We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Heyse and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Before I had my two girls, I used to have longer stretches of time to paint. When my season of life changed, I found myself struggling to find time to create and needed to reevaluate my expectations and adjust to what was actually feasible as mom of little kids. At first, it was only 15 minutes a day and as the seasons of my life slowly adjusted again, I was able to increase the amount of time I was able to sit down and be creative.
It’s kind of funny because the less time I had to work, the more productive I became. As I would be playing on the floor with my daughters during the day, I would be imagining how I would tackle the painting that was sitting on my desk upstairs. When I finally would have the time to work, I would already have a game plan in my mind, so I would know exactly what needed to be accomplished in the limited time I had to work.
Having a seasonal mindset helps me remember things like “this feels hard now, but it will get better.” I used to do a lot of commission painting work, but when the pandemic lockdowns started, I had to make changes so that I could help do virtual schooling with my daughters and maintain my personal sanity. Making the decision to cut out commissions (which at the time were a significant part of my income) felt like a big and hard “No” at first, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. Saying “no” to commissions helped me be able to say, “Yes” to my personal projects and an illustration opportunity.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a Catholic artist and mother who creates watercolor paintings and drawings one nap at a time. I’m currently working on a dream project: illustrating a children’s book! The book will be coming out in 2022 from Our Sunday Visitor and is written by Colleen Pressprich. It’s about the tradition of the Jesse Tree and will feature illustrations of many figures from the Bible.
Though I grew up a cradle Catholic, I would never have guessed that I would be creating religious artwork. I double majored in Art Education and Fine Art Drawing and thought I would be an art teacher. I loved my student teaching experience, but really struggled when I actually became a teacher. I taught middle school art in Greeley. Long story short, it was awful. I joke that I had post-traumatic teaching disorder, but I truly did have to see a therapist. I ended up getting a part-time teaching job at a local paint and sip studio in Fort Collins, CO called Pinot’s Palette and I’ve been there for almost 9 years as the lead painting instructor. When I’m not doing the stay-at-home mom thing or teaching at Pinot’s, I do my own personal art on the side.
It started with an Etsy shop. I took a class on Skillshare to learn how to set it up. I sold greeting cards and trading cards with my artwork on it. Most of my work was of fashionable fairytale-like women and cute animals. I would paint watercolor portraits of couples for wedding gifts and received lots of portrait commission requests over the years.
After the birth of my first daughter, I got really into my faith and was trying to process my prayer life in a visual way. I used watercolors because the set-up and clean-up was easy and I could paint right away with the limited time that I had as a new mom. I started posting pictures based on Bible passages or homilies on Instagram and someone reached out to me and invited me to join a Catholic women’s creatives group on Facebook. I was able to connect with so many different kinds of Catholic creatives and the group inspired me to change the type of artwork in my Etsy shop. I primarily sell prints and stickers of my artwork. Some of it is obviously Catholic, but other pieces are more subtle but are still inspired by my faith and prayer life.
About a year ago, a Catholic kid’s magazine reached out to me for a couple of illustrations and this led to being asked to illustrate a children’s book which had always been a life-long dream of mine. I am beyond honored and humbled. Being able to say “yes” to the book meant having to say “no” to other things along the way. It’s good to develop healthy boundaries so that you have room in your life to give a full and free “yes” to the things that really matter. Sometimes you’re saying “no” to things that are good things and that’s so hard. It’s a lesson that I’m still learning and working on, but it’s an important one.
My journey as an artist looks very different than the one that I had envisioned as a college graduate, but it’s more beautiful and fulfilling. Every year, it’s like I get a puzzle piece and I’m not quite sure how it fits, but when more pieces accumulate and I step back, I can start to see the full picture little by little.
If you want to spend time doing creative things, but you’re not sure how to find that balance (whether it’s because of a growing family, a busy work schedule, etc), I highly recommend setting aside 15 minutes a day just to create/explore. You don’t have to finish a project in 15 minutes, you just have to show up. Think of it like going to the gym and building a muscle. Your endurance grows and your creative muscles strengthen the more you show up. You might not see the progress immediately, but little by little you will start to notice a change within yourself. You’re worth the time and investment.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I always love it when I can have a friend attend one of my painting classes at Pinot’s Palette. My paint and sip job at Pinot’s is a short walk from lots of great restaurants, bars, and shops in Old Town Fort Collins, CO. Just a few doors down from Pinot’s it would be easy to grab frozen manberry (mango/strawberry) margaritas at the Rio, local ice cream at Walrus Ice Cream, lavender sours at Social, or dark chocolate taster flights at Nuance Chocolate.
I love the buildings in Old Town (did you know some of them provided inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street USA?) and the pianos painted by local artists in the square (you might see one of mine). Other favorite spots of ours in Old Town are Pinball Jones, Silver Grill Cafe, and Big Al’s. I also enjoy trying out the different escape rooms around town.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to give a shoutout to my family:
It’s not common to have parents who are supportive of their children going to college to get an art degree, but my parents are those parents. I’m the daughter of two engineers, but they were able to see the artistic desires I had and helped foster that love of art from the moment I announced as a young child, “I’m going to be an artist when I grow up.” They signed me up for art classes with an art teacher in our neighborhood, took me to countless rec center art classes, animation classes, helped me get my first portrait commissions, always filled my Christmas stockings with art supplies, and more.
And now I have my own family as well. My husband and my daughters are my biggest cheerleaders. My husband and I met in drawing class in college and he is my biggest cheerleader. He always encourages me to take time to create and pursue my dreams. I constantly doubt that my dreams are attainable, but he always tells me that they can actually come true. My girls tell me they want to be artists when they grow up, so my hope is that I can return the favor (like my parents did for me) to them if that’s something they still want to pursue.