Transition to motherhood… in watercolor
A year ago, when I first learned that was pregnant I fantasized about exploring my pregnancy through a series of artworks. Instead, I had a creative shutdown for over four months. Forget about watercolor!
Long story short…
A long-awaited shock
Long story short, it took me 12 years and 2 marriages to get pregnant. I’m in my late 30s now. Needless to say that every year was making me feel farther and farther away from the prospect of motherhood. I was already talking myself down from this idea and into different life-purpose options when I got a positive pregnancy test. I think I was a bit shocked because for the first couple of weeks I wasn’t sure how happy was I supposed to be… The key, I decided, was to create the right mindset. And a part of that mindset was the idea of a creative exploration of my new existence.
I guess I didn’t realize the scale of the shock because from that day on it took me great effort to start any new project. I spent 2 months finishing a relatively simple commission and I even dropped the ball on the podcast (although I already had a lot of material produced and ready to go). I was existing, functioning – but not living.
It was only way after the 20-week mark when I began to feel that I’m ready to get back to life.
My body became my muse
As my belly was becoming more and more obvious every week, my obsession with it grew as well. Never in my life had I loved my body more than during those weeks, especially in the third trimester. My identity moved into my stomach and every experience had to be first filtered through the sensations in my belly before they reached my brain.
And this is when I got back in the studio with a creative outburst.
But I still wanted to express it in my own way. I unpacked my dusty set of White Nights watercolors (#ad)* and then this happened…
Uncomfortable experiences, uncomfortable medium
Those who have been pregnant will understand this. Pregnancy is not only about the changing body, kicks in the stomach, and loose bladder. It’s a full transformation of the identity on a physical and emotional level. On all levels, really. It is a major crisis followed by a most profound and permanent transition to a new way of being. The ambivalence of this experience is hardly comparable with anything else. It is the highest level of discomfort mixed with the highest level of excitement. And after birth, throw also guilt, frustration, enormous love, and exhaustion into the soup.
I couldn’t possibly paint all of that with my beloved all-forgiving acrylics. I had to go with the medium that resonates with the experience – the uncontrollable watercolor.
The first trio happened very fast and it’s about how it felt when the baby was moving inside kicking and stretching in every direction during the last weeks of pregnancy.
The next pieces began to emerge after about 2 weeks postpartum when all my sensations were concentrated around bloody nipples and torn-apart bottom. I was loaded with mixed emotions. I felt like my body has been brutalized and yet was expected to perform despite not having time to heal. Breastfeeding was a nightmare! And yet I felt terribly guilty for wanting to be left alone to catch up on sleep and tend to my wounds. How selfish of me!
Gregory and the left boob
I. Gregory woke up in the morning hungry. Two boobs full of milk were already waiting for him. The right one looked sweet and welcoming. But the left one presented a challenge. And he went for it!
II. We pulled and twisted, and yanked, and bit. He was determined to conquer the left boob whatever it takes. And got very excited in the process.
III. He wrestled the left boob for almost 15 minutes until he got exhausted. He pulled away and bit a tip of a nipple and then let go. The left boob was defeated! Gregory let the triumphant cry out!
Color and style
As I mentioned, there’s A LOT packed into the experience of transitioning to motherhood. And none of it is rosy and fluffy, so I wanted to avoid the seriousness of the realistic style and add a bit of irony and humor as a coping mechanism. Therefore exaggerated cartoonishness and sketch-like drawings.
The color palette is hectic, yet harmonious – just like the swirl of emotions and physical sensations that I experienced at the time. Really, how is possible that so many conflicting things were happening in my body simultaneously and I didn’t blow up?!
The series consists of 12 paintings of 7″x10″
Watercolor on cold press paper
Prints are available on demand
I should mention that I attempted a few different ways to “document” this moment in my life (including ridiculous weekly selfies). With the help of my dear friends I had a belly cast made at about 35 weeks, I modeled for a portrait in pastel, and finally, I had a nude photoshoot just a few days before I went into labor. All of that made my pregnancy experience so much more special and I can cherish that time through the beautiful artwork authored by my friends.
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