struck a cord in me, because I made a career change as you wish to do, only in the opposite direction. I started my career as a graphic designer (five year degree at a top design school) and was quite successful, practicing in three key urban cites, rising to the top level of my professional organization, winning international and national awards and distinctions, etc. Yet my satisfaction with the field continued to decline. I realized that as computers made performing certain tasks easier, people began to confuse artistic talent, training and skill, with the ability to run a few filters in Photoshop or create a report in Word. Our do-it-yourself culture does not respect the contributions of professionally trained artists and designers, no matter what their field, architects, interior, landscape, stylists, etc. Everyone thinks they can do-it-themselves. And the client base does too. They argue about fees, change their minds constantly, dismiss your thoroughly considered recommendations for their friends' advice usually drawn out on the back of a bar napkin, and have turned this field into a land mine of frustration for anyone who dares to enter into it. I had patience to last twenty five years, then switched to a field that didn't require so much subjectivity. Perhaps your experience will prove otherwise, I can only hope so. It is not like this in Europe, where professional designers are respected and valued. Good luck! Tired of ''I don't know art, but I know what I like.''

i've owned my own freelance design business for 7+ years and have a total of 15+ years in the industry. i believe that being a graphic designer is a great option while raising kids. if you have natural talent it's a relatively easy field to break into. however, you need to keep current with all the software that most designers use to produce print and/or web work. the industry is mac based for the most part, and the software is constantly evolving. you don't necessarily have to have a degree, especially if you work for yourself, but in my opinion an education is essential. it's not easy to learn about paper types and printing processes, for instance, as you go. not having been educated in the bay area, i can't say firsthand what is the best school but know that california college of arts and crafts is well regarded. as to work hours, it's very flexible time-wise but does depend on your clients. i generally work 9-1 most days and some evenings/weekends. i'd be happy to talk with you further emily

How to balance parenthood and being an artist

Feb 2009

We have two kids, a toddler and a baby. We both believe in shared parenthood. Between work and family our lives are very, very busy. I know that that is inherent in being a loving, involved parent. However, I have deeply strong creative urges that have no outlet because I have no free time whatsoever. It is very frustrating and my resentment is growing. I do photography.

How do you balance being a parent and an insatiable appetite for creativity? I've tried working at night on still lifes and whatnot, but for me such a part of the photographic process is putting on a pair of hiking boots and getting out to photograph nature. Plus, there is the time required to process images, both digital and film. I've tried stifling the desire by getting rid of cameras, but it cannot be done. I consume Flickr, photography books, web sites, blogs, anything I can to at least see it and share in it as a passive observer, but again this does not quell the internal desire to create it myself.

Any advice? Give up? Stifle it with medication (my work requires design creativity as well, though)? The shared parenting thing gives me guilt for not being around, and my wife needs her own time. And photography (or any art) takes time to get into and perform. I've tried but I can't just do it for 15 minutes every day and be done with it. At this point in our kids ages taking a few hours on a weekend morning to go out is a huge burden on the spouse. I've tried to satisfy it with family snapshots, but as far as you can take these they are still not art that comes from a vision in one's mind.

I know our kids are young and things will get easier, but still the desire is not there tomorrow, it is there today. Ideas float constantly around my mind and I want to practice, practice, practice to get better and better and develop my vision. It's fun, it's deeply relaxing and energizing and invigorating.

So, is there any way to come to terms here? Is there any way to accommodate both parenting and art? Is there any way to avoid resentment and depression? Any advice appreciated from those who have dealt with this type of thing. Thank you. Looking for time for art

I wish I had asked for the same advice when my both my kids were under 2.5. They are now teenagers and I can look back with a little clarity. I sorely wish I had been more present with my children and less greedy about getting my studio time. It hurt my bonding with the younger one and put a terrible strain on my relationship with my husband. However, these things did heal in time. Keep in mind that the kids eventually go to school and get into routines where it becomes much easier to be alone. I still do not get enough of what I need in this area (so many school holidays!), but I realize the benefits of giving in to whatever is happening at the moment. And each year will bring more time your way. Keep sketchbooks and journals, write down your ideas, keep your camera ready everywhere you go (even to work) and take lots of pictures. These photos will likely feed you later on. Balance with patience and you'll be a much happier person. artist and mom

Oh, I feel your pain! Yes, you must find a way to create. The best way I've found is to work an 80% job and have a spouse who understands I need that 5th day as a studio day. But there were several years when I had my second kid home on that day and really could only get art done during the summer (I teach). Still I knew she would go to kindergarten eventually! For me having time I can count on is essential, it's never enough but then I squeeze in a few minutes or hours on the weekend, draw or think about my projects...but having that thread is crucial. When they are young is the hardest time, because you have to watch them every second. Can you hike with the little one in a backpack and take photos?

