Mom Profile: Ann Marie Coolick

The morning light casts a warm glow as it shines through the rear window of Ann Marie Coolick’s top-floor home studio, resting on the blank canvas in front of her. She appreciates the rare silence and lack of boisterous vibration in the house. It’s one of the coveted daily moments when her three young sons are either napping or at school, allowing her to paint without interruption.

Ann Marie’s three-dimensional, sculptural paintings fill the studio space — some hang as decoration, some rest against the clean, white walls. The “frosting-like” paintings, known as an impasto style, reflect memories of her favorite landscapes and geometric shapes, many inspired by the foliage in her Arlington, VA, neighborhood.

Before she became the artist she is today, Ann Marie found a creative outlet in music. She began playing piano at the young age of five and credits it to the beginning of her passion for the arts. “Music laid the foundation for a creative life early on. I started taking piano lessons at age 5 and always thought I would major in music until I found painting through an amazing high school art teacher,” she says.

She earned both a Studio Art and Marketing Management degree from Virginia Tech, and by the next year, she was awarded a studio residency at the Arlington Arts Center. Since that first opportunity, her artwork has been exhibited at several local galleries, appeared in Creative Digest UK and Elan Magazine and has been featured at Home Goods.

Although she has a part-time job with the federal government and provides private tutoring in her home studio, her artwork always has and continues to be her main career focus, balanced with a busy family life.“Being an artist mom is definitely a balancing act that has required extreme measures in time management. Since I’m home with my kids most of the week, they come with me to visit galleries, they play in the studio while I paint and they ride along in the double jogging stroller while we deliver work to the post office. They know that mommy is an artist and they are always giving me input on which paintings they do and don’t like. I love their honesty and unique interpretations of my abstract work!”

Her hard work ethic, natural creativity and skilled multitasking have all played their parts in allowing her to enjoy her favorite part about being an artist. “I love that my work makes people happy. I’m amazed that the spark I feel when creating a great piece of art is also felt by my collectors. Nothing is better than that.”

Q&A

What’s it like working as an artist in the D.C. area?

The art scene in the D.C. area has changed dramatically over the past five years with the advent of social media. There is a huge society of previously unnoticed creatives in our area, many with typical D.C.-area day jobs, who have come together through social media. Since becoming part of A Creative DC, an Instagram-centric project celebrating and showcasing creative life in the area, I’ve stepped outside of my introverted box and collaborated with a local photographer, curated an exhibit of four women painters and found new gallery representation. I truly am amazed!

What are some memorable moments in your art career?

Every summer as a young girl, I visited Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, VA, where we often dropped by a beautiful gallery on the lake, The Little Gallery. I vividly remember visiting the gallery and thinking maybe one day I could show my work there. My biggest ‘wow’ moment was when The Little Gallery offered to represent me.

Another milestone was pulling together a solo show of 40-plus pieces at the Hylton Center in Manassas, VA, two months after my third son’s birth. When I accepted the show, I knew I would have to be dedicated to creating a large body of new work mostly during my pregnancy, but looking back it was the daily studio sessions during this time that helped me find my artistic voice.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome TO SUCCEED in a creative business?

The biggest challenge I’ve overcome as an artist is internal: Discarding the preconceived notion of selling out. I’ve learned that selling prints doesn’t equate to selling my soul. Two years ago I decided to delve into the print world, selling through my online shop and being represented by a fine art publisher. Having my work accessible to a much wider audience has brought me so much satisfaction, and in turn led to features in Home Goods and Hobby Lobby. I’ve also been able to fully pay for all supplies just based on print sales. I love what artist Keith Haring said about this, “If commercialization is putting my art on a shirt so that a kid who can’t afford a $30,000 painting can buy one, then I’m all for it.”

Tell us about your family. You have three boys under the age of six?

Yes! I have three boys all born in November, ages 2, 4 and 6. It wasn’t planned but my youngest and oldest have the same birthday. (We eat a lot of cake that month!) We affectionately call them ‘the dude pound’ because they are always up to some sort of antics.

My husband isn’t an artist, but he is pretty much everything else to our family. He’s a fantastic dad and has to play Mr. Mom quite often while I’m working either at the studio or in the office. While I am very free-thinking, he is very structured, which makes him an excellent accountant for my business.

Do your kids have artistic abilities/interests as well?

I’m trying my hardest to encourage artistry in my kids. They occasionally enjoy drawing, but so far would much rather build Legos and play construction. They do love to play in the studio while I paint though, so my hope is they see me doing something that I love and know that they can find a similar passion, whatever it may be. I didn’t develop a love for art until high school, so I’m still holding out hope!

What advice would you give your younger self?

I don’t know any other profession where rejection is so much a part of the game, and this is especially true for young artists. Rejection doesn’t qualify work as good or bad, it just means it isn’t a good fit for the particular audience. Don’t let the opinions of others, especially those who question the path less taken, distract you from continuing towards your dreams. Your persistence will lead to a broader portfolio, clearer artistic vision, and in turn, more opportunities.

How about some advice for other working mothers?

Being a mother is hard work. Combine that with jobs, hobbies and activities, and it can be quite draining, especially in this high-paced area. My advice is to reach out to other families and get help as much as you can, whether it be through a Moms Club or babysitting swap. Any opportunity to take care of yourself is a good one and will make you a better mother. I’m still learning that myself.

BONUS ONLINE CONTENT:

What are your favorite…

Local spots to find inspiration?

I love taking the kids and my camera to the beautiful rose gardens at Bon Air Park (they have a playground there too) or to run amongst the tulips at Netherlands Carillon in Arlington. I’m amazed of the expansive floral gardens right in our backyard!

Local restaurant or coffee shop?

Stomping Ground in Del Ray, Alexandria is my favorite local spot. Amazing coffee, incredible baked goods, seasonal foods, and a small town vibe. If it’s a date night, there’s nothing better than sausage platter and frites at Lyon Hall in Arlington.

Quotes?

“It seems to me madness to wake up in the morning and do something other than paint, considering that one may not wake up the following morning.” – Frank Auerbach

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

“Painting seems like some kind of peculiar miracle that I need to have again and again.” – Philip Guston

Songs?

I love country music. Anything by Eric Church, Jason Aldean or Carrie Underwood.

Books?

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand and “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer (please don’t laugh!). My favorite books to read to my kids are “Kiss Kiss” by Margaret Wild and “Art & Max” by David Wiesner, a beautifully illustrated book about two artistic lizards.

Local galleries?

Covet (5140 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA), The Cooley Gallery (9 North King St, Leesburg, VA), and West Annapolis Artworks (4 Annapolis St, Annapolis, MD).

Ann Marie’s work and more information about her can be found at www.annmariecoolick.com and on Instagram @amcoolick and Facebook.com/annmariecoolick.

Text by: Colleen McGrew

About WF Staff

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