Spring Time Maternity. Ashton Mullins, Belgrade, Unites States, 2018
Much like the process of birth and rebirth in nature, a mother’s journey is the selfless force that sustains life in this world. From the moment she conceives a human being inside her womb – everything in her becomes dedicated to sustaining life. She feeds us, nourishes us, and propels us to face the world. Without our mothers, we would not know life as it is.
Today, we celebrate modern motherhood that includes a much larger scope. We acknowledge that mothers are a symbol of life, and they come in the form of those who have gone out of their way to help us live out our fullest potential. They are our birth mothers, adoptive mothers, single dads, grandmothers, aunts, siblings, best friends, teachers, and all those who have helped raise and mould us into the people we are today. We commemorate their great strength, fortitude, and unconditional love.
In this article, we give honour to the great mothers in art and society and we discuss various ways on how art can certainly help mothers become more mindful in their daily lives, and achieve fulfilment and happiness together with their children.
Motherhood in Art
A mother’s journey is something universal. It is a truth that applies to everyone and transcends all ages and generations. The history of art has shown us a lot of works that were themed around stories of motherhood, and the multifaceted lives that they live/d.
Going back to prehistory, the Venus of Willendorf is an icon of motherhood that plays a central role in defining how fertility was perceived by our ancestors.
Venus of Willendorf. Oolitic limestone, 24,000 and 22,000 BCE
The sculpture is an 11.1 cm tall figurine, estimated to have been carved between 24,000 and 22,000 BCE, and found in 1908 by a workman named Johann Veran at a palaeolithic site near Willendorf, Austria. It was carved from oolitic limestone, and tinted with red ochre – one of the first pigments known to mankind!
Madonna Litta, Leonardo da Vinci. Oil on canvas, 1490
In 1490, Leonardo da Vinci painted the Madonna Litta which depicts the iconic image of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding baby Jesus. Regarded as one of the most famous motherhood paintings in history, the Madonna Litta humanised the mother-son relationship of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. It allowed people to see Him in a more approachable light, as it was a human mother who gave birth to Him, fed, bathed, and clothed Him the same way we all experienced.
This has marked the beginning of the High Renaissance era in painting, and has inspired a lot of renditions of Madonna and Child throughout history.
Mary Cassatt, the first woman impressionist in America, widely explored the theme of modern motherhood in her paintings. Although she was not a mother herself, her compositions are often reminiscent of Italian Renaissance depictions of the Madonna and Child. After 1900, she concentrated almost exclusively on mother and child subjects, where she depicted her own relatives – her sister and her children, her mother, friends, and clients who asked for commission works. It has been stated that her creativity endeavours were highly influenced by her mother, and she is also credited with influencing the careers of many female artists in America. We talked about Mary Cassatt’s role in women’s empowerment through art further in this article.
Children Playing with a Cat, Mary Cassatt. Oil on canvas, 1908
Modern Motherhood in Society
Maria Montessori bears a name recall due to her biggest legacy: the educational method that she pioneered. She is the most profound influence on today’s early development methods for children – used in nurseries, basic education schools, and even by mothers who are home-schooling their children.
In the Montessori way, she stressed the importance of art and culture in the development of children. Art, like language or music, is a means of expression. Opportunities for art should always be a part of the classroom environment and not a special event. When children are able to create freely, they feel respected and satisfied with their abilities.
Maria Montessori engaging with children with her revolutionary nomenclature cards
In 1948, Sister Teresa of Calcutta left the convent because of a “call within a call”, sent on a mission to help the poor and live amongst them. She was to turn her back on everything and live a life of humility and love.
Teresa lived in India and received medical training in Patna before venturing out. In her diary, she wrote that her first year was fraught with difficulty. With no income, she begged for food and supplies and experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comforts of her previous life. But in no time, she was joined by a group of young women in her mission, and Teresa became a living example of a mother’s unconditional love.
Mother Teresa stands with children at her Calcutta mission. Tim Graham/Corbis, 1979, Calcutta, India
Throughout her mission and life, Mother Teresa received numerous awards like the Nobel Peace Prize and Order of the Smile, but her beatification and canonisation as a defined just how much her motherhood influenced the world. On 4 September 2016, she was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, Rome.
Audrey Hepburn walking with children in Hoang Lien Son. Peter Charlesworth, Vietnam, 1990
The world knows Audrey Hepburn as a face of beauty and a fashion icon, but not many people are aware of the life of modern motherhood she dedicated to helping children. She kept quiet about her mission of helping out children in Africa through her involvement with UNICEF. She was one of the first Hollywood actresses who became involved with social causes, and not for fame – but because she had the heart to do so.
