Today we’re peeking in on a lovely and talented friend of mine, Samantha Hahn, a Brooklyn-based illustrator and author (her newest book just came out!) and all-around interesting person. I get really inspired poring over her current work, and I hope you’ll feel the same; a little creativity is a good way to start the day, right?
Samantha mentions below that her daughter “never hesitates to ask for what she wants and needs in life.” I love that, and it happens to be one of the characteristics of Sam herself that I admire most! Asking for what you need, or in a business sense, asking for what you’re worth, is hard for so many women. And Sam is a great personal model for me in that regard.
Also, the way she describes the street on which she lives gave me a visual I can’t quite get out of my head! It’s been making me smile ever since. Welcome, Sam! I’m so glad to spend your day with you!
We wake up pretty early around here! My 18-month old daughter Vivian woke at 5:00 am. She calls out “Mama! Mommy!” in her sweet little voice. One of us goes into her room, changes her, and then brings her into our bed. I nurse her a bit and then she falls back to sleep in my arms. It’s the most heavenly part of my day…or life for that matter.
Henry wakes 30 minutes later. He thinks he’s being quiet doing his morning routine but I hear him spritzing his plants and brushing his teeth. He joins me and Viv in bed for a few minutes until she wakes up and climbs down off the bed and into the kitchen with her dad. Then I get to have a brief cuddle with Henry; I still love cuddling him when he’ll let me. I give Henry a shower, which entails standing outside the curtain and squeezing shampoo and soap onto his hands and telling him when to rinse.
For breakfast, my husband made us scrambled eggs and a frozen blueberry, banana, almond milk and cocoa powder smoothie. After breakfast we cleared the table and got Henry set up with his homework. We drink coffee and keep Henry on track while Vivian climbs onto my lap with some of her board books to do her own baby homework like her big brother. Henry’s studying insects in first grade. This morning he reads us a fascinating book about them, telling us about his favorite, the Goliath beetle.
At 8:00 am I strap Viv onto my chest in her carrier and Henry puts on his backpack, and we set out to daycare and school. Both are a short walk from our place. We live in a lovely neighborhood in Brooklyn called Park Slope. It’s been called one of the most livable neighborhoods in the city. There’s a park nearby, playgrounds and a lovely community vibe.
I joke around that it’s like living on Sesame Street.
On the way to school we feel like we’re in a little parade of kids with backpacks. Viv loves doggies and birds so we point out each and every one we encounter on our walk. Viv’s first sentence was “Where’s the doggie?” Henry’s school is five blocks from hers so I drop him off right after her. We usually talk about which animals are faster or stronger than one another, Peregrine Falcons or Bald Eagles?
By 8:40 both little ones are safely settled in their respective schools and I head to my little home illustration studio. I love working from here. It’s peaceful, sunny and my husband runs his business from home too so he brings me coffee and kisses throughout the day. I usually have a number of projects going at once.
Today I’m doing some outreach for my book that just came out, A Mother is a Story. Mother’s Day is coming up so I’m reaching out to friends, bloggers, and editors to see if they want my publisher to send them a book. I’m also doing some editorial projects. Marie Claire is one of my favorite clients and they came to me to see if I’d illustrate a coloring book of New York scenery for them to place photographs of a model into as a spring lookbook for Timberland. It’s a really fun project. I love that people will be able to pull it out of the magazine and color it in.
I’m also working on illustrations for Seventeen Magazine. I work with them a lot. The illustrations go along with a story about sisters. Another project on my desk is a really unique collaboration with this amazing store called Story, here in New York. They have the point of view of a magazine, sell things like a store and change like a gallery. They’ve asked me to hand-letter all of their signage and do portraits of the people they’re featuring in their Feminist story. They’re featuring incredible entrepreneurs and foundations that support and celebrate women. I love seeing my work in a space not just on the printed page.
I’m so grateful to be able to make my living as an artist. I studied illustration in college, but when I graduated I had no idea how to make it in the difficult marketplace. So after my first job at a magazine I went to graduate school at Columbia University and got my MA in art education. I thought I could be happy just doing art at night and teaching during the day. Somehow that was not enough for me. So I wound up doing little projects for indie jewelry designers and for friend’s events and things which eventually led to work for clients like Glamour Magazine.
During my maternity leave when I had Henry, I decided to ramp up my freelance work so that I could go back to teaching part time and do more illustration. I worked really hard on the days when I wasn’t teaching and at night when Henry went to sleep and eventually I was able to go solely freelance. It’s been five years and I still feel like I’m learning and growing as an artist in the ever shifting field of illustration. I just found out that two pieces I did, one for the CFDA during NY Fashion Week and one for Lenny Letter were chosen to appear in American Illustration 35. They’ll be two of 339 out of over 10,000 submissions. I’m very honored and humbled.
To me, there’s no greater honor than the approval of peers I admire. This is a really hard business, though. It’s tough not to get caught up in the competition and to ride the wave of either validation or rejection. I am working hard on focusing on the art and the work and creating longevity. I find that it’s super important to generate my own projects like my book for example, rather than solely doing client work.
In addition to doing my work I’m always poking around online for inspiration. I look to Instagram to see my friends’ projects and point of view. I use Pinterest like a personal mood-board of inspiring images. Today I came across . I don’t even know what the title is but I love the composition and flat colors. It reminds me of Paul Rand.
