It all started with a Blythe doll….
Not too long ago, I was introduced to the crazy world of dolls when a friend traded me a Blythe doll in exchange for some artwork. She had warned me I may become addicted. “Oh pshaw,” I thought. “They’re cute, but I’m not really that into ‘people’ dolls.” I really didn’t know much about Blythe…just that they were a very unique doll that I had seen around for ages, and thought it’d be fun to have one for Myla.
But then I started learning about this whole other WORLD of customizing dolls. Now THAT I could get into–not so much to sell, but just for fun. Taking something that was factory-made and changing it to your own version? That’s pretty darn cool, I guess. People do ALL kinds of crazy customizations to their Blythes, and I started to find it fascinating.
But PAUSE–I’ll come back to Blythe..
I saw that people were customizing other dolls, so soon I found myself eyeballing my daughter’s Monster High ladies (if you’re shooting for impossible body standards, you may as well go ALL out and be a MONSTER, right?). Since she wouldn’t give her approval to let me experiment (although she did let me add some definition to the lovely designs on her Loch Ness Lorna doll) I took matters into my own hands, and started shopping around.
So I googled a few tutorials on customizing doll faces (there are THOUSANDS online), and took the paint off of her face and repainted her all over again…a little more hairy. A little more freckly. And those LEGS! Those are some non-shaved winter sasquatch legs for SURE! I love ’em. It was a little intimidating at first….I guess just the idea of totally messing her up. But really, if I had messed her up, I really could just wipe the paint off again with nail polish remover, right?
There are a hundred ways people do and don’t do it, so I won’t give a full tutorial. Really, there are tons of people who make money online professionally customizing dolls, and they really know their stuff. I don’t. I’m just playing around.
I’ll just say I wiped her off with nail polish remover that had acetone in it (apparently, this can melt some plastics, so be careful), and it all came right off. Then I painted her with acrylics (most people use certain types of art pastels and paint that on, which gives more of a soft airbrushed look). The trickiest thing is spraying it to seal it all, because some sprays never fully dry, leaving the plastic tacky. This is particularly annoying because EVERYTHING sticks to it. This is what I accidentally did (despite reading about it), so now her face and arms are a little tacky. I ordered the correct spray, though, so help is on the way! The plasic was pretty easy to paint on–the acrylics didn’t really bead up or anything, and I was able to get a LITTLE bit of smooth shading (pastels would’ve probably been a lot smoother).
So to me, store-bought Monster High doll: boring. CUSTOMIZED Monster High doll? SUPER COOOOOOOOL!!!
And despite insisting I wouldn’t become a “crazy doll lady,” I was messing around on etsy, and found an inexpensive little MH WIG from FantasyDolls. And OMGersh, look how cool it looks!!!
She’s almost a proper sasquatch! It’s not properly glued onto her head or anything yet–like I said, I still need to fix that little “tacky skin” issue first–but I think it’s going to be pretty darn cool. And since she’s a “bigfoot,” I thought clothes wouldn’t look right, but nekkid didn’t quite work either. So the lovely lady from the shop offered to send me some scraps from the wig hair, and I’m going to use it to tack onto her body, like a really real sasquatch!
So why, you ask?
I don’t know. Because it’s fun. And why not?
In the meantime, my friend has fully supported my new experiments by sending me two Blythe doll bodies to play with. So I “tattooed” them with acrylic paints and permanent marker…I want to see which will hold and which won’t on what kinds of plastic. And hey–doll tattoos!
Myla has a blonde, curly-haired Blythe doll she named “Sweetie.” I have a long brown-haired one we named “Mabel” (after the backyard gnomes that used to “visit” us).
There are SO many options for customizing Blythe dolls–you can change their bodies, paint their faces, paint their eyelids, you can give them completely new hair, and you can adjust their eyes so they don’t have that creepy straight-ahead doll stare, just to name a few. Since I’m not so skilled in all of THAT (and since they’re quite expensive dolls), I decided to do a few littler things, like paint “tattoos” on their bodies, and make horn headbands for them.
