At this early stage in my artistic career, I'm often inspired by other artists and creatives who are doing their thing, especially while balancing the challenges of parenthood. I want to highlight some of them here and learn more about what inspires them and how they make it all work.
Today, I'm featuring Sharon McKeeman from Sharon McKeeman Photography. Sharon and I met as neighbors in California. I quickly noticed her camera in hand and began pestering her, digging for conversation about photography and her photographic knowledge. She’s truly an artist and I was blessed to get to know her and have some opportunities to make pictures with her in the beautiful California sunshine. She was so kind and patient with me in my very interested but uneducated stages of my photographic career. Along with that, she made some beautiful images of my family on the beach (in quite challenging conditions). We’ve moved away from California, but Sharon continues to share her knowledge and inspiration with me as an owner and teacher at The Define School. In fact, I owe this very website to her class Un-Branding. I’ve always viewed Sharon as a true artist. Even in her home, the frames were hung on the wall in a way that was just pleasing to the eye, something I would have a hard time replicating. She did remind me one day, though, that even true artists like her become that way from practice and learning. We were looking at a photo in Lightroom and she mentioned that it had a green cast. I remember saying to her, “I don’t see that….how do you just see these things!?” And she reminded me that she studied art in college for four years (in addition to many more years of practice!). That helped. It reminded me to be patient with my own learning.
I’m very thankful for Sharon’s continued influence. I think you will enjoy what she had to share!
You can find Sharon’s website here (along with being an amazing photographer she’s an amazing writer!)
Tell us first a bit about you and what you do.
I’m a mom to three crazy boys, an artist, photographer, writer, and teacher. I have always created art ever since I can remember, drawing pictures as a young girl of the stories I imagined, and now documenting my own and others’ stories with my camera. I would also play school as a little girl and now I homeschool my boys and teach photographers how to create meaningful images, empowering them to share what they have to offer with the world.
When and how did you discover this outlet? Tell us about the shift from idea to action.
In art school I focused mainly on drawing and painting. Then I graduated and got a job teaching art, but as we moved frequently with my husband’s military career I stopped teaching full time. After having my first and then my second child, I had less time in front of my easel, but I picked up a DSLR to capture the fleeting, treasured moments that unfolded each day as my children grew. I learned photography as one more artistic medium, picking up a camera just like I would a paintbrush or lump of clay. Digital naturally transitioned into film for me, and now I shoot both formats, appreciating them for their unique qualities. I’m always exploring, excited about each new step in my artistic journey.
How do you manage your time and energy? How do you make your art a priority?
I don’t manage my time and energy. Like every other mother on the planet I often feel stretched thin, never able to ‘do it all.’ I seek balance, but I think the most important realization for me has just been to understand that we all feel like that and it's ok. If I felt like I had everything under control and was accomplishing everything I would either be out of touch with reality or my goals and dreams would be far too small. And as far as making my art a priority, that is just a fact of life. I am not me unless I am creating, so if I stifle that, then I am not the mother, wife, friend or human I am meant to be. Writing and image making is a constant in my life, an obsession even. The key is giving myself permission to release myself from guilt about creating when I could be doing something viewed as more ‘productive’ with my time. Freedom lies in knowing that we are fueled by art making and that it is one of the most productive things we can spend time doing, allowing us to be full and able to give to others.
What struggles have you faced and how have you overcome those struggles?
Besides the day to day struggle of balancing life as a mom and artist, I have experienced losing two children. One was an early pregnancy and one was a full term pregnancy. Those losses have pressed me even further into creative outlets. I have always written, but never felt I was a writer, however while grieving I found that one of the most healing things I could do was write honestly about my loss and grief. As I shared raw and honest words on my blog others connected with me and let me know that my words had helped them through their journey of loss and healing and that gave some meaning to what I was going through. Also I picked up my camera with even more determination, using it to seek out and capture the beauty in my life, a testament to life in the midst of a time that felt so dark.
Who or what inspires you?
My children. Glimpses of light. The eternal at work in our everyday. Also those who have gone before us, the great artists, photographers and writers. They didn’t have it all figured out, they struggled to find their way artistically and walked through the difficulties we all face in life, careers and personal relationships, but they made something amazing that helps us on our journey. I have created a class that delves into the masters of photography, sharing inspiration I have gained from them and helping others apply those lessons to their own work.
What impact does your work have on your children?
They are my most frequent subjects, and my muses. I hope that one day they will look back on the memories and bits of their lives that I captured and it will give them strength and comfort for the days ahead.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’m just so proud of you and your growth as a photographer since we both met as friends and neighbors. The website you created during my Un-branding class has given you the space to share your work with the world and has really taken you to a whole new level as an artist. I’m so excited for you to share with other moms what you have learned about documenting your kids lives and I just could not be more proud of you.
Thank you Sharon for sharing your words and knowledge!