In the Belly of the Beast

New York is full of people.

As someone who gets panicky at the thought of getting swallowed up by crowds and crowds of people, all touching and pressing into eachother, this thought was quite intimidating…but thankfully, not enough to hot-glue me to my home.  So last week, I ventured out of my little cave to travel to New York to visit fellow artist Lori Nelson for the opening of an art show called Beasticon, to which she had graciously invited me to contribute.

As an army brat, I’m no stranger at ALL to travel.  I’ve wandered over all PARTS of the U.S. and Europe since I was young.  I LOVE IT!  But as I get older, for some reason, the frenzied swarm feeling I get in a crowd makes me uncomfortable, and I do my best to stay away from those situations.  (I used to stock up and hide out in my apartment for nearly the entire WEEK of St. Paddy’s Day in college when I lived in Savannah, Georgia, just to avoid the crowds.)

I’ve actually been to New York before, but in a different place, in a different time, to visit my very best friend.  It seems like every person’s experience in New York is probably VERY different parts of the same elephant

The cab ride there, jammed into the streets bumper to bumper and side by side hundreds of other cars when I first got there was slightly disconcerting.  I was happy I wasn’t driving.  “Holiday traffic?” I asked the cabbie.  “Just rush hour,” he replied.  I finally arrived in my friend’s lovely neighborhood, and could even see the Statue of Liberty as a little speck far off in the distance from her rooftop.

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The day of the show, while Lori worked on fine-tuning things in the gallery, she sent me on my way to explore the Museum of Natural History.  No problem, I thought, only slightly nervously.  I was wandering the streets of Paris on public transportation when I was 16 without knowing the language, I could surely handle New York!  She made it easy and sent me to the direct train there.

As for the crowds and crowds on the subway?  I actually (strangely) felt quite comfortable there.  I LOVE people-watching.   And probably because everyone was actively GOING somewhere, I didn’t feel as swallowed up and impeded…it felt more like being part of a huge circulatory system, everyone moving, everyone going where they’re going, and not really getting in the way of anyone else.  I liked that.  And I think I ultimately decided it might not be the CROWDS that make me so uncomfortable as much as it is the feeling of my movement being restricted–my ability to GET OUT impeded–that puts me in a panic.  (Good to know…)

Do you all remember me talking about my art drops?  How I made five ornaments, and I was going to hide them all along my trip?  Well, before I went in, I stopped at a side cart for a falafel, sat at the “Soldier” bench in front of the Museum of Natural History, and left my little artwork behind, tucked in a crevasse.  (Later that same day, I actually got a wonderful email from the family who found it–a father taking his kids to the museum had stopped for a hot dog and they found it.  The mom sent me an email thank you, telling me it made them smile–which made ME smile.  Joy!)

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“Would you like to go the bar, Mica?  Would you like to go out and party?  Would you like to see all the monuments and landmarks typical of our great state?” asks New York.   “No please.  I’d rather just go to the Museum of Natural History.”

Here are a few photos from the Museum, which had so many beautiful things to look at.  Myla loves okapi (who doesn’t love something that looks like a giraffe with a zebra-butt??!), so I was sure to take a photo of them to show her later, and most people seemed to walk right past these amazing murals…

I kept waiting for the displays to blink and come to life, because doesn’t that happen in the movies?  I feel like most of what I know of New York comes from movies…

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I was hoping for a larger insect exhibit, but I made my way to the additional butterfly exhibit…I prefer moths and beetles, but the butterflies were beautiful, and I found one case with a few beetles in it…

I kept hoping butterflies would land on my hand or my arm, but apparently they sensed my longing, and avoided the opportunity for a photo op.

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Next up:  the Hall of Biodiversity.  Holy cow!  And kangaroo….and turtle…and…well, you get the idea.  A full wall showing the different classifications of species in the world, with some amazingly artistic layouts…  (Later, when I showed Myla the photo of this, she asked, “So, were they all DEAD?!??”….Uh.  Yes.)

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Apparently, they had an origami demo recently, and in one large hallway, this beautiful Christmas tree was FULL of origami animals of all kinds.  It was amazing!  I wanted to stuff it in my suitcase and take it all home.

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My favorite room, though, was the ocean room with the big blue whale.  “You have to see the whale room,” the lady at the front desk had told me.  “We’re famous for that.”  I wasn’t expecting much, but after the hustle of NY life, this room was quiet and dark, with only ocean sounds playing over the speakers.  It made me take a deep breath.  It made me sigh.  It made me calm.  It was sooooo relaxing that I decided to get my sketchbook out and draw for awhile.  Nearly an hour later, I figured it was probably time to head out…

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Since I was a little early getting back to the Mark Miller Gallery, I took myself out to dinner across the street at Dudley’s and wined & dined myself, drawing by candlelight.

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I got back just in time for the show to begin, and people started coming in right away.  There was such a mix of different types of art, installation, and sculpture, it was altogether fun to look at.