I made deer antlers for Mabel out of Super Sculpey, hot-glued and E-6000’d onto a little doll headband. Myla asked if I could make Sweetie a pair of goat-horns, so I made those the same way. (I tried to cast them in resin so I could make a lot more, but my molding and casting skills still need some work.)
When I told Myla I was going to “tattoo” my doll’s body, she asked if I could do Sweetie’s too. She told me exactly what she wanted: a deer-girl. Because she says Sweetie is someone loves caring for all kinds of animals. So that’s what we did! And since Mabel seems like some sort of wood-nymph fairy girl (yeah, you heard me), I did a moth on her.
Anyway, call me crazy for playing with dolls. I get it, really–it does seem pretty strange. But really, it’s quite fun! To be able to take something and make it into something else completely your own is pretty awesome. I wish I had some spare Blythe faces to play with. Apparently they come straight out of the box looking VERY plastic, like this:
I’m not sure what I’m going to DO with these dolls once I’m done. Stick ’em on a shelf? More than likely, Myla will want to play with them. I know some dolls are fancy, and some are expensive, and it may be risky to let your kid play with a “nice” doll. But if you teach that kid to be NICE to your “nice” doll, then hey–why not? I mean, they’re toys, afterall. They’re meant to be played with and enjoyed!
I get such wonderful mail from time to time, of people sharing stories about how the little collaborations that Myla and I do has affected their lives in a positive way…and I don’t care WHAT kind of cruddy day I might be having, they ALWAYS make me smile.
This set of collaborations is from Charlotte Christian School, where kids in High School worked on drawings with kids from Kinder and Junior Kinder classes. Look at all the amazing things they did!
This is a small sample from a class at Sanna preschool in Jönköping, Sweden, where the teachers took photos of the kids and let them paint whatever they wanted to, after seeing the drawings that Myla and I did (thank you, Ellen, Olivia and Benjamin!).
I got this beautiful image via @januarylark on Twitter, who got our book before she knew she was pregnant, and is reading it to her new little buddy.
I love to see the things people draw together, and I love that you all share them with me! So keep drawing, keep doodling, but most of all, keep enjoying spending real time creating with your kids!
Sometimes (as I’ve mentioned more than once), you have these weird ideas that you don’t really understand, but for some reason, you just have to do. My little mermaid was one of those ideas.
It’s rare, I thought to myself, to see a mermaid that isn’t some lithe, dainty, graceful creature. And while I’m not super into the details of anatomy, I know enough to realize that most mermaids aren’t portrayed with visible gills. And I bet they ALL don’t have gorgeous singing voices, either. :)
And that was my goal: a beautiful, strong, healthy, and FISHY-looking mermaid covered in gills near her face and chest and lungs. So I built a wire structure, wrapped it in tape, and built up my Super Sculpey figure on top of that (this keeps you from using so much clay, as well as from burning the outside while all that inside bulk tries to cook). I learned from friends that are sculptors, to use rubbing alcohol to smooth out some areas, as well as a heat gun to soft-set some areas while you work on others—so you’re not constantly squishing the face as you sculpt other areas.
I put lots of decorative “fins” around her chest and face, to sort of shield the gill areas. I thought nature (because nature is smart) would most likely find ways to protect the softer skin on a mer-creature with scaly sort of decorative things (because nature’s an artist, too).
She has webbed hands, and fins on her arms (to be more aero/aquadynamic, I suppose?). I used the inside pieces from a broken ballpoint to add texture onto the scaled part of her tail, along with two lower fins.
It didn’t matter all TOO much, though, since after it was cooked and cooled (I like to turn the oven on 250, put my sculpture in, and turn the oven off & forget it til it cools off), the next step was to paint her.
I didn’t want her to look too morose and gothy, but again–thinking of nature, she’d probably want to be fairly well-camouflaged, right? So I painted her in sort of blueish grayish purples.
