Monday, July 14, 2014


"Work hard for your dreams. Never let anyone get in the way of what is important to you, and you only. Develop a kind of gentle but concrete ignorance to other peoples opinions- no matter how well intentioned they may be. You don't need to justify  why or what you believe in, or work towards. When you know, just set your sights on your dream and know God wants the same for you."

What is your name?

Jessica Leigh Brogan

Where are you from? 

Difficult to answer! I was born in Texas, grew up in Indiana, lived in Europe multiple times and have lived in various states. I believe my heart is from Hawaii, my childhood home. 

Where do you live?

Tulsa, Oklahoma 

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

I never thought of "wanting to be an artist." Ever. I never thought of it that way. I think the term "artist" is loaded and confusing and so I just avoid it. Instead, I say I'm a creative. I've always been "artistic" and I've always been "creative" so I never thought about becoming one. I act therefore I am. 

Who influenced you as an artist?

My mother, though she is entirely opposite in her form (she does very realistic, concise work and very different mediums). She was always decorating the house and dabbling in painting. Being around a creative person growing up, even if there wasn't a ton of "art-making" going on in the house, was impactful. 

What is your favorite medium?

Paper and glue. You can do plenty with that. 

Do you have a studio? Where is it?

Ha! I laugh sometimes - and get frustrated - at female friends who lament to me that they have "no room" for an art space in their four bedroom homes. There is ALWAYS room. I think often of Smitten Kitchen, an extremely popular food blog that was started and operated for years out of the tiniest of New york city kitchens. If you can even call it that. My own studio is a "nook." I like to work on the floor with things spread around me - reachable. That's important. I want to see all my supplies. And that happens to be one corner of the room that functions as my Bedroom, Living Room, Dining Room, Office and Art Studio! 

When did you become a mother?

2009. I didn't feel like a mother in the first trimester. I just felt like death. But I did feel like a mother by the time I was showing. I knew the "maternal instinct" was real because I would find myself cradling and rocking my cat before my son was born! 

What are your challenges as a mother artist?

Keeping my son from abusing my tools. Keeping my son from tracking paint over the carpet, onto the walls. Keeping him interested in art-- he isn't very much. I have to work alone when I make art, and I'm a night-owl creator, so having him doesn't mess with that too much. As long as it is quiet, I'm good. 

What has been the driving force behind keeping a balance between being a mother and an artist?

Determination. I see myself succeeding at being a successful artist and a good mom. I'm driven to achieve it. 

When do you spend time making art?

When the muse strikes. That can be 10 p.m .on a weeknight or 9 a.m. after I drop my son off at school. It just has to be quiet and calm, and I'm in the mood. I put on music but I prefer it in headphones, not on speakers in the room for some reason. The speakers distract me in an unhelpful way, the headphones let me really zone out to music and more creative surprises happen. 

How many children do you have? Do you want more?

One. Yes and no. The first one almost killed me. In many ways, it was so traumatizing I am surprised I survived. So, there's a little fear there. Also, his dad decided he regretted having a kid, married a woman who doesn't want them, and just yesterday , relinquished his rights to see my son voluntarily. So... should the right man appear, I would be okay with one more. I would muster hope and trust, and of course, it would be bred by the right person. But if it doesn't happen, I'm a-ok with one. 

Have you ever considered giving up art in order to be a mother?

No. Why? Why would I do that? Better yet, how would I do that? It's my sanity. 

Do you have support from your family and friends to keep making art?

Meh. Not really. But I have MASSIVE support from my online/Facebook friends, some turned "real life" friends (though I don't think the distinction matters). I think my family is proud of my accomplishments but inherently categorize them as "hobby" or as my mom is apt to say, "not a real job." I don't hold a lot of resentment there because I know it comes from a generational difference, as well as out of love and protection. However, I recently wondered just how much a toll her negativity around my activities is taking. I mused: would I be farther along, more successful, if she was super supportive and positive? That really stopped me in my tracks, and honestly, I'm going to write her a letter about just that!

