Tired, re-wired and inspired: a talk in Sydney

Creative Mama talk

I am giving a talk in Sydney on October 13 at the Lord Dudley Hotel in Woollahra.

It’s part of the great line up of talks and masterclasses organised by Mama Creatives.

It would be wonderful to see you there! You can purchase tickets here.


More about the talk:
Enjoy an inspiring, informative and passionate talk by artist, filmmaker, photographer and writer Beth Taylor, who will be sharing her story, body of work and discussing You’re Doing Great, Baby – a book she has co-written and illustrated with her husband – over dinner and drinks in the company of other creative mamas!

“Motherhood has profoundly altered my perception of myself and the world, and changed everything about my art practice. It’s taught me about love, compassion and struggle.”

A look at Beth’s diverse range of work – from photography to writing and illustration, infused with personal stories of the heart-bursting highs and gut-wrenching lows of being both a mother and an artist, and what she learnt from her experience of having postnatal depression and mild postnatal psychosis after the births of her two boys.

There will also be a raffle on the night to raise funds for PANDA.


Getting ready for the talk has prompted me to update my portfolio on our main website – hooray for deadlines. Check it out!

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Detail from Home exhibition
Facebook Breadtag World
Breadtag World, 2011

Parenting vs. the creative process

This is a post about finding ways to keep creating things when you’re a parent (other than breakfasts, lunches, dinners and clean laundry). And the joys and frustrations of being a parent who needs to create.

After a rocky start, becoming a Mum was the best thing that ever happened to me, both personally and creatively. I had always known that creative work was important to me, but there’s nothing like suddenly having a lot less time to make you stop procrastinating and just do something.

I trained as a documentary writer/director but I wasn’t confident enough about my work to pursue my ideas or apply for grants after I finished film school. I found a full-time permanent job that was related to film, and then pretty soon after that I got pregnant.

Once Leo was born and I had recovered from the shock of it all I was drawn to creative practice I could fit into nap-time and didn’t require other people, big budgets or expensive equipment. I had also grown up a lot and cared less about what other people thought of my work.

I had my first exhibition, Breadtag World, when Leo was 18 months old, and then another called Home when he was three.

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Parenting is a hugely creative thing to be engaged in. You are constantly adapting to suit your child/ren’s needs and playing imaginative games, playing with language, song, paint, dance and all sorts of different media (ATM my youngest, Clem, is into wood-chips and banana, and Leo is into pastels and mask making). But it’s not enough for me to just facilitate their creative expression – I want a turn too!

There’s lots of time to daydream but not very much time to actually put pen to paper, brush to canvas or fingers to keyboard.

“I had to learn to be fast, faster than I’d ever been, for every second counts with a child. I had to teach myself to commit phrases and words to memory when I did not have a pen, to scribble notes to myself on the backs of envelopes … I learnt to compose everything in my head rather than on the page, to have whole paragraphs, whole chapters, completely worked out before I even sat down.
… I write this book in my dreams, in buses, in the quiet moments before I go to sleep, in the ink of my blood. I have learnt to write in air.”

– Susan Johnson, A Better Woman: A Memoir

Continue reading Parenting vs. the creative process

The illustrations

Although we were talking about picture ideas from the beginning, Jeff and I wrote the text for You’re Doing Great, Baby (which you can read in full online here) before we drew any pictures for it.

Jeff is by far the better drawer of the two of us, and we thought it would be fun to keep the project just us, so he did the drawings and I coloured them in with watercolours.

If I ever need proof that practicing something over and over makes you better at it, then this is it. Jeff drew and drew, honing the characters as he went. I coloured some of the pictures five times before we were happy with them.

Some pictures (like Mum and Baby lying on the mat on the grass) took two weeks to finish. So many blades of grass! And we did that one three or four times.

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Here are some examples of the evolution of the artworks.

Illo 3 Illo 1 Illo 5

 

Illo 2 Continue reading The illustrations

Inspiration for our illustrations

Jeff needed quite a bit of persuasion before he was willing to draw the pictures for our book. I like to call him “the reluctant illustrator”. It sounds all elusive and brooding – which if you’ve ever met Jeff is totally not how he is.

I love Jeff’s illustrations so much, and it was incredible to watch his drawings get better and better as he practiced. I’m going to do a post about the evolution of the artworks soon.

While we were still coming up with the story, we toyed around with the idea of having illustrations of lots of different parents and babies (a la favourites The Baby’s Catalogue or Look At You! A Baby Body Book). But in the end we decided that the best way to tell the story was to depict one parent (a Mum – the most common primary care-giver) and baby.

A lot of the illustrations you see in the book were inspired by experiences we had had and photos from Leo and Clem’s early life. Here are some examples:

On the rug with Dad

Illo inspiration 3
Both boys loved this hold when they were feeling over it in the evenings.

I will spare you the photo of me going to the toilet with a baby on my lap. Although variations on that scenario happen almost daily, we had to stage it because funnily enough that wasn’t part of our family album.

Continue reading Inspiration for our illustrations

All hands on deck

Jeff and I have finished all the illustrations for the book, apart from the front and back cover and the dedication page. So in other words, we are getting there!

It has been all hands on deck in our house…

You can read more about our process and how we are co-writing and co-illustrating the book here.

Thank you all for signing up to our newsletter and joining our Facebook page! It is great to have you along on the journey with us.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

One of the openings of our book is set in the dark of night and being new to illustrating with watercolours I didn’t know how to get the effect we were after.

On the rugThen I remembered that my grandmother had illustrated a book my Mum wrote.

My granny had used a palette of blue-greys for the night time pictures, so I studied those and came up with my own approach.

 

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Easter Saturday scanning mission

It’s the Easter school holidays. Leo has had his first term of school and he’s loving it but he’s also tired. We’re all a bit tired. Except for Clem who has three naps a day.

Jeff and I were keen to get the illustrations finished and scanned before the holidays but it hasn’t happened, so it’s Easter Saturday and we decided to get what we have done scanned.

Going to Officeworks wasn’t on Leo’s to-do list and I found myself loudly despairing that he wasn’t into the idea of doing something we wanted to do for a change. I wrestled his PJs off, trying to get him dressed. It was not my finest parenting moment. Eventually we negotiated in a side trip to Woolworths for dominoes and some fish and chips, and we set off.

The irony of getting all het up over a project whose message is to cultivate happiness through peacefully being in the moment is not lost in me. (The scans look awesome by the way).

The story so far

Some backstory on the origins of the (yet to be completed) book You’re Doing Great, Baby by Jeff Edwards (my husband) and Beth Taylor (me).

In 2012 Jeff and I started writing a picture book for new parents. We didn’t know exactly what it was about but we knew we had something to say to new parents:

  • You’re doing great
  • Be kind to yourself – having a baby is a major learning curve
  • Early parenthood can feel lonely and overwhelming
  • It’s hard work being a baby – they’re going through a massive learning curve too
  • When you and your baby can hang out and just ‘be’ together it feels really great
  • Your child is your greatest teacher
  • You are your child’s greatest teacher

We also knew all the things we didn’t want to say to new parents:

  • Advice about feeding, sleeping, eating, teething or developmental milestones

Continue reading The story so far