Why working on this book felt good

This is A Job For Mommy! An A-Z Adventure is coming out this week (and for sale!), and I am sitting with how good it feels to have created artwork for a project whose message I believe in so fully. In Keegan Connor Tracy’s book, “Mommy” has had 26 careers (one for every letter of the alphabet) and shares her experiences with her daughter in rhyming verse.

With a focus on jobs that are not traditionally considered “feminine” occupations, Keegan encourages readers to consider that women and girls can do any work – from the messy and physically demanding to the silly, scientific and adventurous.

Having supported diverse learners in school settings for the past nine years, this really resonates with me. Though we are comfortable with encouraging girls to strive academically, when academics are not a female student’s strength, girls are not encouraged to pursue the trades and manual, necessary community work (like electricians, mechanics, landscapers, etc.) in the same way as boys. Elective shop classes, for example, are often made up of predominantly male students.

In my experience, girls tend to see themselves occupying roles related to the beauty or fashion industry much more readily, or in caring or serving professions where women are currently heavily represented.

window washer

This is one of the reasons W is one of my favourite jobs of Mommy. For W, Mommy is a window washer! This is the type of job, like many roles relating to building maintenance and construction, that I think many girls would not envision themselves in. Maybe window washing is not usually considered glamorous, but it’s important, and pays what would generally be considered a living wage.

The ability to choose work that supports us is central to financial autonomy, which is essential to being able to make choices for ourselves, and self-determination is key to equality for girls and women.

There is so much work that is considered “men’s work” by default, not because it needs anything that men specifically have to offer, but because the historic domination by men in every field of paid work has not been eroded in that particular category. I’m thinking of how often it is easy to let the term “work men” slip off the tongue. Because most of the people we see doing everyday work in the community – like construction, automotive repair, electrical or plumbing work and other jobs that occupy the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), are men.

These are all good jobs, and there is no reason women could not, theoretically, be doing them. Indeed, it is projected that there will be a shortage of one million skilled trade workers by 2020, so women are actually needed to step into these roles. But preparing girls for jobs in skilled labour, manufacturing and trades has to be worked into how they view themselves at a young age, so they can even imagine themselves in the world of physically engaging, often messy “men’s work.” Employers are calling for training for girls in STEM as they recognize that it is a cultural and educational shift that needs to occur to correct the gender imbalance.

So, it feels good to contribute to something that can help shift how girls might project themselves in the future of work. Keegan chose a mix of kinds (and importantly, class) of occupations – blue collar, entrepreneurial, community service, sports, entertainment – and on the page all the jobs are elevated to something that is fun, exciting and meaningful.

I feel super lucky that I got asked to do work that I find meaningful in creating the illustrations and design for this book. I never take it for granted that it’s because I was told, as a daughter at home, and student at school, that I could.

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Dog portrait of Betty

This portrait was created for a Christmas present, which is always a special commission. In this case, Betty had passed away recently so it was extra meaningful.

It feels so intimate to provide someone with a reminder of their relationship with their animal companion when that pet is no longer with them.  It’s so deep and sad when this relationship ends. It’s a special, pure type of connection whose weight I think is often overlooked.

I used India ink to paint Betty with some white gouache for accents, and for the background used watercolour and white pen.

 

 

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Betty

Poster artwork

This was such a fun poster to make for local musician, Ché Aimee Dorval. I started with watercolour and ink then did the pink outlining and lettering on my tablet. It’s been rainy in Vancouver and I wanted to make something bright out of the everyday (I was inspired by the hedges that populate pretty much every neighbourhood).

Inktober

Inktober is a challenge to artists to create an ink drawing every day for the entire month of October. So, I didn’t exactly do that, but it was a great excuse to challenge myself to make some off the cuff artwork that didn’t require too much thought or time (more than a day). Here’s what I came up with.

 

 

Discorder illustrations

I created these pieces for an article for Discorder Magazine about the Chinatown Concern Group.  This group of activists is fighting displacement of low-income and Chinese residents in the name of revitalization in Vancouver’s Chinatown.RozCCG-2CHinatown concern1

IBPA award

I am so excited and honoured to share that The Body Book has been named the winner of the IBPA’s*  Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal Award in the children’s picture book 0-3 category!

