And now for something a little different…….

acrylic and mixed media
36×48 inches

I’ve been meaning to post this all week, but my son who just turned 3 this past Monday had decided to boycott his naps, which has been my blogging time. This is a painting that is very different from the usual that I post here. For one, its size is much larger than my usual, and hey, where’s the tree or the bird or a plant?!?

I like to try new things and I have been itching to explore painting abstractly for a long time. And with the birth of my second one coming up, I pretty much have cleared myself of all painting obligations and deadlines, so my studio time is pretty free right now. My husband’s birthday was last week and he asked me several years ago for a large abstract painting for his office. Since it’s not something I normally do, I put it off. I’ve been working on this painting for the past few months, really enjoying working differently and learning a lot. For one thing, painting abstractly is hard. Part of it is really about letting go and trusting my gut and the other part is about making a lot of conscious decisions. Maybe that is not so different from when I create my other work, but this time it was in unchartered territory, so it was a little daunting.

I’ve been reading Joe Fig’s book Inside the Painter’s Studio (which I highly, highly recommend) and when he asks one the artists he interviews about what advice she would give to a young artist starting out, she replies:

“I try to tell students to do the things that come the most naturally, but at the same time do the very thing that you don’t know how to do and that you’re afraid to do. You should do two things at once: what you do and what you don’t do. I think what you do instinctually proceeds from your heart. And what you don’t do is what you need to learn with your head. So you need to do both.” ~ Amy Sullivan

I read those words earlier this evening, and I could definitely relate with this recent experience. Anyway, I finally delivered on the promise I made my husband, but with a little help this time.

noah, 2 years, 11 months
mother + son collaboration

me, pregnant here, and noah

Noah and I do a lot of art time together and I have become increasingly inspired by his scribbles and mark making. I often put a huge piece of paper on the ground and we both will draw together with markers or paint with watercolors. It’s actually a very freeing exercise for me as it’s very free form, meandering with color on paper. I’m not sure which one of us enjoys it more!

A friend of mine, who is a painter and teaches at Lill Street, has had her son in her studio since he was a baby. She often has him add his own marks to a painting that she’s working on now that he is a little bit older. Inspired by this and since this painting was going to be for my husband, I thought it would be special to have Noah work on it as well.

I would work on the painting on my own time, and then when I would get it to a certain point, I’d give him graphite and sometimes a brush with paint and let him do whatever he wanted. Later when I would be working by myself, I would rework the painting, building upon his marks, incorporating them into the painting. This painting went through many stages!

Just so no one thinks to themself, well, why can’t my 2 year old paint with me like that?! My son is very high energy, and has never been a kid who just sits there docilely. Ever!! Even as a baby. His painting/drawing time on the canvas were literally 5-10 minutes. Closer to 5 minutes.

And while we spend a lot of time together in my studio, I hardly ever paint while he is in there with me. 1) I would never turn on my encaustics with him in the room and 2) when I paint I am totally focused on painting, the world usually ceases to exist- not conducive to having a toddler around. But we do a lot of creating together, which is a lot of fun. I love that I can share this with him. And since I’ve had scheduled time to paint since he was born, he always knows when “mama is working” versus our art/play time together. And he is so supportive too- he often comes and points to something new I’ve been working on and says, “Cool painting!”

I know I have to enjoy it while I can as there will come a time when mom is so totally not cool and the object of lots of eye rolling. Hopefully that comes much much later than sooner!


  1. I just love this post!!! Seeing the pics with your son working on the painting is the best memory you could record, what a keeper.
    I understand what you mean about abstract painting be hard. I was trained in illustration as an undergrad. When I started my MFA it was to learn how to work abstractly. I remember crying that I didn’t know where to begin. My husband couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His response, Just thrown paint on that canvas, it will start telling you what it needs just listen to your inter voice… Best advice I ever got.
    Keep enjoying this time with your son it always comes full circle.
    ps I listen everyday

  2. Can I just say that I consider all of your work to be abstract. I’ve followed your blog for some time and love your work. They’re not literal translations of images, so can’t be considered realism. Perhaps they’re different from what you normally do, but I would definitely term them abstract nonetheless! Keep up the great work, and grab those moments when you can. You’re going to have your hands full very soon!

  3. How inspirational; for your son, Bridgette, to know that his mama values his marks and believes they are precious enough to put in a painting for his daddy. Love the painting. Abstract art is difficult to paint as there are no parameters of understanding – painting a tree, you know what a tree looks like.

  4. Such a beautiful post and beautiful painting! I love to see how children approach art so fearlessly and confidently-when do we lose that?And you are so right to enjoy him while you can-it goes by way too fast!

  5. A delightful post, Bridgette. I enjoyed reading how you have work time and play time with Noah in the studio. The painting is outstanding. It’s obvious that you enjoyed doing it. It’s got that spark!

  6. That was a lot of fun to read Bridgette 🙂 I love your new painting, and even more knowing of the collaborative layering process – so great. I’m sure your husband is thrilled! Also like the challenge set forth in the quote you shared – a challenge I will think about in my next project.

  7. I love this painting, and even more knowing about your son’s contribution! Watching my sons make art was what inspired me to get back to making it myself, and I still like their art better than anything!

    When our local gallery put on a children’s art exhibition, it was amazing to walk from the sedate regular gallery into this explosion of life and colour and spontaneity that was the kids’ art (my own sons included, proud mama!). It was truly breathtaking!

  8. I love the quote by A. Sullivan. It helps me understand what the devil I’m doing when I sit down to draw a post.

    I really appreciate the mama and son photos. What a gift for both of you.

  9. Can I borrow your mark maker?
    I need him to come by and make a few marks for me on my paintings– great collaboration you have there and I bet your hubby is happy too.

  10. I agree with all the comments! It’s so nice for two of you, I bet when he’ll be older that would be one of his best memories – making art with mommy!

  11. when I look at the photograph of you and your son and his working on the painting it makes me imagine what a treasure this time with you will always be and for his dad to have a painting that the two of you ‘worked on together’ hanging in his office is simply magical…what wonderful roots he is receiving from his mom.
    The painting is bold and the the book quote is a keeper.
    Picasso said that all art is abstraction.
    thanks for the great post!

  12. I love this. I used to watch my grandson one day a week while his mom worked, and often we would make art. Of course, he’s not even two yet, but I was amazed at how much he enjoyed it! I’m going to be borrowing him for more art days soon. And his little sister — as soon as she can hold a brush!

    Nice post.

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