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There was a performance by Matthew Silver, who is apparently a New York staple, popping up all over to remind us that in a daily life full of technology, we might want to “slow down,” to “stop buying stuff,” and that “love is the answer.”  I had done a portrait of him for the show, and he was nice enough to pose with (and even sign) it.

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One great treat was getting to meet people I had only known online.  I’ve followed the work of fellow ballpoint artist (and painter) Michael Fusco (who goes by @aicixhxan on Instagram–Aic Ixh Xan meaning “As I can”), so it was amazing to meet him in person, and see his amazing sketchbook firsthand, as well as talk art and ballpoint pens with him.

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I will admit, that I have a great difficulty being a social butterfly, so while I did my best to mingle, I often just sat sketching in my sketchbook or people-watching (both of which I LOVE to do) at the front desk where a few of my books were, which caused several people (understandably) to mistake me for the secretary.  (I work way better one-on-one.  Crowds of people really do confuse me…)  While I was sitting there drawing, a little girl came up to me and asked if she could draw for a minute, too.  Not because she knew that I collaborate with my daughter.  Just because she saw me sketching in a sketchbook and wanted to draw, too.  :)

Next day, Lori showed me all over the rest of New York.  We went to Stephen Romano’s gallery, and I saw the works of several contemporary artists I actually recognized and was very familiar with, and met a few great people.  I got to see Lori’s studio near the Manhattan Bridge.  She took me to the Neue Galerie, where we saw the works of one of my long-time favorite artists, Egon Schiele (who is sometimes very NSFW).

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And whoops, uh-oh.  I nearly forgot to hide the rest of my ornaments!  After the Schiele exhibit, outside the Neue Gallery, I tucked one behind a no parking sign that was taped on a lamppost.  Later, I balanced one on the ledge of one of the mosaic lampposts near Gem Spa.  Lori took me to her favorite dumpling place, Dumpling Man, where I made her order ALMOST one of everything, and now it is MY very favorite dumpling place.  (OMNOMNOMNOM)

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Finally, we caught a show at the Cotton Candy Machine, where I also was able to put a few books up for sale, and got to see a larger-than-life piece that Lori did (and she showed me the bug that met an unfortunate end in the resin coating of the painting).

Oh!  The last two ornaments:  One in the giant burger at Paul’s Burgers, and one around the corner of the Cotton Candy Machine, tucked in the door mural done by Grace Lang (@grooseling on Instagram).

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So there it is.  My trip to New York to visit the Beast.  And I learned one thing…..

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New York is full of PEOPLE.  And they’re not the intimidating, heartless, tough-skinned people they show you in the movies.  It’s a place where you can ride the subway arteries, and pop up in a variety of VERY DIFFERENT WORLDS.  Each stop is a new planet.  I met some wonderful people, and while I still carried my snail shell, I found I didn’t always need to hide inside.  So thank you to Lori for inviting me!  Thank you to all the people I met.  Thank you to New York, for not swallowing me up.  I had a fantastic time.

Bring on the Beasties

I don’t often stray far from family, but this week, I’m ripping off the velcro from my comfy cave, and hopping a plane to NEW YORK CITY!

Brooklyn-based artist Lori Nelson  and I did an art trade after connecting via Instagram (I’ll write more on art trades soon).  Her work is intoxicating, and I love the retro/tech combination.  Nothing more I love more in art than that balance between innocence and pollution or sweet and creepy, and her work is hauntingly beautiful.  I love it!LORI hello+computer

After the trade, she asked if I’d be interested in submitting some work for an upcoming art show she was curating in New York.  That sounded quite fancy and grown-up, so I told her in all honesty that I had never done a gallery show.  I’m not really a gallery “artist,” I’m more an illustrator.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Just so she knew.

Was she interested in showing the collaborations I do with Myla?  From what I understand of the world, the idea of a gallery show is to actually SELL artwork, right?  (I mean, I’m really asking, because I’m not at all sure.)  So far, I have not been able to part with nearly ANY of the collaborations we’ve done, hoarding them selfishly in my own personal collection for when she’s older.  I’ve turned down quite a few gallery requests to show our collaborations simply because I don’t want to sell them (and because I don’t really know how that whole gallery world works).

Or did she want some of my creepy little monsters dolls?  Or maybe something new and different entirely?

To my happiness, she said she’d like if I showed a little of everything, and that she’d make note that the collaborations were for display only.  Woohoo!

And since I usually don’t stray far from home, I was a little hesitant to go to the actual opening, but my husband assured me that he’d have the household and kid situation completely under control, and hold down the fort while I romp around New York for a few days.  And Myla (although she REEEEEALLY wanted to go with me) agreed to hang out and do fun stuff with her awesome Daddy while I go…especially if I were to maybe bring her back “something cute and soft…maybe with a face.”

So that’s what’s going on.

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December 11th, I’ll be at the Mark Miller Gallery in New York City for opening night from 6-9 pm!  I’ll be signing copies of our “Share With Me” book, and enjoying all the oddities there.

