24 Hours with Sarah Otts

Like many working parents of young children, artist Sarah Otts’s day-to-day routine reads like a balancing act. Unlike the majority of her counterparts, the emotions evoked by her multiple roles are captured on canvas in her current paintings, expressed in gestural, energetic marks. Here, the Mobile Bay, Alabama-based artist, whose sought-after colorful and textured work is carried in galleries in Dallas, Atlanta, and Naples, Florida, gives us a glimpse into a day in her busy life of making art, managing a business, and motherhood.

5:00 a.m.: My alarm sounds. A couple snooze buttons later, I hop in the shower. Then I throw on a robe and make my bed, fix a cup of coffee, and head to my home studio. My husband, Robert, was up before me for an early morning bike ride and has the heat going in there.

5:51: At my desk, I sip my coffee while I read some emails and work on my Instagram post for the day. I have an email from my website designer/editor, Amanda, about a phone call scheduled for later this morning. We’re going to discuss how to make it as easy as possible for potential clients to see what’s available in galleries and here in the studio/office. Also, we need to add a feature on the homepage for my new children’s book, To Be A Line. Pre-orders will be available soon, and our goal is to have the book ready to purchase as Easter gifts. I’ll see the first draft of the cover design any day now. I’m so excited!

Today, my Instagram post will announce a promotional special on my abstract portraits with a discounted price for the rest of February. I’m working to really get those off the ground. I enjoy working on them, and there is a lot of interest, but lately portrait commissions are slower. I’m hoping to give them a boost with the special.

6:21 a.m.: I can hear my baby birds chirping for breakfast—time to head to the kitchen. Robert puts Princess Josephine in her throne (bouncy seat) on the kitchen island while we run circles around her getting the day started. I’m fixing breakfast, packing school lunches, signing homework, and repeating “eat your breakfast” on a loop until I switch to “get dressed” and “brush your teeth.” Just as I wonder, what will Lelia’s hairdo du jour be?, here she comes with the necessary supplies and her ideas. Viola! All this occurs with a steady flow of chit chat. Our little people talk around the clock.

Today, Sonny’s preschool class is singing at 8:05 in the chapel service at school. I kneel down to him, and we have a little chat about not putting our hands in our pants or fingers in our nose while we sing today.

“I crank up the music and get my hands dirty; my happy place.”

7:15 a.m.: Kisses for everyone, and Robert and the big kids head out for morning carpool. I finish getting dressed: jeans and a sweater with a swipe of mascara. Josephine is sporting the jammies she slept in, but I don’t think she minds…it’s a rare set that’s not a hand-me-down.

Later today, we are taking a photograph of the children and me for my book. I scan the kids’ closets choosing some outfits with coordinating colors for a good mix in the photograph. Why have I not given this any thought before now? I choose bright colored corduroys for Lelia and Sonny, a little smocked pink dress for Josephine. For me, it’s jeans, a white blouse, and some bold jewelry to coordinate with the colors in the kids’ clothes. I remember I need to pick up some balloons for the shoot.

7:46 a.m.: We head to the little chapel at school, which conveniently is right up the street. Josephine, my sweet girl, is lugged along, and we meet Robert there. I love our precious school. The service is short and sweet, and before we head out, I give my sugar bear a hug and tell him he was great, and he even kept his hands out of his pants and nose. High five, Bud!

8:26 a.m.: When we get back home, I put the baby down for her morning snooze. Then, I make another cup of coffee and head to the studio. I have a little over an hour to paint this morning. I crank up the music and get my hands dirty; my happy place.

Right now, I am working on some Mardi Gras-themed commissions. It’s that time of year, and we love it! I am also putting finishing touches on two abstract portraits, and working on a large 48×48 painting for my 2019 series, Drawing Light.

9:46 a.m.: Josephine wakes up, so I sit her in the swing I keep in my studio. She plays and coos while I chat on the phone with Amanda.

10 a.m.: Our nanny arrives while I’m still on the phone. Holding my phone between my ear and shoulder, I walk Josephine upstairs to meet her and smile while I silently mouth “thank you!” to Nana as I hand the baby to her. I head back to the studio grateful because I could not run this show without her help.

