The baby we had to have

Left to right: Emily, Lucy, Matthew, Alicia

Left to right: Emily, Lucy, Matthew, Alicia

I’ve told this story many times but in case you missed it, here it is again.   In early 1993 I was happily married with two daughters when out of the blue Matthew (husband) announced that he wanted another child.  This was quite a shock but after several weeks of thinking about it, I decided to rise to the challenge.  Have I already said that Matthew is one of thirteen children?  No wonder he wanted a third.

Lucy was born on 30th April 1994.  Today she is 20!  It has occurred to me during the past few hours that it is also 20 years since I put down my paint brushes and picked up coloured pencils – and it is all thanks to Lucy.

Working with my coloured pencils in the lounge while Lucy had a sleep, 1994.

Working with my coloured pencils in the lounge while Lucy had a sleep, 1994.

Any new mother who is also an artist knows that it is extremely hard to do one’s art with a new baby.  I was working in oils back then.  I thought I’d be able to paint when Lucy had her naps.  The reality was anything but.  Once I thought she was asleep I would go to my studio and start to mix colours.  But…oh no…a sound from the nursery.  And now that sound is turning into crying.  Ahhh!!  And so it went.  I thought I might go mad.

I had a light-bulb moment.  Try coloured pencils.  I had used them briefly at art school; why not try them again?  Matthew thought it was a good idea.  I took myself off to the local art shop and bought a 72 box set of Derwents and a 36 set of Stabilo Softcolor pencils…and some paper.  I didn’t know what it would be like working in pencils but it had to be more convenient than oils.   And no matter what it would be like, at least I’d be doing art.

"Lucy's Buzzy Bee" 1994, my first coloured pencil drawing.

“Lucy’s Buzzy Bee” 1994, my first coloured pencil drawing.

"Summer Window" 1994, my second colour pencil drawing.

“Summer Window” 1994, my second colour pencil drawing.

I also kept a pair of earplugs at my art desk so that I didn’t hear the small sounds that a baby makes when she is going off to sleep.  I was so nervous of those tiny sounds.  If I didn’t have the earplugs in I wouldn’t be able to relax enough to draw.  After an hour or so I’d take my earplugs out though I’d still hope she wouldn’t wake for another hour.   As long as I could keep doing my bit of art once each day I could nearly cope with what it took to be a mother-of-a-baby all over again.

Timeless 1997

Drawing from collage

For the first few years of using coloured pencils I didn’t draw from my own photos.  Instead I bought all sorts of magazines, cut up the photos and made collages from them.  Then I would draw using the collage as source material.  This is mainly because I didn’t have the opportunity to go out to take photos – and – consumed with baby I didn’t even have photo-taking ideas of my own.  Much easier to find images from magazines and compose from them.  I could do my composing in quiet moments or at night.

Artefacts Around 1998

Drawing from collage.

Lucy doesn’t mind at all that she is ‘the baby we had to have’.  She knows the story.  If it wasn’t for her I might never have stopped painting in oils.  I’m very glad I did though.  I much prefer pencils to oils.  And as to Lucy…she is the only daughter still living at home and … she’s OKAY!  As Wallace said to Gromit, Lucy is “a valuable addition to our modern lifestyle”.

Lucy riding in the New Forest, England, in 2010.

Lucy riding in the New Forest, England, in 2010.

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18 thoughts on “The baby we had to have

  1. Donna

    I also am an artist. I have 5 children and had to put my art on the shelf while raising them. I also had to work. Now the youngest is 24, just graduated temple university, and I picked up my paint brush again! It’s like riding a bike!! I’m so happy and contented to be painting! I also use color pencil..a whole new world

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Gosh Donna, I’m so happy that you have found your way back to art. It’s a great feeling isn’t it, to be doing what you love. How are you finding coloured pencils?

  2. sherrytelle

    I drew when the kids were small but didn’t do much for years, working 50 -60 hr weeks as a dental lab technician, and doing the odd illustration for my husband’s graphic design firm while being a hockey director, and mom. It is only in the last 2 years I have started doing what I want for me!!!!! I am loving it!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      That’s a long time between drinks, as they say, Sherry. I couldn’t wait as long as you did. I’m sure that many women artists have to put art on hold when they start families.