Do you feel like you are taken seriously as a mother artist? 

By anyone outside my family, yes. Family is hard. Old friends are hard. I have stopped speaking to some as often because I don't enjoy the questioning and skepticism. I view it as self protection. I am still there for them. I am still friends with them, but I tailor our interactions to be about anything else. I derail their questions to motherhood as a conversation point, and that works swell!

Has becoming a mother influenced your art?

Most likely but I couldn't say specifically how. Perhaps it just showed me just how necessary it is for my sanity.  Being in survival mode, you can't miss how much something helps. Art making, a neighbor's dog he lent me for emotional support -- they were hugely helpful and it proved to me that it was necessary. I didn't deal with feeling guilty about taking time for art as much, because I knew it was helping to save my life. Sure, I felt the pressure to "make money" which came mostly from seeing people succeed at it online. I wised up and after about 18 months of that mentality, I shed it. I saw that I was in fact meant to do more. I can make and sell art, but it's not my identifier. Writer and Supporter is. The art is therapeutic, necessary, peace-making in my body. 

Do you think mother artists are taken seriously in society?

Gosh, I avoid so much of society that it's hard to say. Probably not. When I tell someone I'm an artist they often reply "Can you live off of that?" And I am struck by the simple and narrow-mindedness of that question. Live how? Live in what way? Really though, they just want to know if I can pay my bills. If I can, they take me seriously and then follow with "I wish I were creative, I'm not at all. " I usually find people to be supportive and impressed, respectful, when they know I can create a living from it. 

But I will say - I truly do, very consciously, avoid most parts of the world. MY "society" is carefully decided on. So in my society, yes, we take one another seriously and support one another. 

What do you say when someone asks “what does your husband do for a living?” 

I say "My ex-husband is a successful I.T. guy. He has managed to shift his life 100% away from our son, and has given up being a father in order to focus entirely on his career and new wife." Erin, that usually derails the conversation away from poking questions about how I "survive" as an artist to how the hell does a father do that? 
Funny, it's a bit of a strategy but also just the truth. I don't like people prying or pestering me with survival/income questions. 

Are you offended by such a question?

When I was married, yes. But I also realized, it was true: at the time, there's no way I could have supported myself for longer than a week without my husband's salary. It's a fair question. People aren't necessarily being rude, or meaning to insult. We've come a long way with art-preneurship, but we still have decades of the "starving artist" icon in our collective psyches, and that's what people are going to assume if they aren't involved in art. I don't blame them for that! 

What is your story?

Trauma, survival, growth. Trauma, survival, growth. 

What have you learned about balancing motherhood and your passions?

To follow my own natural rhythm. Actually, come to think of it, I have learned that a very strict schedule works best for my son -- so we definitely have a routine. But, when he's gone, and I am working, I don't follow a schedule. I follow my internal needs at the moment. Nap? Walk? Work? Create? Lunch date? Art-making binge? I'm a reluctant scheduler and always felt I SHOULD and only in my 32nd year have I really started to embrace my natural rhythm as valid, and even SMART way to work. It takes some trust though. 

What advice can you offer other mother artists about pursuing their passions regardless of their situation?

Give up the guilt. Give it up, give it up. You have one life (that we know of). Are you going to waste it feeling guilty? Are you willing to sacrifice your happiness? I'm not. I say to other mothers who are creative and artistic: don't let yourself get ground down. Stand firm in your needs and don't justify or second-guess them. If you're making time for your family and partner, if you consider yourself a pretty good mom with flaws and room for improvement, if your people are happy (not withstanding tempers and bickerments) then GREEN FLAG you have every right to do whatever the fuck you want for yourself, at least with some portion of every day. Just try it: drop the guilt and do it. 

What do you want to be remembered for as an artist?

Succeeding with these things I shoulder. 
Encouraging and creating change in the hearts of women who've held themselves capture in self-imposed shackles of guilt, doubt and self-loathing. 

Great work!

To learn more about Jessica and her work please visit:

* Thanks to Jessica for submitting all the photographs you see here:) 

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