So here’s what I’ll be showing:

A couple of originals of the earlier collaborations between me and Myla, and a more recent one, which is (according to the munchkin) a “Goat-Bear…”

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I have some odd little fancy ladies with (literally) fierce ‘dos.  I quite liked the idea of maybe a symbiotic relationship between some strange beast, wherein you house it in your hair, and it keeps an eye (and quite actually, it’s whole BODY) on you.  (Also, they just make me smile.)

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And a couple of the little Dream Creepers from my Etsy Shop.

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NY page Bedford + Bowery did a post on the show to spread the word, so if you’re anywhere in the area, PLEASE come see us!

And one last thing:  have you ever heard of an art drop?  You can read about an artist who does Art Drops here and about World Art Drop Day (which I missed this past year) here.  I follow several artists on Instagram who do random art drops when they travel, or whenever they just feel like having a little fun.  Basically, it involves me hiding little pieces of art while on my trip, posting photos as to where I’ve stashed it, and if someone finds it, they get to keep it.  I think it’s such a fun idea, to share random art with people for no other reason than the pure joy of (hopefully) making someone smile.

I had been working on some little ornament ideas for some friends and coworkers based off of our illustrations, and had basically taken three of the business cards we had and sculpted in relief right on top of them.

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Then I molded them and cast them in resin, and painted them up.  They looked a bit wonky to me, but I still found them quite fun.  So I promptly drilled holes in their heads and made ornaments.

And I’ll be dropping a few of them along my trip!  So if you’re up for a fun challenge, and are anywhere near LaGuardia Airport and NYC next week, please stay tuned on FB, Instagram, and Twitter for my posts and art drop updates…

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Hope to see you and all the other lovely creatures there!

Stuff Myla Says

Years ago, around the time Myla first started talking, I would write notes in a notebook of the funny things she’d say.  And then once, browsing online, I came across an awesome custom photo book that had beautiful little areas to write fun little things your kid says.  I first saw it featured in this blog post, and immediately ordered my own, full of great pictures of Myla, and cute graphic spaces in which to write.

The company was called Paper Coterie, and UNFORTUNATELY, it is now out of business.  (Sadly, if I had known that, I might have ordered about six of those books ahead of time…)

…But wait a minute.  If you don’t mind, let’s pause here a moment, and rewind a bit…

I have a longstanding love of Moleskine sketchbooks.

Before the internet had become a part of my everyday life, before I had a printer…before I could Google things quickly from the convenience of my phone in a mere matter of seconds, before I had ever even DREAMED of Pinterest, I had kept Moleskine sketchbook journals that pretty much served that exact same purpose:  Anything at all that I saw that I wanted to remember, I logged it in my sketchbook.

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It was my own sort of little encyclopedia of things that interested me.  Not so much strictly my own work, but my own versions and interpretation of things I saw, sketched in my own hand, of other peoples’ work, other peoples’ information.  A little encyclopedia of stuff I never knew I wanted to know.  I often copied them directly (like Tank Girl below), or sometimes added my own flair (like the tattoos on the woman below).

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I documented things like the seven wonders of the world, Russion prison tattoos, the lifecycle of a frog, the various types of clouds and their names, the origins of the term “bless you,” hobo symbols, infamous pirate flags, and the meaning of fortune telling lines in palm reading.

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I carried it EVERYWHERE I went.  It was fun for me, it was a collection of things that went wherever my imagination took me, whatever I was interested in at the time.  I wondered, I researched, and I documented.

(If you’re curious what else was in there, the entire first sketchbook as well as my second sketchbook are online on my illustration website.)

Years later, when I was pregnant, I constantly heard “enjoy every moment, it goes so quickly!”  So since I am quite a literal person, I took that to heart, and then always felt this intensely insane NEED to document EVERYTHING.  When I was pregnant with Myla, I kept a couple of sketch journals throughout the whole thing, which I somehow continued to keep up all the way until she was about two, (when I became too busy and finally just let it go).

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It’s funny looking back–the illustrations are so detailed and magical when our little cub was still in my tummy, and somehow get much simpler and roughly sketchier during her baby and toddler years…sometimes favoring a quick line of text or two instead of a drawing, thanks to lack of time and exhaustion…

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When my husband was deployed to Afghanistan and Myla hadn’t even yet turned two, I felt the same insanely furious need for complete documentation.  Somehow, along with the myriad of day-to-day things I had to take care of, I managed to take video clips of things Myla and I had done and EVERY MONTH, compile them into a movie (complete with themed and synchronized music and text), and send them to my husband, my mother and mother-in-law, and my grandmothers.  EVERY. MONTH.  They were beautiful, they were exhausting, they were fun, and my husband says that was one thing that he appreciated the most, while he was away from us for so long.

At some point, though, you just have to LIVE that life, and let go of the furious documenting, just for document’s sake, and when he came back from deployment, that’s what I did.  I can be honest when I felt like there were times I didn’t want to miss documenting a SINGLE EVENT.  Sure, the big ones: first food, first step, first walk.  But I was furiously documenting EVERYTHING.  It sort of felt like I HAD to, because heaven forbid your kid grow up and you didn’t record EVERY memorable moment.  That MIGHT just mean you didn’t care, or didn’t appreciate.  Heaven forbid you didn’t think to put a dollar in a binder for her at every birthday, or save every bit of hair they ever lost or any of the millions and millions of memorable and wonderful things you can find on Pinterest.  As much documenting as I’ve done (and seriously, I have done a LOT), I STILL find things on Pinterest that I hadn’t ever considered.

