Artist Laura Frankstone chronicles her daily sketching and painting on her blog Laurelines. Here she talks about her art and about raising two creative daughters, now grown, amidst paint and charcoal pencils. Note: Readers have a chance to win one of Laura's beautiful watercolors at the end of this interview!
JEAN: I've been enjoying your sketches and watercolor paintings on your blog, Laurelines, especially your 101 faces project and your travel sketches. I'm also impressed by the sheer volume! Can you talk about what inspires you to draw and create everyday?
LAURA: First of all, thank you, Jean. I'm very glad that you like my work and my blog. A few years ago, I was able to quit my job working as a decorative arts and antiques curator and devote myself full time to my own artwork. In 2007, our youngest daughter finished college, which gave me an added burst of freedom. I know that I am lucky, lucky, lucky to be able to spend every day in the studio and I feel an obligation to do just that! I keep regular office hours. I don't believe in waiting for moments of inspiration. Inspiration comes as you work.
JEAN: Can you tell us about your growth as an artist?
LAURA: About three years ago, I turned away from painting to devote myself to drawing, to keeping sketchbooks and travel journals. I was stuck in the studio and needed new energy. I also started my blog Laurelines at that point. I work best within rather narrow parameters, so that first year I set myself a plan to immerse myself in the study of color. I devoted six weeks to each color in the spectrum and kept daily sketchbooks dealing with those colors. The second year, my goal was to become completely fluent in drawing. I divided the year up into twelve themes and drew within those themes every day of each month. Part of my plan that year was to spend a whole month in Paris, sketching—and I did! Last year, I gave myself a more free-ranging set of goals, but I was no less assiduous.
This year, I've set a central theme for my work, a metaphorical (and sometimes literal!) search for water. This broad theme allows me to work my way back into painting paintings, without abandoning my passion for drawing. These three years of intensive drawing and study have helped strengthen my work. Telling my story on Laurelines keeps me at it, even through periods of doubt and frustration. I can't let myself and my lovely readers down! Finally, the death of my sweet father a couple of years ago forced me, among other things, to face the fact of my own mortality. His last gift to me was the spur to live life as consciously and fully as I can, in whatever time I have left here.
Travel has been a huge part of that commitment to myself. The keeping of travel sketchbooks has been a large (and fun!) part of my recent art life. .
JEAN: Can you tell me about your art experiences as a child? Did you mostly create art at home or at school? What kind of encouragement did you have?
LAURA: One of the earliest memories I have is of drawing a portrait of my older brother. I was either three or four. I drew his round head, I made dots for his freckles, and little spikes for his hair. I was SO happy–I thought it looked just like him! I won a school-wide art contest in second grade and all through my school life, I was known as a good artist. Since we moved frequently, it was one of the few things I could count on to define myself.
JEAN: You have two grown daughters–was art an important part of your family life when they were growing up? Can you tell us what sorts of art experiences you shared with them?
LAURA: I made sure my daughters had big newsprint pads and crayons and paint and brushes from the time they could barely hold them with their chubby baby hands. There's a photo of one of my daughters at 11 months old drawing on a newsprint pad on the floor before she was able to walk. [Jean's note: You can see photos of Laura's daughters drawing and painting on her post about Artful Children.]
I took them to museums all over the world. I talked to them about the work we looked at and told them stories of the lives of the artists represented on gallery walls. I chose the most beautiful picture books I could find to share with them. I took them on wildflower walks and taught them tree and plant shapes and names and colors. I drew with them and also enrolled them in summer and afterschool art classes. I wanted them to know the richness of our visual world and to feel confident in their own expressive abilities.
JEAN: Do you have any advice for parents (both from the perspective of an artist and also as a mother of two daughters) for raising creative children?
LAURA: Turn off the television! That's my first piece of advice. Though my daughters balked a little at this when they were growing up, it paid huge dividends. They are avid readers, by the way, which is one of the things I'm most proud of as a mother. Provide your children at an early age with drawing and painting materials and the space to use them freely. Talk to them about the things you see. Teach them to notice details as well as to appreciate grand panoramas. Take them to museums so they can see how various and rich the world of art is. And don't overschedule them. They need time to just be. .
JEAN: You mentioned to me that you "dragged" both of your daughters to art museums all over the world as they were growing up-can you tell us a little about that?
LAURA: I alluded to that earlier in the interview. Part of my reason for doing so was selfish! I wanted to see the artwork, too! Nothing benefits an artist as much as exposure to others' work. But, of course, I did it for them, too. I wanted to inculcate a love for art in them and teach them how to look at paintings and sculpture. .
JEAN: You said that one of your daughters is now an avid museum-goer and the other is an artist–can you tell us a little more about them?
LAURA: Both of my daughters faced the same choice I faced in high school and college–which path to choose, the academic or artistic one.
My elder daughter, Kate, chose art history as her major in college, which was one way of trying to have both elements in her life. She later switched to anthropology, but her love for art and artifacts is still strong. She's my museum goer. She remembers pieces of sculpture we saw at the Heyward Gallery in London when she was five! She always wants us to go to the state art museum for our Mother's Day outings.
My other daughter, Cecelia, is more interested in making her own art, even though she chose the primarily academic road in high school and college. She understands that she can't devote herself fulltime to art now, as she prepares herself for a profession, but she's seen, through my life, that one can keep that thread going, by hook or crook, if one has the determination to do so. .
JEAN: How were you able to find time for your own art as you were raising them?
LAURA: I put their playpens in my studio! I also had part-time childcare for a lot of their childhood,which was a tremendous blessing. .
JEAN: Thank you, Laura, for sharing your art and parenting experiences with us!
LAURA: You are most welcome, Jean. I love what you are doing with your own blog and I sense a kindred spirit in you in your devotion to your daughter's creative life. To learn more about Laura and her art, you can visit her blog, Laurelines.
Readers who leave a comment on this interview by Friday, March 14th, Midnight EST, will be entered into a drawing for Laura's watercolor of the purple orchids, shown above. Winner will be announced Saturday morning.