One of the artists exhibiting at the Society of Equestrian Artists' exhibition in Nottingham from 18th September is Hannah Merson. Hannah's my guest blogger today, talking about trying to doing something that is certainly less complicated to do when you don't have children.
I've never been particularly maternal. Even as a little girl I shunned dolls in favour of farms and all the exciting things that came with them like tractors, cows and horses. So, it was with some surprise in 2004 when I was working as a Senior Finance Manager for the Alliance & Leicester banking group that I fell pregnant with my son Thomas.
Now, much as I love my children, and would do anything for them, I was completely unprepared for motherhood: the lack of sleep, the crying, the dirty nappies, the vomiting, the tantrums. Life as I knew it was well and truly over. My daughter Gemma followed on 17 months after Thomas. I will never forget one particularly bad night. It was 3 am, and I'd been up for hours with Gemma as she'd been sick. I was exhausted, covered in sick, and still had to get up at 6 am to cope with a hyper toddler. I'm not really sure why, but the very next day, I dug out some pencils and started drawing. From then on, drawing and painting became my means of coping and preserving my sense of self worth.
People often ask me how I make time for painting when looking after two children. It's easy. I make time for it! There is always something that needs doing: cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, school runs. But chores really are only as important as you make them. I spend the day with the children and then every evening after I've put them to bed I paint. I can normally get two to three hours in a night. If I have a spare hour during the day when they're at school or pre-school I'll go to our local park and do a small 6 x 8 inch painting.
Thomas started school last year and this September Gemma will be off. Like most mums, it's not a day I'm looking forward to. Not because I'm sad to wave her off (we're both more than ready for that) but because it means I have to make a decision about my future - go back into finance, or consider trying to make a living from painting, if that's even possible? My heart says one thing, and my head another. So, this really does feel like a crunch year for me, and I know I need to focus everything I have on improving my painting if I'm to stand any chance at all. But unlike housework, painting is an absolute joy for me, not a chore, and whatever I decide to do, I'll never give it up. I'm not sure I could if I wanted to. I'm addicted.
Hannah won the prize for the best sporting painting at the recent Society of Equestrian Artists' annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London, with Huntsman & Hounds.
You can follow what Hannah is up to on her blog, and see more of her paintings on her website.