Earning extra income to support the family farm can be a challenge for a parent with three youngsters under the age of 6. But Sarah Williams has been able to do that with her custom artwork business.

“Two years ago, I was looking for ways to help support our family while I stayed home with our three kids and helped my husband on the farm, and some friends and family suggested drawing portraits for others,” Williams said.

Williams and her husband, Tim, operate a dairy farm in Waterloo. Their children are 5-year-old Roger, 3-year-old Hannah, and 2-year-old Katie.

“There’s really no other place I could imagine raising our kids than right here on the farm,” Williams said. “We have dairy cows, a border collie named Daisy, my Morgan horse Lucy, a small flock of Buff Orpington chickens and two strange barn cats that like to go for walks with us and are super sweet.”

Williams works to fit her art time around caring for her children and farm chores.

“It’s definitely not easy getting work done sometimes with three little kids,” Williams said. “They require a lot of attention and it means a lot of late nights for me. Sometimes I get to draw while our youngest naps. Most of the time I work after they go to bed because then I can really concentrate on what I’m doing.”

She lends a hand with farm chores every day, which she considers a nice break from staying inside the house, especially when weather is pleasant. Nice weather also means her kids can play outside a lot more and she can watch them while she works on her art.

Williams started drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil and never really stopped. Her earliest memories of art sparking her interest were when she was in fifth grade.

“I was, and still am, horse crazy, so pretty much all of my early drawings were about horses,” Williams said. “I took a few art classes in high school but I never had any professional coaching nor did I take classes in college for it.”

Drawing and painting were always something she just enjoyed doing for herself and family. However, she didn’t feel she was talented enough to promote her work as a professional.

Most of her artwork is custom for clients from photos of pets or people the customers provide, but she also tries to do a lot of original artwork.

“The inspiration for my original pieces is hard to explain,” Williams said. “Sometimes all it takes is a certain image to pop in my head and the pencils start flying across the page.”

An old lantern that’s been hanging in her home for the last few years turned into one of Williams’ favorite charcoal drawings. The drawing is of a cowboy riding his horse at night holding the lantern while checking fence.

“I just never really know until it hits me, and the image starts to develop on paper,” Williams said. “I have some pretty amazing family and friends that often share ideas and thoughts and that definitely helps a lot. Plus, the requests I get from my clients is really encouraging.”

The medium she prefers is graphite but colored pencil has begun to appeal to her more. She is also experimenting with watercolor.

“It’s definitely a big adjustment learning a new medium but it’s becoming a lot more popular with my clients,” Williams said. “It’s really nice to change it up and try new things and watercolor; it lets me be a little more free with my work.”

In addition to exploring various media, Williams is expanding her creativity to children’s book publishing. Since the book project is still in the beginning stage, there’s not a lot she can say about it at this time except she’s looking forward to seeing the finished project next year. She’s working with a publishing company and finding it’s a “huge learning opportunity.”

More examples of her work can be found on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sketchesby sarahw.