US-based illustrator Brooke Smart lives with her four-year-old daughter and is working on a 100-day project focusing on her life as a mother. It’s superb. Here, we talk motherhood, illustration and mornings…
This article was first published on The Early Hour in 2016.
How old are you, where do you live and with whom?
I’m 30 years old and I live in Sandy, Utah. It’s been just my daughter, Remy (who’s four) and I for a while now, but my mom has recently moved back to town, so for the time being, we are three.
What’s your home like?
Our home is comfortable and light and safe. We live in a house that my dad had a hand in designing, so we are able to feel him here, even though he hasn’t been with us for nearly 8 years now. I have a home studio, which I love, but sometimes, especially if I’m working alongside my daughter during the day, my creative space moves with us.
What time are you up in the morning?
We are up with the sun, usually between 6 and 6:30.
What wakes you up?
My daughter, Remy. She’s an early riser and likes to get started on the day as soon as possible. She comes into my room and wakes me up either by hugging me or pushing me out of the bed, depending on her mood.
How do you feel?
I work late painting most nights, so sometimes the first few minutes of being awake are rough, but I like how quiet and peaceful the house is first thing in the morning. We like to listen to the birds outside. It always sounds like they’re having a party.
What do you do first thing?
First thing, we head downstairs to let the dog out and have some breakfast. Our stomachs and our dog, Hank, wouldn’t allow anything else. We then love to do yoga after breakfast; it helps us to wake up and gain some energy and thoughtfulness for the day.
Describe mornings in your home in three words…
Bright, Hopeful, and Slow
How might the rest of your day pan out?
After breakfast, we usually take a bath (Remy) and shower (me), and get going on our day. Most days, we try and get out to the park or to see a friend. Lunch and something creative come after that. We do a lot of playdough, painting, coloring and creating. We then often have a neighbor girl come over and play with Remy while I work upstairs for a couple of hours. Then we take a nice walk before dinner, eat, and then squeeze in something fun before bed (the current favorite being kite flying).
Bedtime is a special time of day. Remy gets ready for bed and then we read a couple of stories, rock in the rocking chair and sing, pray, and then cuddle. After Remy’s asleep, I get to work and paint some more, usually into the late hours of the night or early hours of the morning. And then we do it all over again the next day.
Where is your daughter when you’re working?
If I work during the day, she is either at preschool or here at home with a babysitter. Or sometimes we work together, with me painting and her painting or drawing or sewing paper towels together.
At what age did you decide you’d like to be an artist?
My dad was an artist, so I don’t remember a time that I didn’t have a similar career path in mind. I spent my entire childhood making beautiful (or at least I thought they were) things from nothing. Art has always been a core part of me that I have tried to embrace.
Can you remember the first artwork you created?
One of my favorite early pieces was a drawing I did of my neighbor’s dog who had just had puppies. It was a colorful piece that showed the dog’s interesting eyes (one was brown and one was blue) and all of its puppies, which were in a line nursing from their exhausted mama. I was so proud of it and my parents had it framed for me.
Did you train in illustration?
Yes, I got my BFA from Brigham Young University in Illustration in 2007. I was blessed to have some of the best professors, including Bethanne Andersen, Robert Barrett and Richard Hull, who are all incredible illustrators in their own right.
Do you work by commission?
Yes, much of my work consists of commissioned paintings. Most of my commissions are portraits done in my watercolor style, but I also do some fine art oil paintings.
We love your Bringing up Baby series – a 100-day project focusing on your life as a mother. How has life changed since you had your daughter?
Thank you. Life is completely different as a mother. But it’s the most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me. Remy is the most important person to me, and the most important aspect of my life, so she takes priority over everything else. Being a mother has taken away much of my selfishness. Her needs come before my own and that has changed the way I do everything.
It has also changed the way I see the world and the people around me. You have to be brave as a mother, because you’re not just fighting for a place in the world for yourself, but also for your children. I am more outgoing, assertive, and goal oriented. I want to be the best version of myself for her sake. So, motherhood has made me a stronger, wiser, and better person. She has brought so much joy to my life.
Does motherhood enhance or detract from your life as an artist?
Oh, it enhances it so much, in ways I would have never predicted. So much of my inspiration for my work comes from what we do on a daily basis. And it is helping me to become a better artist. I love what I paint, so I do more of it, and then I improve. And being a mom has also taken me back to seeing things as a child would – simple things like bubbles and clouds and the moon have magic in them. The world holds a lot more creativity and beauty now that my mom eyes are open.
Is it different for male artists becoming dads than female artists becoming mums?
I don’t really know, except that many men are not around their children as much as some of us mom artists are. But how can having a child not affect your work as an artist?
In what ways do you incorporate art and creativity into your parenting?
I value creativity so much. I feel like it can affect every aspect of your life in a positive way, so we try, and it’s easy, to be creative in all that we do. And why not? Childhood should be full of magic and fun and creativity, so we are constantly drawing and painting and making things out of toilet paper and coloring with chalk on the trampoline and playing pretend and imagining adventures and sewing new little friends. Someday creativity won’t come as easily for her, so why not harness it now and see what we can do with it.
What hopes do you have for your career?
I am working on my first picture book and I’m thrilled about it. I want to have my work in books, for children and adults. My dream is to make beautiful images, and if I’m doing that, I know I will always be happy.
And for your personal life?
I’m divorced, and I would love to someday find someone to have as a teammate, someone to travel through life with, someone to complete our family. And I’d love to have more children. Motherhood is the greatest joy I’ve ever known. Remy would also love some siblings.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
I have always loved traveling, especially in Europe. I’d love to wake up tomorrow in Prague. I’d love to visit that magical place and see work from one of my favourite artists, Alphonse Mucha.