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Featured Moms

The Healing Power of Creativity by Kelly Schwark, Illustrator and Photographer

“Use of creative outlets along the way is not only helpful as a cathartic release, but when you start to examine a breadth of work created through a difficult part of the journey, they can serve as a testament to your own strength and capability. ‘I survived that moment, and it didn’t define me, nor my journey.’”


Kelly is a freelancing photographer, specializing in portraits and wildlife photography, with a storytelling sensibility and approach. She captures life as it unfolds, in a less posed manner. She also creates illustration and graphic designs, with her specialty in stationary/ invitation designs. To see more of her artwork and writing, see her site at


On Inspiration

What do you currently find creatively inspiring?

Nature has always been an incredibly powerful inspiration in my life. There is an abundance of beauty in nature, but when you pause long enough to really study a landscape, a flower, a tree, and even a weed popping up through concrete slabs along a sidewalk, you can start to appreciate the process of arriving at each particular stage or season in life. The vulnerability in a delicate flower blooming for all to see, the tree root growing around man-made obstacles to get the nutrients it needs to continue to grow, the vine growing and reaching up towards the light, or the rounded river rock that was pushed and tumbled smooth. All of these are simple reminders that surround us daily, showing us that we can overcome, grow, and be molded into a work of beauty, even under the most difficult circumstances.

Being able to share those messages with my daughter and helping her identify and define those moments in her life have taken on an entirely new level of inspiration that I had not previously known. It has made me truly examine what I value in life, and how I identify my own self-worth. Without question, that translates into my work. There isn’t much more that’s inspiring than that, is there?


Do you have any projects you’re excited about or want to share?

At the moment, I am working on a book, combining everyday vignettes of inspiration that a rushed life can overlook. This creative release and focused story of healing and overcoming challenges has been the most exhilarating and rewarding piece of creative work that I have done so far.

It is still being put together, slowly and deliberately, but I am inviting my readers on my site to come along and participate in helping me give a voice to my story; a memoir of the next year, woven together with the fabric of the past. It will tell a tale of love that reaches well beyond the boundaries and lines of romantic love, and it will help others understand how they too can embrace healing and live with intention and mindfulness.


On Work/Family Balance

How do you balance being a mom and your creative work?

This has always been a challenge for me, and my creative work has actually shifted in form several times since my daughter was born in search for that perfect balance. Or at least a balance that makes sense to us.

I had started out as a fine artist, working on custom home portraits, small illustrations or landscapes. When she was a newborn, my pile of photographs that I would snap, with the intention of using them later…when she napped. In addition to discovering that naps are a mysterious force, where time speeds up and an hour passes as quickly as a minute, I found that my photographs were becoming my creative outlet. My two favorite subject matters, my daughter and nature, were my muse, and I developed and honed my skills.

Now, yet again, life changes, and creativity has shifted towards celebrating the written word. When I am able to combine my vision of the world, the stories that I see tucked away in vignettes of life, and support it with beautiful images of simple, everyday things, I hope to make others slow down enough to appreciate these amazing moments that occur everyday.


What were bumps in the road that you weren’t expecting?

Bumps and a few potholes in the road have numerous, but none, to date, have been large enough to consume me whole!

As a newlywed military wife in June of 2001, our course was put on quite a different path once September had arrived. My friends, now as close to me as family, have been scattered about the world and the reality of how fleeting life truly is, is an everyday reminder to those who serve as well to those who love them. Perhaps it is why I capture moments and stories, collecting them as others collect seashells.

Years later, additional bumps would include infertility, loss, a failed marriage and *many* moves. This road may have bumps along the way, but it doesn’t define the journey and this is still one heck of a beautiful ride! Sometimes those bumps cause us all to slow down, and occasionally we lose a tire to an unexpected pothole. It happens, but those moments pass. Even if you decide to travel on foot, just keep moving forward. Step by step, you get further away from those bumps in the road, and they just become part of the story of your journey to somewhere wonderful. Use of creative outlets along the way is not only helpful as a cathartic release, but when you start to examine a breadth of work created through a difficult part of the journey, they can serve as a testament to your own strength and capability. “I survived that moment, and it didn’t define me, nor my journey.” What a beautiful message for us to pass down to our children, isn’t it?


On Working

What are the highlights of working in a creative field?

