I can’t tell you all how excited I am that we were able to fund the Kickstarter to create our book–a compilation of the collaborative doodles that never could have happened the way I envisioned without the help of so many people. Now that the campaign is over, and I’ve got all these wonderful books to show for it…what the heck do I DO with them all?
Welllll….you can buy copies of the books online at the “Book” link above…
But my younger sister (who has two teenage daughters, and is a VERY cool mom), suggested a comic convention! Her daughter dabbles in cosplay, and conventions are one of her favorite things to do. But a comic con?? For US?!?
…Well, why the heck NOT?
So I’ve decided to take our doodles to the Artist’s Alley at Wizard Con in Austin from Oct. 2-4!!!
This will be my first convention EVER, and I’m a little nervous. Not so much about breaking even, or making more than we put into it (that would be great, but not at ALL why I’m going), but because (of all things) of the CROWDS. The thought of swarms of people everywhere makes my heart thump and my lungs wither. I don’t like crowds. AT ALL. But I’m hoping that sitting at a booth all day for three days, it won’t be SO bad. It’s not like I’ll be fighting my way, shoulder to shoulder, through people if I’m mostly at my booth, right? At least, that’s what I”m telling myself.
When I was younger, my mom used to do craft shows. Not rinky-dink little garage sale shows, but HUGE art-focused craft conventions all near our various army duty stations throughout Europe. As kids, my sister and I used to help her set up and tear down, take money, bag crafts, and personalize them. We used to trade or barter with the other vendors, and got to see all their booths during setup, before the public came in. I realize a crazy huge comic convention is WAYYY different, but I’m wondering if there are actually any similarities behind the scenes. We’ll see!
My sister suggested something fun, too: “You could even dress up/cosplay as one of your collaborations!” I love watching costume shows like Heroes of Cosplay, and I love the work and care that goes into those costumes. I designed Myla’s C-3PO Halloween costume using cosplay techniques And while I don’t want to sit all day at my booth in a full-blown costume, I MIGHT be able to pull off some little harness wings (like a grownup version of what I made for Myla) and wear them as an elaborate version of my favorite of our collaborations: the moth woman at the end of our book….
Wouldn’t that be fun?
My husband & I agreed, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to have Myla there all day, so the husband will watch her at home. But they’ll visit me there from time to time. She’s even asking me if I can make her a Nightcrawler costume..
I’m planning on selling copies of our “Share With Me” book (maybe even have a few pre-signed options, if I can get the munchkin to cooperate), copies of our little book of short stories “Tail Tales,” doodle pages, postcard sets, and stickers. I’m also going to sell some prints of some of our more geeky doodles. And who knows what else!
Maybe I’ll put some markers out for people to doodle on a page or two of our own book copies, since the book was really designed to be doodled in, interacted with, and shared. We’ll see!
Maybe I’ll have pie. More people will come if you tell them you have pie.
(Ha! Sorry, old South Park reference).
So if you’re anywhere near Austin, Texas in early October and want to check out what we’ve got, I’d love love LOVE to see you! I’ll be there hiding behind my booth with my moth wings and a smile!
…And then there are projects you keep around for years and years and years, because you don’t understand them, but they just compel you for some reason anyway…
So, once upon a time, I sculpted a monkey head from Sculpey. I’m not sure why. It’s just what came out. But I saw her VERY CLEARLY in my head. Shriveled, sort of like a baked apple. Gnarled hands. I saw her in derby gear, for some reason. I wasn’t exactly sure where she came from or what she was doing…but she was there, annoying me, and I just needed to get her out.
I sculpted her head, and got it exactly the way I wanted it, first try. And then it sat there for years. And years. And YEARS.
It sat there for so long because I just wasn’t sure what to DO with her. So about 3 years after I sculpted her, I decided to give it another go. I sculpted her gnarled little hands. I wanted them to be ape-like, and wearing roller derby gloves, because, hey–that was what she looked like in my brain.
A little acrylic paint really added some creep factor into the face & hands…
So now what? The best I could figure was that I’d make her like a stuffed animal. This was well before I had done any research on how to meld Sculpey with fabric, so I did the best I could. I made doll arms and attached them with thread through the loops in the wrists and up near the armpit, then secured the edges with fabric glue. I wanted the hands to look “wrapped,” so eventually I figure I might wrap & glue the hands to cover the seam. But honestly, who knows?
