Pencil pusher

An illustration of how one busy mom distracted her son—and made an artist out of him.

By Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

When Core editor Laura Demanski and I saw Laura Shaeffer’s sketchbook—full of tender, but unsentimental drawings of her sons Jasper, 8, and Sebastian, 6—we knew she would be the perfect illustrator for one of the feature stories in the winter issue

"Bringing Up Baby," by David Hoyt, AB'91, was full of big thoughts about the small moments of parenting: taking his son to the playground, watching him get his first shots, picking up pinecones and chip packets, using stickers as potty-training bribes.

Shaeffer was excited about the project and started producing sketches. But then her younger son broke his leg. He had to stay home from school for weeks, growing more bored and irritable by the day. With little time to work and the deadline approaching, Shaeffer employed a classic parenting trick: “Hey, boys! Let’s play illustrator!”

Sebastian did not buy it. But Jasper took the assignment very seriously, producing the full list of drawings that art director Aaron Opie had requested.

One afternoon I interviewed Jasper about his first commissioned work—all the while being hampered by Benjy, my own seven-year-old, who refused to go upstairs and watch “Tom and Jerry” as he was told.

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo you did these in December. Do you remember what that (above) was supposed to be?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Yeah, monkeys on a playground.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat do you see, when you look at your own drawing?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: A bunch of monkeys on a playground.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you like it?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I guess. The monkeys weren’t my best.

QandA_QDrop.jpgAnd then there’s this one—
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: That was a doodle of a butterfly. That was a chip bag, turning into a butterfly. I think that was a bottle and—I’m not entirely sure what that thing is.
QandA_QDrop.jpgA pine cone, maybe?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Oh yeah, a pine cone.
QandA_QDrop.jpgSo you tried to make the butterfly and the chip bag look the same, and the bottle and the pine cone look the same?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: No. I just drew a bottle and a pine cone.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDon’t you think they kind of look the same, though?

QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I think the butterfly and the chip bag look the same. But that’s just how the pine cone turned out.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat was this one?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: That was supposed to be “wasp-like rage” [The four-month-old's understandable reaction to receiving his first shots].
QandA_QDrop.jpgOh. He doesn’t look mad though.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: He turns into a hornet. It’s hard to make hornets look mad.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHe looks happy. He looks like a happy little hornet.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Really? I thought hornets were just naturally mad.
QandA_QDrop.jpgI think this is my favorite one.
QandA_ADrop.jpgBenjy: I think it’s funny.
Jasper: I like babies in suits.
Benjy: I want to look at the lizard! (Crosses room)

QandA_QDrop.jpgThese are also really awesome. Tell me about them.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: That’s a pop-up book [left], and a bunch of big adult books [middle].
Benjy: The lizard’s mad!
Jasper (to Benjy): No, it’s not.
Benjy: It looks mad every time it looks at me!
QandA_QDrop.jpgSadly, we could not use this [right]. No pictures of poo in the Core.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: My mom told me to do that. That’s what it said to do.
QandA_QDrop.jpgYou put stickers all over his arm. And poo equals stickers.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Yeah.

QandA_QDrop.jpgAnd what’s this?
QandA_ADrop.jpgBenjy: A ton of hands on a hand!
Jasper: No. A kid’s head in the sandbox.
QandA_QDrop.jpgOh, right. Did you have the stories to read yourself, or did your mom read them to you?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I didn’t even read the stories.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhich one is your favorite drawing?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I liked the kid in the suit. That was the most fun.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhich one was the least fun?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: The poo one. This was one of the drawings when I just said, look, I’m done with this. Let me do something else.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHow long did it take you to produce all of these illustrations?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Half an hour.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you think you did a good job?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I don’t know. I’d say no.
QandA_ADrop.jpgBenjy: The lizard is trying to bite me!
Jasper: Did I say no? I meant maybe.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you ever think you might want to do illustration again?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: No. I’m done. I’m more into magic now.
Benjy: Are you really magic? Tell me what tricks you do.

[end of interview]

March 3, 2011