Working in a creative field is all about sharing, and I love that about this field! People share their vision in hopes that you will help them bring it to fruition. People share their most memorable moments in hopes that you will help them capture the essence and emotion and freeze it in time. Creative types are always quick to share their suggestions, advice and resources. The creative field is a beautiful collaboration of many people sharing their visions, talents, skills and vulnerability. Isn’t that a beautifully inspiring thing?!


On Kids and Creativity

Do you have any favorite creative activities you do with your kid(s)?

My daughter and I will doodle and sketch on collaborative drawings, each drawing segments of whimsical designs, mystical creatures, or portraits of one another. Not only is it a great creative exercise and activity, but it is a wonderful gateway for conversation about the day, or how she is feeling about different things.

What’s one creative thing you’ve learned from being a mom?

My daughter, unknowingly, taught me one very valuable lesson: Creativity is not about perfection, but it is about expressing emotion and sharing a vision. The process itself is what makes it enjoyable.

Creating for marketing or for a sell-able, profitable purpose is different, but she has brought an awareness of how the quest for “perfection” can steal joy out of the process of creating, and subsequently the process of finding one’s voice. In her momentary frustration at not being able to get something “perfect” on the first try, I realized that I fall into this trap from time to time as well. When we are creating for the pleasure of merely creating, we are expanding and developing our skill and our finding our genuine voice. That deserves to be celebrated and the rest will fall into place.


How has your perspective on your work changed since becoming a mom?

Since becoming a mother, I have become passionate about developing positive messages that encourages personal growth, connectivity, faith, hope and love. We all are confronted with opposing messages everywhere, and everyday. In many ways, we are taught to value subjective beauty, or value quick fixes over long term growth, and the constant push for profit over purpose is a disservice to us all. We limit our children with predefined roles of gender and we consume unhealthy messages on a daily basis. When my daughter was born, the importance of creating positive messages for her and others, seemed imperative.


What’s a piece of advice you wish you’d had starting your creative career?

I’ve thought about this quite a bit recently. What advice would I give to my younger self, and what would I have wished to have done differently? What do I wish I had embraced more? The truth of the matter is, nothing. Every experience had, every bump in the road, every failure and every successful moment are equally parts of the equation, adding up to who I am today. That is true in my creative endeavors as much as it is in my personal life. Have enough faith in who you are, to embrace and step into being genuinely you. Whoever that is, is a uniquely beautiful person; not the superficial kind of beauty, but the kind of beauty that is breathtaking and awe inspiring. If I had advice, I would say: Be more of that person.


Do you have any advice to moms trying to balance career and family?

The idea of balancing work, family, volunteering, hobbies and the time to maintain healthy relationships and friendships has been presented in a very misrepresented way. If you think of it as a balancing scale, having equal parts on each side, then you are already setting yourself up for “failure” at this kind of balance. There isn’t room for fluctuation, or change. You can’t move things around without disruption or the risk of one side crashing down. Instead, think of it as stepping onto a balance beam, constantly shifting slightly as you move forward. It is an instinct to remain in balance; you don’t think about the shifts that take place in your body as you move, you just feel it. Sometimes you’ll lose your balance and fall off the beam, but every time you lose your footing and fall, pick yourself back up, and know that subconsciously you have already started building the right kind of muscle memory to keep going. Soon enough, you’ll be doing cartwheels and backflips off the beam. And, as always in life, make sure you have a spotter close by to help guide you and to give you a hand up when you have inevitably fallen down. Asking for help is never an easy thing, but it is vital for all of us to have some sort of help and support. Find your community of support, whether they are family, friends or found through social media- find YOUR community.

Do you have any resources (websites, magazines, books, etc) that you’d recommend to moms?

The resources are numerous, thanks to this digitally rich time in which we live! Etsy, in the beginning was a wonderfully creative community. I learned so much from many of the sellers when there was an active forum. I also started to find my voice and learn how to really start blogging, which was a little spout, slowly combining my words with my art work. From there, I started learning *how* to use my camera by pouring my knowledge hungry heart into “I Heart Faces.” Now, I am immersing myself into the resources that are abundant on the Writers Digest site. But for everyone, our tastes and preferences are slightly different. My style, the feel of my work may be vastly different from yours. A great place to start is Twitter. Follow and create a list of trade magazines, publications that inspire you, people that make you smile and encourage you. You can do the same on Pinterest, or whichever social media outlet you like to use as your playground. Building your online community will take time, but will organically start to grow as your own skills bend and shift, being molded into the uniquely you individual that you are becoming.

Thank you to Kelly for taking the time to chat with us and we are excited to see what she comes up with next!

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