There's a new movie called ''Who does she think she is'' about artist/moms. One of the women has 5 kids and manages to make art. She keeps sketchbooks in every room and brings her kids into the studio. When I saw her I thought ''oh I'm giving myself too many outs, if she can do it, so can I''.

Resentment is a killer. I have my bottom line- I must have a studio to work in and some time during the year and ideally each week to make art. If you can come up with what you must have, maybe that will clarify things.

I don't know if this is helpful but it's what came to mind.Your passion really comes through in your post and I feel certain you'll find a way to express it! another artist parent

It is clear from your posting that your need to create your art is very strong, so I commend you for thinking so seriously about your responsibilities as a father given the strength of that call. As someone who used to be married to an artist, I would like to caution you to include your partner in any plans you make to give over more time to your art. If possible you should try to combine making a living with your artistic drive or perhaps wait for awhile until there is more time in your schedules. My ex-husband made his art the very top priority in his life and thus in our relationship -- he contributed pretty well to childcare but not at all to economic support, and he had rather grandiose visions (IMHO) of the importance of his art. I have a friend whose husband is a serious artist, and the time he spends on his art (which actually occasionally makes real money for the family) really grates on her. Be careful about integrating your artistic drives with your marriage and the family economy (both time and $$). It sounds like you are a thoughtful person, so I just wanted to put that out there. former wife of an aritst

I would like to congratulate you for still having an urge to do art with two kids. It must be frustrating not to have as much time for your art now, but I have seen many parent-artists who had reduced their amount of work, or scaled down the size and method of their work when their kids were very little, and come back fully to work more later on. You will have more time later, though not now, unless you have extra childcare,,,.

I am no longer a full time working artist (due to unexpected sudden growth of my family with 5 kids), but when my first one was born, I was still actively presenting my work through well-known galleries throughout the U.S. After my son came, I drastically changed the way (or the process) and the scale of my work (I did sculpture using thin rice paper). I lost my studio after moving, so what I did was to work during my son's nap time. You may laugh but I kept all the tools and materials in a couple of shoe boxes, and took them out as soon as my son went to take a nap. I would make parts in 15 minutes increments, and every once in a while (maybe,, once in every three months or so) I asked my husband to give me one full weekend to complete my work. I also have a very small blank notebook to keep my journals, and whenever I have a moment alone, I do a journal writing.

Now, I no longer have time to do anything but housework and taking care of kids, but I still keep my journal with me, and keep my ideas there. For now, my journal notebook is my mental studio. mom of 5 kids, and feeling now that juggling housework is almost like an art.

You hit the nail on the head here--it's a complex issue. I wrote a play about it! No simple answers, but I suggest you absolutely keep doing your photography AND plan things so that your spouse doesn't get left holding the bag. This probably means getting babysitters, taking a child with you sometimes, or finding your own creative ways to keep doing what you love and take good care of your family. It can be done, but yes, it will be done differently than before you had kids. But what isn't different now, right? Good luck. Carrie

Hi, My husband is a general contractor/photographer/father. I read your post to him. He wants to talk with you. Before I could even finish the last sentence, he blurted out...''does he give a phone number?'' We have been through this exact thing. Sometimes more successfully than others. But if you email me, I will happily forward it on to my husband. And I would be happy to speak to your wife about how things have gone from my end. Marjorie

I felt similarly after my daughter was born. My now ex-husband didn't understand that I needed time to be by myself to work through creative urges. Sounds like you have a supportive spouse, but also have TWO kids! I guess I would suggest not suppressing your muse, but to work when you can and get the most out of those times. I began to take photos of my surroundings which included the laundry room, kitchen, and on walks with my daughter. You have to adjust and do what you can, but don't let the resentment build up, it's just that time of your life when you have to juggle everything. Try portraits of sleeping children, take the family on walks put the kids in backpacks and take outdoor photos. I found digital is the way to go as you can get faster results. You may have to stay up late to do your printing, not such a bad sacrifice! At some point you will be able to do art with your kids and that will be fun! If your spouse gets you then it's 100 times easier! You are at the most time-consuming phase of child-rearing, so be patient also. BE CREATIVE in your search for an outlet, it can be a fun challenge! I wish you the best! artist momma

