Janie Cosby is an artist and mother who is pursuing art on her own terms. She lives in small town in the interior of British Columbia with her husband and two children, aged four and three. I have know Janie for a number of years now, and it is a pleasure to have her here on the blog. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and take some time to get better acquainted with the person behind @mommydraws.
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Tell me about your typical week-day routine at your home?
Well, it begins with quite a bit of coffee, followed by the typical mom stuff, dashing here and there with two kids ripping my arms out of their sockets. Every day has it’s own different activity, whether that be staying at home cleaning or attending playgroups or dropping in on other tired and frazzled mothers over pints of coffee and cookies we all say we shouldn’t be eating. Every night (with the exception of Date Night) is pretty much the same. I put my exhausted children to sleep, and draw for three hours before passing out for too short of a time before I’m thrust into the world again where I’m needed from three hundred different directions. I have a really special day though, on Sunday, that’s carved out just for me. After church on Sunday afternoons, I get two hours of uninterrupted drawing time followed by a kid-free grocery trip courtesy of my awesome husband. So on Sundays, I can sometimes get five to six hours of drawing practice in. I love Sundays.
What is your educational/work background in?
I have a diploma in liberal arts from Sheridan College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from McMaster University. After high school I was going to go to Art School (Sheridan College in Oakville, ON) to pursue Animation, but after having a contract job doing watercolour work for some dude I met on a train to Ottawa, I lost confidence that I could be an artist. I decided the week before art classes started to pursue English instead. To me this was the “easy way out”. I often lament that decision, but who knows what kind of experience I would have had with that immature brain of mine back then. During my degree and for a bit afterwards I worked for my sister-in-law and brother editing photos for their photography business until motherhood claimed my soul.
Do you consider yourself to be an artist or mother first?
This is an interesting question as I develop as both mother and artist. For the first three years of motherhood I was not an artist at all — or maybe it was lying dormant in me, and like the volcano that I am I just erupted and spewed forth. I have not stopped erupting since. That was just over a year ago. I let motherhood consume my life that first three years when I was “just a mom” (I put this in quotes because I truly believe that no mom is ever just a mom!) but when I made that decision to be a practicing artist, I’m not sure much about my mindset changed. The role of an artist and the role of a mother is very similar. The mother is forced to use creativity, imagination, logic, intuition, all while practicing patience, determination, self motivation and strength. All of this while facing an insane amount of criticism, doubt, fear, and guilt. And in all this, there is a heck of a lot of love, pain, error, and reward! Motherhood is easy, right? Tsk. Being a mother for three years before I decided to pursue an artistic path, I already had the mindset I needed to keep me on track.
You have always made art but started taking it more seriously just over a year ago, what led you to this decision?
One morning in February 2017, I woke up and I said “I’m so sick and tired of this crap!” and with a sort of angry “throw all caution to the wind” attitude I decided to pursue art. It was like a switch went on and I told my husband and my sister that I was going to take art seriously. They both supported me completely and I sent all my terrible drawings to my sister every day over text and she would pepper me with encouragements. My husband was equally supportive. Over the next 4 months I drew on my own and studied books from the library until I decided to take art courses on Schoolism.com, of which I do at my own pace. I think a huge part of this was that instead of wishing and wondering what it would be like to pursue my dreams, I just said SCREW IT and started to fight every fear and doubt that would normally have deflated me. Fears like, I was too old or my time had passed, or I would never make it, or that people would think I would suck, etc etc, these all were met with a fierce mind yell “SO!? WHO CARES. GO AWAY! I’M DOING THIS ANYWAY!” Guess what? I still have to fight. All the time. PS. It’s also really good to have a support system while fighting those fears by the way which is why I recruited my sister and husband to be my cheerleaders.
Tell us a little about your [artistic] aspirations?