My favorite parts were the gills: I made them sort of reddish, as I recall fish-gills being. And do you see she’s got some curve and a booty? I’m just going for a version I’ve never seen before. That curve is pretty hard to photograph. I at least gave her a little pudge under her arms, because maybe she’s buff and well-fed. And hey…we can’t ALL be as dainty as Ariel.
So at the point when I could go no further, and Her Baldness was staring at me with peaceful patience, I was saved by an order I had made online of a small batch of reddish mohair. I am not at all familiar with laying hair, but I had read a little bit about dolls and laying their hair. Still I wasn’t sure what to do.
So I faked it. I squirted black E-6000 on top of her head, and carefully laid her hair the way I wanted it, and waited for it to dry. (I have since been told that there are many MANY better ways of doing this….but I am impatient.)
So now what? What do you DO with a creature like this? I had initially wanted to mold her and cast her in resin to customize in eighty million different ways. But I’m over my experience level with 2-part detailed molds, so I just stuck with making the original as awesome as I could while I could.
So I made my own mount for her.
But is she hanging on my wall? No. Not yet. I’m afraid she’ll fall off those poles. I keep meaning to paint the board (which I should have done beforehand, but it’s too late now). So she sits on my shelf, flat on her back, on top of two poles. And I’m still scared she’s gonna fall, so I haven’t hung her up yet. I was careful to make sure she didn’t look like a mounted, dead fish, as I also didn’t want to freak out our 5-year old.
So there’s something unfinished. I love her, I’m just not sure yet what to DO with her. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share! Sometimes, the weird things end up pretty wonderful.
OMgosh, I wanted to share a new creation that just arrived in the mail yesterday from a cool company called Budsies….
You might remember that I sometimes help Myla make wonky dolls from her creations (like this), but since my doll-making skills are pretty much self-taught, they’re always sort of hodge-podge. And highly wonky.
But this place called Budsies can take a drawing that you send them for a great price, and make a really cool, really well-made doll that’s a great size and looks JUST LIKE the drawing!
So here’s the drawing Myla sent of a sheep-dragon (a creature she created, and draws ALL the time), next to the final Budsies doll we got in the mail yesterday. HOW COOL IS THAT?!?! They even asked me via email to help them define details, down to the wings, and the fluff of “wool” on top. And aren’t those little claws the greatest? Myla has decided that his name is “Wooly.”
So I just have to share Budsies, for anyone out there who might be interested in getting one of their own, because DANG we had trouble narrowing down just that ONE drawing (believe me, Myla had HUNDREDS of ideas for more). So give ’em a look–check out their gallery and see what other awesome stuff they’ve done!
I just thought I’d share a little update on the fun time Myla and I had at Jerry’s Artarama in Austin this past weekend!
If you’re in the Austin area and you love artsy art supplies, you probably know Jerry’s. I sometimes take the hour-and-twenty-minute drive to Jerry’s JUST because they know their stuff. It’s such a fantastic thing to be able to talk to people who are familiar with the art supplies they’re selling, have actually used them, know what they can do, and if they’ll work for your project. Maybe you’ve always had an awesome art store like Jerry’s nearby, but I haven’t been so lucky…
So when we spoke to Jerry’s about doing an art demo there, I was so jazzed! This would be unique in that I have often kept Myla away from events, but now that she’s a little older, I asked if she’d like to help me with the demo, and she was super excited. It would also be unique in that I have given little online talks on our collaborations, I have interviewed about them via video and in emails, and I have done a TED talk telling our story…but I have never done a demo. So this would totally be a learning experience for me.
Myla and I got there pretty early to set up, and I started to worry (as I tend to do) that no one would show up because:
- the SXSW festival madness was in going on,
- it was spring break, and
- it was pouring down rain.
