Meet Local Artist and Illustrator of "Being Edie is Hard Today" Elizabeth Bergeland
In celebration of the Summer Solstice, Little Moon + Arrow is partnering with Little Brown and Company publishing for a unique *free* family-friendly event that will be bringing our community a reading and signing of a beautiful new book* entitled, “Being Edie is Hard Today” written by Ben Brashares and illustrated by local artist Elizabeth Bergeland.
This gorgeous debut picture book is a warm and tender story about being yourself and reminds readers that human connection is essential, tears can heal, and a new day is coming.
Elizabeth will be doing the reading on June 22nd 2019, at noon. Elizabeth lives within the 4th street community and, in addition to being an artist, she is a super mom, friend, human, and a shop favorite. We are so happy that she will be coming to Little Moon to host this special event with us and the story of Edie with you.
Read more about Elizabeth's inspirations, motherhood and more!
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background?
I grew up in Denver, Colorado, and attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, where I received a BFA in painting and Anthropology. Straight out of school, I married my sweetheart, started having babies, and moved around quite a bit for my husband’s work. We had our first child when we were living in Denver, CO, our second in Salt Lake City, UT, and our third in Montclair, NJ. Philadelphia marks the first place we’ve lived that we haven’t had a baby. Phew!:) We’ve been here 6 ½ years now, so I think we’re in the clear! Ha.
How do you balance motherhood and your art practice?
This of course, has been a huge challenge, and I’m always searching for balance. I think I’ve come to realize, though, that like absolutely everything in life, probably 95% of the challenge of balancing motherhood and my art is the management of my expectation. When my first daughter was born, I decided to quit work (I had been working as a designer in bridal at the time) and stay home with her because I delusionally believed that this was my opportunity to kick off my art career and I would get to paint while she napped. LOLOLOLOLOL (like the longest, loudest LOL ever:)). I had even gone so far as to set up the “nursery” as my “studio” with a little crib in the corner. Haha. Turns out, that when you have a baby, a successful day does not include finishing a painting. A successful day is brushing your teeth.:) For years, balance simply mean lowering my expectations and maybe curbing my ambition for a time. Having kids also really forced me to search for new mediums that were a bit more portable, didn’t require any sort of real studio space, and didn’t have too much stuff for the kids to destroy. I decided to buy an old 8mm camera and a tattoo machine and started experimenting! I would carry the camera around with me all day, have the film transferred to a digital medium and then edit at night after they had gone to bed. Per the tattoo machine- my husband graciously offered up his body as a practice canvas for me (that’s love!!! I mean-nbd, right? It’ll only be there forever.:)) I was also getting some work doing editorial styling for bridal magazines, and would do a few drawing commissions each year. As soon as my youngest was in preschool and my time really started to free up, I hit the ground running with my painting and drawing again. My kids are now age 12, 10, and 8 so a typical day for me is to work while they’re at school, pick them up from school at 3, run them around to various activities, and then I’m usually able to squeeze in several more hours after we’re home or after they’re asleep. My children share a room so that I can have my studio in the home, which has made all the difference for us as a family to make it all work. It’s truly a team effort here!
What artist do you admire most?
How have they shaped your art practice?
Dorielle is brazen with her message and the risks she takes with her painting. I love how she communicates through her work. She’s also super transparent about her process, and always keeps a sense of humor about it all. That is something I’ve tried to adopt the way I work. I was way too precious about my early work, and it became pretty crippling. I want to be serious about my art, without becoming a serious artist. Everyone should check out Danielle's work!
How do your children inspire you?
Gaaahhh!! Endlessly! Children are so receptive and curious-they haven’t drawn any major conclusions in life yet, and they make very little assumptions about people. They haven’t placed lids on anything yet. They are so curious because they have to be- they’re developing, and everyday they encounter something that they never have before- a new thought, or a new understanding of how the world works. Those deep grooves and patterns (ruts) haven’t developed yet. The way that children are malleable and accepting of new people and new information and new ways of thinking of things is soooooo inspiring. They don’t really have a “right way” of doing things yet. They inspire me to always look at things a new way. Flip it upside down- now look again. They force me to take a look at how many wrong assumptions I make when I’m judging a person or a situation. They make me play more- they make me ask questions more.