In the indie book world, it can feel hard to gauge the response to your work sometimes, since everything happens on a smaller scale, so recognition at this level is a very welcome cause for celebration.  Unfortunately I was unable to attend the awards gala in Portland, but was lucky that my fellow Promontory author, Pearl R. Meaker, author of her own award winner, The Devil’s Music was able to accept on my behalf.  Thanks Pearl! I’m very very excited about the gold stickers.

*Independent Book Publisher’s Association

Shoutback fest!

I was honored to be a part of Shoutback! fest this year by taking part in their first visual arts show at Artbank gallery.  Shoutback! is a lot of awesome things, such as diy, anti capitalist, anarcha-feminist, queer and all ages. Ultimately it is a “celebration in smashing patriarchy, showcasing artists who are under-represented.” Amongst a plethora of shows and workshops (on such topics as anti oppression and colonization, direct unionism, feminism and hip hop, fat panic!, skateboarding and bike fixing) this year they showcased art for the first time in a show curated by arts supporter and enthusiast ambitioustron extraordinaire, Selina Crammond. A rad zine was made by the fantastic Adrienne Labelle (both are of Movieland fame) with artists’ statements and manifestos, music was played to a jam packed venue, and even though people were very sweaty art was not, in the end, sweated upon.  Times were good. I even took pictures.

Also, the manifesto of the show/ festival (written by Selina Crammond)  was so inspiring to me I had to write it out here:

The name Shout Back! Festival was directly inspired by the title of Bell Hook’s 1988 book Talking Back: Thinking Feminist. Thinking Black. In the book, she outlines the transformative power of writing as a tool for addressing oppression and encouraging social change. For Shout Back the emphasis is on voice and sound as a tool for challenging the heteronormative structures that perpetuate inequality. This year we are going beyond music-making by including expanded workshops, a documentary screening and this art show as a way to offer (quieter) space to foster dialogue.

Be it through sound, writing or talking there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of sifting through such complex realities. The songs performed, the uber cool shout back t-shirts worn and even the art in this show are not the most important part of this festival. For me the power lies in the process of screen printing a t shirt and even the process of hanging art on the wall.

This art show, like the festival itself, is a celebration of process over product. Though all of the pieces in this show are wonderful, weird and thought provoking in their finality, the act of making them is what I’m most interested in. For it is the curl in Aili’s riot grrl manifesto, the pencil marks behind Roz’s watercolour, the tiny knots in Kristine’s tin foil jewelery, the pixellated splotches on Jill’s computer monitor, the rip in Vanessa’s paper canvass and the stitches in Caitlin’s banner where ideas become action.

Many feminist scholars have proclaimed the importance of working collectively through difference. But difference doesn’t exist without the normal. And I think, perhaps, the time + space that breathes between ideas + products are where difference + normal can collapse into an active togetherness that will set us free!

For if the duty of the feminist movement is, as Bell Hooks says, to work collectively to expand our awareness of how sex, race and class interlock to create oppressive narratives, then what better way to build a new narrative than by sharing the space where ideas become tangible? Let us always be talking, listening, laughing, reading, writing, drawing, editing, organizing and shouting together!

art up the wazoo

Today’s been an inspiring day. I started out at the Roundhouse Center talking with the lovely people from Papergirl Vancouver about art, then stumbled upon a comic/art convention in their gallery.  I picked up some art for my walls, and came home to work on a new project for children’s illustration.  I’m working on developing a new style of illustrating kids in watercolour.  At the moment its all a work in progress.

BTW: Papergirl is an amazing event that shares art with the unsuspecting, breaking chains of commodification in the process. CHECK THEM OUT.  Plus, join in!

happy birthday Tom!

A friend of mine is having a birthday show at Little Mountain Gallery, and I had lots of fun making a poster for the event.  I even got to use my stamps.  It’s going to be so much fun, and it’s a fundraiser too!

alphabet soup

I’m always happy when I get to use my creative energy on a project with someone I know and like, which was the case for this super cute alphabet work book a teacher friend asked for some help on.  I did the pictures, while Danita put together the text and layout.  I’m really happy with how it turned out!

It’s available for download, now or super soon,  at www.teacherspayteachers.com