My husband and I both write. I also do visual art (painting and photography). Our children are now 2 and 5. You have to come to terms with the fact that your children are demanding right now. That's it. You have a responsibility. For now, you can't just go hiking and take photos and spend time in the darkroom. So, mourn your past but rejoice in your family. I have an unfinished canvas that is just sitting my garage from five years ago! I don't even know where my film camera is and the only pix I take now seem to be on my cell phone (tho, camera bag for the iphone is quite cool). I lament this all the time and feel that sometimes parenthood has stirred up even more creativity. I have started to do a few things. My husband and I each get a night off to do things we want. We can also call for a date to go do things in the morning alone. It is not spontaneous. We have to plan it all: time for kids, time for errands, time for each other, time for ourselves. As an artist type, I HATE THAT. But, that's how it is. One day, those kids will sleep until 11am on Saturdays. That's what i'm told. And, the days of basking in their babyhood will be gone. So, suck it up. Try to do what you can. Sorry to lecture, but really, we need to accept our lives. I have to listen to my own advice here, too. anon

Wow your email could have been written by me. I have two kids 5 and 2.5 and I have been struggling with this kind of balance too. I still haven't found that balance. It's a bitter pill to swallow. I feel my creativity all by smothered any more. Don't let this happen to you! If your wife is at all compassionate and understanding, she will get why this part of you need attention. Can you get a babysitter, friend of your wife, family member, or local high school kid to help out your wife with the kids for half a day? I am sure you could find some local kid who will work for peanuts. If money is an issue, how about doing a babysitting exchange with another family. That way you both get time out for free. Get your time down on the books. A regularly scheduled time every week or two. (But do the same for your wife too. She needs her time for whatever doesn't she?) Don't sacrifice this part of what you want because you WILL be bitter and resentful if you do. I am already there. I can't justify doing this because I am not pulling in income to pay for extra help. You are. Make it happen. So you don't lose your mind. Good luck. Feel free to email me if you want to. (AND DON'T GET RID OF CAMERAS! That's like a band aid on a gunshot wound. Some day you will teach your kids how to shoot photos) Stephanie

I would suggest that you hire a babysitter for a couple of mornings a week (or whatever schedule works for you) so you and your wife both get a break and you can have regular time to work on your photography. You probably will not be able to work as much on photography as you would like for a few years, but perhaps having some regularly scheduled time for that each week will get you by, even if it's only one morning a week. If you hire a babysitter, you won't feel guilty about leaving the kids with your wife and she gets a break too, so you may enjoy the short time that you have to yourself more. Andi

Dear Artist, Please don't give up! By now, I have seen this from a few angles. I am a full time performing violinist and a mother of a 5 year old. I am also a creative coach who works with career professionals raising young children in improving their creative relationships with themselves, their family and their world. Remember, your children look to you for their own relationship with their creative selves. By feeding your own creativity, you are feeding theirs.

Here are few things that I have discovered through my own experience and working with clients that may help you get past that ''stuck'' place.

1. Get organized in your creative vision- Try thinking of your connection to your creative balance as a process in itself that must be broken into bite size pieces. Imagine your perfect day. Chart out how much time/energy is devoted to what. i.e. time with kids, time with partner, time for your art, work, etc. Next chart your time/energy distribution now.

2.The next time you have 15 min ask yourself ''what is 1 step that will bring me closer to my perfect balance.?'' Make a time-line with a few simple achievable steps toward your goal.

3. Remember as long as you are taking steps however small toward that ideal day you WILL get there eventually.

4.Schedule creative ''dates'' with yourself- In addition to small steps that can be taken in little windows of time every day, you need some larger chunks of time. The ''burden'' of being left with the kids for a few hours on a weekend pales in comparison to the burden of having a partner who is feeling resentful and unfulfilled. Your relationship to your art is part of what makes you whole. That relationship deserves respect and attention too! Your wife needs creative time too. See if you can trade off. Look to your community for support. Do what you can to write it on the calender! It helps to know that there is something on the horizon even if you have to wait a few weeks. If not for yourself do it for your family. They will get a happier, healthier, and more present father and partner.

Please keep in mind this is all super compressed for BPN. It can also be helpful to work with someone who can provide some outside perspective, ask powerful questions, and help break things down into clear, simple steps. If you have any questions or need further clarification please feel free to call or email.

Been there too, Lila

This could be a great opportunity for you as an artist and a parent. I see parents hiking with toddlers and babies strapped to their back all the time. Try taking them out on short hikes--with your camera. Also, see if Sierra Club or the parks offer some sort of children's hikes--so you can learn how to interact with them fruitfully on these hikes. Photograph them and show them the photographs, and talk to them about it. You're fortunate to have two wonderful photographic subjects! Lola

I completely understand where you're coming from as I am also a photographer and started putting 100% of my energy into my own business in it just a few months before I discovered that I was pregnant and the pregnancy was rough. So balance is something that I'm having to wrap my mind around.