I had gotten some doll skates years ago, when the idea first nagged me, and I attached them to her doll feet. I attached her limbs to a simple hairy monkey doll body I made. In my head, I had hoped to maybe paint tattoos all over her arms and legs…
In any case, she sat there for a while longer in this phase, just looking all mournful. Probably mad at me for creating her in the first place without a solid plan. But hey, monkey girl–that’s sometimes how it goes, okay?
From time to time, Myla would pick her up and ask me if I was done with her. “No,” I’d say. “I’m not sure WHAT I’m doing with her yet.” I told her she kind of creeped me out, to which Myla replied, “I think she’s a CUTE creepy monkey girl. But she needs some hair.”
In my mind, she has dreadlocks. Gnarly, dirty, dusty, stick-covered dreadlocks. With leaves and twigs and stuff stuck in them. I follow a dollmaker on Instagram who uses wig hair from salon shops, but that idea with this monkey girl creeped me out more than even I could stomach. So I went with this tattered yarn. Which, unfortunately, is cotton candy pink…but maybe one day I will dye it dark brown. Or maybe she’s a natural pink, who knows. (Myla votes to keep it pink).
I sculpted her little helmet so that it slips on and off quite easily, and stay on fairly well. It needs little stickers or doodles or something all over it, just like a REAL derby monkey ape-girl thing…
And here she is at this stage. And she’s sad. And sort of pitiful, because most likely, she’ll lie her for a very very VERY long time. Unfinished and uncertain. And I think she knows it.
So there you go. The nightmare monkey girl that has haunted me for years. Maybe if I pass her image on, she’ll stop haunting me, and tell me how to finish her. She’s like a little monster in the corner you forget about until suddenly she catches your eye, and gives you the shivers. Myla still thinks she’s “cute.”
But for all of you out there who will now be haunted by the Nightmare Monkey Girl: YOU’RE WELCOME.
Oh my gosh, we just discovered a new show. And in kid-world, anything that keeps the same goshdarn show (whichever it might be) from being on repeat over and over again is definitely something to celebrate…
We have Amazon TV, and they just released a series called “Creative Galaxy,” about art and creativity for kids. I’d love to say that they gave us money to blog about them, or at least a stuffed animal or a visit from a character or something, but they didn’t, so this is all our own experience.
So Creative Galaxy is about a little alien named Arty (of course), and his sidekick Epiphany (which, I told Myla, means “a good idea”), and they go around the galaxy “solving problems with art.” Okay, it’s just as perky as any typical kid’s show, but the cool thing about Creative Galaxy is that they introduce the style of certain artists (sort of like I’ve done with Myla with our own projects in the past), and explain what the artist was trying to do with their art. They talk about Pollock and his “action painting.” And they have lots of clips of real kids showing how to do simple fun crafty projects.
The only down side to this show in OUR house is that it gives Myla a million crafty ideas that she wants to try ALL RIGHT NOW! But that’s okay. We pick and choose, and then we get crafty.
Recently, I expanded Myla’s craft area, since it had started completely taking over both the living room and kitchen tables. We used things we already had around the house, and now it’s easily accessible to her, and right next to my office area (since I work from home on my computer). She loves that there is enough space to sit on top (she REALLY gets into her artwork!) so we don’t even need space for a chair. There are office organizers for her pens and paper, as well as the bins next to it for other craft supplies like paper plates, foam, stickers, and paper bags. Perfect for all sorts of craft time!
There’s nothing more that Myla likes than a stuffed animal. I think she may actually be addicted. I may have to look for some sort of help center for wayward stuffed animal addicts, actually. So inspired by the show, Myla decided one day that she wanted to make her own “Epiphany” doll.
Epiphany is Arty the alien’s little sidekick. We’re not sure what he…or she…really is, exactly, but Myla thinks he’s cute. She started by drawing the shape onto a piece of felt. Since she wanted it to be stuffed, I showed her that she had to have a front and a back piece. Then she cut little arms & legs out. I had her help me sew a simple stitch around it on the sewing machine (I often have her put her hand on it to help guide it), and then came her favorite part: the stuffing!
When we do spontaneous projects like this, the rule is that we have to use things we already have, or we can’t do it at all. I happened to have some little pompoms on a string, which were a bit wonky, but worked well for the little puffball on his head. Thankfully (despite being a perfectionist) she seemed to like it just fine. It bothered me a little, but I always let her have the last word on when it’s “done.”
