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The Art of Motherhood With Courtney Seabrooks

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Pauline Chatelan

San Diego-based mother and artist Courtney Seabrooks celebrates Mother's Day with a Sézane dress-up session, and a discussion about motherhood, creativity, and more.

Did you always know you wanted to be a mother? 

“Absolutely, though there were moments when I doubted when the circumstances might become just right.”

How have your pregnancy and birth experiences been?

“Pregnancy and giving birth were like sagas unfolding—one chapter at a time. Despite feeling like forever, both pregnancies were pretty smooth health-wise.”

“With my daughter, my first, I gave birth in a hospital without any medical intervention. She was born posterior and my body was in a lot of pain afterwords. It was a bit traumatic but also magical.”

“My second pregnancy was more exhausting day-to-day. I’m still exhausted, in fact! I gave birth to my son in a birthing center on Christmas Eve. I broke my own water, and had another spectacular, natural birth.”  

“From the moment I became a mother, my world has been an ever-shifting play of growth and discovery. I am surprised by how much I’m learning while devoting so much time to my children’s needs. It’s like I’ve developed another sense.”

Tell us about your children's names.

“I named my 3-year-old (nearly 4-year-old) daughter Camilla Gold. Her middle name really suits her perfectly. My husband chose to name our son Kai William. He is now 4 months old.”  

What excites you about raising both a daughter and a son?

“Having both a daughter and a son brings a whole new level of excitement to our arrangement. I didn't have a preference regarding the sex of my children at any point, but I couldn’t resist knowing while pregnant.”

“Having a girl first has been an absolute blast. She's like a mini-me, a reflection of my wildest dreams, and my ultimate sidekick (who might actually be the main character). Now, with our little man in the mix, my whole world feels balanced and grounded.”

What has surprised you about the experience of motherhood so far?

“From the moment I became a mother, my world has been an ever-shifting play of growth and discovery. I am surprised by how much I’m learning while devoting so much time to my children’s needs. It’s like I’ve developed another sense.”

“So, I do feel changed. I’d say that my instincts have gotten sharper. I can do more in less time. My recipes have doubled in size. My voice has gotten better from singing and reciting stories. My determination to give my little ones the best possible life has become the inspiration for just about everything I do.”

“Motherhood has demanded that I shed the layers of my old self and emerge as something entirely new and beautiful—a version of myself I never could have imagined before.”

What was your own upbringing like?

“My upbringing in Oceanside, California, was shaped by a bustling household. With my parents, three brothers, and myself, our home was always buzzing with energy. My mother loved to read and garden. She was a postal worker and retired early following a harrowing emergency brain surgery that left her partially blind. My father, a colorful character with a knack for storytelling, worked as a handyman and custodian for the City of Oceanside, his life peppered with tales worthy of the silver screen.”

“Despite the trials we faced, there was always an undercurrent of strength and resilience running through our family. My parents raised us to be very independent. My grandmother, a beacon of fashion and elegance, added her own touch of flair to our upbringing, instilling in me a love for style.”

“One thing I am especially grateful for is that I was fortunate to attend a charter school tailored to artistic children for high school. I'll always remember my mother's determination in pulling strings to secure me an interview, which included tests and discussions about books I had read. This would shape my artistic journey in profound ways. For that, I'll forever be grateful to my mother's unwavering support.”

Are there things from your upbringing that you're consciously trying to incorporate into your kid's upbringing? What about your husband's?

“We are close to my husband’s mom’s family, who are Mexican and deeply entrenched in their heritage, so we participate in a lot of their celebrations. Camilla loves Dia De Los Muertos.”

“I would love to take my children to Italy to see the town that my dad’s family comes from, eventually. My cousin visits there often and it would be great to let them embrace that cultural heritage as well.”

“We hope that my children will explore all the ties they have to their unique ancestry, which includes African, Italian, Mexican, and English/European.”

You and your husband are both creative people—is that something you want to foster in your children?