But it’s okay, I promise (I tell myself).  You don’t have to document it all.  Just enjoy it.  Document what you like, but don’t do it because you feel you NEED to.  There’s no WAY you can do it all.  (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

So now that she’s older, and she’s saying all the wonderful things kids say, and my little Paper Coterie book is already full of little wonderful things she’s ALREADY said, I was reminded of my old sketchbook journals, and decided to do my own illustrations of some of the stuff Myla says.  I had kept a little running list on my phone, for my own remembrance, and I wanted to pull a few and let them see the light of a new sketchbook.  I even bought a new Moleskine just for the occasion.

I didn’t illustrate them because I felt like I “NEEDED” to…but more like the old way I documented things in the past:  because they were truly wonderful little things I wanted to remember.

Some of them are wonderful little introspective moments when you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the deep little depths of your kid’s imagination…

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And some of them–although they might SEEM quite “deep,” are just her simple little observations about things….

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Either way, they’re very lovely to me.  Not because I NEED to make a keepsake, but simply because I want to illustrate them.

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When I showed a couple of them to her, she found them amusing, but she doesn’t see the wonder in it that I do; she’s simply just living it.  There’s nothing magical to HER in what she says, it’s just the random little thoughts that come out of her wonderful little head.

But they’ll be things I always remember.  And things I truly always WANT to remember.  Things that make me happy.

And sometimes, for all the right reasons, that’s okay.

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Play With Your Food!

Since this time of year is quite food-centric, I thought it might be fun to encourage you all to play with your food….

If you’ve never seen the hundreds of Pinterest posts on it, milk painting with kids is actually pretty fun!  Put milk in bowls.  Add food coloring.  Let ‘em paint on bread.  Toast & eat.  Easy peasy!

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But I was also inspired awhile back by a fellow Instagram artist, who painted for fun with his morning coffee.  So one morning, Myla and I drew little faces on paper, and I graciously sacrificed a small portion of my own morning coffee to a little bowl, from which we painted.

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Eventually, when the coffee dried a little, I tried adding some of her kid markers to the mix.  And since I remembered they’re washable, they had a sort of watercolor effect when wet, which was pretty fun to play with.

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Myla added more as well…(she was really getting into this).

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And (as we like to do) when I was finished, I handed over creative control of the drawing to Myla….who turned her into a lady centaur.

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With a pink tail and a cane.  TaDAHHHHH!

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I tried this coffee trick later on my own, on a portrait of Nick Cave I did for a friend.  I even threw a little coffee grounds into the mix, rubbing them into the paper, which gave it a bit of a gritty feel (although, admittedly maybe moreso if I didn’t love creamer so much).

Anyway, it smelled good.

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Another day, we tried using our morning blueberries, adding a few kid markers again.  Those were the best!  The blueish-purple was pretty rich, and I wondered what other foods I could use.

I heard comments from people who said they’ve used strawberries, blackberries, mustard, ketchup, and candy.

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I found a tutorial awhile back for doing chocolate portraits….which sounds pretty stinkin’ awesome!  …But I’m pretty sure I don’t have the patience for that.

(It WAS a pretty easy-looking tutorial, though….and now maybe I DO want to play with some chocolate.)

Anyway, WHATEVER you’re doing with food this season, I hope you have a little fun with it!

Nuudles!

Have you ever played with Nuudles?  Magic Nuudles are  these styrofoamy-looking little tater tots that stick together with water.  They’re apparently made of cornstarch (yummm! –oh, wait, you’re not supposed to EAT them), and are biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

For some reason, they kind of weirded me out at first (maybe just a sense memory of packing-popcorn disasters?), but I have changed my tune.  I. LOVE. NUUDLES.

They’re easy:  Stick ‘em in a bowl so you can see all the colors easily.  Get a little sponge (if you lose the one in the box, a wet washcloth works), give your kid some safety scissors, and BOOM, it’s just that easy.

nuudles(In case you’re not aware, I don’t get any money for anything on this blog, so no one’s holding my kid hostage, telling me I have to say good things.  I just love getting good tips from other crafty moms about things that might peacefully and quietly entertain my kid that DON’T involve a TV or IPad.)

You can squish the little pieces, or cut them up with scissors, and all it takes is a little touch of water (they even say you can lick them, but…um…no thanks) to make them stick together.

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Myla found them fun, and had a great time trying to make characters with them.  The little blue fox above is Fig, from the Amazon show Tumble Leaf.  She also made the little crab with the wooden claw (look how she made the little wooden claw!!) from the same show.  Below them is what she says is Catbus, from the movie Totoro, but (admittedly) looks a bit like a CATerpillar.  Hur-hur.

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And look at these teensy weensy little bats!