She wanted him to look a little more like the photo, so we got the paints out to color the eyes and spots.
And there he is, the final little Epiphany character! Created (almost) entirely by a 5-year old!
Sure he’s a little wonky and imperfect. But the fact that she made him (almost) all by herself is something she’s VERY proud of. There are some times that the final piece doesn’t look like how she imagined and a wailing pitiful freakout ensues (we’re working on that), but I think it’s good for her to see the outcome of her decisions, whatever they may be. Simple decisions, when she can make them, make her feel more involved, like she had some sort of say in what we’ve created, and makes her more emotionally invested in it. Sure, I could’ve made her a doll, but would she learn how it was made? No. She’d just get the benefit without the effort.
I don’t always indulge her in dollmaking–actually I often steer clear of it, or we’d end up making a dozen dolls a day. But on occasion, and with some boundaries, it’s fun to see where her creativity takes her!
I’ve mentioned before how inspiring Instagram has been for me (and I am extremely grateful to Diane from Design Recharge Show for talking me into it). One of my favorite things about seeing artists’ work on IG is getting to see the behind-the-scenes process.
Sometimes when you look at the final piece from an artist whose work you love, you are so inspired by the end result that you start to get frustrated with your own style. Some artists make it look so effortless! And if your own road is a little bumpy, you might have the urge to not even bother.
But no one starts & finishes in the exact same spot–even the old painters had a process! One very strong memory for me was visiting the Musee d’Orsay in France. I saw a room where on the wall was posted a small paper where an artist had doodled a simple man with a scythe. And then another of the same figure. And another. And another. It was like he was obsessed–to my memory, every wall in the room was FULL of rough painting studies and drawings, little sculptures, and sketches of this same figure, until FINALLY, at the very end of the room, was the painting–a very simple farm scene, called Paying the Harvesters, by Léon Lhermitte. And the thing was, the man with the scythe wasn’t even the only figure. I was blown away…not so much by the painting (which was amazing), but the amount of work that was behind it.
I don’t have the kind of patience for that level of detail…but I do know that art is a process. Personally, I paint as if I am rushing to save the life of a dying emergency room patient, and I don’t even have CLOSE to the level of detail that Monsieur Lhermitte had. For me, there is a magic world between rough sketching and overworking a piece…and sometimes you can work a long time on something and it just still doesn’t look right.
I also know that art doesn’t “just happen.” Ask any artist you love to show you their work from their younger years, and you will see the full spectrum. You may not see the hours and hours of time they’ve spent lovingly delved into their sketchbooks, but it’s there. You don’t magically “become” good without lots and lots and LOTS of practice. It’s not the supplies. It’s not the paper. It’s the not the medium. It’s the passion that fuels you to practice and practice and practice. Even my namesake, Michelangelo, once said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all,” as well as, “If you knew how much work went into it, you would not call it genius.”
And even the best artist you know? They will have a different process in a year. If they are worth their salt, they most likely will know that the saying, “Ancora imparo” (most often attributed to Michelangelo), meaning “I am still learning,” is so very, very true.
I am no master, by any means. FAR from it. I am ALWAYS learning. But after years and years (I am practically ancient), I am fairly comfortable in my process, so I thought it would be fun to walk you through a painting. This is not “How It Is Done.” This is how I do it. And this is only how I SOMETIMES do it, because I am always trying new things.
I decided to draw my best and longest-time friend, Christine. I have known her face for around…WOW. NINETEEN YEARS. That’s major (especially since I move around as much as a traveling circus). She and I have been through it all and back, and have STILL stuck around, even though we’re so often miles and miles apart. The last time I painted her, I was in college, and she still has it hanging in her living room.
So, with a photo for reference, I sketched. I always sketch in ballpoint pen (I may have mentioned that I love ballpoints). I used a photo I took from when I visited her right after she had her daughter Lila. I am aware that a better likeness might be obtained from gridding or tracing of the main shapes, but for the most part, I like the personality that jumps in there when I don’t try to go for 100% realism…
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it yet, but I added the decorative Polish flowers around her and wanted to use the negative space in an interesting way. I usually go from a sketch to acrylics, but this time, I thought I’d try something new, and used my Prismacolor markers to block in the main color. By this point, I didn’t like the curly flower swirls at the top, so I decided I’d get rid of them somehow.
