Of course I was excited to illustrate Parenthood Listography. Published April 2013, the journal is 8th in the esteemed Listography series, each authored by Lisa Nola and published by Chronicle Books.
As an illustrator, I was eager to work through a large quantity of illustrations—69! Lisa’s text suggested very unique situations and things; determining how to represent each visually while maintaining consistency throughout the book was a welcome challenge. Each drawing informed the next: from subject and composition to line quality and color. Ultimately, we all wanted drawings that were whimsical and fun, at times poignant. After all, many of the best parenting moments are exactly that.
A list of character traits or features most like a relative: Aunt Bea’s fearlessness.
A list of things you gave us: When we dressed you as Andy Warhol for guests.
A list of TV shows and characters you loved: Gary from SpongeBob SquarePants.
A list of your talents: Knitting.
I didn’t look far for inspiration. As the father of two boys (ages 5 and 6 at the time), our home in San Francisco is littered with so many of the things you’ll find in this book. That “first potty” (page 132) was ours. As were the stuffed animals (pages 32 and 60), doll (page 102), xylophone (page 112), and socks (page 108). (Kids, a late apology from dad for unpairing them, throwing them to the floor and leaving them there for days. But I let you wear Crocs to school! I know, sorry, it was raining.) The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (page 48) and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree (page 96) grace our bookshelves. The Lego house (page 78) didn’t last long; the blocks were quickly repurposed as a series of fighter planes (piloted by ninjas). Even our cat, Louie, made appearances (pages 114 and 116).
A list of things you pretended to do and to be: A teacher for your stuffed animals.
A list of things you destroyed: Your dolls.
A list of chores you had to do: Match all of the socks after laundry.
A list of books and movies you should experience: The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe.
A list of your favorite children’s books: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
A list of your friends (real and imaginary) over the years: Jose, who lives in the Lego house you made.
A list of things you gave us: A homemade pet rock family.
We aren’t short on experience either. Our now seven-year-old would be proud to tell you he’s lost 7 teeth—none yet from an accident, but it is only a matter of time (page 74). And, as I cut their hair myself, I’m not sure their bangs have ever actually been straight (page 50). We’ve said goodbye to our share of pet fish (page 90) and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks (page 94). It was the first movie my British-born mother ever took me to see and a likely source of inspiration for the mash-up of illustration and photography I often make today. And I don’t need to tell you what happens at dinner when the peas roll too close to the ravioli (page 82). x2 if that’s red sauce.
A list of your injuries and accidents: Roller rink tooth loss.
A list of advice for your future: Don’t ever cut your own bangs.
A list of your favorite movies: Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
A list of your little peccadilloes: You liked segregated food.
I count myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to capture and celebrate parenthood in this way. Being a father has been an awesome experience. I’ve gained a new perspective on my own childhood (and the lives of my parents) while creating a family of my own. And suddenly I’m so necessary! Children don’t just want, but need to be fed, burped, changed, loved, taught how to ride a bike, read to, taken to the beach, consoled, celebrated, raced home early for, taken camping, lathered in sun lotion, hugged, bathed, clothed, gotten down for a nap, rocked, deloused, taken to the potty, played with, listened to, protected, supported, emboldened, stimulated, encouraged, respected, challenged… And really, when was the last time you literally introduced someone to the WORLD?
In turn, parents get to learn and be loved; be both exhausted and rewarded (in amounts heretofore unknown); and enjoy a life that is so much bigger than it was before.
Kyle Pierce / Illustrator
Purchase: Parenthood Listography: My Kid in Lists.