We’re so excited for our latest installment of Meet the Artisan with the talented Aileen Fitzgerald! Aileen is a self-taught landscape painter who draws inspiration straight from her home in the Texas Hill Country. Using a dry brush technique that creates soft and soothing lines, her landscapes are grounded in nature, evoking a sense of calm, making them one of our favorite home additions. And trust us when we say she is as sweet as she is talented!
Today on the blog, Aileen shares more about her quarantine experience, like how she went from nurse to artist and how it’s been managing two jobs, self-care, and motherhood.
Without further ado, take a seat with the brilliant Aileen Fitzgerald!
Tell us about your journey. How did you arrive at becoming an artist, among other things?
I’ve been painting since I was a little girl! I spent many late nights and weekends painting away. I chose to pursue nursing in college and focused on being the best mom and nurse possible during the last several years. When the pandemic started and our social activities paused, I suddenly had many free nights and discovered my brushes again. I painted a landscape inspired by the drive between Austin and Houston, and at that moment, I felt my entire world shift. It was such a powerful feeling of coming home to myself, and I realized how long I’d suppressed the tug in my heart to create. I haven’t looked back since! My creative drive has busted the seams wide open.
What inspires your work and designs?
The surrounding Texas hill country is a constant and limitless inspiration. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find rolling hills studded with stout oak trees and wild grasses. For years I’ve taken drives out to the hills with my windows down, drinking in the air and clearing my head. There is a peaceful essence here that I haven’t quite found anywhere else, and I try to evoke this feeling in my paintings.
My love for antique sepia photographs has greatly influenced my current work. In particular, there is a late Belgian photographer named Léonard Misonne, who is known for his light-filled scenes. He was a master pictorialist photographer, and his ability to create luminous skies is an incredible inspiration for me. Since painting with only sepia-toned colors, my emphasis on light, contrast, and depth has increased tenfold.
You’re also a mama and a nurse! Do you have any advice on how to find a balance between work and family?
My advice is to give yourself grace – you’ll spend your entire life trying to achieve balance! If I focus too hard on having it all together, I’m spread too thin in every category. I’ve found that making the most of the time I have with my toddler and creating “adventure moments” work best for us. I’ll pick her up from school with a bag packed with dinner, and we’ll head to a different park each day to have a picnic. If the weather forces us to stay inside, we’ll do a picnic on the covered porch. Being outside keeps us both in good spirits, and we get the quality time to play together that we both want to end the day with, and it eliminates the time I spend cleaning (we all know toddlers are tornadoes when they eat)! Meals during the week are kept simple, healthy, and quick to make.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Most mornings, I try to wake up before my daughter to have a few minutes of quiet me-time (I am definitely a morning person!). I LOVE breakfast, so I cook us a hearty meal, and then we speedily get ready and out of the door to school. I come home and focus on doing the tasks I least want to do first (basically everything other than painting!). At a minimum, I try to spend a few hours each afternoon painting. On the days I have my nurse shifts, I’m out the door by 5 AM and no longer allow myself to paint after my shift – I’ve learned that resting is just as important as creating. You can’t pour from an empty cup! No matter if I worked as an artist or nurse that day, I pick my daughter up from school and go “adventure” outside! By the time the sun starts to set, I have a worn-out toddler who welcomes bathtime and laying in bed. I’ll end most days by working on my laptop in bed to create more time for painting the next day. I also reallllly try to squeeze in time to read a book before bed when I can.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
“The best gift I can give someone is the permission to feel safe, worthy, and loved as they are” by Dr. Lindley Dodson. May this uniquely wonderful human rest in peace. She was our beloved pediatrician, and she made adults and children alike feel loved beyond measure. She taught me that love and human connection are really all that matter.
What advice do you have for someone looking into starting a creative journey?
Just START! Do it with the sole intention that it makes your soul sing. If you’re not yet sure what makes your soul sing, assume that no one will see your work but you –– what would you create if you couldn’t show it to anyone? We create our best work when it is honest and true to ourselves. When you find that, you’ll naturally begin to make more of it and believe in your work. I firmly believe that the most successful creatives are not measured by how much money they make but by their ability to remain true to themselves and translate their inner workings into their craft.
What’s the most challenging thing about motherhood to you? How do you overcome it?
I really struggled at the beginning with learning the difference between motherhood enriching my life vs. motherhood replacing it. I now firmly believe that the best thing for my daughter to see while she’s growing up is a thriving mom. It’s incredibly challenging as a new mom to learn this! You’ve likely heard of “mom guilt,” “mom shaming,” or “mom martyrdom.” It’s a continuous process of unlearning old beliefs and learning how to ask for help. Our kids will get their best examples from us, so I do my best to model thriving by making time for my well-being.
What are five things you can’t live without at the moment? Keep short and sweet and provide links where you can!
What’s next for Aileen Fitzgerald?
We’re going big…big….bigger! I’m most looking forward to figuring out the largest size canvas that can fit through my front door and painting at an even larger scale. I dream of having a gallery show or building a large studio space out in the hill country to paint with the view right in front of me.