Here’s the funny part about Prismacolor markers…..they are SO good at blending…but they sometimes react in a funky way to ballpoint pen. This process used to terrify me, but I am used to it. I use this process with the collaborations I do with our daughter…I just had not yet gotten comfortable with it on a portrait of a beloved friend. GAH! She’s PURPLE!! –Calm down. Don’t worry. The ink soaks into the page, and if you push through it, it spreads, and you can blend it all in fairly well. Those of you thinking “why not just skip the ballpoint?” you have a valid point, but I just can’t because: BALLPOINT.
Thankfully, I have learned to follow where my wonkiness takes me, and after a bit more blending, the colors start to settle and soak in, making them finally look a little more natural.
I darken the hair to sort of hide the swirls, but at this point, I’m still not sure how I’m going to handle them, so I work on the background, which I wanted to be a flat sort of teal.
So I am a big fan of Bokkei (Maria Björnbom-Öberg)–she even did an art trade with me (which I’ll cover in an upcoming post)! She works in both marker and colored pencil, and gets AMAZINGLY realistic detail. So I wanted to give her process a try, and dusted off my old Prismacolor pencils (I swear, they don’t sponsor me). Me and colored pencils have a love/hate relationship. I WANT to love using them, but I just CAN’T. It’s not them, it’s me.
So I tried and I tried and I tried some more. And I finally decided to go back to my trusty ol’ acrylics to finish it off. Aaaahhh, acrylics. You always KNEW I’d be back.
So there you go. After much struggle, after all the hassle of the variety of tools I used, I finally went back to my old standby. It’s by no means perfect. But you know what ? I tried new things. I also covered those head-swirls, changed up the background color (I have a MAJOR thing for light blue and red, probably because of this). I tried new things–some worked out and some didn’t. And that’s totally fine.
The thing is, if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. You’ve got to jump in with no reservations. You can’t be afraid to make mistakes–mistakes are INTEGRAL. They’re part of the whole process! They’re NECESSARY. If you do something and mess up, what’s the worst that happens? You waste paper. You waste time. But if it is something you love, it is never a waste. The main thing is this: no matter how good you are, no matter what your skill, you will be fine…as long as you ALWAYS KEEP LEARNING.
(SPOILER ALERT: If you believe in the tooth fairy, you might not want to read this post. I’ve never seen her, but that doesn’t mean she’s not real. She probably is. Shhhhh… Just look away, and keep on believin’…)
It’s a really creepy thing when your kid starts losing body parts. Part of you knows it’s a rite of passage, a sign of growing up, and a necessary development…and part of you is just totally creeped out.
It was like that with her bellybutton stub–I couldn’t WAIT for that thing to fall off. Thoughts of that thing still make me shiver. I remember the elation and relief I felt when I opened her PJs one morning to change her diaper and IT WAS GONE. Whew. Funny thing…as a parent, you get used to puke and poop, and all kinds of bodily issues….but everyone has their own line in the sand, I’m sure.
When our daughter started getting her first wiggly tooth, I was strangely excited–it meant she was growing up! Another fun little marker of development. But if anyone thinks I was gonna pull that thing, they’d better think again. I’ve had a lifetime of dental issues. I have nightmares about teeth. No way.
But despite my ick factor, after days and weeks of this wiggly tooth, I tried wrapping a towel around it and pulling, I tried twisting, I tried begging and pleading. Nothing worked. So it was a bit of a surprise when we were playing around one morning, and I noticed her tooth was gone.
“I must’ve swallowed it!” She said. Eeesh.
Thankfully, my very good friend Christine had made us a little monster tooth pillow, so we had that covered. Instead of the tooth, we put a little tooth drawing in the pocket…
Then came the questions: “How will the tooth fairy find my tooth? How will she get it if it’s in my intestines? Will she have to look through the toilet?” Oh jeez. Now, trust me–I’ve told her the “truth” about the tooth fairy before, but she just doesn’t want to believe it. Which means I have to go along with and even expand on these goofy ideas she has….something you’d THINK I’d be creative about…but I’m just not. Usually I ask her what SHE thinks. “Maybe she makes the tooth fly to her, wherever it is. Maybe she uses magic to just make it show up.”