But thankfully, all the seats filled. Yaaaayyy! I started off by telling the story of how Myla and I collaborate. This was weird because Myla was right there, and also because I wasn’t sure how much anyone already knew, and I didn’t want to talk too much, or bore anyone to tears–especially after trekking through traffic and rain…
And then I started to worry because I wasn’t quite sure what people were expecting…. Did they want ME to draw? Did they want Myla to draw? Did they want me to shut up and let THEM draw?
People have messaged me over the years these wonderful stories of how they’ve done collaborative projects based on our doodles with their classrooms and families and friends, and I’m always so blown away by how much goes into it, and how beautiful the results are, and what a great time they had all around. I wanted people to have a good time and still get the experience of collaborations.
So I thought it’d be fun to sort of replicate that same idea by having printouts of some of the heads I had drawn, and having them add an outlined body to the head, and then if they were very brave, they could switch with other people and let them finish their work.
People had a lot of fun switching back and forth with other people in the room–Myla would pass the papers around to whoever needed a rotation. Some just switched with the person next to them (which ultimately gave them more say in what the outcome was….which was TOTALLY cheating! Hahah). For the full experience of enjoying the process instead of focusing on the final piece, one attendee suggested I should have set a timer and made people keep passing it to the person next to them. That might’ve been pretty fun!
One woman even brought some of her kids’ drawings with her to have people add onto. Myla joined in on a little of that, as did a couple of the other attendees.
I’ve had fairly decent success teaching a class on something specific. I have also given speeches. This being my first demo, it was a little awkward to have a project going, still share with them the ideas and thoughts behind it, and not have everything be so unstructured it falls apart. In any case, it at least gave me an idea of how to better do it next time!
I’d love to do demos more often! I thought it’d be fun to do weekend demos at children’s hospitals or elderly care centers. I need to look into that, because even if I was awkward, and wasn’t exactly sure how to interact, it was a lot of fun seeing people having fun and mixing their ideas up with other peoples’, not holding on so tight to their own work, and really breaking out and trying new things. I hope people at least had a good time–I know Myla and I did!
So, thank you SO much to everyone at Jerry’s Artarama in Austin for letting us come play and doodle with you! We had so much fun!
This weekend, the Kid and I are going to be at our favorite Austin art store to talk about our collaborations, and have a little fun!
Now that Myla’s older, I asked if she’d like to come along & help, and she was over the moon about it. “I can show step by step! I can help people come up with ideas! We can all draw TOGETHER!!!”
Yeah, she was excited.
So that’s where we’ll be! I’ll talk a bit about the fun of collaborating, how Myla and I work, and even have some in-class demos for everyone to play with. It’s gonna be fun!
If you’re anywhere near the area, come by & see us–we’d love to meet you! :)
I don’t always head to the craft store with specific things in mind…but sometimes things jump out at me, and what can I do? I have to catch ’em.
Recently, I was inspired by these tiny cameos by Mab Graves and on my next visit to the craft store, I wandered into the jewelry section–which is fairly unfamiliar territory for me–looking for something that I could maybe draw on or paint on or….oh I dunno. I was just looking.
And then these little porcelain blanks jumped out at me, and landed right into my shopping basket. Along with them, some little necklace chains (which is what I had REALLY gone there for in the first place), and wouldn’t it be cool if they each had a charm?? And you’d HAVE to seal them in jewelry resin, right? And before I knew it, my little basket was full of tiny pieces of things.
Because I’m a skimpy spender, I instantly started to second-guess myself on the ride home. Was I really going to try to paint miniatures??? I have already been a fan of Lorraine Loots’ 365 Postcards for Ants, and I knew I was nowhere near THAT skill level. Did I just jump into yet another hobby that I’ll consume voraciously, and then eventually lose the drive for later down the road?
But I pushed those thoughts aside and gave it a try anyway, because that’s how I roll.
And OH my GOSH how much FUN they are!
I am really having a good time finding little pendants that correspond to the portraits. And although painting tiny is a little challenging, I really have a lot of fun trying to capture an expression and a likeness in an inch-and-a-quarter diameter.