“I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II” – Audrey Hepburn
Motherhood has faced substantial change in overtime. Traditionally, a mother’s role was limited to staying at home, attending to the household, and taking care of the family. It was the age of great divide between men and women, but all this changed after the age of industrialisation came. Women got more roles in society, they were fighting for equality, rights to vote, get jobs the same way men did, and earn a decent living for themselves. This revolutionised women’s way of life, but it also came with an insuperable amount of modern motherhood expectations from society.
Detail from the cover of the book Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (by Diane Atkinson)
“Women expect that we can do it all — be the mom, the wife, the star employee. But in our quest to be perfect, we end up forfeiting our own sanity.” – Sanity Savers: Tips for Women to Live a Balanced Life (by Dale V. Atkins, Avon Books, 2007)
The society we live in has conditioned women to feel guilty about prioritizing either of these two things. Working mothers are expected to work over and beyond their physical capacity, and stay-at-home moms are pressured into finding jobs and making “something” out of themselves – as if being a full-time mom is not work in itself. The truth is: we can’t do it all. And what modern motherhood ultimately need is the freedom of choice and support, without any string of shame or self-condemnation attached to it. We need to overcome this poor perception about mothers and bring them empowerment through art.
The relationship between motherhood and art
Mothers are the heart and light of the household. They are driven to fulfil this role with all that they have, and with the amount of expectation everyone asks of them – taking time for themselves can be the last thing on their minds. Mothers live their lives dedicated to their families and children, and when they go off to discover new lives on their own, it’s no surprise that they may feel lost or off-tracked.
Reclaim your identity by taking the necessary breaks and doing something that sparks your passion – independent of anyone. Once in a while, you need to prioritize yourself so you can provide a better home for your family. When you are relaxed, so is the rest of them. When you are happy, it flows through. Art comes as a form of self-help, therapy, and like the process of modern motherhood – when you create something from inside you, you give birth to your own child.
ZenART’s co-founder @ardak_zenart with her fresh-made hot batik. Bali, 2018
Remember: art-making is not just limited to painting! It is any form of creative self-expression that you feel comfortable with. It can be crafts, origami, music, cooking, gardening, or what have you. The end goal is to create and accomplish something with only yourself as a tool: your mind, your hands, your imagination. By simply starting with art as a hobby, you have opened the doors to your creative journey. Not only will it give you mindfulness and happiness, but art-making can also be a proper profession for you while you take care of your family.
Create during your “me” time
Dedicating a personal time to enrich yourself is extremely essential for your self-development as a mother. It gives you room to explore and know yourself better. If you want to try out painting, do it. If you want to cook good food for yourself, you are free to do so. During this time, prioritize yourself and listen closely to what your heart tells you to do.
Discover art you love within groups
Join different groups and communities where you can focus on creativity. By doing so, you are able to socialize and learn from other people. Discover new ways on how to do the things you are interested in doing, and share your insights with them as well. It is very important that you have a support system in this journey. You can begin by joining online communities and groups that talk about your art and inspiration!
Get creative with your children
Having art-related activities to do with your children can definitely create a stronger bond in your relationship. Moreover, you will introduce them to a world of creative imagination that will be embedded in them all their life.
ZenART’s co-founder @ardak_zenart spending some quality time with her daughters at the park. London, 2017
Maria Montessori, one of the notable “mothers” we discussed above, really revolutionized the educational system. Through her, art was given extreme importance in the classroom setting. Children were encouraged to explore, create, and develop themselves by acting more freely in their environment. She discovered that when you expose children to art and culture, that’s what they will develop within. Exposing them to an environment of open minds. Maria Montessori concluded that children had a natural curiosity to learn, and the real role of the educator was to remove obstacles to the development of this learning.
Enriching parent-child relationship through art
Modern motherhood is the most important role you will fulfil in your life. While taking care of yourself, it is also up to you to decide how you want your children to grow up. Introducing them to art is one of the most helpful ways they can become well-rounded and acculturate people.
“I love you, mom!”, Jeremy McKnight, Graham, United States, 2018
Art teaches us that there can be more than one solution to a problem. As Maria Montessori said, art teaches children to be more imaginative – AKA think outside the box! It develops in them a natural curiosity, problem-solving skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, people relations, and almost all the essential life skills they will need. Just think about Leonardo Da Vinci: he took inspiration from art but he was the Renaissance polymath!
