The Evolution of a ‘Bad Mother’

From first drawings to the final dummy-copy of the book.

The first drawing, made for another project, later became the template for how I saw the ‘Bad Mother’.

An early layout for the first page, showing my initial ideas for the children’s parents. She wears a fur coat, stylish hat, cultured pearls at ears and throat, and lashings of makeup.

In 2015, a new, stranger idea emerges. Her pinched nose is made up of two, elongated conceal shapes, and her skin is marked with deep wrinkles.

She has a little frilled-cap, and the period has changed from the 1950s to something more distant, though unspecified.

She’s clearly become rather ill-humoured

I make a first maquette…

… and then a second.

With the third I think I’ve nailed her…

… though I change my mind once more and re-design the book for a last time, returning to the idea of setting it in the 1950s. Out goes the Bad Mother’s ‘Pilgrim’ cap, and in comes hair-rollers, pin curls and chipped red nail-varnish!

Hansel & Gretel will be coming out in 2016.

4 thoughts on “The Evolution of a ‘Bad Mother’

  1. *shiver*….I know I’ve said it before but I had no idea you knew my mother in law so well! 😦

    I love the drawing and maquettes and am intrigued that you returned to the hair rollers. When I was very small my big sister put the spiky insides of one of those rollers into a little box with a tiny hole cut into it – she told me it was a baby hedgehog and I had to look after it. I really believed her and thrilled to find my fingers brushing against the hedgehog when I put bits of food into the box. Needless to say, a few weeks later the truth came out…along with a pile of rotting food and a very ‘dead’ hedgehog! Somehow your Hansel & Gretel ideas have taken me straight back to childhood…….xx

  2. The “Bad Mother” in those vicious hair curlers could definitely be a character in a particularly twisted version of one of those late 50s/early 60s kitchen sink dramas!! I’m now left thinking that Philip Larkin may have had Hansel’s and Gretel’s parents in mind when he wrote:

    “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.”

    • I think that the ‘Bad Mother’ is a step beyond Larkin, and very likely heading well into Medea territory. We must not forget that while she wields no dagger, she does not expect the children to return from the wood. (Dereliction of parental duty, death by exposure being the likely fate for the children.) Who knows what Gretel will turn into, given the example set for her. (Well actually, I do know, but I’m not saying, here!) (-;

      • I love – and fear – the path your imagination is currently leading you down Clive! I don’t think the ‘Medea’ approach to motherhood ever made it into one of those twentieth century ‘how-to’ parenting manuals!!

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