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I’m sure she told me what these are, but I’m not sure I remember (BAD momma!)…The bottom one is most likely a version of Nightcrawler, I’m sure (based on my scientific deduction…and the basic color scheme)…

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And some other cute little critters…

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So anyway, not that anyone asked, but I give Magic Nuudles a big high five!  If you’re looking for something for a bigger kid to play with (they recommend over age 3) that doesn’t require TONS of parental involvement (alright: when you need a bit of a breather), they’re definitely worth a try!

Doodle Wars

“Let’s both each draw a picture that’s a fish,” Myla said one day.  We each drew our own on the same page, and, as will often happen, she inevitably became more interested in what was going on on MY side.

“Don’t forget his fins,” she’d say.  “Or maybe some teeth.”

So I make a joke out of it.  “Oh yeah?!?   You know what YOURS needs??  Lobster claws.  Totally.”  And then I reached over to her drawing and doodled a quick pair of claws.

It cracked her up in a cascade of giggles.

“Oh, okay…yours looks great, mom, but it could really use some BIGGGG horns.”

Pretty soon it evolved to an all-out doodle war.  “Oh, yours would look SOOOO much better with walrus tusks!”  “It’s good, but I think it could really use an elephant trunk,”  we say to eachother in our mock-friendly voices.  …And on and on.

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It’s hilarious to her to impact something I’ve done in a funny way, and a great demonstration of the idea that if you want to have say in what someone else is doing, you might have to be okay with them doing the same to you…

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And since it’s just a quick little doodle, there’s nothing sacred in it, other than just having fun and being silly.

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I always love what comes of them, as crazy as they are.  I’m wondering what a finer version of it might look like.  maybe it’d be different than our usual collaborations.  It might involve taking some time and patience, which is very difficult for a 5-year old.  People have often tried to “tell” us what we should draw together, and while people sometimes have some great ideas, it sort of just has to happen.  In my world, the things that I push the hardest on are the things that don’t ever feel as genuine, and therefore aren’t as enjoyable for the viewer or the ones creating it.

But trying something new?  I’m always up for that.  :)

Me, For Sale.

I am not good at selling myself.  I’m horrible.

You might say, “wait, don’t you WORK in marketing??”  And I would respond with “I am a graphic artist.  I just put together eye-catching imagery.”

Once, after I got out of the army, I had a job where I had to call up existing clients and offer to schedule them for their yearly meetings.  It was the closest thing to a telemarketer I had ever been (even though it was for EXISTING clients who probably NEEDED to schedule their yearly appointments), and I was often treated as one.  I hated it.  When they were short with me or shoot me down, my attitude was, “Oh.  Okay, then.”  Way to make that hard sell, Mica!

I’ve SEEN people be good at it, and it’s sort of amazing to watch.  I was once a graphic artist for an auto ad sales department, and worked with some amazing salesmen who could pull out the charm and still talk you into something you’d be happy to have, and not in a sleazy way, but in a “Oh!  This would be a great deal for BOTH of us!” sort of way.  It always felt genuine, even though you know it was a sell.  It was always impressive to see.

I am not one of those people that even knows how that works.

There’s a quote I quite like, by psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, that says: “Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.”   I like that.  It makes a LOT of sense to me.  It’s very true for me.  I am an introvert, but I want to connect with like-minded (and sometimes different-minded) people.  I have no desire to be “famous,” but I’d LOVE to share my work with a lot of people.  If you ask my opinion on something, I will tell you everything I feel–until then, I keep it to myself for the most part.

This does not mean I am shy, by any means.  I have learned to hold my own in my interactions with complete strangers.  I just don’t grow in the spotlight.  (I’m a little more like moss that way.)

But from time to time, even though I think I have tooted my own horn a-plenty, I still get asked, “do you sell your artwork?”  and “do you have a book/t-shirts/prints?”

I do speak a lot better about something when I’m truly proud of it, or if I truly want to share my opinion. So I thought I’d share a bit about what I feel is awesome, and what I’m proud of.  I’m going to tell you what I have for sale, where to find it, and what it’s like…

1.  THE BOOK

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I am VERY proud of the book we made.  Thanks to so many backers on Kickstarter, I was able to put together and print the collection of our collaborations.  It tells the story of how our collaborations began, how we do our doodles, and even has some doodle pages you can finish yourself.   You can buy copies of “Share With Me” here.

We even had enough funding to print a little animal book of short stories I called “Tail Tales,” which you can buy here.

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Both of these books are very near & dear to me.  Not only do I think it’s amazing to see all the artwork Myla & I did together, I worked tirelessly putting them together myself, laying them out, sorting the files, and it’s wonderful to see all that work turn into something beautiful in the end.

1.  SOCIETY6 ITEMS

When I first posted the “Collaborations” story, I put a few of our collaborations up on Society6.  I had seen a friend’s work posted on there, and tried it out myself by ordering one before I ever made the post.  Their art prints are beautiful, printed on very nice archival paper.  The color is beautiful, and I found them to be a VERY close representation of the original artwork.   (First off, let me say that I don’t get any of this stuff for free; I have to pay for it myself, just with only a slight discount.)  So I’ll tell you a little more about the other items they offer there:

Mugs:

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Their mugs are BEAUTIFUL!  The color is excellent, and the printing is so clear.  Once, I got a mug that was great except for the signature, and the lower part of the mug, which was completely smeared.  I took a photo, sent it to them, and they sent a new one right away.  I have a couple that I mostly keep pens & paintbrushes in…

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Tote Bags:

I LOVE the tote bags!

