Interview by Sarah Turner.
Anna Lewis is an author and illustrator from Cornwall. Her sketches hit the motherhood nail on the head, making us laugh and cry in equal measure. We grabbed Anna for a five-minute coffee break to find out more about the mum behind Sketchy Muma.
Anna, we know and love you for your sketches about parenthood, but can you take us back and tell us where your love of sketching began and what you sketched before you became a mum?
I have always drawn for as long as I can remember. It has always been my happy place from childhood and all the way through my life so far! I went to art college and actually ended up doing photography instead of illustration, but found my way back to my first love in the end. Before I had my daughter, I shared a studio with another illustrator. At that time, I had started to get my work published in children’s books, which was exciting, but a bit limiting as I was working to a tight brief. I always kept my own style bubbling along in the background, though, and have tons of sketchbooks full of ideas and plans I am still yet to hatch!
Of the illustrations you’ve shared on social media, is there any one in particular that has prompted the biggest/widest response? Why do you think that might be?
My work is a mix of humour and poignancy so I shall pick one of each! The picture “Let’s meet for coffee” has probably had the most reach as all of us can identify with constantly trying to catch up with a friend for coffee, which is always carnage with small children, yet still we keep trying every week to finish that conversation!
My illustration “How Could I Have Ever Not Known You” is my best-selling print in my Etsy shop. I think it’s because it just goes straight to your heart as a mum – there is a connection between a mother and a baby that is beyond words; it’s primal and everlasting.How do you keep coming up with new ideas and do you ever have the sketching equivalent of writer’s block?
When I first had my daughter, it was such a shock to the system and such a change in lifestyle that every day I was flooded with ideas. I kept a notebook of them all whilst parked up in my little Fiesta waiting for her nap to finish. As time went on the motivation for my work became more about documenting memories of our day-to-day life together for my daughter, so in that sense it is quite easy as it’s almost like writing a diary, or a love story. I think it’s very easy to be influenced by trends and so I try not to follow people doing a similar thing to me, as I want to keep my ideas fresh and original and just tell my own truth.
We have been through a lot as a family since having our little girl and during those times I have found it hard to keep putting out content because my mind has been elsewhere. Yet drawing is always the way I can best express myself, so I never stay away for long. I think people can connect with the ups and downs of life themselves.
Alongside the sketches that have us mums laughing and nodding our heads, you’ve also used your platform to raise awareness about baby loss. Have you found it hard sharing such a personal part of your own motherhood journey?
I had a very late miscarriage last year, so everyone locally, including my daughter already knew I was pregnant. Although at the time it was really horrible to be the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons, I did get incredible support from all sorts of women sharing their personal stories, which I probably would not have known about otherwise. I will be forever grateful to the support of these women sharing their stories as it was having that level of compassion and understanding that really got me through such an awful time. Now, I can offer that support myself from a place of greater understanding. My first pregnancy was really easy and it’s only now that I realise how lucky I was; I have a much deeper appreciation for all the many ups and downs woman go through on their journey to motherhood.At Mummy Social, we’re on a mission to unite mums for friendship and support. How important have ‘mum friends’ been to you?
Having good mum friends has made a real difference to my experience of motherhood. I live in quite an active village and I joined a baby group/playgroup really early on. This was run by a friend and that is where I made most of my mum friends. Everybody was asking the same questions about sleep, etc., and none of us really had the answers, but we were all in it together which was hugely comforting. When my daughter was one, I ended up running the playgroup myself – essentially, it was just a big social meet up really where we would plan the rest of our week. I am still really close friends with some of the mums from this time and I think it’s lovely that we are carrying on our motherhood journey together supporting each other along the way. Being a mum at home with small people can be isolating and so even having a couple of really good mum mates can totally change the outlook of your day.