“My daughter is very creative, so I’ve fostered her creativity by giving her everything she needs to create, but I also encourage her to create from whatever is around. Some days I will stretch art paper all over the walls and let her paint murals with crayons and markers. I also made her a play wooden kitchen and customized it for her. Sometimes she is a chef and transforms into a culinary maestro, concocting imaginary feasts fit for royalty. I also attentively listen to her in those moments when she takes center stage, spinning tales and weaving narratives like the little actress that she is.”

“My son is very young but already he is responding to music and the sound of instruments. I often put on music and records for him and adore watching him light up. I also read to them both every night and whenever possible.”

“Becoming a mother opened me up. I purged all in my life that wasn’t working. It has made me more creative, more serious, more dedicated.”

What excites you most about motherhood right now?

“I am excited by the prospect of traveling with my children. Witnessing the world through their curious eyes, seeing what ignites their spirits and fills their hearts with joy—it's an adventure I can hardly wait to embark on.”

“I am also really excited for more performances and accomplishments of theirs. One memory that particularly stands out as exciting is watching my little girl's first dance recital. After weeks of tiny rehearsals with her fellow toddlers, seeing her take the stage, adorned in her ballerina tutu was nothing short of spectacular.”

What makes you most nervous? 

“My babies won’t be babies forever. Watching them evolve and mature is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. As I write this, I'm wrestling with the bittersweet struggle of trying to settle my baby boy to sleep, acutely aware that these moments won't last forever. So, I strive to cherish these precious nights.”  

How has your style changed since becoming a mother?

“I wouldn’t say my style has changed very much since becoming a mom. My love for fashion remains undiminished, and I appreciate the artistry of layering, styling, and accessorizing. Although, I will say that quality is a non-negotiable now—I rarely wear anything but premium fabrics.”

“Right now, you'll often find me in long skirts paired with tops perfect for effortless breastfeeding—where comfort meets functionality without sacrificing an ounce of style. Though in a year, I’ll be incorporating pieces that are a little less functional, no doubt.”

Tell us about your Sézane looks from the shoot—what do you love about each of your outfits?

“The first look we shot in—the Jesse blouse and matching Fausto trousers—was this incredible lace set that felt very classic and breathable. It was one of those timeless looks that felt very Parisian. Just add a scarf, sunnies, and a trench and you can be going just about anywhere.”

“The striped suit, Matheo trousers and Antonina Jacket, felt very ‘me.’ I am always wearing suits and vests, not just for meetings and whatnot, but because I feel very beautiful in them.”

“I also wore the Medicis dress. This one had a vintage suede mini dress feel. I love clothing that transports me into another time or place. This one did that for me."

"The denim shirt was oversized and had very feminine sleeves while also giving a little bit of a cool edge with its western structure. I would wear that on a regular basis. It’s big and cozy and, of course, easy to breastfeed in.”

“The knitted dress was effortlessly chic, I described it as feeling like the main character of an indie movie. It is so elegant but also understated and one of the most comfortable dresses that I have ever worn. The V-neck and back give it a subtly sexy vibe too.“

Do you have any style icons or muses?

“Absolutely! I always look to films and runways when I need a little help putting an outfit together.”

“My style is a collage of influences and muses…Frida Kahlo, Cher, Joan Baez, Lisa Bonet (whose eclectic mix of textures and patterns speaks to me), Bianca Jagger's timeless elegance, Helena Bonham Carter's whimsical charm, the raw authenticity of Georgia O'Keeffe's Southwestern style, the more casual side of David Bowie or Marc Bolan’s outfits, the timeless chicness of Jane Birkin, whose effortless Parisian flair embodies understated elegance, the allure of Solange Knowles or Chloë Sevigny. These all fuel my imagination and encourage me to push boundaries with my fashion choices.”

Can you tell us about your career in a nutshell?

“My journey into the world of film and art started seriously during college, where I studied art and psychology. My childhood dream was to become a film director. I wrote bad screenplays and visualized them through storyboards, wrote poems, as well as drew from observation and painted endlessly.”

