Mom in Stripesby Yuval Saar | 17.03.16
The often unbridgeable gap between our expectations to reality is the overarching theme of “Mom in Stripes”, Israeli illustrator Racheli Shalev’s new blog. If you, too, are raising your eyebrows at this description, Shalev is quick to provide an amusing and relatable explanation: “Maternity leave – what would that be if not the mother of all false expectations?”
The blog is the spawn of Shalev’s comics column in the weekend supplement of newspaper Makor Rishon (i.e. initial source in Hebrew). Shalev studied illustration at the Visual Communications Department in the Bezalel Academy of Arts of Design, and graduated in 2005. For the past decade she has been working as an illustrator for a variety of platforms: illustrating children’s books in Israel and all over the world, providing illustrations for newspapers and creating commercial illustrations for brands, marketing, applications, animation and much more.
Her first opportunity to publish a text and not just an illustration presented itself when Shalev went on an RV trip with her family (which was then comprised of two toddlers). She pitched an illustrated article about the trip to Israeli magazine Liyot Horim (i.e. being parents in Hebrew). The article was also published in the weekend supplement, whose editors then commissioned the column Shalev has been writing for over two years.
“The combination between writing and illustrating gives me great pleasure, the polishing of words, the on-going ping-pong game between the text and the imageries, finding out where to add more details and where things should be cut off… right now, this is the ideal form of self-expression for me,” she explains.
“The blog is personal and describes situations taken from my life, but the things I go through are things that take place in almost every household: situations with the kids or in the relationship with one’s significant other. I take comfort in knowing that things I thought only happened to me actually happen to everyone. The ability to make fun of deficiencies and direct the focus to such inconsequential nuances… all of these things are global. I believe that eventually, these materials that make up motherhood and parenthood can be found in every household, everywhere.”
Could you give an example or two and tell us about the gap between what really took place and what you presented to the world?
“So that’s the thing, the is no gap, I really do try to portray the naked truth. The things that most parents sweep under the carpet. For example, I had to make some illustration for the end of the summer vacation, and because of the timing I had to prepare it way in advance, and discover how accurate it was only much later.
״Another example is a story that’s not my own: my friends posted on Facebook some pastoral, stunning photos from their trip to the north, and when we met up with them we enthused about their amazing trip. And they answered: ‘What are you talking about? This trip was anything but amazing. We were there for five minutes when our daughter cut her leg and we had to spend 8 hours at the ER!’. Of course they didn’t post the photos from the ER. So these are the kind of stories I often present in my column- the gap between our expectations to what really goes down in reality.”
How often do you plan to blog?
“Right now my plan is to blog once a week. It will be a combination of translated columns that I write every week and want to have on the blog, and at least once or twice a month I will blog original content that will be created especially for the blog.
I’m addicted to those moments when an idea just hits me. When I was little girl in kindergarten, I didn’t draw. My kindergarten teachers were really concerned, my mom not so much. And then one time I was standing in line at the doctor’s when I asked my mom for a pen and her journal and did my first drawing, something very figurative of course.
Since that moment, I did not let go of my pencil: I would constantly draw in lessons, during breaks, in front of the TV. As someone that observes Shabbat, I would go crazy on Shabbat and wait for it to end so I could finally open my crayon box.
״Since I constantly wanted to draw, I wanted to be told what to draw, I wanted to be given ideas. So I became an illustrator and got briefs nonstop that covered tons of subjects and it was super fascinating to come in and give my own adaptations to the text, my added bonus, that wink. But it always came alongside the text, with everything that naturally means.
״And every since I started to write, it’s as if a lobe in my brain has been awakened from its slumber. I can’t really give it a name, but I know without a doubt that it relates to creativity because that’s how it feels. On top of all that there’s also the panic of the weekly deadline, with which I have learned to live in peace. I just constantly have to come up with new ideas and like a muscle that’s being put to use all the time, it becomes stronger. I can find myself walking down the street, sitting at caffe, hugging my child or screaming at him and the ideas just continue to flow. That’s my favorite thing.”
Translated from Hebrew by: Joy Bernard