How artist Lena B juggles creative endeavours and motherhood - By The Makers Story
How artist Lena Baumgartner juggles creative endeavours and motherhood
Lena has always been a creative, but it took a long time for her to pursue her artistic endeavours full-time. She shares how after a successful career in civil aviation, she’s now happiest with a paintbrush in hand.
The Australian-based expressionism abstract artist remembers the exact moment that sparked her passion for making: being introduced to the world of knitting at age 10 by her neighbour at the time, Nancy.
“I spent the following school holiday knitting a tiny stuffed blue bear for my brother as a birthday present,” says Lena. “Throughout my childhood, I was always knitting, sewing, hand-stitching or making something.”
It wasn’t until high school, though, that she was introduced to painting – a class she enjoyed for its laid-back approach, something she now recognises as “mindfulness”.
“In my senior years of high school, I sadly didn’t pursue art because I thought I had to choose subjects that would get me the best score to get me into the fields that I thought would make me happy.”
A change in career path
Ultimately, Lena went on to study a degree in civil aviation: “For a long time, my identity was held in the space of aviation amongst men. I worked closely within the operations teams and coordinated pilot training for a company that held the contract for Border Force surveillance of Australia.”
Lena was great at her job and it was something she enjoyed, but felt it was “constantly all take and no give”. It was when she then went on maternity leave that she describes being gifted the time to think about what else she wanted to do with her life – what it was that she would love to be doing.
“It was never an easy choice to resign from a job and take on the role as a full-time mum. Although I was enjoying my time with my kids and creating on the side, I was ashamed. I never said out loud that I was an artist or a creative. I felt like people from my past life would look down or judge my new journey,” shares Lena.
“I felt like they would think I’m just a dreamer. It has taken me almost two years to say out loud that I am an artist and even sign my name on my work. Feeling vulnerable through this journey has been my biggest strength and weakness.”
Stepping away from her former career also allowed Lena to pursue another passion: teaching yoga.
“Yoga is something that has been a part of my life for so long. I found yoga actually the same week I got my first full-time job in aviation and thank goodness for that because it has kept me connected to myself.”
Lena finds that her creativity comes more naturally after she has had a yoga class: “I think this is because the majority of life’s noise has been turned down a little and there is breathing room in my head to get bored and get creative. I feel like movement and creativity almost go hand in hand – you are usually present during these moments.”
“It has taken me almost two years to say out loud that I am an artist and even sign my name on my work. Feeling vulnerable through this journey has been my biggest strength and weakness.”
Juggling motherhood and creative endeavours
When it comes to her many roles – including mother and artist – Lena says determination has been key, and her advice to others embarking on a similar journey is to just keep going.
“It’s scary and crazy, but you can do it. It’s all mindset and the rest just follows.
“Motherhood is a beautiful journey, but also such a truth bomb and bitter pill. You are faced with so many sides of yourself and the mum guilt is real and crazy. You always feel like you should be doing activities with your kids and being selfless, but it’s okay to create.
“Your kids will thrive seeing you do something you love. They will learn that this is also a choice for them and that they can be anything they want just from watching you do it – at least, this is what I have to tell myself every day.”
“They really get into it and are my biggest critics, but they are also my biggest fans. Kids will always tell you the truth.”
This perseverance has certainly led Lena to finding what she loves to do, and has enabled her to enter the Australian art scene with success.
“This year the highlight has been completing a commission piece for a local distillery here in South Australia and having my artwork featured on the gin bottle. The best part of the experience was actually going up to Renmark, Riverland, over a long weekend with the kids to go camping and we took them to the distillery. I loved seeing them in awe when they realised that it was my artwork on the wall and bottles.”
But there’s one key moment that has been Lena’s favourite so far this year: “My son corrected me chatting to another parent and said, ‘No, my mum is an artist.’ I think that really cemented this career for me and made my heart dance.”
“I love seeing both my kids' faces light up when I tell them a painting is finished. Let me tell you, they really get into it and are my biggest critics, but they are also my biggest fans. Kids will always tell you the truth,” laughs Lena.