In this part, we will discuss practical suggestions for activities to do with your children and how to go about them. We will also provide you with full reading lists where you can learn more about these topics!
1. WHAT: Learning and getting into the creative mindset
For this step, let’s follow the Montessori way of learning, which basically consists of two, interchangeable points:
- First: To read, study, and learn techniques. This applies especially to the arts, where you are encouraged to read related books at home. Read up about the different artists you admire, and study their creative thought process! Discuss your learnings with your children and ask them about their opinions on the subject. This will help them develop their analytical side.
Example: In this section, we will analyze one of Salvador Dalí’s most famous paintings – The Persistence of Memory! Set up a time with your child/ren and do this activity together, taken from the book Famous Paintings (by Courtauld, Sarah, Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2012). Ask your children: what do you see in this painting? How does it make you feel? Discuss the different points in the activity and encourage them to speak their minds freely.
- Second: Go out and see the real world! Try to apply what you learned in your personal studies to your environment. Visit museums, galleries, and participate in different art-related activities to do with your children. You can join parent-child art workshops, baking classes, yoga sessions, and whatever sparks a creative interest in you.
Example: Visit the nearest gallery or museum with your child/ren. Check out the paintings and ask them how they think these works were created. Observe, and let them know what you think while allowing them to make their own observations as well. After you’ve done this, sit down together and fill this activity book, taken from the Art Activity Book (by Baer, Sam, Hore, Rosie, Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2015, page 74). Fill in the frames and have fun drawing your own versions of portraiture!
2. HOW: Practicing what you’ve learned
In this step, you will translate what you’ve learned from the first step into actual work. Immersing yourselves in creative and mindful activities to do with your children such as painting and yoga will encourage the build-up of long-term, imaginative memories for them.
A few examples of fun and creative activities to do with your children at home are origami, paper collage, painting, and playing games. However, you are not limited to this! Show them the world and let their imaginations flow through by bringing them to parks, taking them to nature walks, and visiting art galleries. You can also take them camping and plein-air painting! The possibilities are limitless.
Mother carrying her child on a colour run, celebrating the Indian festival of Colors – Holi. Ketan Rajput, Milpitas, United States, 2016
Allow your children to play and get as messy as they need to be. Give them their own space, and encourage them to explore with their minds and physical bodies. With this process, they will understand how different things relate to each other, and experience the joy of creating and mindfulness in themselves. Emotional memory is also something that gets stored deep in the subconscious. When they feel good about the results of their work and activities, they will remember this throughout their lives.
Example: Do this crazy fun art activity together using only bright tissue paper! You are free to interchange this with whatever material – like Japanese paper, crepe paper, etc. After you’ve seen the finished product, proudly frame it and hang it on your wall. This will make your child/ren realize that they have created their own masterpiece. Taken from The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas (by Fiona Watt, Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2009, page 200).
3. Creating daily habits of creativity and mindfulness
After you’ve put your initial learnings into practice, the next challenge is to create habits! Having daily activities to do with your children centred around creativity and mindfulness will surely build a positive long-term impact on their overall development.
“Mindfulness teaches children about their inner and outer worlds, which makes them aware of their emotions. Mindfulness shows children how to overcome challenges through guided instruction in fun, sensory-based activities.” – Mindfulness For Children (by T.L. Daniel, editor, year, page)
In their developmental years, children are like sponges. They absorb everything and mirror their parents’ behaviour. When they see that their parents are calm, relaxed and positive even in the face of problems, they will adapt to the same system. As they learn how to practice mindfulness from you, you can also learn it from them.
Merging physical movement with art-making makes for the perfect combination of practising mindfulness and art in our daily lives. Begin doing this by creating a lifestyle routine with your children that they can look forward to doing each day.
A baby’s first steps. Priscilla Du Preez, 2016
A great example of this that we encourage is: waking up on time, walking in your neighbourhood for a few minutes to get your blood flowing, and having a good experience through mindful cooking and eating. What we put in our bodies greatly affect our mood and attitude, that’s why we encourage the practice of eating mindfully in modern motherhood. As Hippocrates famously said – “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Through this, you are actually creating a relationship between your body and soul.