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The printing is so cool and clear on them.  The big one is BIGGGG.  I bring it with me to Myla’s gymnastics class.  At first, I felt it was a little TOO big, but the more I use it, it’s just right.  It’s one of my favorites to carry around.  I initially thought the small one seemed a little TOO small, but actually, I can fit my sketchbook, Ipad, and quite a few other things in there.  It’s not bad when you just want to carry a few things around without taking up too much room.  (If you promise not to tell, I’ll let you all know that I plan on giving a tote or two as teacher gifts…)

Pillows:

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The pillows are nice!  We have quite a few of them, thrown all over the house, because I couldn’t decide which ones I wanted.  They’re sort of a canvas-y material, and they’re quite stiff at first, but they do soften up after awhile.  Myla even uses one to sleep on at night.  I changed it out once, thinking it was too rough for her, but she asked for it back once she realized it was gone.

T-shirts:

frida me

Okay, let me say this. Their t-shirts (at least the three I tried) are SOFT.  That being said, I’m not quite as crazy about the printing style they use.  It comes looking nearly faded, and I have gotten a few comments about the quality.  One of mine was actually stuck to itself, which tore part of the design.  When I contacted them, they did give me a full refund.  If a faded sort of look and a VERY soft shirt is what you’re looking for, that’s what they’ve got.   (I now only offer just a few on Society6).

moth shirt

My favorite t-shirts, however, are on RedBubble…

2. REDBUBBLE ITEMS

I was contacted by RedBubble awhile back to give their store a try.  I had gotten many requests like this from a variety of companies, but I had seen quite a few good things come from them.  However, since my original “Collaborations” post was already linked to Society 6, I couldn’t just migrate to RedBubble.  So I released a few t-shirt options (and at the time, they were the only ones that offered children’s sizes), and an exclusive listing of our ABC animals.  I also posted our other animal collaborations there.  They have the option of little die-cut stickers, but my favorite thing from them is their t-shirts.

lizard shirt

This is Myla in her “Lizapillar” shirt.  The shirt itself is a regular, well-fitting shirt, but the design is SO bright and true to our colors.  We’ve washed it many times, and it still looks bright and beautiful.

3.  MY NEW ETSY SHOP

neck

sit

If you’re looking for a strange, handmade gift, this is where I’m throwing those down.  I’ve been having SO much fun making little handpainted resin monster necklaces, monster brooches,  and handmade monster puppy dolls.

Also listed is a pretty wide assortment of original artwork.  These are drawings and paintings from my own sketchbooks that desperately need a home, and that want to look at you lovingly from a behind a frame on the walls in your house.

arya (8x11)

…So there it is.  Self-promotion.  Something I’m not entirely great at, but hopefully you will take it for what it’s worth:  me, just wanting to share something with you that I hope you will enjoy.  Or that maybe you might think someone else will enjoy.  Not in any kind of shady way, but in a “I like this stuff.  If you like this stuff, here’s where to find it” sort of way.

Thank you all so much, and have a happy day!

 

 

The Tale of Donkey

(This is not so much art-related, but I thought I’d share a little story.  So if you’re up for it, just sit back, relax, snuggle up, and tuck in.  Here we go…)

People often wonder what it’s like to grow up in a military family.  Unlike the TV show trope, my dad didn’t march us around the house, barking commands at my sister, mother, and me.  After a long day of formations and the field, that was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

Being in an army family means lots of things, but most significantly, it means moving around.  A lot.  My husband once commented that our daughter at 3 years old, had flown more often than he had the entire first 25 years of his life.

I grew up around the army, and I was very outgoing…until it all slammed to a halt in about 5th grade.  I remember it distinctly, because that was when all the social awkwardness happened, and the things I loved (like drawing, reading, bugs, and sci-fi) suddenly became “weird” to the people that had so recently played side by side with me.  Being a military family meant that just as social awkwardness set in, we got into an unfortunate pattern of moving nearly EVERY YEAR.  So just as I was settling in somewhere, it was just about time to pick up & move.  I became a bit more introverted.  I stuck my head in my sketchbook and didn’t bother to get to know anyone.

Boohoohoo.  Believe me, it’s not a story of pity.  My parents took us to so many wonderful places and we did so many fun things.  I’ve seen amazing and wonderful parts of the world that my heart STILL aches for.  Yes, school was rough at times, but isn’t it always?  I lost & found my voice many times, and I’d be a completely different person if anything in it had changed.  Years later, I JOINED the army, and found my voice again.  I spent four years in that were some of the most important years in my life.  Now I’m married to a soldier, and we have our own “army brat” (that’s VERY loving term of endearment and respect, for non-military folks who may be unfamiliar with the term).

