As a painter, printmaker and parent of four children, UAE-based artist Jessica Watson-Thorp tries hard to find that work-life balance. Here she tells Absolutely Education how she manages, just as she prepares for her new exhibition, Masjid, which takes place from 17-26 March at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

 What inspires you in your work? 

 My inspiration comes from two main sources: human experiences – mainly the experiences of women and emotive experiences of the human character – and the environment that surrounds me. I have an eye for detail and I appreciate every curve and unique element of a place. In any new surrounding I lean in and like to sit and feel it, and get a sense for what it means.

 Where do you go to in the UAE when you’re looking for inspiration?

 I find inspiration in everyday situations, and it’s the older parts of Dubai and the desert that draw me in. I love strolling in Satwa where you’re close to the people. One of my daughters and I escape the main roads and meander among the old houses in the laneways. I just love the feel there. Peeling paint and decorated doors in wood or steel. The old Fahidi District also fascinates me, not only the restored parts or souqs, but the whole area. It’s teeming with life and you can find real gems there like the old Post Office and the Iranian Mosque. If I need time for quiet contemplation I head to the desert to sit in the red sand and feel the peace and bliss this wide-open space encapsulates.

 How do you find juggling work and motherhood? 

 Not easy. I don’t keep the working hours of most people, but this is part of the joy of working for myself. I’m usually in the Studio by 7.30am until mid-afternoon, and then race around on school runs, to sporting events and sit with the children while they do their homework. After their various pick-ups, dinner and bed, I pick up my work again. Weekends usually involve work in one capacity or another.

 What do you do to encourage your children to be creative and to love art?

 I give them free rein to create and never stop them because “it’s too messy”. We recycle in our house, so there is always an endless supply of cardboard to be devoured. I keep the Arabian upstairs kitchen as their art room, kitted out with paints and markers, a big roll of paper, canvases, scissors and everything else they might need. They know they are free to grab an art shirt from my Studio (I keep a batch for my women’s workshops) and get creative any time. For big jobs I encourage them to work outdoors under the shade of the garage and will move the cars out. For smaller things they create in the casual living room, although I will admit that the furniture is getting slightly paint-speckled!

 What museums or galleries in the UAE do you take your children to? 

 Now that the Louvre Abu Dhabi has opened I love to take them there. They are too old now to be interested in the Children’s Museum at ages 15, 12 and twins who are nine. It’s more about the exposure to the architectural space, the indoor/outdoor feel and the sense of art as important and magnificent. It’s only in these big institutions that humans feel the level of the importance of art and we are lucky to finally have one in the UAE. The collections are manageable for children and teens, not so large that they become overwhelming with the viewer feeling saturated. The other place I frequently visit is the old Dubai Museum. I love the old Middle Eastern feel here and the fact that nothing has changed since its inception. It’s wonderful to be able to set foot inside the Fort that once housed our royals and dignitaries. It’s a very special space indeed.

 Why do you think learning how to be creative is important for children today?

 The world at large is becoming increasingly linear in its thinking. There is “one way” and things are considered “right or wrong”, which leads to huge skirmishes not only between individuals but also between nations. The encouragement of creativity means providing scope for lateral thinking and therefore acceptance. The ability to see things from a different or varied perspective and to acknowledge that this is okay, and even beneficial, is something I’d like to aim for. This is part of my rationale for collaborating with the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. They promote diverse thinking and acceptance. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world were a more peaceful place, all because of the decision to nurture creative thinking and creativity among our children?

 What Art Dubai events will you make sure you and your children attend this year?

 Art Dubai is always a whirlwind! For the kids just a visit to the main exhibition hall and some time spent at SIKKA is enough. Kids love it here! Live music, food trucks, and a riot of art from many genres, with some fun and quirky creations to explore. I will definitely take them to see the Masjid show and along on one of the educational mosque tours. I try not to over-saturate my kids, as I don’t want to turn them off what is my passion. After all, what is my passion may not be theirs.