I would encourage you to find a way to include your kids in the process. Use them as your subjects, take them on your hikes with you and find them a spot to lay them in to play while you go around and photograph around them...

You might also want to see if you can work out a schedule with your husband or a mother support group so you can get some time to yourself and you can exercise and create on your hikes... Definitely pursue it and don't let it be stifled or fade out. keep clicking away

Dear looking, i can really relate to you here. My art is more with child birth, I have an insatiable appetite to learn everything about it, and take part. In my situation, my husband is the breadwinner, and I need to be home alot. I will say this; PLEASE do not medicate (that's absurd, btw), give up, or lose hope! If you love nature, why can't you get out there with your kids? The four of you, kids in backpacks? Have you tried giving the older one an old camera of their own, kids will copy you for hours! One thing you mentioned is that your wife can't keep the kids for a few hours on the weekends? Uhmmm.... I don't get it? Is there something missing to the story here? Are either of your children special needs, is your wife ill? Why on Earth would she not be able to give you a break on the weekends? That's what couples do, and one would think that with you suffering for your love of art, a spouse would be even more eager to provide that, have you actually asked? most mothers would do anything for their spouse, if it meant she was going to get an evening off in return! C'mon, it's two kids, not a daycare, anyone can do it.

Another idea is to look for groups/ clubs, anything you'll be held responsible to attend, that do photography. This works well when couples with young kids are trying to feel out the personal space thing. Join others.

The last thing I want to say to you is that as parents, we all suffer some loss. You seem to realize that. We lose some of ourselves, some of our dreams, passions. We gain amazing love in return, you seem to know that, too. But some people have more pull than others, more passion. This is something you should accept now, don't question it, analyze it, or try to suppress it. It belongs to you, and it's there for a reason, you're in for a sad life if you try to fight yourself. Figure it out. Fight for your needs, and the needs of your wife. Hire a babysitter or do trade. Figure it out. As a famous artist/ parent once said '' Don't do it because you want to, do it because you have to,'' Yes, it won't be what it would if you had no kids, but it'll only be what you make it. Don't give up! light burning from the inside

My husband is an architect and he is an avid painter and illustrator on the side. We have two kids, ages 2 and 4. In the beginning it was really hard for him to find time for art between work and parenting responsibilities. It was a really big deal and he was depressed for a long time. What worked for us was to firmly schedule uninterrupted time for him to work on paintings. On the weekends he will often take a four hour chunk of time to paint and once a month he takes an entire weekend day. On weekday evenings after the kids go to bed he often works on paintings for 1/2 hour or so as well. It's true that with this arrangement I end up bearing slightly more of the household burden, but in my opinion it's worth it because he is exponentially happier now than four years ago. Plus, I reserve chunks of time for myself too, so it's not like he's the only one who gets a break from household responsibilities.

If you love it and NEED to do it, then I bet you can work out an arrangement with your spouse where you get more than 15 minutes a day. You say that it's a burden for your spouse to have the kids for a few hours on the weekend, but honestly... it's not that difficult to watch a baby and a toddler for a couple hours. Just give your spouse four hours to him/herself the next day while you watch the kids. It's important for both of you to have alone time to pursue your interests, creative or otherwise. Your kids don't need to hang out with both of you at the same time, all weekend long. Good luck! Married to one

Just negotiate with your wife to trade off weekend mornings. It's not that big of a deal to be with two kids for half the day! Many nannies and all daycare providers do it all day long. (As well as many stay at home parents). You can also get up early (5 am) to do some of your digital work every day, instead of staying up late. Keep a notebook for your ideas so you can jot things down. I do realize it's hard to find time but unless your ''day job'' is 7 days a week.. there is wiggle room here. I think if you give your wife the same time off, you will reach an agreement.

Hello there, Your post caught my attention because I have had a similar problem. However, I'm older than you and hopefully have learned a little. I also have the professional perspective from my doctoral studies in Human Development. Here are my thoughts:

1. Congratulations for having creative passion. Appreciate this about yourself. Seriously.

2. Know that you have time. The span of adult life is quite a few years, and there are seasons, if you will. You have probably completed your student season and your single season with all of the advantages there. Now you are in a parenting season as well as marriage and work. But as many a parent with grown kids will tell you, the parenting will pass (or at least the time they are home). What you don't want is to MISS OUT on it. That can easily happen if you are not present. In fact, much of human unhappiness is simply due to comparing what is with what ''should be'' instead of being with what is. The truth here is that you have small children, a wife, and a job, and only so many hours in a week.