As I have only been truly drawing for just over a year now I am still having difficulty moving from the LEARNING phase to the DOING phase of my aspirations, so I guess my FIRST aspiration would be to transition from learning to doing.I would love to do a webcomic, as an outlet to express how crazy and ridiculous being a mom is. I would love to illustrate and write my own children’s stories and much later down the road do graphic novels. I love and hold dear fantastical worlds, science and God, and would love to write a graphic novel that somehow combines all of that with elements of my own experiences both real and imagined. Haha that sounds insane now that I’ve said that ouright. Oh well! We are all a little insane.I have weird ideas all the time, and mostly I would just love to be able to reach that stage in my art where I can comfortably draw those ideas. I have many notes that I keep in my phone of random thoughts that I have. Sometimes I look at these notes and have NO idea what they mean, other times I think “oh yeah, I still think that’s a good idea”.
How and when do you make time for your art practice? Is there a specific time that you set aside during the day or evening?
So anywhere between 2 to 4 hours a night, except for Date Night which I make a priority. I usually have 1 or 2 nights a week that I am obligated to attend some function or meeting, but if it’s a casual meeting or boring event I usually say I need to practice. My awesome mom and stepdad take my kids one afternoon a week and sometimes I fill this entire afternoon with practice. So, in any given week I am usually drawing from anywhere between 4 and 6 nights, and in addition to my Sunday and “Grandparents Day” afternoons that is roughly 16-30 hours of practice. I have TRIED to draw during the day with the kids around but this has proven quite impossible and I have given this up while they are little and needing my attention. The only time I am able to practice with them around is when they are playing in the playground outside. Sometimes I can get some life-drawing done, until one of them falls in a puddle or something and it’s game over!
It takes a village to raise children; do you hire childcare or rely mostly on extended family members and /or friends to help out?
So, my dear mom and stepdad take my kids once a week for the afternoon but other than that it’s me all the way until Daddy comes home from work, and sometimes when he comes home I throw the kids at him and go hide in the dark until dinner.
What is the creative community like where you live?
Well I just moved here so I am not involved in my community in an art capacity yet. I haven’t even had time to check out the art gallery here, and I would like to start maybe taking life drawing classes so I will be visiting soon.
Do you connect with other artists in person, or mostly through social media such as Instagram?
I do have a community on Instagram. I follow and am inspired by many artists! I love the comments I receive on Instagram and am encouraged by my followers as well. I also am part of the Facebook community that is associated with Schoolism.com and when I need to be critiqued on my work I feel like I can get a lot of good feedback. Feedback is so important for me in order to learn and grow, especially since I am so new to this whole art thing still [at least that is how I feel]! Some of my friends are wonderful artists as well, and I cherish the time I can spend talking about art in person with them.
The idea of “self care” has really gained traction in the past couple of years. How would you define self care and would you consider your art practice as part of self care or separate?
Self care to me is eating bread, taking a bath, coffee, novels, spending time with my loved ones, going to church, and yes, art practice definitely falls under that category. I think it has to? I think some people define self care as pampering oneself, or escaping the world, but I think I define it quite literally, and in that way, it is subjective. For me it is a bit of self improvement, a bit of social need, a bit of loving others and having them love me, a bit of pampering, a bit of spirituality, a bit of escape and a bit of carbohydrate indulgent. Ok maybe a lot of that….
And lastly what inspires and motivates you to push forward in your pursuit of art?
Well it changes often. Some days I am inspired by others, some days I am inspired by wanting more for myself, to improve and learn and achieve my goals. Sometimes I am inspired by the fact that I suck! Sometimes I am inspired by an idea that I just can’t get out of my head. Sometimes I am inspired to make people laugh or feel something. Some days i’m not inspired at all and I want to curl up on the couch and watch Netflix and eat, and that’s when the big choices have to be made. Sometimes I give in and flop around on my bed like a lethargic walrus, especially after a hard day of mommying. Other days I drag myself out and go through the motions because I know what it is like to go down that road of giving up, and I don’t want to go back there! When I think of living my life not pursuing my goals and not letting my passions erupt out of me it makes me angry, and sometimes that anger fuels me. Mostly right now it’s love that keeps me going. I love to practice. I love the way it makes me feel to self improve and learn. I love sharing my improvement with others. I love to dream of being better and reaching certain goals. I love having this outlet to be creative and passionate and weird and funny and myself. I love the idea of 5 years from now, where I will be. I love to think about how far I’ve come in a year and how much more I can learn and expand as an artist in years to come.
You can find more of Janie’s art work on Instagram: @mommydraws