I have to admit that I’m pretty bad at taking care of myself. It’s usually my last priority after taking care of the kids’ needs and client work. I’m always anxious to get to my desk after dropping them off, but from time to time I’ll take a jog or walk and I always notice that I feel less anxious and am happier and more productive when I do. So I don’t really know why I don’t make it a priority.
Today after dropping off the kiddos I came home and sat down to my desk. Dave poked his head into my office and said, “Come on, let’s meditate…just for 15 minutes.” We went into the living room and he put on the guided meditation app, which was actually very soothing and I felt good afterwards and ready to jump into work.
I guess I feel guilty when I’m not working even though I know intellectually that I’ll be better for everyone else and myself if I carve out a little time to get fresh air or meditate. I’m grateful to my husband for that push.
Most days I pick Viv up at 4:15 and take her to the playground near her daycare. She calls the swings “Wheee!” It’s hard to get her to leave but as I mentioned she loves dogs so I tell her “Let’s go look at the doggies.” She likes to walk home so I hold her hand and we stroll along the sidewalk and point out all the dogs we see. At around 5:00 we get Henry from his after school program a few blocks away. Then, around 5:45, we pull together dinner or order in.
My work life is officially over then. If a client calls or texts I get dirty looks for paying attention to my phone. In fact I made the mistake of showing Viv some videos of herself on my phone once so now when she sees it she yells “Wibi, Wibi” which is how she says “Vivi” so it’s best if my phone stays in my pocket till after bedtime.
My husband is far better at domestic engineering, so he’s always keeping tabs on what we need and ensuring we don’t run out of things. We live in a fourth floor walk-up so we’re constantly trying different means of stocking up. We live relatively close to Whole Foods Market but not close enough that shlepping heavy packages wouldn’t break our backs. So sometimes we’ll go there, shop, and have it delivered. We’re currently trying Fresh Direct. We are probably the busiest Amazon Prime customers. We use it for practically everything other than food.
I always look forward to the end of the day when everyone’s back together again. Both kids were tired after their busy day so they played in the living room while we prepared dinner. The living room and kitchen are connected and open to each other so there’s no separation. Henry built a cool structure with magnatiles while Vivian ferried her toy animals from their barn to a little dump truck.
Dave and I pulled together a simple, healthy dinner. I made broccoli and pearled couscous, and Dave made chicken. I’m a vegetarian so I popped some tempeh into the oven for my protein. While prepping, Viv came in and wanted me to hold her which is always hard while trying to cook, so after a brief cuddle I put her in her high chair at the table with a piece of paper and pencil. She loves to scribble! That kept her busy until we had everything ready. Right before we served it up we asked Henry to fold the napkins. He loves to make them into paper plane shapes and it gives him a job to help the family.
During dinner he told us about his music class. They’re learning a Harry Belafonte song. He told us about a game he and his friend played on the yard. They each pretended to be a bug and played bug tag.
Vivi has a funny habit of asking for pepper throughout the meal. I don’t want to overdo it so I pretend to sprinkle it on after the initial time when I really do add it to her food. She’s learning new words every day and always makes us laugh with her little contributions to our conversation.
Tonight we made the mistake of leaving bananas visible on the counter. So halfway through the meal she spotted them and started begging for them. I’m such a pushover and don’t like to frustrate her so even though she had a nice meal in front of her, I gave her a 1/4 of banana even though she had it this morning in her smoothie. She’s so feisty and strong willed. I love that she never hesitates to ask for what she wants and needs in life. Actually both of my kids do, which can be exhausting, but I’m a fighter too and have found it to be useful in my career and outside of it so I guess I encourage it by giving pepper and bananas!
We have a pretty ritualized bedtime. At 6:30 Dave changed Viv and then Henry and I went into her room. Henry gives her hugs and kisses and then he and Dave go off to do magnatiles or read. Right now they’re reading The NeverEnding Story. I nurse Viv, give her one million hugs and kisses, and lay her down in her crib. We still use the white noise machine. Not only is it soothing but it drowns out the enthusiastic conversation of six year olds and their parents.
After Viv went down, I joined Henry and Dave in Henry’s room to listen to the story. Then Dave and I head to the kitchen. We make some tea and cuddle up on the couch to watch a show and chat about our day. Tonight I’m totally kicked so I don’t do any more work, but having a home studio means that I can if I have something really pressing.
To be honest, I’m an anxious person. When we climb into bed I sometimes start ruminating out loud. I know I have so much to be grateful for but sometimes I worry that I’m going to lose it all, that someone will get sick or that all of a sudden nobody will want to hire me as an artist anymore. My husband is so sweet; he tells me to stop worrying, that worry is not going to solve or prepare me for anything. I’m so thankful for him in these moments.
When the wave of anxiety passes I’m usually ready and happy to put my head on the pillow and look forward to my 5:00 am cuddle and another day with the people I adore.
Thank you, Sam. Your 5:00 am start is a little less painful when your babes head to bed around 6:30 pm! And your grocery shopping challenges are interesting, especially to those who may just head to the shops once a week or even less often. I hope Sesame Street has a grocer as wonderful as Mr. Hooper’s Store!
The way we errand is really dependent on where or how we live, don’t you think? When we lived in France, I enjoyed shopping daily for dinner ingredients — instead of a hassle, it was simply a way of our new life — and now in Oakland our shopping methods are a little different, though we still grocery shop more more often than when we had several under five (it was hard to errand in those years!). What’s your process for stocking up your pantries and prepping for dinner? I love talking about stuff like this!