Uhhh. Yeah. Okay, let’s go with that. (I’d hate to imagine any alternatives…)
My sister and my mom were both VERY creative with tooth fairy things, and thank goodness for Pinterest. I found this little tooth fairy receipt to put in the pocket. They suggested glitter. I hate glitter, but I have some glitter, so I did my best. (I’ve heard about the wonders of glitter spray, so I’d suggest that for future use. But I just used what I had around the house, which means I didn’t have any magical glitter spray on hand.) My sister used to fold origami dollars, and that sounded fun and easy. So I made a little origami dollar butterfly. And since I happened to have some chocolate coins from the day prior, I tossed that in for good measure (job security for the tooth fairy and all)…
When this next tooth started wiggling, I tried to be a little more brave, but that sucker wouldn’t come out. My mother in law came to visit. “Will you pull her tooth?” I asked. “NO WAY,” she replied. I had a friend over for a playdate. “Will you pull her tooth?” I asked. “NO WAY,” she replied. Hm. I think this might be part of Daddy’s official duties once he returns from Afghanistan, since no one else can stomach it.
Thankfully, tooth #2 came out on its own at daycare. They wrapped it in a napkin and I didn’t have to deal with it at all. Success! No more uncomfortable wiggle when I help her brush her teeth!
This time, I dispensed with the glitter altogether…but only after a failed attempt nearly blinded me, and left me with a horrible-looking receipt so bad-looking that I had to reprint. Sooo….plain paper will do, as well as an origami heart dollar this time.
Soooo….what the heck do you do with the TOOTH? My mom always said she threw them away. Strangely, it felt sentimental for some reason. On the other hand, I suppose I’m pretty ambivalent. It SEEMS like I should keep it, but….what the heck do you do with a bunch of TEETH?
I follow this artist on Instagram named Scotty Munster, who–aside from being an amazing tattoo artist and illustrator, paints these amazing little bottles with creepy teeth on them:
I opted for a little more of a “cute” look. wasn’t sure WHY…or what I’d use it for… But I put her little tooth in there for now. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about a big ol’ jar full of teeth later on down the road, but for now, I put her little tooth in the jar.
…Is that weird? Yeah. I guess. But it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing we’ve got in this house.
So what’s tradition in your house? Does the tooth fairy come? And what do you all do with all those TEETH!?
Thankfully, daddy will be home soon, and maybe HE can be in charge of the next wiggly tooth. :)
Me and ballpoint pens go way back. I love them.
When I was younger, I carried a ballpoint pen and a sketchbook wherever I went. I liked ballpoint because I was too clumsy for pencil–I didn’t like that I could accidentally smear what I’d drawn in pencil with a single careless arm motion, because that’s how clumsy I am. I pressed too hard for pencil, and still didn’t like the coverage it gave. And I didn’t like the scratchy feeling of rough pencil or charcoal or pastel on paper.
So ballpoint it was. In college, it was implied that ballpoint pen was NOT an art medium. That it was a tool for writing, not drawing. So I tried my hardest to master other tools, only to retreat back into the comforts of my room after classes, with my trusty old ballpoint pen and sketchbook at the end of the day.
Over time, I learned to sketch pretty comfortably with pen–to ease up and add pressure where I needed it. I got more comfortable with accepting that pen was my very favorite tool, fine arts be damned. I drew in ballpoint pen so much, that after tons and tons of practice, I could get a fairly good and smooth sketch that people often mistook for pencil. Primarily, I sketched in black ballpoint–plain ol’ Bic or Papermate pen.
After awhile, I started adding color and shading and highlights in either watercolor or acrylics. I used the black ballpoint as a sort of underdrawing. I like the sketchy feel, seeing the structure underneath. Sometimes I paint on top pretty monochromatically…
And other times, I nearly completely covered the initial sketch with acrylic…
But it just doesn’t feel like me whenever I’ve tried leaving out the ballpoint pen.
Did you know there are different types of pens? There are inky smooth rollerballs and spotty ol’ gel pens… but it took me YEARS to realize that the ones I like to sketch with are “officially” called BALLPOINT pens. Easy enough, right?
Ages ago, I hadn’t heard of anyone using ballpoint as a fine art medium. I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that it was my medium of choice (but not enough to give it up). Ballpoint quality was so bad that the paper I used would yellow around my drawing, or the pen would turn purple or blue. These days, I’ve seen TONS of artists creating wonderful, beautiful things with pen. There’s the hyperrealistic work of Samuel Silva, the amazingly smooth work of James Mylne, and ballpoint pen art cheerleader Jerry Stith, who has EXTENSIVE resources on ballpoints and art. (Those are only a few–there are also a ton more, a few of them listed here).