But one of the down sides of moving around so much is that we either hang on to things too much, or we let go of things too easily.  Maybe that’s also  true metaphorically, but I’m talking in this case about actual THINGS.  I’ve had friends who spoke of family heirlooms and things being passed down from generation to generation–an idea that fascinated me when I was younger, as we didn’t really have that sort of thing.  Moving a lot means the army gives you only so much weight allowance, so sometimes you have to dump the excess.

When I was around eight, I got a Steiff donkey (Steiff  is a German dollmaking company).  I was in LOVE with that donkey.  My sister got a teddy she called Molly Bear.  I tried to name my donkey, but he always ended up Just Donkey.  He was my go-to guy.  I cried many tears into his furry gray neck, and I cuddled with him on many happy nights for many many MANY years.

IMG_0540

Me in my Care Bears jammies with my Prince Valiant ‘do, and a brand new Donkey.

When I was old enough to go off to college, like Andy in Toy Story, I left Donkey behind at my parents’ house, and they eventually put him in storage in the shed with a few other of our childhood dolls.  Several moves later, he stayed forgotten in a Rubbermaid container, and when I thought of him, I thought of him with a smile.  And years later, when my dad retired, I asked about Donkey.  “Oh gosh,” my mom said.  “He’s probably in a container in the shed somewhere.”

Several MORE years later, not long after Myla was born, I asked again about Donkey.  Sadly, it was discovered that most of the dolls and boxes in the shed had suffered at the hands of a major mouse infestation.  Dolls and clothing had been shredded by them, paper and stuffing used to make nests in what was once assumed to be sealed-tight containers.  Quite a few things were lost or destroyed by mouse-droppings and nibbles.  It was a mousetastrophy.

I had heard (for a military family, especially) that it helps comfort a kid to have a doll that is a special “lovvie;” the one constant thing that your kid can connect with and keep, and with a new (and VERY fussy baby), I would have loved for that to have worked.  I am here to tell you, my friends, that in my experience, you cannot MAKE a doll be a lovvie.  I tried to make many dolls and blankets her lovvie, and nothing stuck.  I constantly put them by her in bed, I’d give one to her when she’d cry, and she could really not care less if they were there or not.

And then, just before Myla’s first birthday, mom sent a package to us in Alaska.  It was my DONKEY!!  And he was FINE!   He had somehow survived the rodent apocalypse unscathed!  Mom had washed him and sent him to us when they cleaned out their shed.  I happily gave my beloved Donkey to Myla, who I assumed would simply cuddle him for a bit and toss him aside.   But for some reason, out of ALL the dolls that have ever come and gone, THIS one stuck.

donk

From the minute I gave him to her, he has rarely left her side.  So Donkey has been with her since before she could walk, and though other dolls have come and gone, she always goes back to Donkey.  New dolls are the occasional favorites sometimes (I may have mentioned she has a stuffed animal addiction), but she always goes back to Donkey.

Donkey has been there for doctor’s appointments, shots, airplane rides, hotel nights, and was a MUST the time she had to stay overnight at the hospital after a bad flu.  He has been puked on, accidentally painted on, and had food and drinks spilled on him.  His fur, once fluffy and soft, is now matted and course.  His neck flops from years of constant cuddling.  His mane and tail are nearly threadbare.

And if you ask her if she’d like you to open him up and add a bit more stuffing to make him less floppy, she would tell you “NO, PLEASE.  I love him JUST the way he is.”

He is hers, and she loves him.

sleep

I can’t change the fact that we move so much, and as an army brat myself, I think it actually ends up making you strong.  You appreciate what you have, and enjoy the people around you.  You have friends from all over, and even when it’s hard to keep in touch, you can be miles apart, and still feel close to them if you’ve been lucky enough to find some good ones.  So in her world, it makes me feel good that something so loved in my life has been so well-loved in hers.

So do you or your kids have a special doll?  Some sort of  “lovvie” they can’t part with?  Do you have something special you’ve passed down to someone else?

Monster Puppies!

DRIBBLE close

Okay, so I’ve written in the past about my experiments with resin casting my mermaid sculptures, and again when I started making dolls from the sculpted faces…  Well, I’ve decided finally, after much trepidation…..

…TO OPEN AN ETSY SHOP.

It’s intimidating, and I can’t fully pinpoint why I feel that way.  I think because I like to give my full attention to things, and since I have a full-time job and a full-time family (not to mention all my full-time hobbies), I was nervous about not being able to give it the attention I’d like it to have.

