ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: ARTISTS AND MOTHERS
We at Brooklyn Art Library are always interested in learning more about how members of our community work and getting a little insight on their process with their sketchbooks. We decided to highlight two women in our collection from over the years who are both mothers and working artists to learn more about how they manage their time, how becoming a mother has changed their work, and their process on working with their sketchbook.
Brooke Williams is a Brooklyn-based artist, blogger, and mother to a 10 year old daughter. Her blog thisisauthentic.com is where she talks all about her art, activism, and life as a mother in Brooklyn. Her and her daughter Ada are regulars to the library, stopping by on their walk home from school or on the weekends. Brooke has three sketchbooks with us, and she and her daughter are currently both working on another one.
Brooke’s first three sketchbooks with us are all primarily photography based, and she says she started taking pictures when she was in the 5th grade. “It’s just been something that I love doing,” she explains. Her mother was a very creative person, and art and creativity were “definitely something that we were encouraged to do” when she was growing up.
Her daughter, Ada, is also a very creative child. “She is really into building things, so I try to think about incorporating her interests into what we do”, she explains. When asked about doing art projects together, Brooke says “We love to do projects, and I love the idea of doing a project like The Sketchbook Project together because it was something we can both do. It’s a way of us relating to each other as people as well as a mother and daughter”. The types of projects she does has changed a lot since having her child too. “I've expanded my idea about what being creative is and what the products I can make. It can be a family cookbook I make with my daughter for her school - that counts too! All these little things you do actually matter and it doesn't have to be just something that’s done in a professional way. As long as I feel im moving the ball forward a little bit, that’s good.”
In fact, Ada helped her mom complete her first sketchbook with us. “She was like ‘Momma, you need to something more’ so we tried to figure out what, so I thought ‘Ok well why don’t I just do different patterns on these [pages]?’ And I never would have thought of that if she hadn’t given me that idea.” It was a great way for the two of them to brainstorm and bond over a shared project, and the two of them found a favorite hangout spot for both of them with the library. “What I also liked about doing the sketchbooks, and doing them with Ada was the idea of bringing her into this larger artist community” Brooke explains. “You can come here and look at your book, but you can also look at all these other books. And we had this really amazing experience of being in san francisco when the tour was there, and getting to go and check out books and it was really exciting to watch Ada be excited about that. And to watch her say ‘I was part of this!’ These are the little gifts you try to give your kid."
Down in Sheepshead Bay, we also met with Linda Serrone Rolon, who was kind enough to host us in her studio/home. She describes her introduction to art as one of intense curiosity. “I grew up across the street from a photography/art supply store and they had these ‘how to draw’ books and I used to just trace them,” she shares. “I just did this for my whole childhood but I never shared it, and I didn't know I had any talent until I took my first art class in high school and my teacher was like “you’re talented!” And I was like “I am?”. She went on to attend Manhattan Community College where she took every art class they offered, and found herself taking the ferry back and forth from Staten Island and Manhattan often due to her job as a bartender, which prompted her to start keeping a sketchbook. “It’s a sort of freedom because I can take it anywhere, which is the number 1 thing for me. I can take it anywhere.” When flipping through the first book she has with us, she reflects “This book definitely helped me - it freed my imagination, it took off the pressure of making art.” She has since completed two more sketchbooks that are in the library, and is currently working on another.
When she had her son in 2008, she found herself having to change her artistic process. She typically worked with oil paint, but worried about the toxicity and its effect on her newborn. She found herself drawn to ballpoint pen and utilizing paper more than canvas, which made The Sketchbook Project a perfect fit for her. “I remember thinking ‘Oh this is great! This is gonna help me stay focused’ Basically it got me back into focusing on my work.”
Her son is now 9 years old, and Linda has found ways of incorporating art into her life as a parent. “He was a model for me when he was a baby,” she explains. “I’ve been painting mother and child for a long time, and it was always really dark and involved a lot of melancholy. And after I had him, I starting looking at the joys of motherhood, and I decided to do a painting and it was a mother really embracing this baby.” They do art projects together, and he often asks for her help in drawing something.
She uses her artistic talents in her parenting, doing things like bartering a mural for a free year of taekwondo for her son, or for his nursery school. “As long as I’m painting, and someone gives me walls to paint on, I’m really happy.”
View Linda's sketchbook "I Remember You" here.