Parent Resources

Tif McDonald — artist mama extraordinaire


Once an accountant, my friend Tif is a mama who left that world to be
home with her daughter (now she has two), went back to school to study art, found
her medium (encaustics), made time and space for her art, and now, has her
first, beautiful show up at an art gallery. I find her story—as well as her energy and
dedication (and, of course, her art)—incredibly inspiring and think you will
too. I asked her a few questions about her journey and wanted to share the
answers here.

Artful parent blossoms
***Note: Readers will have a chance to win this encaustic painting by Tif at the end of this interview.***

JEAN:  When I
first met you, you were pregnant with your second daughter and going back to
school for your art degree. Now you have your first gallery show of a beautiful
group of encaustic paintings. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?

TIF: The four years since have been
very full!  Balancing art classes, studio time, and motherhood has been
challenging and rewarding.  When Sadie was born I didn't have much time
for classes or my art.  I stayed connected to art through art projects
with my kids and helping in my older daughter's class.  A couple years ago
I signed up to sell some work at an art/craft sale.  Committing to that
and preparing the work was an important step for me.  And, selling my work
felt fantastic! 

The past couple years I've taken summer courses at Penland School of Crafts.  When I'm there I am completely surrounded by and
immersed in art.  I absolutely love it. 


I think the Penland experience, more than anything, inspired
me to put my work out there and try to make a career out of it.  I've had
work in other sales and art auctions since that first sale.  These led to
commissions and opportunities to show my work, including the current show at
Studio 103 in Black Mountain. 

It was (and is) so hard to put my work out there!  I am
very critical of my work—I  always know
that it can be better, and that I have more work to do or ideas to
develop.  But, I think that first step of putting the work out there leads
to other work and experiences that are all part of my continuing development as
an artist.


JEAN: How did you
find (make!) the time to make this happen with two young girls at home?

TIF: That has been, and continues to
be, a constant struggle.  My youngest daughter is in preschool 4
hours/day.  I try to reserve that small block of time to be in the
studio.  I've really had to be disciplined about protecting that
time.  My studio is in the garage, so it is easy to be distracted with all
the home responsibilities.  It is also so convenient to use that time for appointments,
exercise, etc…  Approaching deadlines definitely help me stay
disciplined.  As I spend more time working I have less time available for
things like volunteering at school and free time to play/create with the


I am trying to fit it all in.  Sometimes it seems that
the busier I am, the more I accomplish.  Other times I am aware that I'm
not being the mom I want to be, and that I need to adjust things. Finding that
balance is a constant struggle, but I hope that I'm teaching my children the
importance of assessing and adjusting things in life to achieve a healthy,
happy balance.


JEAN: Can you tell us how you found
your medium? Or how it found you?

TIF: I had seen some work using
beeswax and loved the dreamy quality of the wax. While I was at Penland I found
a fantastic book in their store.  The book is The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax by Joanne Mattera.  It has all the info you
need to start working with encaustics.  I found a workshop taught by a
local encaustic artist, Celia Gray.  I love her work and she is a great
teacher.  I was immediately hooked—it  is such a seductive medium! 

The following summer I took a mixed media class at Penland
taught by another local artist, Leslie Noell with Celia Gray as the assistant. 
I love that I can incorporate drawings, collage, paint, printmaking, etc. into
the encaustic process.  I'd like to get back to some figure
painting.  I have some new tools to try that will allow me to
"play" with the idea of painting the figure with wax. I think I'll
continue working in this medium for a long time.


JEAN: Any tips for
other mamas who would like to make their art a priority?

TIF: I think just taking that first
step to showing people your work and making some commitments to have a body of
work will lead to other opportunities.  I have been reading a book that
has been very helpful to me called:  The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield. 
I occasionally meet with another artist mom to discuss the book and our efforts
to make a living as artists.  I think connections with other artist moms
have provided me with inspiration, direction, and support (Moms are so good at
doing this for each other!).

