Nature of Motherhood Illustration Process

My research on the depiction of femininity has led me to various feminist texts, like the groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (Friedan 1965). She used this term to describe the unhappy fate of women in the 1950s, who were pressured to assume the roles of homemakers as the ultimate fulfilment of their potential. Friedan discusses numerous illustrations in women's magazines, from early 20th-century, which idealise the motherly role. Recently I created an illustration for my practise, which depicts motherhood. Friedan's discourse prompted me to look with new eyes at this illustration. I think the feminine role is idealised to some degree here. However, the emphasis is on the emotional aspect of the mother-child connection, without limiting the female potential to that role alone.

Sabina Radeva, Nature Of Motherhood, 2015.

Sabina Radeva, Photos and sketches from the Botanical Garden, Oxford, 2015.

I was inspired by the works of Carmel Seymour and Simón Prades who create multiple stories within a scene, visual narratives which expand the boundaries of the canvas. The Botanical Garden in Oxford is one of my favourite places to visit and inspired me to incorporate flora and fauna elements. I imagined a conceptual illustration of a mother and child where their connection is represented by nature.

The clothes of the mother and child serve as a vignette to a botanical scene. The technique is not novel to me, as I have applied it in previous works of mine. However, here it is used more deliberately. The emotional, as well as biological connection between the mother and child, is communicated more clearly with the use of nature elements.

My work is detailed and decorative, influenced by Surrealism and Naturalism, similar to the works of Bosch, Teagan White, Carmel Seymour and John Buck. The visual language and style is now established, after several years of practise. However, I would like to try new techniques and transform my style.


Friedan, B. 1965, The feminine mystique, Penguin, London.