This article is part of a series called “Artist Interview” telling the story of other creative mothers from all over the world.
Raquel Martin lives on a small Spanish island with her partner and their three children.
They moved out from Barcelona almost ten years ago, when their first son was 18 months old, and she was pregnant with her second son. Not that they had any family in Menorca, but they fell in love with the place on their holidays and decided to move there. They now live a life they love, sharing their time between their artistic work, time at the beach and a satisfying social life.
When I met Raquel in Barcelona- circa 2009-2010- in a creative drawing class, Raquel was working as a GP, but she was planning her transition to the art world.
Medicine had taught her that life is too short to be wasted not to pursue your dreams and she was attracted by illustration as a way of democratising her art. She liked the idea of applying her artwork to a product and therefore making it available to everyone.
I vividly remember the day she told me “I am ready for everything (talking about motherhood and making the leap to the illustration world)” because at that moment I admired her self-confidence and her faith in the future- two qualities I was completely lacking by then.
Three children later and several beautiful books published in a span of ten years, all we can say is that Raquel really made it happen!
If there is one thing to remember that contributed to Raquel reaching her goal is this one:
“Start before you’re ready”
Freshly arrived in their new home and for a year, Raquel would work as a GP a few days or nights a week and practice her skills as an illustrator the rest of the time (when not attending their small children). She fondly remembers this time as year of experimenting, discovering her love for gouache and naturally nailing her style- that she qualifies as naïve- while practicing.
She would publish some of her work on Instagram- at a time it was still easy to get some visibility- which rapidly attracted interest from both the public and professionals.
She then had an Etsy shop with some prints and cards for a while but from the moment she got discovered by the French editor Minus in 2014 to work on a book, she did not stop getting work.
She felt like she was an impostor, but it did not stop her from accepting the projects even when some of them felt very daunting. She did not always know how to proceed but she figured it out and learnt a great deal during the process.
Practice, pragmatism and a bit of luck have been the main components of Raquel’s fast progress in the illustration world.
She is still learning. The learning is never ending, but she is wise enough to recognise that perfectionism will not help her. She has learnt to take risks and solve problems when they arise, letting go of her fears.
Illustration is a passion and a job. You need to remain cold-headed and not drown yourself under unnecessary pressure. When working on a project, you have to learn when to stop and call it done, and be mindful of your time.
Raquel does not always work on dream projects. She takes on smaller projects that could seem boring or uninteresting but are still a welcomed source of income. Her playful spirit make them enjoyable after all because she tries her best to infuse her style wherever possible and have fun in the process.
Another valuable lesson here: no job is ever perfect, but our mindset determines whether we feel miserable or grateful in any given situation. We choose.
So how did Raquel manage to publish several books while being a mother of three small children?
No, she is not a super-woman. Nobody is.
For one, her partner Sam works from home as well and shares 50% of the parenting responsibilities (he is also a professional illustrator). This makes a massive difference in the time she has available to work on her projects.
For two, their home is a mess (sorry Rachel, I hope this was not a secret). It can be stressful at times, but no one can do it all. You have to prioritize.
And for three, motherhood has taught Raquel to optimise her time.
Any tiny bit of free time she has- kids at school or playing nicely together after school- she sneaks into her studio to work. She also likes working at night, when all the little ones are in bed.
There is no magic formula, and everybody has to find their own way. Like every mother on Earth, she also feels guilty and call herself “a potato of a mum” (litt. Una patata de madre, meaning not a very good mum) because like every creative in the world her work is also an obsession.
So yes, if you browse Raquel’s Instagram or website, it looks like she has figured it all out. But never forget that what you see of other’s creative life and work on social media is a curated selection of a professional image they choose to project. Just a tiny bit of their busy, and at times complicated and stressful, life.
This conversation with Raquel reminded me that I have the life I have chosen after all.
I can be frustrated at times, or even feel hopeless, but home-educating our two children while having my husband working a full-time job means I don’t have the same amount of time available to work as if they were going to school. The only thing I can do now is use Raquel’s tip on time optimisation (and be gentle with myself).
And today it worked! I completed writing this article while my children were in the bath. Now, putting the mom’s hat again and I am off baking a pumpkin cake with them.