Artful parent blossoms

Readers who leave a comment by Friday, May 28th
at 12midnight EST will be entered into a random drawing for this 6"x6" encaustic
painting of spring blossoms by Tif.

The random number generator picked #72 so Kate wins Tif’s

Her work is so beautiful. It reminds me a bit of
Amy Ruppell, but this is more dream-like. Just lovely. Love your website, by
the way.


  • Reply
    Megha Sood
    May 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Awesome work. I am such a huge fan of everything on this blog and so are my twin girls who are 4.5yrs. We have copied so much artwork from here at home.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Such beautiful work. Thank you for all the inspiration you give.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I love her work: so ethereal. Thank you for this giveaway–on top of the great interview!

  • Reply
    Angie Kohler
    May 24, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Beautiful work! I was just at Black Mountain for the LEAF Festival…I’m going to need to leave room to visit this gallery next festival!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    how precious! throw my name in the hat!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I love love her work- never too late to find the artist inside of you!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Wow, this is such incredible and gorgeous work! I know that everyone is critical of their own work, but I am completely blown away by it – she should be so proud!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you -so inspiring !

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I am unusually attracted to Tif’s artwork -so soft, beautiful and romantic. I want to step in and lie down… Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • Reply
    annette standrod
    May 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    This is so freakin’ awesome. I majored in art and have a master’s in art therapy and I have never heard of this medium. It is very beautiful. I am intrigued and inspired! I am a mother of a 2 and 3 yr old and am struggling how to make more time for my art. I do art with the kids all the time but it doesn’t quite fill the need for my art. The spring painting is absolutely beautiful and I would love to own it!
    [email protected]

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Dreamy is right! SO ethereal, yet rooted in reality. Love it.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Wow, Tif’s work is so beautiful and dreamy. It always makes me happy to see something lovely, and to read a nice interview as well. Thanks to both of you!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Such an inspiration. :)

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm


  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I’m loving the photos of her artwork and may even check out the book she’s recommended. I’m hoping to one day find a way to incorporate my love of photography into something profitable!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Wow, those are lovely!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    LOVE her stuff. It’s my intention to collect more art… this would be a lovely addition. ;)

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Gorgeous! And we really need more spring up here in the north!!! =)

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    She is really talented. The painting is really pretty, I love the simplicity of it. Congratulations to your friend on her first gallery showing! Very exciting.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    This is gorgeous — what an inspiration!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I’ve never heard of Encaustic painting before now… it’s made me extremely curious!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Beautiful work! It’s great to hear about someone following their passion and succeeding. Thanks.

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    May 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Wow, fantastic. Fantastic story, so inspiring, and fantastic work. I like so much how she makes simple, everyday objects look so magic.

  • Reply
    Rachel R.
    May 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    So inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to share.
    rachelspreschool at yahoo dot com

  • Reply
    Sara McClelland
    May 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    The work is LOVELY and so soft. Thanks for posting such interesting info on other artist mums! :)

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    wow! i’ve never even heard of encaustic, but find it incredibly beautiful! thanks for such an inspiring interview!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    What beautiful work. I love seeing other mothers pursuing their artwork. It’s a great inspiration.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Beautiful art, inspiring story – that’s why I love The Artful Parent ;)
    Would *really* love to win this!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I dream of using this medium! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Encaustics are so gorgeous. I love the dimension. Tif is a beautiful artist!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    so beautiful! mmmmm… beeswax… something else i haven’t tried yet… ;)
    thanks for a beautiful article, a beautiful blog & inspiring ideas!
    i’m off to make the playclay now, it’s a rainy day here in melbourne!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I am very inspired by her work! This past December I graduated from Purdue with my BA in Art Education…and have yet to land a full time job. However, while attending college I fell in love with encaustic painting! Since graduation I have been struggling with finding the motivation to create my own artwork…but after reading this interview and viewing her work, I hope to find some time this summer for me to begin focusing on my art again. Thanks, Tiff & Jean!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Great interview!!
    And I love blossoms… :)

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I had to catch my breath when I saw her art.
    So beautiful. Thank you for another great
    interview. I make this blog a part of my day
    every day. Thank you also for the giveaway.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Thank you for the very interesting interview — what an inspiring story!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks for putting that story into the world.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    As a Kindergarten teacher, mama and now grandmama with my 1st degreee in art (BFA/studio art) I am always on the lookout for ideas for lil ones and yours are always a “hit”!
    Plua due to the above…I am always on the lookout for more beautiful creations to add to our home…this delightful ‘giveaway” chance fits the bill!
    Pure simplicity and ever so beautiful!