I’ve tried a magnifier lamp, but honestly, since I’m naturally nearsighted, it’s easier just to take off my glasses and get in really close. The most important thing is light. My mom gave me an Ott desk light, and I got another smaller one to pull out just for this closer, detailed work.
So I put them up on my Etsy shop, and I’m having fun with them for now. I’ve got tons of ideas for more, and the raw porcelain takes paint like butta, it’s so wonderful. And I think it’s okay if I’m super into them right now, and then maybe not so much later down the road. That’s how it goes, I guess.
Happy painting, people!
I don’t have a lot to say this week. It’s been a busy, wet, cold rainy, icy, tough week.
I usually enjoy where I am and what I’m doing and appreciate every bit of it, whatever it is. But there are times that life sneaks up on you and startles you. And you can either freak out about it, or you can climb on its back, hold on the best you can to its shaggy mane, and ride it out. And that’s what I’m gonna do.
This is Sweetie. She’s a Blythe doll. She came to us via Aletta from TheFoxyToyBox on Etsy (she’s only got a few things up now, but she tells me she’ll be restocking vintage toys soon). Over the years, I’ve seen the madness that is Blythe, and I never really “got it.” But sometimes, you see things so much that after awhile, you actually start to ENJOY them… (ask my mom about Cabbage Patch Kids).
My sister is freaked out by people-dolls, especially ones with big eyes. Once, on a trip, her host family put her up in a room that was filled floor to ceiling with big-eyed, freaky dolls. Apparently, it was pretty traumatic. :)
We do know a little about freaky and creepy, though. (Have you seen the monster creepers I make?) I can tell you that Myla falls in love with every monster puppy I make, and it actually surprises her that people find them creepy. She’s used to them, and even enjoys their weirdness. I’m glad.
Life isn’t always a box of chocolates. And if it seems that way, then you’re lucky, and you do what you can to appreciate it. But sometimes, it’s a hairy, shaggy beast. And that’s okay, too. And while you may not ENJOY it, you can do your best to appreciate what you have when it’s growling at you. It’s the hard times that make the good times better. It’s those challenges that show you you’re cared for, and loved. That you’re not in it alone.
So if you’ve got a beast nearby, don’t run away. Find your friends. Hang on tight. After some time, he might not be as creepy as you think.
I don’t normally like to be in the spotlight…I’m more a “behind the scenes” kinda lady. But since this blog began in the spirit of sharing, I thought that just for today–while it might be extremely awkward and uncomfortable for me–it’d be fun to continue with that tradition, step out of my comfy little coccoon, and share a few random facts about me and my little world.
It’s sort of long, so if you’re not interested in reading it ALL, feel free to skim. If you’re not interested in reading it AT ALL, I hope you enjoy all the pretty pictures…
I learned to draw from my mom & dad. My parents are both artists, so I learned early on the importance of shapes, shading, fine art, a respect for the traditional masters…and always rinsing your paintbrush.
A have a younger sister. My sister is a few years younger than me, but has two teenage daughters (I got a late start in the kid department). Aside from our mom, my sister’s been the biggest mom-spiration to me when I had Myla. She’s very talented, creative, and WAY tough. I go to her when I need the flat-out truth about whether or not I should be worried about something, or if I just need to “suck it up” (as they say in the army).
I spent four years in the U.S. Army as a Photolithographer. Basically, I printed maps and scowled a lot. I dealt with some VERY difficult people, but I also learned that I’m pretty stinkin’ strong. Despite the difficulty, it changed parts of my personality forever–for the best. Plus I got to roll around in the dirt in the woods. And remember that time I found a 5-inch centipede in my field gear?? Good times.
