Maisonette Muse: Courtney Broadwater
Artist and mother, Courtney Broadwater is our latest Muse. This Brooklyn-based mama is known for her whimsical, kid-friendly artwork, which often features affable animals; an alligator driving a Land Rover, a bear playing dress-up. By mixing a bit of the fantastical into everyday life, Courtney inspires not just her creations, but her children’s imaginations.
When did you become a mother?
My son Douglas was born on lucky 12.12.12. We welcomed his sister Beryl sixteen months later.
Tell us about your children. Where do their names come from?
My children are very different, but they get along so well. Their 16-month age difference was a challenge when Beryl was first born, but it has been such a treat now that they can rely on each other as playmates. Douglas was named after my husband’s father and my uncle. He is, first and foremost, a builder. He’s always working on some project that takes up a large portion of our living room. He is also an incredibly sweet and gentle young man. People of all ages tend to fall in love with him. Beryl - we call her Berry because of her strawberry-colored hair - is our sparkplug. She’s an intrepid spirit who’s not afraid to get dirty or try something new that might terrify her parents. She very much takes after her namesake - the female aviator, horse trainer, adventurer and author Beryl Markham, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.
When did you become an artist? And who inspired you?
My Granny Sybil Goldsmith is the biggest reason I’ve become an artist. She started painting when my dad and his brother were tiny kids, using any gap in her schedule to paint portraits, landscapes and still lifes. She eventually became a well-known artist on Nantucket. My sister (Sage Goldsmith Tremaine) and I spent summers with her, and actually both became artists - Granny really showed us it was a career path we could follow. I began to take drawing and art more seriously after I went back to school at Parsons in my 20s. But I've always loved to make art for kids. I think lots of my subjects resonate with kids (and their parents) because a lot of what I make feels familiar to them. So much is inspired by my own childhood and the innocence of that time - our beloved maroon Volvo, or what my Mom would say when she tucked us into bed: “Sleep like a bear!”
What was your first medium? What is your preferred medium today?
My first medium was probably paints, but I’ve always preferred to draw. Really the best way to think about my process is to think about a coloring book artist who fills in her own drawings. I first draw with pen and ink and then I add the colors. While a lot of what I do has the look of a watercolor painting, I actually typically use architect markers. I first discovered them because my dad (who’s an architect) would always have them around the house, but I’ve learned that they blend and mix in really great ways with the right kind of paper. I also occasionally do portraits in pencil and I’ve had a bit of a side business in stationery and graphic design, which is a combination of illustration and work on the computer. I’d also love to learn how to animate my drawings, and I’ve always dreamed about making a children’s book.
What is the best and worst part about working from home?
Obviously the commute is nice! The worst and best part is probably that my kids know where to find me. As soon as they get home, they search for me, so if I’m operating with a deadline it can be tricky. But I love getting to play an active role in raising my kids while also pursuing a career that I love and get a lot out of. It really comes down to making sure that I use moments of peace to be productive because I know once I see them I want to be able to spend time with them!
Who are your favorite artists? Who are you inspired by?
My all-time favorite artist is Edward Gorey. I’ve been collecting his books my whole life. I love that he doesn’t quite fit into any genre. His pen and ink drawings are full of humor and emotion and there’s a playful darkness to some of his work. He’s completely original. Hugo Guinness is another of my favorite artists. His work is so smart and humorous. Happy Menocal is brilliant - her personality and point of view shine through in everything she does. Her choice of colors are perfection as well. Generally, the artists I admire the most and that inspire me are those that have an original point of view and embrace their own unique perspective.
How do you incorporate art into the everyday lives of your children?
It’s really not any more complicated than giving them access. Our kids know where the art supplies are and they’re usually the ones that reach for them without prompting. What I love most is the creativity and narrative that they show in their art projects at this age. And I’m really impressed with their color choices!
Any advice when it comes to arts and crafts at home?
Don’t be afraid to get messy. Our most successful projects are when we lay out a giant sheet of paper and bring out the markers, crayons, glue, sequins, puffy paint, pom poms, etc. It can be good to give them some general direction - I’ll draw a large boat scene or outline of person and then the kids will go to town.
How do you cultivate a love of art in your children?
I love that when they see my giant sketchbooks and markers they refer to it as “Mommy’s work”. They always want to join me. If I’m working on a project, I’ll roll out their paper and markers and make a giant and more simple version of what I’m working on for them to color in. It’s sometimes a challenge keeping my own markers and supplies safe though!
Best NYC activities for kids?
For us, there is no better spot than the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I’m a country girl at heart so nature is where I want to take them. Our favorite time of year there is spring. One week it’s the sugar blossoms and lilacs, the next the bluebell fields are magnificent, and then the roses. It’s fun and important to teach and remind them of nature in this city! They also offer some wonderful classes for kids in the Children’s Garden. We’ve also had some fun family trips to the new Whitney. They offer fun classes and projects for kids on the weekends.