What is your name?
Lily Mae Martin
I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I have lived in Europe and feel like my time in those places have influenced me greatly.
Where do you live?
Just on the brink of a big shift out to the country.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
It’s not something I really thought about until I was older - I’ve always drawn and painted, I was pretty good at it but when I was younger I wanted to be a writer or a vet. However the drawing and painting was the most consistent throughout my life and people always asked me what I was doing working in a call centre ( or whatever job I was doing at the time ) that I should be studying art. When I got a job at the National Gallery of Victoria when I was 20 years old and started working with artists was when I really realized how much I would like to be an artist - be like the people I was working with. So that’s when I enrolled into the Victorian College of the Arts and in 2009 is when I really started working hard at it.
Who influenced you as an artist?
My Grandmother, my mum, my husband and my kid - they all contribute to my ideas in many different ways. These family members were very encouraging and later on it was my high school teacher at Swinburne Senior Secondary College. One of my favourite memories is having an argument about my work with him. He wanted me to pursue printmaking and I resisted - I still regret not taking on his advice.
In terms of artists I am drawn to people like Jenny Saville, Dagmar Cyrulla ( I was recently in an exhibition with her! ), Käthe Kollwitz, Margaret Preston, Lucian Freud, Sylvia Plath. I could go on and on really!
What is your favorite medium?
Drawing in ink - pen or ink and nib. But I love to watercolour and oil paint too. They all offer something unique and I go to each of them for their different qualities. But the one I am in my element with is drawing. I just know it.
Do you have a studio? Where is it?
I’ve had many studios over the years but right now I have my drawing space in my lounge room - which is great because we live on a hill and get so much incredible natural light. I also love to work while my family are around me doing their own things. I thrive off of it! I also have my painting studio in a shed out the back, which is at the mercy of the elements and can be hard to work in. However I can get messy in there and work with hazardous materials and feel OK about it because it is under lock and key so my daughter is safe from it.
When did you become a mother?
My daughter was born in July 2010, in Cardiff, Wales.
What are your challenges as a mother artist?
Oh! Many. So many! I mean, not just because of being a mother artist - we have had to do a lot of moving and travel because of my husbands work. Instability becomes all the more scary with a small child. However I’ve drawn a lot of positives from these experiences, as tough and as isolating as they were at the times - I feel that it’s definitely made clear to me what I do want out of my life and how to prioritize things.
But I think in general, the isolation has been a hard one. Because as an artist anyway, the nature of it is isolating. So I think I became very unsure and very detached from people and the world. I also think I have lost a lot of relationships because of the misunderstandings and change of circumstances. Work is very important for mums and it is a priority over things such as social obligations and people can’t help but feel hurt, or something.
What has been the driving force behind keeping a balance between being a mother and an artist?
I love creating, I love making new works and I haven’t made so much work since I became a mother. I think there are many things driving it - determination, escapism, love of the process of making, surprising myself.
When do you spend time making art?
All the time. It’s always on my mind and just a part of my everyday. I am thinking about art more than anything else. It’s also the way I document things - I’m a sentimental sort and I like to collect photos and bits and pieces of my life so I think about how I can capture things to record them. Especially my daughter at this age - nearly four - her use of language and developing imagination is just so amazing to be privy too. So I try to document as much of it as possible.
How many children do you have?
I have the one.
Have you ever considered giving up art in order to be a mother?
Nope. Just like my husband wouldn’t give up all the things he is to be a father. But we do, and have, sacrificed for her, that’s part of it. But I think that comes with all major relationships in life - compromise, sacrifice, all of that sort of thing. But like, having a kid is way different.
Do you have support from your family and friends to keep making art?
I have loads of support from my husband. He has always been incredibly supportive and that really is the main thing. My daughter now sits and draws with me or watches me work. That’s a recent development and one that I enjoy so very much.
Do you feel like you are taken seriously as a mother artist?
Yes and no. I still think that when I was first starting out that I should just have my name as L.M.Martin to take the focus off of my gender. I still get referred to as a Woman Artist. Which doesn’t make me happy at all. You never hear anyone say Man Artist.
In regard to Mother/ Artist - I am not sure everyone knows that I am a mum. I have been conscious to keep things separate - I just let people know as much as they need to know.
Has becoming a mother influenced your art?
Yes. As I said, I’ve made more work since I have been a mother than any other time of my life. I’m very inspired, it’s a place for the positive and the negative and all the in between.
That nice stuff all being said - the process of pregnancy and birth was intense for me, I appreciate that it is very different for everyone. I’m lucky that I came out alive as well as with a living baby. And then as a mum you hit the ground running - even if you can’t walk, like I couldn’t - and it leaves you questioning your identity and what it means to be a woman. It’s the most destabilizing process but the most affirming.
Do you think mother artists are taken seriously in society?
I don’t think parents are taken seriously - in that everyone challenges them and judges them. And mostly - women are not taken seriously. We are still a minority voice in society, as well as the arts.
What do you say when someone asks “what does your husband do for a living?”
are you offended by such a question?
It’s all about context.
I have many stories!
But the one I will tell here is that I have always been the type of person who has taken a while to process thoughts and feelings about the world and situations - this is why I find art so comforting and an invaluable tool to communicate. I would say it has saved me a number of times and I am very grateful for it.
Career wise I think things took a while for me to start off because of life stuff. I came to university a little bit late, I came to travel even later but I did get there and a lot has happened in a short space of time. Such as developing my work and style and finding the things I want to pursue in my work. Which is important for someone like me - someone who likes to do lots of different things all the time!
What have you learned about balancing motherhood and your passions?
I’ve learnt to put my little family and my needs first - that friendships are weak and to move on and find others that get who you are now - camaraderie! Parenthood does change everything and it’s exhausting trying to prove to everyone otherwise. I’ve learnt to accept a lot of the chaos and the 8PM bedtimes and that I have to prioritize a good nights sleep over ‘nights off’.
I am on call 24 hours, seven days a week, something something days a year - and that’s just that.
What advice can you offer other mother artists about pursuing their passions
regardless of their situation?
Tricky because it is different for everyone.
Try and be open that it is different for everyone, try not to push what is working for you on to someone else. Put yourself first over everyone else - they probably wouldn’t extend themselves for you.
What do you want to be remembered for as an artist?
That I was really fucking good at drawing. Like, really fucking good.
For more information about Lily Mae Martin please visit:
* All images were submitted by Lily.