I got a late start. My husband and I were married for SEVEN years before we decided to have a kid. Best decision EVER. I never really considered having kids, I just never really gave it much thought. It was my husband’s awesome idea, really, so he deserves a million high fives. I just needed some time to give it some actual serious thought. She wasn’t an accident, though–she was VERY thought out…probably TOO thought out. But once I’m in, I’m all in, and she’s been the most challenging–and most absolutely magical–thing to ever have happened to me. I always say that if I’d never had her, I’d never know, so I’d be quite happy and fulfilled, thank you. But I can’t even begin to explain how much happiness she’s brought to me, and how intensely ecstatic I am to be her mom.
I played roller derby for a few years. I wasn’t super great or anything, but it felt REALLY good to skate around and knock other girls down. And when YOU got knocked down, you didn’t even mind. It was worth it, as long as it was a good hit. I sprained my collarbone and my jaw in derby, got countless fist-sized bruises, separated my fibula from my kneecap area, and twisted my ankle, and it was all worth it. You could all hate each other, and then get on the track and still play a great bout, and hug each other afterward because of the general respect it takes just to get on the track. I can’t explain how much I love derby. (Sadly, I don’t play anymore, but I still love it.)
This also might explain why I started putting Myla on skates when she was two…
I tattooed myself. Not something I’d recommend to everyone, but I have some prior tattooing experience, and I felt confident I could pull it off. It was awkward, and at one point I was afraid I was totally going to mess it up, but I love it. It’s from a retro photo of a girl roller skating with a pillow strapped to her butt, except I drew my own derby skates on her. It sort of signified my whole “all out–but carefully” attitude about most things, especially in derby. Bonus: the little girl had SUPER curly hair like Myla.
Although someone recently told me I don’t LOOK like it (whatever that means), I have many tattoos. I even trained a little to learn to tattoo from artists in different places we’ve lived. I never really developed this skill the way I would have liked, but I have had some very brave friends who let me tattoo them over the years.
Myla wasn’t always interested in drawing. We spent three LONG winters in Fairbanks Alaska, which is well below negative temperatures for 8 months out of the year. My husband was deployed. Myla (who had just turned two) and I spent a LOT of time indoors. We had to find ways to entertain ourselves. This usually involved tea parties with water, stacking up megablocks, baking soda & vinegar volcanoes, and trying not to climb the bookshelves. Eventually, it turned into fingerpainting and drawing on ourselves. It was hard, but it was fun. By the time she was three, she began turning her little doodles into “monsters,” and was suddenly VERY into drawing (and has been ever since).
I like to sing. I don’t have a picture for this…but I learned guitar in high school pretty much so I could have something to sing along to. I have an alternate-life fantasy that I could play Fantine in Les Mis, Judas in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar,” or Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors (mainly because they have the coolest songs). Bonus trivia: I get teary-eyed at the National Anthem and some spirituals. Basically anything with the big feels.
If I could have dinner conversation with any of my favorite inspirational figures, I’d want Terry Gilliam, Sia, Jim Henson, Amy Poehler, Maurice Sendak, Beck and Tom Waits. Okay, so it’d be a pretty big dinner party, but think we’d all get along.
I am a horrible cook. I am not domestically skilled in the slightest. Anything I do in that field is purely functional. All of the creativity I have in so many other mediums stops dead cold at the threshold of the kitchen. One thing that has helped: getting one of those services that sends ingredients to your house for you to make your own DIY weekly meals by following a set of instructions. It’s a worthwhile splurge. It’s like paint by numbers: I don’t really know what I’m doing, but BAM–I have a delicious meal when I’m done.
I’m a perfectionist. The funny thing is, I THOUGHT I was pretty “laid back.” This line from my sketchbook explains it all: “I didn’t want to be perfect. I just didn’t want to make any mistakes.” …Yeah, I actually SAID that to a counselor once, and it wasn’t til those words came out of my mouth that I realized THAT was what being a perfectionist IS. I think it got worse with the deployments, and having full responsibility of the happiness and care of our kid on my own in Alaska. That’s a lot of pressure! Nothing in our lives is perfect, of course. But the fact that it wasn’t (and couldn’t be) and I expected it to be, frustrated me and made me feel bad about the way I was handling things. It’s weird, but I’m working on it.
