Can I be a mother and a successful artist? Hmm, let’s see

mother artist

This piece of graffiti is a fairly new addition to an underpass on one of my running routes. I enjoy graffiti and street art well enough, but my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of it that spoke so directly to my own concerns. I’d like to meet whoever scrawled this and have a good long chat with her.

I’m not sure whether the big ‘NO’ underneath it is in answer, or whether it’s part of a previous piece of graffiti. Either way, it adds some hollow humour that I also enjoy.

Anyway, with all of that in mind, here’s my review of how I did on the ‘artist’ side for 2015 (the parenting side is always a work in progress, and another matter).


wild flowers by Myfanwy TristramLots of my work comes directly from motherhood and this year that was reflected in two cartoons: one about the school run, and one about my own mum.

In 2014, I drew Underdog, which relates a true experience of sewing with my daughter, and this year it was placed second in a prize, which is very gratifying.

I once again had a shot at the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest, but feel more and more resigned to the fact that I’ll never make a dent in that one.

I made a four-page comic about what happens when you take synchronised swimming to an extreme.

Feb 3rd brings the annual challenge of Hourly Comics Day. I’m looking forward to this year’s, although as it’s a working day, I’m a bit concerned as to how I’ll manage it…


Clovember - illustration by Myfanwy TristramThe 30-pictures-in-30-days Clovember project was also a motherhood project: I drew everything my daughter wore (far more interesting than my own outfits).

This year I was lucky enough to work on a couple of projects with the Swedish fashion label Gudrun Sjoden, purveyors of beautiful, sustainable clothes. In March, I painted customers in their shop, and then of course in August I had an amazing two days pretending to be a model. This has to be the wildest and most incredible reward that drawing has brought me yet.

The sketch diary I made around that trip has had an amazing amount of comments, likes and shares: it’s wonderful to have had it enjoyed by so many. And that’s not the last of it: I’ll be working with Gudrun Sjoden again this year, and I’ll share more details when that happens.


Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy TristramWe had family holidays in Frome and Barcelona, and I drew a sketch diary for each (16 pages and 26 pages respectively). The Stockholm diary added another 12 pages.

I also recorded a trip to Madrid for work (26 pages). I was particularly pleased to find a way to combine my very interesting day job, and my drawing.

I love having my sketch diaries, and I do enjoy the process of making them, but as my drawing ability improves, so do my ambitions, until I am in the silly situation of having to spend a couple of hours a day on them for weeks after our return.

This time could be used for other types of drawing, so this year I will have to think carefully about whether to continue.

As it happens, my favourite type of sketchbook appears to be really thin on the ground at the moment: I haven’t been able to find any in TK Maxx and Homesense, where I usually pick up two or three at a time.

I have two unused ones in a drawer at home and after that it’s entirely possible I won’t be able to find any more, which is a real shame as I’ve never seen any other sketch book that’s quite as well-suited to sketch diaries. Maybe it’s a sign that it really is time to give up.

Other stuff

petting party birthday invitation by Myfanwy TristramAs I only just posted, I drew my daughter’s stocking and all its contents (twice in one year, as it turned out, as I only completed 2014’s stocking on January 3rd 2015).

I also made my daughter’s party invitation – more happy combining of parenthood and drawing.

People and events

This blog was given an incredible boost by WordPress when they featured it in a round-up post at the beginning of the year, and then in a couple of subsequent features. That recognition has brought almost 5,000 subscribers to my blog. That’s great, and makes me think of ‘success’ and ‘exposure’ in entirely new ways.

But sometimes you also have to meet people in the real world, right? Even if parenthood has put you in the habit of staying in of an evening.

I went to a few excellent drawing-related events this year: an talk put on by the Lewes Children’s Book Group, and the inspiring Graphic Brighton conference.

Then there was the Brighton Illustration Fair which had a strong comics slant. This year, I’m going to try and be on the other side of a table.

Finally, I rediscovered Cartoon County, a group specifically for cartoonists, and right on my doorstep – I really should make more effort to go.

So, can you be a successful artist and a mother? To answer that question quite seriously, I’d say that yes, you can.

I’m not pretending that I’m a successful artist myself – that must depend on your definition of ‘successful’, but I’d bet that most people’s definitions would include making a living from it. I am an artist who’s becoming more content with her work, and enjoying a burgeoning readership though, so that must be a good thing.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the anonymous graffiti artist is probably in the early stages of motherhood (or maybe even pregnant, and thinking ahead?). If that’s so, then my answer would be to hang on in there. The first few years of motherhood do not allow for very much else, but that’s not a permanent state. And motherhood will inspire your art in new ways.



Published by Myfanwy Tristram

I am an illustrator, situated in Brighton on the south coast of England, and with a special interest in comics and graphic memoir. I also work for a non-profit which encourages people to be active in democracy and to exercise rights such as the right to information through FOIA.

11 thoughts on “Can I be a mother and a successful artist? Hmm, let’s see

  1. For my own selfish reasons, I hope you are right that one can be a “successful” creative career person and a parent. I quit everything I loved when I became pregnant, and I haven’t gotten back to regular practice of any of the things I used to do (belly dance, yoga, energy work, even some acting and work behind the camera in the film world) before I became pregnant.

    It’s been hard on me, personally, but of course, I love my child. I even decided to have a second one, and now in many ways, it’s back to square one. Especially since the things I loved doing seem to have an “expiration date” (like, a performer can only perform for so long before newer, younger performers take her place), I’ve had a hard time giving up what I loved in exchange for being a mother (which, truth be told, is not nearly as exciting). :) I feel like I’m complaining too much, so I’ll shut up now.

    Congratulations on your followers, and all your successes for 2015. I hope 2016 brings you more of what you love. I’m one of the people who found your blog via the WordPress feature – pretty cool that you were featured there! It’s also cool that it gained you 5,000 followers!

    Happy New Year!

    1. Complain all you like – it’s darn hard! And doing it all twice, yes, I’m sure that delays the day still further that you can return to your own creative practice. It basically all comes back to the way the workplace caters for, or doesn’t, to women/parents, and in lots of ways, making the decision to have a child means signing up for sacrifice (and in ways I don’t think are obvious until you do it).

      Thank you for your kind words and here’s hoping you find your work/parenthood/life balance in whatever way works.

  2. I often find I ask myself the same question, alot. When I started this journey of motherhood and pursuing my dream as an artist I was nieve, I thought not a problem. I know there are still things I still need to learn. Reading your post keeps me motivated to keep going, it’s a lot of work, in the end I know it will be worth it.

  3. I am a mother of a two year old and am also pregnant! So I really appreciate your words of wisdom and find you inspiring. I have met a few mother artists recently who I found very inspiring too. I have always been an aspiring artist but never quite confident enough to get my work out there. I also had the typical low self esteem that creative people sometimes suffer from. Yet, I have found that since having my son, my confidence has grown and I feel stronger about my art and am not afraid to show others. The paradox now is that I don’t really have the luxury of time that I had before. However, although I have not achieved the success I dream of (yet) I do feel that since becoming a mother, I believe it is possible for me to be successful and am more strategic with my spare time. Before Motherhood I would have spent a long time thinking and staring and sleeping and complaining. I think I actually produce art higher in quantity and quality now! It’s just that I can’t do it as spontaneously as before.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I very much remember the struggles of doing anything at all for myself when my daughter was very young. On the other hand I think this made me all the more determined to snatch every minute I could once I had the chance again. Perhaps that determination, together with new insights from parenthood, will provide what we need. Good luck finding and maximising your moments of spare time!

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