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Imaginary children: Emotional landscapes of involuntary childlessness ‐ personal reflections, sketching, diary and picture book

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The act of drawing is still an underestimated, powerful and simple means of expression for adults. It represents an odd, unconventional and hence exceptional channel to self-awareness. This article is a phenomenological study of the author’s path from sketching to an emerging visual narrative about a prolonged period of unsuccessful attempts at conceiving a child. The emotional states that arose and the transitions that occurred during this period are discussed through the prism of matrescence, a transitional period to motherhood. It starts with a conscious decision to have a child. Through the biology and by means of drawing and illustration, the author explores the inner workings of the mind, decodes visual metaphors and symbols, and explores emotional and menstrual cycles of conceiving and losing, searching for lost connections to the body and processes within. Motives of walking, going through and cycling recur in the sketches and drawings. The cycling also appears through the metaphor of tides on the seashore. The fjord ‐ the sea as the origin of life in a biological sense ‐ becomes a place for emotional transformation. In this article, emotional landscapes hold a special place as a helpful tool for working with emotions and developing the story. The initial sketches are examined along with the text of the diary. The phenomenon of disconnection is discussed in a social context to reveal how it is shown in the illustrations. Finally, the egg becomes a strong visual trigger and a link between biology and art, and a character in the narrative.

Keywords: autobiographical graphic novel; cycles; emotional distress; graphic memoirs; matrescence; mental health; self-awareness; sketchbook

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Freelance illustrator

Publication date: August 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • Illustration is a rapidly evolving field with an excitingly broad scope. Despite its cultural significance and rich history, illustration has rarely been subject to deep academic scrutiny. The Journal of Illustration provides an international forum for scholarly research and investigation of a range of cultural, political, philosophical, historical, and contemporary issues, in relation to illustration. The journal encourages new critical writing on illustration, associated visual communication, and the role of the illustrator as visualizer, thinker, and facilitator, within a wide variety of disciplines and professional contexts.

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