And also, there was something else darker looming.  I worried about the intimidation of “HAVING” to do something, as opposed to doing something just for the fun of it.  Ages ago, when I was a kid, my mom (being a military wife, and a full-time, mostly stay-at-home mom) handpainted ornaments for craft shows.  They were BEAUTIFUL, and she loved it, and did really well at big shows.  In the demands of stocking up for a craft show, she turned her art table into an assembly line of sorts, painting variations of the same things over and over and over again.  People loved it, and she did her best to provide a variety of kinds of figures in different skin tones and hair colors, and offered to customized each of them by painting their names on them.  It was amazing.  But soon, people became picky about customizing things.  It wasn’t enough that a simple little character had red hair, they’d ask for WAVIER red hair.  Or more freckles.  Or a slightly darker skin tone, or dimples.  And we’re not talking full, customized portraits here–we’re talking cute, detailed but simple, country crafts.  And people would complain constantly (and loudly) of the price–$5 for a handpainted ornament, and they’d complain, not bothering to notice all the hours of work and love that went into each one.  After years of this, Mom got burnt out.  Although it helped supplement my dad’s army income, after awhile, trying to please everyone, along with doing the same thing over and over and over again wore her out.

But friends have assured me that it can be just for fun!  That it doesn’t HAVE to be a custom assembly line.  It can be a place to put all the strange things I create, and ENJOY creating, and sharing with people.  And that if it gets to be too much, I can put it on “vacation” while I sort things out.

So I decided to give it a try.

I’ve had SO much fun with this resin-casting, that I’ve started making Monster Puppies.

sit

I’ve written before about how much Myla loves her odd little doll, Midnight, and how despite people thinking it’s “creepy,” she loves it all the same.

8 monster puppy

I’ve had SO MUCH FUN making a variety of monster puppies, in different cute but creepy versions.  I’ve always LOVED the juxtaposition of soft and hard, sweet, and sour, cute and creepy…and that’s what I had fun with in making these little guys.  For now, I decided to just put up what I’ve created, and not offer customized pieces just yet, until I can get a feel for if I can handle it or not…

So HERE THEY ARE!

bluered SIDE

The hardest part is convincing Myla that she can’t adopt EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  She loves them all, and her first reaction to each new Monster Puppy is a very beloved, “AWWWW!!!!!”

redbrown

pinkyeti CLOSE

IGGY close

They’re not for everyone, I know.  But they’re fun to make, and people are either totally creeped out by them, or think they’re unusually cool.

I’ve also had a LOT of fun making my little monsters into JEWELRY!  I made several necklaces in a couple of designs…

ME

IMG_3362

This next one is my personal favorite, and I decided to keep her for myself…  (I’m wearing her right at this very moment, actually.)

neck

Myla picked her favorite, and actually wears it to school (although we later changed its eyes to black after she saw mine).

You might think it odd that I send my kid to school with a creepy monster necklace, in the heart of Central Texas.  Once, while making smalltalk with some little girls at the craft store, the girls looked at her necklace and said, “wow, that’s really creepy.”  Myla knows that some people think so.  We’ve talked a lot about how it’s okay to like something and it’s okay NOT to like something.  Nothing’s for everyone.  But I asked her if it made her feel bad, and if she wanted to take it off.  “NO! Not at all!” She said. “I just don’t want people to be scared of it.”

So now, if people say it’s creepy, she’s decided to say, “Yes, but she’s actually quite a nice and FRIENDLY monster.”

MYLA

I also made a few of them into pin-backed brooches.

brown left

I’ve also added several pieces of ORIGINAL artwork (not the collaborations, however–still can’t part with those), paintings, and sketchbook pages.

In any case, welcome to my shop!  It’s a collection of things I love to make, and I hope they at least make you smile.  I’ll do my best to add new things to it from time to time, in whatever direction my crafty brain takes me, whatever I’m into at the moment!

 

Charlie and Jack

Or: “Why We Have a Dead Horse Taped To Our Window”

Here’s a quick little story:

Recently, we watched a show on PBS called “Animal Odd Couples,” about unusual animal friendships, which Myla loved.  She especially loved the story of Charlie the horse and Jack the goat. CHARLIEJACK

Charlie was a 40-year-old farm horse who was blind in one eye, and very near to being put down when the family noticed that their 16-year old goat, Jack, had begun walking with Charlie around the farm, standing on his good side to lead him, making sure he got where he needed to go.  As the horse got older and blind in both eyes, the goat began leading him in front so he could follow his sound.

The show is very sweet, and you can watch the story of Charlie and Jack here:

Myla was so impressed by this that the next time we sat down to draw together, she drew Charlie and Jack, and asked me to help her spell out their words…CHARLIEJACK

Later in the story, they talk about how Charlie passed away.  In tribute, Myla grabbed a paper plate and asked me if she could draw Charlie after he died (she has learned to ask about potentially inappropriate images after some “artistic mishaps” at school), and I said it would be okay.

dead

I don’t think she meant it in a morbid way; to her mind, it was more of a tribute.  The “x” eyes and the tongue sticking out are merely a way of telling you visually that the sweet horse that was part of this amazing story died.  She wanted people to know about Charlie and Jack.  She asked me if I’d write the story around it, and I took dictation on the words she wanted me to write.  She asked if we could get a big stick and put it in the front yard so that everyone could see the story, but (thankfully) I convinced her that the weather might be an issue, and we compromised by taping it to the window in our kitchen nook.

So, we have a drawing of a dead horse on our window.  But it’s sort of…sweet, actually?

And that’s the story of Charlie and Jack, and how Myla loved them.

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