Random tidbit: If you had asked me when I was five, I might have told you I wanted to be a ballerina and a vet. Which is funny, because I’m completely clumsy (and I’d just make a horrible vet).
I hate magicians. I repeat: I. HATE. MAGICIANS.
Another random tidbit: When I was a kid, I used to think if I practiced hard enough, I could learn telekenesis. Don’t ask me why. It was a combination of a bunch of sci-fi movies and strange books. I was a weird kid.
In my natural habitat, I have a potty mouth, which sort of blossomed during my time in the military. Despite this, I DO NOT swear in front of Myla. Sometimes it’s hard, but I’ve learned to appreciate words like, “goshdarnit” and “DANG.”
We have two dogs. A boxer named Scout, and a boston terrier named Adie. They are both old ladies who love and tolerate eachother. And we love and tolerate them immensely.
Adie (the boston) was my “hairy baby,” so she especially took awhile to warm up to Myla when she was born (mainly this occurred when Myla became old enough to eat–and floor drop–solid food). Scout, however, has always been a big sweet teddy bear (except with other dogs. She has dominance issues, probably from being bossed around by the boston).
I’m forty-one. Yeah, you heard me. If you’re young, I know that sounds ancient, but you know what’s awesome about forty? I. Don’t. CARE. I know who I am, and I’m pretty happy with that. I’m introverted, but I’m not shy. I’m awkward, but I can handle myself. I’m like a happy little snail with my shell, and I come out when I want, and I tuck in when I want. And I’m totally comfortable with that. Now the fun part is getting to know OTHER people!
I have a back disorder that I discovered after an injury in the army. I have some fairly rare thing called B27 in my blood that they don’t really understand (my sister has it too, surprisingly). They classify it as “spondyloarthritis,” which basically means “ongoing chronic back pain that we don’t understand and can’t really do anything about.” It’s always been a sharp pain in the same exact spot. Sometimes I am fine, and other times I’m in so much pain that I can barely walk. It’s become such a normal thing to live with, that even I get tired of complaining about it, so I just grin & bear it, because what else can ya do? But it basically means I’m in some level of back discomfort AT ALL TIMES. I’ve tried every treatment I have access to–from injections to infusions to medication–and they’ve all either had horrific side effects, or didn’t help in the slightest.
I love my job. I work from distance as a graphic artist for the army’s MWR in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I design posters for all of their events & facilities. I worked in-office for a couple of years, and when my husband was relocated with the army, I was lucky enough to have them keep me on. I love the people I work with–they were a great group when I worked in-office and they’re a great group from far away. Working from home sometimes means that my “desk” is occasionally on the floor, surrounded by dogs, and that in between work orders, I can throw a load of laundry in, or empty the dishwasher.
So that’s about it. And now I feel a little…exposed. Not my ENTIRE life in a nutshell, by any stretch…but enough to have fun with. So while I hurry and wrap myself up tightly and snug back in my snail shell, what are some strange and interesting facts about you? Think of three things, and comment–tell me some trivia or quirks about your own life!
Have you ever had an idea that wouldn’t go away?
Ages ago, in a sketchbook, I toyed with an idea…what if aliens came down to earth in robot bodies, using the faces of our beloved icons to gain our trust so we’d let down our guard so they could more easily take over the world?
I know, I know. It’s an old chestnut, and old theme that’s been played out over and over again.
HA! Okay, just kidding–I know it’s weird. But that was my thought and it wouldn’t go away. So I drew two little sketches: one of Gandhi (which I can no longer find), and one of James Dean. And they sat in my sketchbook for YEARS.A year or two ago, I came across them again, and thought I’d give one a try…and pulled out the Gandhi to paint it.
And I liked it…but I didn’t love it. Because it wasn’t what was in my head.
So recently, I got a new sketchbook, hoping to get some ideas out…and I tried again, this time with James Dean. And it looked lame. Because it wasn’t what was in my head.