3. You can look forward to a time in the future when you will have more time for making art. But instead of a frustrated wait, you can be happy, and grateful that you have something wonderful to look forward to. Not everybody does.

4. Keep a notebook or folder where you put your ideas, like a treasure chest.

5. Rethink the short times that are possible. Is 15 minutes really worse than nothing? Is there something that you can work on very gradually? People have been known to write whole novels by writing 20 min. a day.

6. Can you very occasionally have a few hours to get out, say once every one or two months? Is there something else you are willing to sacrifice to have that? What can you give your wife in return?

I am an artist, a father of a 14 year old and run a commercial studio. I learned a lot about being and artist/parent from the woman I shared a studio with the year my child was born. I watched as she worked her one or one-half day every other week. I thought she could never get anything done like that but, over the year I was there, I saw paintings in process, finished, gathered into sets and hung in galleries. Her work was slow but very persistant and diciplined and effecient. I realized that some amount of time dedicated and used effectively could result in good work finished.

I also, away from my studio, found how very humanizing it was to be with my child. Things I have learned during the time spent with her are always coming up in my pictures (and not ''cutesy kiddy'' stuff although inspiration does come from the unexpected...)

I just wanted to say, as one artist to another, that it can be done and done well. It is good for your family that you make art. You can be a better artist for the experience. Make art that you can make with the time and situations you have. (poetry fits lots of places) Everything you have is an asset depending on how you work it. And, Best luck!

Artist Material Hazards while Pregnant

Feb 2007

i'm thinking about getting pregnant and wonder if i can keep up my art making. i don't want to stop painting but i worry about the health of a fetus if it is exposed to the materials. i curently paint and do printmaking 1-2 times a week. i use oil paints and printmaking/etching paints along with solvents, paint thinners, matte medium, guache and acids for making plates. i'm curious if anyone out there continued their art while pregnant and felt safe about it. were there any alternative materials you used? my obgyn said that these materials don't stay in the blood so i don't have to worry about waiting to get pregnant if i'm not using them. she recommended not using them while pregnant just to be safe, but i wonder how much she knows about these materials. i'd love advice on how to safely continue using these materials if that's possible or any other references on toxicity of art materials. thanks! artist mom

I did printmaking activities all through my pregnancies and felt safe about pigments, solvents, etc. because I used a good barrier cream on my hands, nitrile -- not latex or vinyl -- gloves, and a personally-fitted respirator whenever it was time to be around solvents. ''Personally-fitted'' respirator because it has to make a good seal around your nose and mouth. A half-mask one is enough, and it's reasonably comfortable. You buy the mask and the filter cartridges separately; for mineral spirits, acetone etc., you want the Organic Vapors cartridge. They're color-coded, and the 3M Organic Vapors one is black. The barrier cream is especially nice (it's called Travabon and it's made by Stockhausen) because it keeps your hands underneath it wonderfully clean; you can get smudges of ink on your hands and then wash them off with water! But don't use it as a substitute for gloves, use it in addition to them. You can get all these things at Industrial Safety Supply, in Emeryville, corner of Hollis and 40th Streets.They appear to have an online store, but don't be fooled; it sucks. Go in during their walk-in hours, and you'll walk out with everything you need, and they will help you very capably and kindly. Good luck! Cory

When I got pregnant I totally changed my art materials -- I gave up oil painting and worked in acrylic for a while but when that wasn't entirely satisyfing, I researched a bit into water-soluble oil paints and ended up really liking the Winsor Newton ''Artisan'' paints -- no thinners or solvents, cleans and thins with water. There are MANY toxins that might be harmful to your baby -- why risk it? There are also waterbased printmaking inks, you might check those out.

Some further info on the web: ''Safety Concerns for Pregnant Painters'': ''Physical Hazards of Chemicals'': (Near the bottom of that page they talk specifically about reproductive toxins -- teratogens and embryotoxins.) Art Mama

Hi - Of possible interest: Art hazards, from Cal/EPA

As a long-time printmaker I know there are health hazards in some art materials. Yahoo has a pretty active printmakers group Sign up for the group; check their archives, & post your inquery. California Society of Printmakers (CSP) has a website also; don't know if you have to be a member to ask a question, but check it out. You could also call the Achenbach Foundation at the Legion of Honor Museum in SF & see if anyone there can help you. The book, Health Hazards in the Arts, published by the U. of Alberta Press, also contains much info. Good luck & keep creating. Lila

I don't have any references for you, but I suggest you do some research on your own. Your instincts are correct. Solvents are some of the most toxic (to the nervois system in particular) materials you can handle on a day to day basis. Absolutely contraindicated for pregnant and nursing women. environmental engineer