  • Reply
    This girl loves to Talk
    May 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I LOVE that blossom painting! Gorgeous!! I too hadnt heard of encaustic painting… its like a dream!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Congratulations to Tif on her first show. I absolutely love her work, and am delighted to see her succeed in what she loves.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Tif’s art is beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for sharing her story with us. I wish her luck with her show!

  • Reply
    Tamrah T.
    May 24, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Oh my! Her work is such a delight to set eyes on! She is so full of inspiration. Thank you for sharing this interview with us!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    All of those pieces are really beautiful-I admit I know little about encaustics but these are so immediately inspiring I am off to research it some more. Thank you Tif and Jean!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Beautiful. I’ve never heard of encaustic before but am thrilled to learn more. Thanks for the inspiration, mamas!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 12:41 am

    I love the softness of the light as it hits encaustics. Thanks for sharing such beautiful artwork!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 12:52 am

    That is so interesting! I’ve learned so much about encaustics.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Thanks so much for the inspiring interview and giveaway, Jean! Tif’s artwork is gorgeous, the kind you can get lost in. It’s wonderful when people find their passion and bring such beauty into the world for others to enjoy.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Beautiful work and very inspiring interview. It is always so encouraging to see others following their passions, but also good to hear the reality of it,too…carving out dedicated time for working and creating while juggling motherhood. Congratulations on your show, Tif!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Beautiful work!
    As a writer I’m trying to figure out the balance between pursuing my writing goals and being a mom as well.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 5:47 am

    Wow, wonderful, wonderful work. Thank you for showing it and warm greetings from Germany,

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Geez – a lot of people read your blog Jean! Look at all those comments.Testament to its quality I say.
    This interview is utterly inspiring. Thank you. The bit about struggling to keep that four hour block just for art and about sometimes feeling like a not-too-great-mum (sorry! mom to you) resonated so much. There’s a great Australian book called The Divided Heart by Rachel Power. It’s a series of interviews with Artist mothers about how they juggle it – practically and in their hearts – and gives plenty of food for thought and inspiration.
    Might have to go and find me another Artist mum to touch base with regularly now.
    Exquisite artwork too!

  • Reply
    Suzy Leyrer
    May 25, 2010 at 8:35 am


  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Wow, her work is gorgeous!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Marvelous work, inspiring story. I was brought to this page through my sister who is best friends with Tif’s mother! Love these links.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Very inspiring. Moms are good for each other and carving out time for our own art is important. I do not do that enough. Her work is lovely.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Oh I am seduced my encaustic! This is such a great story and I am so glad to know about Tiff! I hope to win!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Beautiful artwork!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Very inspiring, thanks for all your ideas…

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Wow! i’m so glad I didn’t miss this post. What an inspiring story — and beautiful artwork!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Lovely work. Intrigued by the method, never heard of it before.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 11:16 am

    So inspiring! As a Mother who left the corporate world behind only 3 weeks ago…it is lovely to read about creative individuals who have done the same and have embraced their inner soul and are now doing what they LOVE. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I really enjoyed the interview, and her work is so soothing!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    May 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Love your ideas. I teach art outside at the local park to a group of 5-8 year olds every week. The piece by Tif is simple and beautiful and would look great in my house!!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Lovely artwork and wonderful interview! I have never tried to paint or draw anything but this work makes me want to try. Thanks!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    thanks for introducing me to this beautiful local artist! i love her smile and that dandelion picture! ;)

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Great interview. It was good running into you at her show! You did a great job capturing Tif’s spirit andher art!