But one of my VERY favorite ballpoint pen artists is Jim Rugg, whose work is both amazingly realistic at times, and also hilariously funny (like this Divine Wonder Woman, and this Playboy Barbie). He has a sense of humor about his work that I can appreciate. He enjoys drawing, and it shows…but he doesn’t seem to take himself so gosh-darn seriously.
I used to think it would be awesome if ballpoints came in tons of other colors…but when my mom sent me a set of Ink Joy colored pens a few years back, I thought they were awesome, but I wasn’t sure how to make them work for me. My work wasn’t as detailed and realistic as those other artists who had mastered the ballpoint pen.
Until a few months ago, inspired again by Jim Rugg’s work, I realized I could still do my own wonky style while using the colored ballpoints…and I gave it a try.
The first one was Napoleon Dynamite (which I realize I’ve posted before)…
I moved on to other fun faces I enjoy….Like the drag artist, Divine:
This scene with Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction:
And this character from the movie Delicatessen (Myla helped me with the hands):
Since then, I’ve had a lot of fun, really playing with building color.
The process (for me) starts with laying a basic foundation, usually in orange, and building up the reds for color in the cheeks, nose, lips and eyes. (I still think my technique is a little soft–I’m hoping to get a little more bold with the color and text)
Then I build up with the brown for darker areas.
And it isn’t just a one-shot kinda thing–I keep those three or four pens handy, and switch around between them all, building up colors, adding colors in another area. I like this whole process, because there is PLENTY of wiggle room to get the shapes right. If something’s off, and you’ve started lightly enough, you can adjust it by the time you start really building up the darks.
And the final doodle: Leeloo (Milla Jovovitch) from the movie the Fifth Element:
Funny thing about ballpoints, though, is that they glurp. Those blobs of ink on her face and in the background? Those are glurps. I don’t mind them all THAT much, but they’re a little tough to work around sometimes (I don’t even know HOW those other guys keep the glurps away). To avoid the glurp as best I can, I am constantly wiping the ballpoint pen (which I SHOULD do on a napkin, but I don’t, so if you were to look very closely, most of my clothes contain a cluster of small dots, usually on my right shoulder or pants, from twisting the glurp off of the pen before drawing). Still, glurps happen…and that’s okay. They’ve kind of grown on me, even. Gives them a bit of gritty character.
“Goodbye Sweetie” (In-progress, from Dr. Who):
Professor McGonagall, in progress, from Harry Potter:
With darker skin, the process is pretty much the same, except that you can use even more of a variety of colors to really build up the skin tones. (Again, I still think I’m too soft in this area. I’m working on filling out more of the white space)
RubyRhod from Fifth Element:
Recently, because of a long-standing back problem that has been misdiagnosed for SEVERAL years, I have begun a series of injections to help with what they’re now calling “spondyloarthritis.” (Which, from what I understand, just means “chronic localized sacroiliatic pain that we can’t figure out and don’t really know how to treat.”) This means I need to sit at their offices for at least THREE hours, attached to a IV tube full of mutant medications and such.
…Except, wait? Three HOURS? In a lounge chair by myself? While Myla’s happily occupied at school or daycare? And I can bring my sketchbook and headphones?? Wait. Wait a minute. This might not be so bad after all…
Jack Black in Nacho Libre:
Nicholas Cage as “H.I.” from Raising Arizona:
Awhile back, PaperMate InkJoy was the only colored ballpoint pen set I knew of. Then I learned that my favorite ballpoints, Bic, came out with the Cristal color pack. Woohoo! But the other day, while looking for some replacements should something tragic potentially happen to my newly beloved pens (as I often fear, once I begin to love a medium), I came across the PaperMate Profile.…and I was SUPER excited to find out that the 12-pack has a sort of GRAYISH MIDNIGHT BLUE…which allowed me to simulate one of my favorite colors of all time: Payne’s Gray!!! (it’s a sort of midnight-bluish gray) Not such a big deal for many people, I’m sure, but very VERY exciting for me!
