Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Create everywhere, anywhere, and anytime! - By Barbara DiLorenzo

I've just had a baby. A real baby (book babies are coming out later this year).
Prior to this wonderful addition to my family, I was sluggishly productive in the last months of pregnancy. But I still managed to create final artwork for two picture books–RENATO AND THE LION in the first trimester, and QUINCY in the end of the second trimester. 

But with a newborn that requires a lot of holding throughout the day, I find myself sitting on the opposite side of the room from my drafting table, unable to draw or paint or respond to emails. At first, I told myself to just breathe and get through those first sleep-deprived weeks. Not drawing to me is akin to not going to the gym for normal folks. A few days without exercise doesn't phase me much, but I've seen friends unravel slightly when this happens to them. Similarly, a few days without drawing, and I feel off. At this point with over a month of no new artwork produced, I'm starting to panic.

With lots of time to think, I now realize my difficulty in creating new work is partly due to how I approach art making. Thanks to years without holding a newborn morning, noon and night, I had time to create as I pleased. Hours of uninterrupted work time while listening to NPR or documentaries on Netflix, sipping coffee and playing with different mediums was normal to me. But today, I have a new normal that requires urgency - grabbing every opportunity to make a mark. I have a sketchbook by the table where I sit, but without my hands free, it has sat lonely and unused for weeks because I was waiting for that stretch of time that I used to enjoy. My new goal is to make a mark at every moment the baby falls asleep. This is humbling, as the marks aren't that appealing–especially as my sleep-deprived brain is also affecting my drawing agility. But the point is not to create a masterpiece, but to keep moving forward. Even typing this blog post required sneaking out of bed at 4am to write, all in an effort to keep moving forward. 

So here is the first mark I have made since the baby was born. No time for shading. No time for detail. Not even finished because the baby fussed just 5 minutes into my sketch. This is just a raw sketch of my current state. Now that I look at it more closely, I appreciate the honesty. No flourishes or well-designed composition. Just a tired mom and her newborn. I have a feeling that if I can make more of these, I will start to regain my footing. In the process, I will retrain myself in the skill of drawing everywhere, anywhere and at any time. Though I don't have the luxury of other options, I am happy to go back to basics again–and learn how to draw with urgency and honesty, and not solely to please an audience.
Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Co-President of the Children's Book Illustrators Group (CBIG).
Instructor & Outreach Program Coordinator for the Arts Council of Princeton.

Coming soon!RENATO AND THE LIONWritten and illustrated by Barbara DiLorenzo
Published by Viking Children's Books
Release date: June 20, 2017

Written and illustrated by Barbara DiLorenzo
Published by Little Bee Books
Release date: February 8, 2018


  1. Feels like many riches, so little time. Frustrating and beautiful living together.

  2. First---congratulations, Barbara! :) I remember well what that was like and in a few months my son and daughter-in-law will be experiencing that same thing. It's a way of life that is so new and so different, and it can be difficult to be patient while everyone adjusts, for sure. And I love this sketch. It's actually something that should be kept as a keepsake, I think. A momento of this very special time in yours and your baby's life.

    And I've long felt that when babies fuss and don't sleep (my son barely did, but the poor baby was starving thinking he was getting breast milk and he wasn't :( ), it's due more to food and digestion than anything, whether it's breast milk or formula. Some sort of sensitivity or simply the inability to properly digest whatever's being taken in and it's not always easy to figure out. Know that you WILL get through it all and as bits of time return to you, being a mom is going to ultimately enrich your work in whatever ways it does.

    It's all good :)

  3. Break everything down to it's smallest step. You'll get it all done: nap by nap, step by step.