Tuesday, December 11, 2012

seventeen: christina rosalie

Christina Rosalie is a writer, mixed-media artist, and creative consultant whose award winning work and been featured in print and online. Most recently she has written for Kinfolk, Milk & Ink, and the Los Angeles Review, and her mixed media artwork has been included in shows at Burlington City Arts gallery and SEBA gallery. Christina has an MFA in Emergent Media from Champlain College, and lives with her husband and sons at the end of a long dirt road in northern Vermont. You can find her online at christinarosalie.com where she writes about the art of living intentionally, and the realness, hilarity, and wonder that results from the convergence of curiosity, creativity, and life with little boys.

Tell us about your relationship to your art.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had some sort of sketch book—where I’d draw what I saw around me, and later when I could write easily I began to record the world as I saw It in that same notebook. I guess I’ve always seen my art as a way of making meaning—that is both essential to me as a process, and, I hope, valuable to the world. 

What's a project (yours or another's) that has been exciting you lately?

Oh, this one is actually hard for me right now because I am just at the beginning of the rest and recovery phase (creatively) after seeing my book to fruition and then helping to launch it into the world. That was a tremendous project, especially because of the timing—which overlapped with graduate school and starting a new job.

I am feeling a strong pull to hibernate for a month or two; just rest, and turn inward and focus on the small rituals and daily tasks that are so filled with sensory pleasure and  tradition this time of year (baking cookies, making soup, twining wreaths, dipping candles).

I used to be very impatient—and felt like if I wasn’t actively working on a project—or excited by several, that I was in the midst of a dry spell—and that would devastate me. But now I’ve grown to understand my own creative cycling, and I know the value and importance of having some rest and empty space without working on anything or actively focusing energy on the creative projects of others. 

Tell us a little of your motherhood journey.

This is a really timely question—because I’ve been thinking so much about that because nearly all of my dearest friends just had babies this year… and here I am with an almost eight year old and an almost four year old. Looking back, it’s remarkable to see how much having them changed me. Having children ultimately holds up a mirror, and forces you to grow. They reflect your best and worst selves back to you and they ask you again and again to be more than you were yesterday. I’m particularly grateful we had a second child. If my first baby taught me how to be a mama, my second taught me to enjoy it! Doing things a second time felt so much easier and softer. I was more patient with myself, with the process, with each developmental stage as it occurred. 

My book captures many moments from the time of early motherhood with the second. It’s such a raw, intense, beautiful, bittersweet time. And it’s so, so utterly fleeting. Just this past summer I felt some real semblance of creative balance returning; they’re self sustaining now in so many ways, and they understand that mama needs to write and paint and have time in her studio with the door shut---and they give me that. At the same time, I’ve learned so much about how to just be in the moment, in the midst of things. 

What are some crucial elements of your process?  How has that changed since having children?

Consecutive hours of time, and repeated practice. Those are the only two elements to my process that I would have identified in the past as crucial—and with children both are infinitely more challenging to come by.

But recently I’m also starting to understand that self-care is essential to my process, and I’m not particularly good at self-care. I push myself hard, I’m quite self-disciplined and focused, and I come from a family of incredibly stoic people who never used phrases like “being gentle with yourself” or did anything for themselves (like a massage or a meal alone in a cafĂ©, just because) and it’s taken me a really long time to realize that perhaps that’s a missing link for me.

That maybe I do need to be gentle with myself. That maybe I do need to be gentler with myself and learn both how to say no more definitely to things that suck time and energy; and it has to do with saying yes to things like getting more sleep (even if I don’t do fill in the blank).  And more down time in general. 

It’s a process for sure, but I’m starting to understand how that self-care part is regenerative—and makes my creative process more sustainable over extended periods of time.

What are some of the ways your family and your art interact?

My boys love being in my studio, and we make art somewhere in our house daily. We have some big chalkboard walls that I love downstairs near the dining room, and it’s so fun to watch their imagination unfold.

Naturally, my family is my material. They are my teachers and my number one fans. I know I’m lucky in that way—to have such tremendous support from my husband, and because he’s supportive, my boys also really understand the importance of my art in my day-to-day life.

Do you find your attitude towards your art might be different because of your parenting / has it changed since you became a parent?

My book is very much about this process of transformation and growing—as a mother and as a creative. I think that women get the short end of the stick as artists. There are so many successful male artists—who have huge families. But the difference is that they were only peripherally involved in their children’s lives. I think the challenge for women of our generation is to be taken seriously as artists—if we are also mothers, and particularly if our children are our subjects for our art in some way, which often, inevitably, they are.

Are your children ever subjects in your art? 

See above.

How does travel figure into your art?  Do/did your children come along?  How has that worked out?

 That’s something else I discovered this year: how essential it is to me to head down to New York City and spend an entire weekend surrounded by people and culture, and inside museums. That’s not something I could do with babies, but now that my boys are bigger, it’s easier to leave them behind—either with my husband or with my in-laws.

Being able to go alone to the city is utterly remarkable. I love the feeling of being anonymous, but surrounded by that intense creative energy. It’s both fuel and escape. J

What about promoting the arts with your own children--any fun projects to share?  

Lately we’ve been making these fun drawings where anyone can add to what’s been drawn. It’s fun to collaborate with them. To use their rudimentary lines (Sprout’s just drawing those fabulous head-body people with spiky arms and legs) or complex diagrams (Bean’s drawings are now so very elaborate with intricate details like wiring and circuits) and add color. We start telling a story about what’s happening—and they love it because I’ll introduce a new element of “what if” to whatever they’re drawing, and it becomes immediately magical: a tree that is suddenly growing out of the hood of a car, that is actually home to an entire village of houses among the branches for example. There are no rules, just wild imagination and saying yes to everything that each of us adds. It’s quite fun, I highly encourage you to try it!

How do you escape?

See above.

What advice do you have for expectant mothers in your field?

It’s one of those things: you can’t really know until you’re in the thick of it… but know that you’ll find your footing no matter what. That you’ll reclaim balance, and discover who you are, as just you, again as your babies grow older.

And of course, I’d press a copy of my book into their hands, because if anything, that’s what A Field Guide To Now is: both encouragement and proof that having a creative life as a new mama is possible. 

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