Coloured pencil on illustration board, 9″ x 12″, 2006-10.
I strongly suspect that the carpet on which you and your child sit at your local drop-in centre is very similar to the one that covers the floor of my neighbourhood parent/child centre. It’s the type of low-pile carpeting often seen in basements, permanently stained by an accumulation of spilled juice, toilet-training accidents, and the crumbs of a thousand crackers embedded between its well-worn fibers. This carpet is suitably emblematic of parenthood: a down-and-dirty, messy affair that, while frayed at the edges, remains resolute in its goal to provide a nurturing environment to our beloved offspring. It was while seated on such a carpet, reading an alphabet book with my then toddler son Ridley, that the idea for this series arose.
As we are all likely aware, the decision whether or not to become a parent is a momentous one. However, when the would-be parent is a professional artist, this decision carries even greater consequences. The creative arts – whether theatre, music, writing or visual art – require considerable dedication with little (if any) financial compensation for the long hours invested. The artist’s lifestyle seems radically contrary to the demands of childrearing. As the NYC-based feminist art collective Guerrilla Girls stated in their 1989 poster Advantages of Being a Woman Artist, women artists have “… the opportunity to choose between career and motherhood.” Such statements, though obviously ironic, underscore the anxiety felt by many women artists who struggle with this dilemma.
And yet, artists who have opted for parenthood are legion. I count myself amongst these artist-parents who capitalize on nap schedules and play-dates as opportunities for creative output. If anything, my role as parent has greatly informed my creative work. This is how, while sitting on that drop-in centre carpet with my son, I arrived at the idea of an ‘alphabet book’ designed for adults.
Although I have taken the format of a child’s alphabet book as a creative point-of-departure, the topics addressed throughout this series are very adult. Each drawing corresponds to one letter of the Roman alphabet and illustrates an “anxiety” or a “desire.” Drawings such as C is for Consumerism and S is for Surveillance have obvious sociopolitical messages. Other images, like A is for Anger and T is for Tattoo seem more ambiguous and idiosyncratic in nature. These topics represent the many complicated issues we grapple with as adults – issues that our children will inevitably face as they mature. It is a compilation of anxieties I have for the future while, at the same time, it is also an ecstatic celebration of the joyous and pleasurable aspects of life. Collectively, these images function as a barometer of the complex, and often contradictory, world in which we live.
I submit this book as proof that artistic life continues after parenthood. Enjoy.
— Jennifer Linton
ps. A forty-page, full colour perfect-bound book of this Alphabet series is available at Blurb.com.