  • Reply
    MaryAnn F. Kohl, art author
    May 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

    It’s rare that I see art I would actually buy. This style is fascinating and lovely, and I want to see more! Of course I’m also looking at how the technique could be used with children, and I’m pretty sure I have an idea. Thank you for sharing Tif McDonald’s work and the interview is delightful!
    ~ MaryAnn, art author for kids

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you for all the ideas and beautiful artwork! My days are more fulfilling because of you and your blog, thank you!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Beautiful work and such an inspiring story.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Tif, your art is really beautiful. Congrats on being able to make a living doing what you love.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    What lovely and serene pieces! You are an inspiration to us all!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Her work is so beautiful. It reminds me a bit of Amy Ruppell, but this is more dream-like. Just lovely. Love your website, by the way.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Love that! So pretty… it would go perfect – somewhere!! :)

  • Reply
    Michelle Bell
    May 25, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Amazing. I can’t wait to get the book and learn myself.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    What beautiful and inspiring story!

  • Reply
    amy d
    May 25, 2010 at 11:11 pm


  • Reply
    Kristin B
    May 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I have never heard of this kind of art – how beautiful! Thank you for the interview and giveaway.

  • Reply
    Dianne E. Butts
    May 25, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Very pretty!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    I really like the use of mixed media and collage in Tif’s work. The compositions are also really interesting with a great use of white space.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    it’s so nice to hear that while it’s hard it IS possible to find that balance between motherhood and art. Inspiring story.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Beautiful work. I am a mom of a young girl, an art teacher and a person who struggles to find time to make my art. This interview is a great reminder of the simple way to get work done – make a regular time to do the work.
    The Mattera book is superb. I also paint in encaustic and found Robbing the Bees (author????) to be an inspiration as well. It isn’t an art technique book but an interesting read.

  • Reply
    Funky Mommy
    May 26, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Gorgeous work! What great inspiration!

  • Reply
    Lee Lynn
    May 26, 2010 at 2:35 am


  • Reply
    Frances Lam
    May 26, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Both the interviewee and interviewer are inspiring!

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Oh please enter me into that drawing! Thank you, Lynn (a.k.a. Frivolitea)

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 7:43 am

    beautiful work and great colour tones!

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 10:10 am

    lovely work!

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 11:03 am


  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Beautiful, beautiful artwork! Please throw my name in the hat, too!
    Also, wanted to mention….
    – I graduated with a BFA in painting but never made it around to trying encaustic. It always seemed so mysterious and magical and perhaps complex… I really want to give it a try now.
    I love reading about moms as the artist and there work and process! Very inspiring, thank you.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 11:03 am

    sigh. I love encaustics and Tif’s work is beautiful. Thank you for this interview and thank you to Tif for sharing how she balances being a mom and an artist. I need to claim, and act on!, my desire to be an artist.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Very lovely.

  • Reply
    gisele hardock
    May 26, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Great questions. I love the emphasis on how you balance it all. We all struggle with that in some form or another.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    amazing art! and inspirational mama!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    This work is so beautiful. My house needs more original artwork and I really love the look of the medium. I’m going to check out the encaustic book you mentioned!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I really love your work! My home needs more original artwork and I love this medium. I’m going to check out the encaustic book you mentioned! (My email had a tyopo in the last post so I recent it!)

  • Reply
    May 27, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    These pieces are lovely!

  • Reply
    May 28, 2010 at 11:37 am

    What an amazing artist. Great story.
    Thanks so much for sharing it.

  • Reply
    Nancy Holtzman
    May 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I love the simple natural vibe of these pieces. Thanks.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    So beautiful and dreamlike and so inspiring. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Annie @ SisterWisdom
    May 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    So I’ve never won anything from one of these and I rarely take the time to even try anymore, but this art is so beautiful and captivating. I am in love with the dandelion piece. Oh wow.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Oh my goodness, these pieces are incredible! Dandelions! I am blown away by her creative achievements.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    What a wonderful interview. Tif’s work is so beautiful, as is her spirit. So inspiring.

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