As one North Texas art teacher has been juggling her family and virtual learning, she's found herself tapping into her creative side to carve out time to pursue her passion as an artist.
"The students need an outlet or a class where they can be free and create," said Kristina Brown.
Like any good art teacher, Brown pushes her students to think outside-the-box.
"Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Be prepared to not be prepared," she explains.
Brown was awarded a grant last year to provided the funds to purchase materials for her graphic design program, which didn't exist until she was able to get the grant.
But hybrid learning, during a pandemic, stretched even her limits.
"The assignment we were doing in my graphic design class, we were transforming kids' drawings into realistic drawings. So I started doing that with my own child, and it inspired my own artwork as well. It’s literally like a circle," she said.
Brown's 3-year-old daughter loves to doodle when her mom does, and that gave her mom an idea. She took her daughter's doodles and transformed them into illustrations symbolizing different emotions.
"I try to use it as a teaching moment for her to illustrate to me what sadness looks like," she explained. "It’s almost like my teaching spreads out again as a mother to my own child, because emotions are important at that age."
She’s even shifted her teaching style to do something similar with her students.
"I try to tell my kids that. 'What did you achieve today?' Let’s focus on those things. 'What task did you get done today?' Because again you can’t just jump on top of the mountain, you have to climb it," she explained of the process.
We’ve all got a mountain to climb. Brown’s outlook set smaller goals between big milestones to then celebrate them.
"All of my drive didn’t start until I became a mother. I never really understood well, 'What do I want to make art about?'" she explained. "'I know how to do it, but what do I do?' Once I had my daughter, the inspiration just started oozing out of my ears."
But years before, Brown’s tenacity was barely a trickle as a nursing student who wanted a change.
"Just trying to follow the path of what would make everyone else happy," she explained. "I was struggling with this big block, emotional block of 'I want to be an art teacher, but I’m scared.'"
Fortunately, her future husband recognized her talent and encouraged her to go for it.
"He is a big reason I am where I am now. A supportive partner makes a big difference," she said.
Her family drives forward her art and her teaching style.
"Now, I set my time aside for my family. I draw or I’ll make art once my daughter is asleep for 30 minutes. If I did all my grading, I’m like 'OK, you deserve 30 minutes.' Because the list is never ending."
She wants people to know that taking that kind of break is vital.
"If you keep trying to do your 'to-do' list, there’s never going to be time to do anything. If you add yourself to the to-do list, it’s like a reward system."
If you'd like to see more of Brown's art, visit kristinabrownart.com, where you can view her women's empowerment series illustrating kindness, love and diversity.