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Tif McDonald — artist mama extraordinaire

by Jean Van't Hul
May 24, 2010


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.

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