Ah, puberty. The most graceless of beginnings, am I right?
You can fall on your ass a hundred times learning how to surf or couple skate backward -- but no one escapes puberty with their dignity intact. Nobody.
It started for us when her dad’s shaving cream kept inexplicably winding up cap-less and abandoned on it’s side (in true Mary fashion) at the bottom of the tub… Even though he never shaves in the shower. I guess it took her a couple of weeks to work her way into a true, full shave, because it wasn’t until then that I found what could only be described as a small blonde animal peeking out from under the blades of my new Schick Quattro.
I don’t think I’ve ever stolen my dad’s shaving cream, but I think we can all relate to the excitement of actually being allowed to shave for the first time.
So yesterday I bought her a pack of multi-colored Bics to call her own and a can of women’s shave gel in some kind of trendy, tropical scent. In seconds, she was ripping into the shower, smiling like she’d slept all night with a hanger in her mouth.
For the past month or so, the poor kid has basically been the face of puberty. Pimples, friendship-demolishing-crushes, excessive sweating, and -- it’s no surprise with the way that this girl outruns all of the boys in the neighborhood -- underarm odor that is just about out of control. We’ve had to stop accusing her of not keeping herself clean after we realized the odor starts coming back only an hour after a shower and three coatings of deodorant. She’s also been up to her neck recently in all of the heavy talks about sex, drugs, and peer pressure. Including the special week long health seminar her 5th grade class has been eagerly anticipating all year long. She comes home everyday more mortified than the last by what the teacher explained about their bodies RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE BOYS!! She also comes home everyday saying, “And did you KNOW--!?!” and thinking that every twinge of discomfort felt anywhere within reasonable vacinity of her abdomen is surely, surely, THIS TIME, really, really her period coming. Seriously, she’s worse than a dilated woman the week of her due date.
I keep telling her it’s nothing to be excited about (BELIEVE me, kid) -- but then again, who am I to rob her of the only silver lining she’s got to hold onto through this whole pubescent ordeal? So if a can of Strawberry Tangerine Skintimate and a small box of “just in case” liners makers her day, I’m all about humoring it.
For this week’s illustration:
I kept it sketchy. I wanted it to feel like a drawing, so I left it in graphite and exaggerated some of the lines so they’d show through even after I added the digital color. Since the only thing I knew about this concept going into it was that my character (who is kind of half Mary/half myself at 11) would be concentrating, I was hoping the sketchy feel would help to keep it from becoming too static. It was also important because of the subject matter to keep it anatomically correct on some level without becoming photorealistic. I purposely didn’t use reference for anything, (even when I wanted to) and I gave her some playful, overstated features, like big, awkward feet and long, bony limbs which also help describe her age.
One of the things I want to push myself to improve on is producing things faster. Having the kids around to remind me that I don’t have six hours everyday to pour into detailing a piece of fabric in an illustration (the way that I did when I was in school) has been a great exercise in learning to prioritize how I put my time into a piece of art; how I basically say what I want to in the least amount of strokes -- much the same way I had to push myself to do when I animated in college. I had to get pre-teen 'Mar-Icia' done in two quick sittings since Monday was our 2nd wedding anniversary and yesterday was Story-Time at Barnes and Noble and we had a playdate in the afternoon… and considering the fact that I whipped her up quicker than anything else I’ve posted on here so far, I dare say I might be getting this mother/artist juggling act down!