Like art-making, yoga is a great experience where you can practice mindful movement with your children. Reminding them of things like straightening their backs and sitting upright can creative positive domino effects in their everyday lives. Mindful movement teaches children simple self-regulation strategies. Children begin to learn that they can control their breathing and heart rate, which leads to awareness of their brain-body relationship.” – Mindfulness For Children (by Daniel L. Tracy, Adams Media, 2018). In the long run, this will teach them that they have control over their thoughts and emotions, leading them to become more mindful of everything.
Example: You can do this community-based yoga activity with your family during weekends (as a start). You can also invite your close friends, siblings, nieces and nephews… Whoever you want to include! The more, the merrier! Just be sure to remain calm and mindful of your movements during this time. When you expose your children to this way of life, it will encourage the growth of a peaceful mindset within them.
Enjoy your time with your children
Children are growing all the time! Learn how to slow down, and take your precious time with them. This season of childhood will not last forever. You don’t need to engage in multiple creative activities to do with your children all-week long; but instead – focus on building a relationship grounded on common interests like art-making, crafting, baking, etc. Spending time with them and knowing who they are growing to be, are the most precious memories could leave them with. The gifts of art and mindfulness are the most essential non-material things you could give your children. Through this, they will grow to be the best people that they can be.
ZenART’s co-founder @ardak_zenart face painting with her elder daughter Tamara. On the right, cooking gnocchi with her little Laura. London, 2018
Happy Mother’s Day to all the precious mothers out there! This day is for you. Relax, spend time with your children, and create! Enjoy this process of modern motherhood – it only comes a few times in our lives.
ZenART’s co-founder, Ardak Kassenova, shares many of her favourite art and mindfulness books with us. All the referenced activities to do with your children and suggested readings in this article come from her shelves – which she reads and puts into practice with her daughters! We hope you find them useful in your creative modern motherhood journey, too!
Are you still wondering how to start? Begin a new creative adventure with ZenART Supplies this May: join the #zenartmamas challenge! It will help you to stay motivated, and you will learn directly from our co-founder @ardak_zenart’s best motherhood and mindfulness tips. Join the #zenartmamas challenge starting on Sunday, 12 May 2019!
This is not your ordinary painting challenge! In accordance with our philosophy, we want to run a motivational and meaningful art challenge in celebration of motherhood, and help all the creative mothers out there achieve fulfilment and happiness together with their children! This will allow you to work on your self-development and also give you the opportunity to socialise with other mother-artists. Moreover, you’ll get practical advice on how to spend valuable time with your children and strengthen your relationship even more. Join us now!
WHAT: Learning and getting into the creative mindset
- Baer, Sam, Hore, Rosie, Art Activity Book, Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2015
- Courtauld, Sarah, Famous Paintings, Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2012
- Flux, Paul, How Artists Use Perspective, Harcourt Education, 2007
- Wheatley, Abigail, The Story of Painting, Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2013
HOW: Practicing what you’ve learned
- Brooks, Susie, Get Into Art, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2013
- Dowsett, Elizabeth, Disney Ideas Book, Penguin Random House, 2018
- Watt, Fiona, The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas, Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2009
- Wenzel, Angela, 13 Art Techniques Children Should Know, Prestel Publishing Ltd., 2017
Creating daily habits of creativity and mindfulness
- Afzal, Uz, Mindfulness For Children, Kyle Books, 2018
- Daniel L., Tracy, Mindfulness For Children, Adams Media, 2018
- Guber, Tara, Kalish, Leah, Yoga Pretzels: 50 Fun Yoga Activities for Kids & Grownups, Tara Barefoot Books, 2005
- Justin R., Adams, The Mindful Life Journal, Better Life Journals LCC, 2017
- Kettmann, Susan, The 2,000 Best Games & Activities. Sourcebooks, Inc., 2005
- Mindfulness Colouring and Creativity Book for Children, The Future Teacher Foundation Publishing, 2015
MEET THE AUTHORS
Ardak Kassenova is mother, artist and ZenART Supplies co-founder. “My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I’ve been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums”.
After 20 years of a successful corporate career and with becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, she decided that it’s time to make drastic changes and link her life with Art. She started to paint again and decided to create her own art supplies brand that would help artists to fulfil their creative dreams and achieve their best results since the beginning using high-quality art materials without wasting their precious time and money. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!
Regina R. is the head content writer for ZenART Supplies. She is a full-time artist, art and literature advocate, and a mother of three cats. On her free days – she likes to cook, knit, and tinkle around with her typewriter while drinking a glass or two of good red wine. Oh, and she loves 60’s music too!