The Fathering Artist

For the second Father’s Day in a row, I’m leaving the three darlings with their father to work on my craft. I had read somewhere how when a very prolific artist and mother was asked how she was able to accomplish all these great things, she answered that she had married a feminist man.

So in thinking about how I’m able to go away for a week and only have Joseph to fully take on the load of caring for an 8, 6, and 4 year-old—school drop-offs and pickup, bathing and dressing, packing lunches, making dinner, laundry, homework help, etc.—I married a feminist man as well. I asked Joseph if he was indeed a feminist man and he merely referred me to his paintings that lined our walls.

I’m writing this post while at the VONA Summer Writing Workshop on the campus of UC Berkeley on Father’s Day. Joseph doesn’t know I’m doing this. I merely asked if I can share some of his artwork on my blog. He agreed, of course. At the risk of sounding biased, I will unabashedly proclaim that I love his artwork. I met Joseph’s paintings before I actually met him. He’d been working on a piece he called, “As Above, So Below” that featured a woman in outer space somewhere with a galaxy in the shape of an ankh at the center of her womb. And right above her head is the same ankh galaxy. I knew instantly that we were definitely on the same page.

As he drove me to the airport this morning, and I was thinking about this post, I asked him if he considered himself a fathering artist. I like the term “mothering artist” and I write about it here and here. There are specific things I struggle with as a mother and artist. So I wondered what were the challenges of an artist father. Joseph has been an artist for as long as he could remember, he went to Pratt and is doing graduate work in art, he works as an art teacher, and he seems to always be working on something, but he has limited access to creative space (his older paintings are huge) where he can spend hours creating. Yet, he is fully present and attentive to our children.

While I’ve learned to weave writing around everything else I need to do, I don’t wait for quiet time or a clean space. And being in a Master’s level art program, Joseph has had to do the same. In one corner of our family room, there’s a desk covered with loose pages of a manuscript, sticky notes, highlighters, and school letters. At the other end is a large table with a small canvas, oil and acrylic paint, brushes, art instruments that I can’t name, a jar of powdered charcoal (don’t know what this is for), pencils, a drawing pad, and expensive hard-covered art books. In the middle of all this, our children play. Their toys, poems, and drawings line the floor. There is no removing one’s self from the chaos of home to go and make art.

When asked about the term “fathering artist”, Joseph only asked, “What if my children are my art work?” I know what he means. We’ve had enough long-winded philosophical debates on these kinds of things. The children are part of our creative space. They are not a separate entity where we must remove ourselves from the mothering and fathering roles in order to fully become artists.

I’m here on the other side of the country for a week to focus on my writing and be amongst other writers. But this is not where I will get most of the my writing done. I’m here more for the social aspect, but the real creative work happens at home, in the presence of our children, and more often than not, while Joseph is creating something himself.

So, to honor Joseph Zoboi on Father’s Day, the most excellent fathering artist, I’m sharing some of my favorite pieces from his collection. All of which were painted not in some isolated studio somewhere, but at home while the children played or slept. Joseph paints fantasy art and he’s working on a graphic novel now (while taking on a heavy graduate course load in Art Education and washing dishes ‘cause I hate doing them, combing hair when needed, making dinner when I don’t want to, and sitting down to watch one his favorite moves, Spirited Away, with the children). Yes, we are of like minds, of course.

And I’ll shout out some other amazing fathering artists we know: Photographer Tyrone Zire-McCants, founder of Proud Poppas United and artist Dirk Joseph.

“High Matriach” from a graphic novel in progress.

“Metavision” series.

“Metavision” series.



“Untitled” from graphic novel in progress.

art, Joseph Zoboi, Writing

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