Did they help inspire your illustrations for your new book “Being Edie is Hard Today”?
Oh completely, through and through! ALL the illustrations are inspired by my children! All of Edie’s behaviors and tactics are ones that I have observed in my children over the years. The way they anthropomorphize animals and relate to them as a way to express how they’re feeling is very powerful. For years, my son would take his blankets and wrap them into a little “nest” on his bed, curl himself up into a little egg and tell me what kind of baby dinosaur he was before bed. It made him feel safe and cozy, and as though life was simple. It was such an incredible tool that he used to comfort himself. Kids are just so capable.
What was the inspiration behind the illustrations for “Being Edie is Hard Today”?
The book was initially born from the observation of how we all “put on” someone or something new to morph into different social situations. What began as a bit of criticism, actually ended with us realizing that it’s kind of more like a super-power. The thought of trying on different animal traits to help understand or maybe make light of a challenging situation is an incredible tool that is available to all of us! It was also heavily inspired by the very relatable experience of parental frustration paired with the awe of observing our kids
What was your favorite part about helping create “Being Edie is Hard Today” ?
I loved being able to build the book in complete tandem with my writing partner, Ben. The book began with an illustration I had made of a little girl in animal furs and leaf ears with a can of sardines at her feet. I sent it to Ben, and I said, “her name is Edie...can you write a story?” Ben sent me back several more pages of text and inspiration that I then drew from. We built the entire book that way- sometimes beginning with an illustration and sometimes starting with some interesting text. Writing a book this way allows for a lot more nuance and comedic timing. I would draw the things he chose to leave out, and he would write the things I chose not to draw. It was a really fun process!
What is your favorite part about motherhood?
Oh gosh, that’s a tough question. You know, the baby years were really hard for me, so I’m really loving all parts of motherhood right now. I feel like this is the golden era of parenting everybody sleeps, gets themselves dressed, ties their shoes, and packs their own lunches. The physically exhausting parts of the baby/toddler years that can make simple logistics really hard are finally passed, but we’re not yet into the next wave of hardship that the teenage years will bring. Right now it feels like we’re just free to truly enjoy one another. They’re such interesting people! I love seeing their gifts and hobbies develop as well as their sense of humor and even taste in music! I feel like I can really relate to them these days.
What other mothers inspire you? Do you relate to Edie the main character?
My life is filled to the brim with so many inspiring mothers that I really lean on daily. I find myself drawn to mothers that really have regard and respect for their children. They’ll be full grown, fully functioning adults one day! That’s such an obvious, basic statement, but when developing a relationship with our kids, I think that basic thought is really important to be reminded of. I find it really inspiring when mothers apologize to their children. It shows respect and regard for our kids- it shows them we’re not perfect and also teaches the value of admitting when you’re wrong. Edie was very cathartic to draw, so yes, I find her in every way relatable. She is someone who makes mistakes, who feels sadness and anger, has a great sense of humor, is clever, gets lost in her imagination, and who needs a good cry at the end of the day. I love her.
What is your favorite part about doing book readings and book signings?
I LOVE getting to interact with the children who come to Edie events! I love hearing their questions and finding out what moments felt relatable to them. Kids love to tell me what animal they are today, or what emoji is hanging over their head right now. It’s been really incredible to see this book impact some young people!
Is there any new projects you’re working on now that you’d like to share with us?
Ben and I have another book in the works with Little and Brown! It is yet to be titled, but I can share that it’s about a little boy who loves bugs and LOVES building little box homes. ….stay tuned! It will be available in 2021. I also have a show coming up this summer at James Oliver Gallery in Philadelphia. I’ll be showing several of my oil paintings from my most recent series. Like Edie, it is a deeply cathartic body of work for me that I really can’t wait to share. The show runs July 13-Aug 31.
To see more of Elizabeth's beautiful work and to be inspired visit her website: http://www.elizabethbergeland.com/