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Keturah A. Bobo
Mother Stories

At Home With Artist & Illustrator Keturah A. Bobo

Keturah A. Bobo

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Lily Glass

Now that beloved artist-illustrator Keturah A. Bobo is a mom herself, crafting deeply meaningful children's books has taken on extra value.

Did you always know you wanted to be a mother?

“Not necessarily. I've always loved babies and children, but I also understood the dedication and selflessness of motherhood, so it wasn't something I ever took lightly.”

What've been the highs and lows of becoming a mom during a pandemic?

“It was definitely a stressful time. I contracted COVID at my own baby shower and there were a ton of other stressful things that happened around that time. So it was quite the whirlwind pregnancy.”

“But my son is a product of the baby boom that happened during the pandemic, so I guess I'm grateful for it in a way. And both my brothers have babies that are all within 14 months of Mekhi, so he already has best friends that are also family.”

“When he was born, I truly understood how powerful and unconditional a mother’s love is. There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for him.”

What has your experience been like bonding with your son?

“I felt completely bonded with him while he was still in the womb. He was extremely active. And when he was born, I truly understood how powerful and unconditional a mother's love is...there's nothing that I wouldn't do for him.”

Tell us about his name.

“Well, we knew it had to start with a M, because his two older cousins’ names start with A and Z. M is the middle of the alphabet. And also, our initials as a family are KLM. But I love the meaning of his name and his nickname, ‘Khi.’"

What excites you about raising a son?

“For some reason, I assumed I'd have a girl. I'm not sure why, so I was quite surprised when we found out the sex at 6 months. My partner, of course, knew he'd be a boy. But it didn't matter to me, I'd be happy no matter what. It absolutely does excite me to raise a boy, because it's so important for our generation to raise good men. “

What has surprised you about the experience of motherhood so far?

“The biggest surprise to me is all the details. I babysat a ton growing up and even into my adulthood, so I know my way around caretaking children. But the decision-making, planning, and unpredictability has definitely taken some adjusting.”

What was your own upbringing like?

“I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and we had an amazing childhood because my parents prioritized us just being children. They didn't want us to be consumed by adulthood in any way. I want that for Mekhi. Childhood is such a short span of life and it should be special. You can encourage the magic of childhood while still setting the foundation and responsibility of adulthood.”

Are there things from your upbringing that you're consciously trying to incorporate (or not incorporate) into Mekhi’s upbringing?

“Being older millennials, Mekhi’s dad and I understand the importance of children being outside and appreciating nature. I think we've already instilled this in Mekhi—he’d much rather be outside even at his very young age. We go to the park and on hikes almost daily.”

 “My parents prioritized us just being children. They didn’t want us to be consumed by adulthood in any way. I want that for Mekhi. Childhood is such a short span of life and it should be special.”

You were homeschooled as a kid. Is homeschooling something you’ll also explore with Mekhi?

“I'm hoping to homeschool him at least into his first few grades. I started school in 4th grade and my sense of self and creativity were already well established at this point.”

What excites you most about motherhood right now?

“Watching him grow and learn something new everyday. He's like a sponge right now, starting to pick up and mimic everything he sees and hears.”

What advice would you give to other moms about to have their first child?

“Just embrace everything, all the emotions that come your way. But don't feel too overwhelmed by what's happening right now. That quote ‘the days are long but the years are short’ is so true. You're eager for them to reach certain milestones and before you know it they're onto the next thing. So while being in the moment, take a ton of videos and watch this little human blossom.”

We love Mekhi's nursery! Did you always know you wanted to create a mural for him?

“Yes, we moved into our home when he was 5 months old and I knew right away that I wanted to do a mural in his room. I have a series I did with all the new babies in my family, depicting them a little older and utilizing an animal to reinforce the idea of strength and support.”

What do you like about the idea of raising Mekhi in Columbus? Would you ever live anywhere else?

"I think we'd only ever move if my whole family decided to move. It's too important to me for him to grow up with his cousins and for us to have that family support nearby. My older brother and my mom both live within 5-10 minutes of us.”

Can you tell us about your art career, in a nutshell?

“I received a BFA at Columbus College of Art and Design and was hired right after graduating at a commercial art firm doing murals. I was laid off and decided to go into business for myself and thankfully my family was there to support. Everything just grew from there once I started posting on social media. Shortly after, I was contacted by book publishers to illustrate children's books. Now, I'm almost 7 books in!”

Where you always doing art as a child? What about Mekhi?

“I don't have any memories prior to being an artist, it's always been very much apart of who I am. And Mekhi is already showing signs of being interested in art. When he was an infant, there was a painting I did in our bedroom that he would smile at everyday. And whenever he sees me painting, he comes over and tries to take my supplies, mimicking what I do with them.”

What were some of your favorite books as a child and teen?

Dr. Seuss and the typical 90's books...The Berenstain Bears, The Baby-Sitters Club, Arthur, and also more serious ones, like Let the Circle Be Unbroken. I was definitely a reader and my mom made us join the summer book clubs at our local library every year.”

How would you compare representation in the books you saw and read, compared to now?

“Wow, it's night and day. I purposefully sought out books with characters that looked like me as a child and often it led me to history, memoirs, and non-fiction. It was difficult and disheartening. But I love that times are different and to be a part of that movement is amazing and definitely a blessing. The Generation Z and Alpha will have a better understanding of the world and themselves because of these books. That's why banning these books is so abhorrent to me.”

Has motherhood changed the type of children's books you want to work on?

“There's definitely a theme to all the books I've done and it includes centering children and people of color. I'd love to do more educational books like this at some point. Currently, Mekhi loves books with animals and rhyming, but because he likes to tear paper (lol) we've only been reading his board books. My book, A is for All the Things You Are, has been a favorite of his lately.”

Do you have regular hours that you try to work each day?

“I've been fully immersed in motherhood to be honest, and I wouldn't want it any other way. So I'm still trying to find the balance in it all. I usually am able to work in my home studio while he's asleep. I worked up until the week before he was born and haven't had any major deadlines yet, but have recently signed a contract to start a new book! So I'll have to develop a more organized work schedule and childcare soon.”

Any big goals or happenings—professionally or personally—that you're excited about for the year ahead?

“I just signed a new book deal with Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, to illustrate My Brown Boy, written by poet and artivist Leslé Honoré. I also have a painting series and a kid's line of t-shirts in my head totally inspired by my son and becoming a mother. I just need to take the time to complete them both.”

Shop the Story

A Boy And His Mirror

Keturah A. Bobo

A Is For All The Things You Are

Keturah A. Bobo

I Am Enough

Keturah A. Bobo

The Night Is Yours

Keturah A. Bobo

Opal Lee and What It Means To Be Free

Keturah A. Bobo

I Believe I Can

Keturah A. Bobo

Sunny's Peach Cobbler

Keturah A. Bobo

Mommy, Why Do Birds Chirp?

Keturah A. Bobo

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