“Then, I worked like a mad woman to land as many freelance filmmaking gigs in Los Angeles as I could. I had a short-term goal of being hired as an art director on a film. My dedication to the craft led me to work on remarkable film sets for both television and feature films. I worked in just about every department including art department, storyboarding, producing, assistant directing, and a floor directing.”

“My career trajectory shifted once I found out I was pregnant. It was a change for the better, as it forced me to start taking my painting more seriously as a means for generating income. I started my art brand Strange House while postpartum with my daughter, selling my original paintings and taking commissions for artwork from interior designers. I have made work for commercial and private spaces all over the world under that name.”

“I am also a signed model and an art director for various projects.”

How has becoming a mother impacted your creativity and career?

“Becoming a mother opened me up. I purged all in my life that wasn’t working. It has made me more creative, more serious, more dedicated. Balancing motherhood with my career has required some innovative time management strategies, but it's also given me and a wealth of experiences to draw upon in my art.”

“When I was about six months pregnant with my daughter, I made the decision to step away from film production, and this started my transition into roles in front of the camera. Since then, I've become more comfortable stepping into the spotlight more often.”

“I've delved into modeling and other ventures, signing with a modeling agency and actively participating in fashion campaigns. Additionally, I've taken on roles as an art director and social content creator, leveraging my creative skills in exciting new ways. I am always working on something. I feel like more opportunities open up for me now that I am more in touch with my true self.  The way in which I work allows me to work on creative projects that are fulfilling to me, and that give me the flexibility to prioritize my children above all else.”

Can we expect to see your paintings and artwork in person somewhere in the future?

“I do plan on showing my personal work in an exhibition soon. I have a few galleries in Los Angeles that I am connected to which may provide the space for me to enter the art world in an official way. My latest work feels like the most authentic expression of myself. I am approaching my love for storytelling through the lens of fine art installations now, and my paintings have become more personal.”

What appeals to you about raising your children in San Diego?

“There's something undeniably comforting about raising my children in San Diego, especially in my hometown of Oceanside. It's where I have roots and where I've built lasting connections.”

“But life is full of surprises. We have entertained the idea of spreading our wings elsewhere. Los Angeles has always been in the discussion. I've taken the first steps to obtain my Italian citizenship by descent—a nod to the possibility of future adventures abroad.”

“While I can envision us settling in different locales down the road, for now, San Diego remains my comfort zone, a familiar embrace that holds a special place in my heart.”  

What are your go-to local spots in San Diego to shop, eat, see art, play with your kids, get out in nature, etc.?

“On a sunny day in Oceanside, you'll find us at the beach or a park, the Oceanside Pier Playground, or, if it’s a Thursday, browsing the booths at the Farmer’s Market. I’m a vintage fanatic and often shop at Captain's Helm and Ransack in Oceanside.”

“When hunger strikes, we’ll usually head to Sprouts or Frazier Farms for groceries and then cook at home. When we do dine out we might go to Wrench and Rodent for their inventive Japanese fusion menu, Colima's Mexican Food, or La Petite Madeline French Bakery. Our families often meet up in Carlsbad at Casa de Bandini or Norte near the beach. Oh yes, Goodonya Organic in Encinitas is amazing.”

“Downtown San Diego's Little Italy beckons us occasionally. Downtown La Jolla, too, has some good shops and is a great place to take photos.”

“Our favorite record shop is Standards Records in Vista, California. Local Maker’s Markets bring us into whatever surrounding city they’re held in. For family fun we also go to The Botanical Gardens, Birch Aquarium, the Safari Park.”

“We go to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park for specific exhibitions, though we’ll more often go to L.A. for the art shows that are always popping up there. I plan on bringing Camilla to see live theater or ballet soon. I’m always looking for new things to explore now that I have children. It makes the places I’ve been to many times a lot sweeter.”

Be sure to follow Courtney at @courtney.seabrooks on Instagram, courtneyseabrooks.com, and Substack.

All of the looks featured can be found on Sezane.com and in the "Shop The Story" module below!

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