And one day, when Myla was flipping through my sketchbook, she said, “Oh! What is this?” I told her it was an alien in a robot suit, but I couldn’t get it to look right. “Can I try?” she asked. And of course she could.
And it’s AWESOME! I loved it immediately. It wasn’t quite what I had in my head, but with her new point of view, I think I have a great basis for a really fun and cool perspective. More fun, more playful that the very detailed thing in my head that I couldn’t get out. I can’t wait to work on it!
I think part of creating good art is that struggle artists go through in trying to make what’s in their head make sense in their own medium.
I’m starting to discover that although I enjoy the work of so many amazing artists, sometimes when I struggle with a piece, it might be because I’m imagining it in someone else’s style.
Weird, right? Let me explain: I’ve been struggling with another piece, one of Myla with her ghost-rats (she had two pet rats that died and she believes they’re running through the fields where we buried them, “playing with their ‘chothers.”). I tried it a couple of different ways, and even got as far as starting to paint it:
And for whatever reason it didn’t look right to me. And it was terribly frustrating. So I drew it again, in a different way, in my sketchbook. And it still didn’t look right. Because it wasn’t what was in my head.
So I closed my eyes, and tried to listen to myself. What does it look like in my mind? What do I WANT it to look like, if this version isn’t working? And surprisingly, what came to the surface was not my own work, but that of Casey Weldon…
You heard me. I imagined SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK. His work is lit beautifully. In my mind, my painting should have had similar lighting and playfulness and reverence…but it didn’t. And I was actually hindering myself by trying to make it look like HIS work.
It’s one thing to be inspired by someone, and another to fault your own work for not being like someone else’s. I have to realize that no matter WHAT I DO, this piece will never look like his. So I tried it again in my own way, and tried to listen to my own voice. And again, I asked Myla for her input. And this is what we did:
A part of me mourns for that beautifully painted imaginary piece that’s in my head, but I know it’s not real. And it’s okay! Sometimes a little perspective gives you new insight, and changes your opinion about what things SHOULD be and what they actually are.
I am lucky I have a creative little 5-year old for instant “fresh perspective” insights, but there are other ways to break out of your preconceived ideas…
1. Just start DRAWING. Have a sketchbook that’s JUST for ideas, wrong or right. Take “notes” in it, get quick ideas, but don’t limit yourself to “getting it right.” When I do this, it is UGLY. It’s very nearly stick people art. But at least the idea’s out.
2. Listen to yourself. I work from home, and I can tell you it is VERY rare that I don’t have music, tv, an audiobook, my phone or a movie in my face while I work or draw. It’s a bad habit that I’ve been doing for YEARS, and it’s not really fair to my brain / imagination / creativity. I plan to make more time to just SIT with my sketchbook and LISTEN.
3. Don’t stop trying. So the pieces above didn’t work. Am I going to stop with that? Well, I will if my brain is happy. But if those ideas keep trying to get out, I’ll try it again. And again. And again.
When I was in high school I was lucky enough to visit the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, and of all the incredible work I saw, the most memorable to me has always been the experience of walking into a room FULL of hundreds of sketches on paper and napkins and scraps–all of a man sitting with a scythe. Over and over again, this same image repeated in different ways. You can tell the idea was in the artists’ head, and he tried again and again to get it out. The room was FULL of drawings, rough paintings, even some small sculptures of this same figure, over and over, in a hundred different ways.
..And at the very end of the room, as big as the wall, was the final piece…
It’s called “Paying the Harvesters” by Léon Lhermitte. And the man with the scythe wasn’t even the only character in the painting. I think of that room often, and wonder sometimes, after all those hundreds and hundreds of drawings…did he feel like he “got it right?”
Sometimes, you get your idea out the best you can. Sometimes you get in your own way. Sometimes you beat it til something beautiful comes out. Just listen to your voice and you’ll figure out what to do.