Line Severinsen on the frustrations of motherhood

When pregnant, Line Severinsen – like many women – received unwelcome attention from strangers. To cope, she turned their comments into hilarious illustrations. Here she talks art, kids and trying to see the funny side…

Line Severinsen, 32, lives in Norway with her partner – who frequently appears in her illustrations – their three-year-old daughter, Maia and five-month-old son, Mathias.

(This was originally published in December 2015, so some things may have changed)

What is your home like?
I live in a small three-bedroom house, just outside of the city centre in Bergen, Norway. It’s pretty much constantly messy, either with the kids’ – or their father’s – toys, like lego or electric cars. Some days I worry that we’ll still have toys everywhere when the kids move out!

How has life changed since having children?
Definitely for the better, I really enjoy the weird things that happen during any given day and seeing the kids grow up to have their own personality and humour is something I don’t think I’ll stop being amazed about.

I sometimes miss hanging out in coffee shops after work and chatting with friends, but since we all now have kids it’s harder to find time for that. But overall I feel more focused now, as I know that my free-time is limited.

What is it like raising children in Norway?
We have some good arrangements here, like relatively inexpensive kindergarten and paid maternity leave (up to 45 weeks) and paternity leave (12 weeks). That means that we both get to spend some extra time getting to know the kids.

Were you also raised there, and what was your childhood like?
I grew up in a city further north, called Trondheim, which had a lot more snow during the winters than Bergen has, so I spent a lot of time outside skiing and going on hikes.

When did you become an artist, or start showing an interest in the visual arts?
I have always been into art. I think I’ve known since I was a young child that I wanted to work within this field. I made an enormous amount of drawings when I was young. When I was five I made a shoebox animation and showed it to the other kids in kindergarten. They were so excited and ran to their parents to tell them that they saw a movie!

Twenty years later I got a degree in animation from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada, and started working as an animator and UX designer.

It was a mix of being sick, feeling bloated, tired and dealing with some inconsiderate comments and people that led me to start drawing

You’re an illustrator, animator and cartoonist. When pregnant, you used drawing to help you through morning sickness – how exactly did it help?
It was a mix of being sick, feeling bloated, tired and dealing with some inconsiderate comments and people that led me to start drawing. By making fun of them a little bit – and of the situation – I was able to laugh it off and put it behind me.

You also vented your frustrations about judgemental comments and the change of lifestyle during pregnancy. Were you hoping your drawings might change people’s behaviour?
What I hope is to show through my work that it is ok to be yourself, to miss doing the stuff you used to do and that weird stuff is going to happen. And it’s all ok, we all go through it.

How do you make your designs? 
I usually start sketching ideas with a pen and paper and when I’m satisfied with the general concept, I’ll take a picture of it with my iPhone. From there, I’ll open the image in illustrator and trace it and make corrections until I’m happy with it. Usually this process takes three-four hours from start to finish.

How do other pregnant women/mums react to your drawings?
I’m overwhelmed with all of the positive feedback I’ve received! It seems like almost everyone has had similar experiences.

I think there is a bit too much focus on appearance, that mothers are expected to look, act and feel perfect at all times

Do you think society’s attitude towards motherhood has changed over the years and if so, how?
I think there is a bit too much focus on appearance, that mothers are expected to look, act and feel perfect at all times. But there is so much weird stuff that happens when you’re becoming a mother, and it’s totally ok to be and feel less than perfect! Be yourself.

Is it difficult to be an artist and a mother; do the two complement other or clash?
For me it’s actually perfect. They inspire me so much, not only for the cartoons, but I’m also working on children’s illustrations, which I love making. My daughter loves to paint and draw. It’s very nice to be able to share my passion with her.

You’re on maternity leave from your job as a UX designer. Are you looking forward to returning, or would you prefer to stay at home with your children?
I work with some great colleagues who I miss getting to see every day, but I’m really cherishing my time with the baby.

What’s the most important thing to remember when raising kids?
I think it’s important to be present when you play with your kids, give them 100% of your attention – don’t split your attention between them and the cellphone. But remember to take mummy-breaks as well so you get a small break and can indulge yourself.

See more of Line’s work on her Instagram feed