  3. Robyn Varpins

    I well remember those precious moments of self connection in my studio while baby slept…..sanity savers in a very real way. Collage was all I could manage for a while…..and then clay, which could be wrapped up quickly…..I dont miss those days with a baby

  4. Di

    A phenomenal,unique talent ,the stained glass window looks like a photograph ( only better ).Have any of your girls inherited your incredible gift?

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hello Di, you sure write lovely comments! By the way, I hope you’ll visit my next solo in September (opening on the 4th in Dalkeith). You’ll be getting an invitation. ALL three girls are in the arts. Lucy, the youngest, is at WAAPA doing Bachelor of Performing Arts (in her second year). Alicia designs costumes and sets for performing arts and is currently living and working in London. She just won an Australian award for her design work. Emily is a musician. She plays flute. She studied at UWA, then Helsinki and Paris. Matthew is an engineer; none of his daughters wanted to follow in his footsteps. But Matt loves the arts too and is in several choirs.

  5. anna warren portfolio

    Well, first, happy birthday to Lucy! Now you have no more teenagers. I remember when this happened to me, and thinking it felt like a milestone. It was very optimistic of you to have a third child after having such post natal depression, but you all survived it! I desperately wanted a third child, but we agreed we simply couldn’t afford to give what we wanted to three children, so I ended up happy with two. My art (apart from odd bits of sketching which I have always done) began again with printmaking classes, as I saw it as an opportunity to draw, and those evenings were a wonderful outlet for me. You obviously took to the pencils like a duck to water – those early works are still so identifiably yours.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Anna, it was a very difficult decision for me to have a third baby. I was extremely resistant. BUT in Lucy’s favour, I was the third child my mother wanted. My father didn’t want three (for the same reason as you state – costs) but Mum said she prayed about it – and I came along. Wierd though it seems I didn’t want to ‘block’ someone from coming into the world because I was glad that I had made it despite Dad’s resistance. By the way, my Dad was very happy once I was born. I hoped I’d be very happy once my third was born too. Well – I WAS – but mostly when she got a bit older.
      Looking at it another way, Lucy was the only child of ours who was actually planned. Emily and Alicia just ‘happened’!
      Re my early works being identifably mine; well, I’d been working in oils for several years so I guess I already had my style.

  6. occasionalartist

    Lovely story Julie, I also love using coloured pencils for many reasons, but an important one is their ease of use. With chronic fatigue and working I find other mediums too hard to set up, while coloured pencils I can pick up ant time and do some work and leave them when I like without having to bother cleaning up. It makes a difference to what I can achieve each week. I also love the translucency and depth of colour that they can achieve. Karen

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Karen, you are absolutely right. When energy is low one is still able to cope with coloured pencils. You can even pick them up for a few minutes – then fizzle out and go do something else. One just can’t pick up and put down with impunity when using paint.
      I didn’t know you had chronic fatigue. You sure accomplish a huge amount – even for someone who doesn’t have it. I thought your latest project, the box for your pencils, was a wonder.

      1. occasionalartist

        Oh thank you Julie, my chronic fatigue is fairly much under control, I have had it for over twenty years. I just have to be very quiet on weekends etc to be able to get through a working week, so plenty of time to sit and draw. Just sometimes I get too tired to draw, then you won’t hear from me for awhile. The support from my blogging friends helps me to get through. Karen

  7. peacockfairy

    Lovely post! My first grandchild is coming! I feel so happy waiting for “Valentina”!

    Enviado desde mi iPad

    > El 30/04/2014, a las 10:27, juliepodstolski escribió: > > >

  8. WESTENRA, Mark (NDI)


    And what a gem she (and all your gals) have turned out to be!

    Mark Westenra (मार्क)

    First Secretary (Management) and Consul
    New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi, India
    T +91-11-4688-3215 | |

    [Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image005.jpg@01CEB937.55A8D1B0] [Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: nzinc-india-email-sml]
    [6209_Email Signature_HIGH RES_OUT]


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