Joanna Spicer is an illustrator, senior lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and mum to 3 year old twins. She developed her visual language rooted in observation and drawing whilst studying for her Masters in Illustration at MMU in 2016. Since becoming a parent her work has sought to capture her children’s development.
“In August 2019 I became a mum for the first time to twins. They were born 8 weeks premature so the first 6 weeks of their lives were spent in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Fortunately they were both born healthy and just needed extra time to feed and grow before we were allowed to take them home. Whilst it was hard leaving our babies at the hospital each night as we returned home to sleep, the experience was a bit like a baby bootcamp where we learned from the nurses how to feed, bath and change the nappies of our new arrivals. Spending nearly all our waking hours on the ward, I would refer to this time as the beginning of our lockdown.
For all we learned about looking after our babies whilst in NICU, nothing prepared us for the whirlwind of nap schedules, constant feeding, sleepless nights and nappy changes we were thrown into when we finally got them home. Life continued to revolve pretty much exclusively around a single place – now our 2 bed flat close to the centre of Bristol.
When COVID sent the whole country into lockdown in March 2020 it felt quite normal. It was in some respects a relief. The pressure I was putting on myself to get out the flat with the twins, to do things and see people suddenly disappeared and the space this created allowed us to focus on our family and to continue to develop a routine for the twins.
Drawing had always played an important part in my life and I missed it when the demands of my new life made it difficult to keep up. I needed to draw to feel like myself. I had previously drawn people going about their everyday lives and my MA in Illustration had focused on trying to capture the movement of dance in my drawings. Drawing the twins seemed like a natural progression. I worked in stolen moments when they both chose to sleep at the same time and used short films I’d recorded of them as my reference. I worked quickly with charcoal which felt impermanent, easy to rework and draw back over until the drawing felt right. I was not aiming to capture likeness or create portraits but rather capture their movement, spirit and the way they related to one another and their (mostly domestic) physical environment.
The images displayed tell a story of their developmental journey from being entirely dependent on me, through the beginnings of their exploration of objects and toys, to becoming freer and more independent with their movements and play.”