11 a.m.: I slip out for an appointment with Katy, my bubbly, speed-talking, clean-living enthusiastic skin guru. This appointment is long overdue. My sensitive skin is in dire need of some TLC, and Katy knows I have a complexion with an attitude. Also, she is like an encyclopedia, and I love our conversations while she tends to my face. It doubles as a therapy session—multi-tasking at its best! I always leave with a fresh face and a pep in my step. With self-care on my agenda this year, I feel less guilty for treating myself periodically.

“We work with some pretty inspiring women, and I love our supportive camaraderie.”

12:15 p.m.: While I’m out I run a few errands and I talk on the phone with Jacqueline, my office assistant. We discuss some framing details and a few questions she has from client inquires this morning. Jacqueline works in my office, which is in a separate location as my home studio. It’s just around the corner at Details, a space that houses several entrepreneurial creative businesses like my own. We work with some pretty inspiring women, and I love our supportive camaraderie.

It’s great having a space separate from my painting studio for client meetings and for Jacqueline to operate the business side. This allows my studio to remain the creative zone; I work better without the distractions of business management in the background. I also work best in solitude, but I still love it when Jacqueline comes by the studio. She always brings me something to laugh about, which helps me to loosen up and stress less. She has brought my business the structure it needed, and takes care of all the stuff I’m bad at, like math. God love her!

12:30 p.m.: I pick up a Thai chicken bowl at Tropical Smoothie as I make my way back to the studio. Fresh, healthy food with a drive-through makes this a frequent go-to on a busy day.

12:43 p.m.: Back in the studio, I eat lunch at my desk and check my Instagram direct messages. There are lots of inquiries about portraits, which I forward via email to Jacqueline in the office. Then, I take some time to paint before heading to carpool.

2:11 p.m.: Before picking up Lelia and Sonny, I stop at a grocery store for balloons and some flowers for our photoshoot.

3:00 p.m.: We arrive home and say goodbye to Nana for the day. I feed the kids an afternoon snack before we change our clothes and load back into the car for the photo shoot.

3:30 p.m.: We head to the photography studio of my friend Janie Long, which is located at Details, where my office is. Jacqueline is there and helps make everyone smile and laugh. We take some great photos. Afterwards, we head to Dip’n Dots to get a treat for Lelia and Sonny for doing a great job and being big helpers. In other words, I bribed them.

4:33 p.m.: We do homework in the kitchen. My husband stops by after work before leaving for an evening meeting with his Mardi Gras organization. When he’s not home, I take the night off from family dinner duty.

5:30 p.m.: Josephine gets her dinner, a bath, and then a bottle. Good night, baby love. One down, two to go.

“We all sit down for a healthy dinner three or four nights a week, but it’s not one of those nights.”

6:30 p.m.: I bathe Sonny and then fix my big kids dinner: chicken, tater tots, blueberries, and a stack of matchstick carrots. (We all sit down for a healthy dinner three or four nights a week, but it’s not one of those nights.) While they eat, I make myself a salad with spinach, boiled eggs, avocado, green onion, and olive oil and vinegar.

7:30 p.m.: I tuck the kids in bed, turn the lights out, and give them each a kiss on the head (there are lots of kisses in our day). After the kids are down, I pour a glass of wine and sink into my sofa. I check my phone and see what’s happening on Instagram, then Pinterest, my favorite place to gather interiors, art, and high fashion eye candy.

8:30 p.m.: I take a bubble bath with my music on. Last year for my birthday, Robert gave me a Sonos speaker, and installed it in my favorite room of the house: my closet. He knows how I love my little wallpapered hide-away. Now I can play music when I’m getting dressed and during my bath.

9:30 p.m.: Robert gets home and we sit in the den and talk about our days. I show him some of the whimsical pictures we took this afternoon and he picks his favorites. We chuckle at our funny little people.

10:05 p.m.: Good night, Tuesday. We did all right.

Photograph of Sarah Otts by Janie Long. Sarah Otts is featured in The Scout Guide Mobile Bay.