So I’ve become quite fond of my colored ballpoint pens! And I’m having a WHOLE lot of fun building up shapes. It definitely requires a different sort of thought process than just drawing in straight black ballpoint pen. Still, I think I could cover more of the white area. It just takes getting over the timidity of a new medium. But I love it.
So whatever you enjoy, no matter how timid you may be about it, just rock it. Own it. Make it yours. Because the things that make us different are the EXACT same things that make us special.
I once met a very well-known artist who asked me what medium I worked in, and when I quietly said, “ballpoint pen,” he asked (with honest curiosity), after a long pause, “Um…is that even archival?” I was sort of hesitant to respond, washed over instantly in self-doubt–until I realized with full confidence that I don’t CARE. I enjoy it, I am comfortable with it. And the important thing is this: I AM STILL LEARNING.
It’s been a mad couple of weeks, you guys. I know I’m quite late posting this week, and I’m sorry. And I’m sorry that this post isn’t all that exciting. I’ll try better next week. This has just been a very trying couple of weeks in my personal world…
The good news is that thanks to the encouragement of my awesome mother in law (whose visit was a VERY bright part of this past week), I have been battling the giant pile of kickstarter reward packages like a BOSS. Checking, double checking (’cause I’m obsessive like that), printing postage, and sealing everything up, and FINALLY getting them into the car and to the post office. I’d like to think that I didn’t mess a single thing up, but I’m smart enough to know that’s impossible… But still! I took the plunge, crossed my fingers that it’d all turn out well, and loaded up the car.
As you can see, Myla helped me by doodling on a couple. (I’d have her draw a doodle on more, but once she gets going on a scene, it’s like Picasso’s “Guernica,” and she won’t let me change the envelope out til she’s completed and entire scene. But there are a random few that have been doodled on, so that’s cool.)
I really tried to make these packages something I’d be proud of, something I’d love to get in the mail myself. I wanted to show everyone HOW MUCH I appreciate all the support for our little venture. It still blows my mind that complete strangers logged on to pledge, no matter WHAT the amount, and for that, I’m so grateful. You guys helped me make a dream come true! Our little weird and wonderful book is out in the world now, and that’s amazing!
My mother in law (always playing devil’s advocate) asked if I was prepared if anyone might not like the book. And the answer is uh…..NO?!?! I hadn’t even considered that. Because it doesn’t really matter, in a way, does it? It’s made with love, and I put my heart into it, and that can’t be TOO wrong, can it?
SOoooooo. The past couple of weeks have been very personally trying. And school is out. My usually-sweet munchkin has started methodically pushing my buttons. The husband will be back from deployment soon. I am, generally speaking, worn out. I am exhausted. I am tired…But I react to stress by keeping busy. I do projects like a madwoman. I do try to cut myself a LITTLE slack–let the standards go just a little bit on the house and such. I try to find relaxing moments where and when I can. I try to always save an hour or two in the evenings just to watch a show and draw. That helps a LOT.
The book we made is filled with all kinds of interactive pages. It’s my hope that people will get out their art supplies and share those pages with someone, and doodle right there in the book. I hope they do. And I hope that if they do, they share their pictures with me, because I’d LOVE to see them!
I’ve already heard from a few people who’ve gotten their packages, and I’m so excited! In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away, I’ll “just keep swimming,” I’ll keep my chin up, I’ll do my best to stay on top of things. So I apologize for this week’s not-so-exciting post, but I appreciate the low-stress and supportive nature of this blog. You guys are awesome, and I believe that.
So if you’re one of those people that are treading water this week like I am, don’t despair! It might help to know there are others out there going through the same thing. And no matter what it is, no matter how big or small, I think we all deserve a pat on the back for hanging in there and doing the best we can (even if our standards are usually better). Because, DANG! Some weeks are rough.
So HIGH FIVE, YOU GUYS!
People have asked us if Myla really understands the awesomeness of making our own book…and I’d have to say the answer is a great big …sort of NO? Although she SORT OF gets the idea that I can “send messages” on the computer to show people our artwork, she says, “If they want a book, they could have fun and make their own book!”
So this is what she’s been doing lately. “I’m going to make my OWN books.” And she tapes some tiny pages together and draws away.
They don’t often make a lot of sense, as in this charming tale about Chewbacca and Han Solo, and how Han lost his pants while Chewie made shadow puppets on the wall.
Since she can’t write yet, she makes up the dialogue and asks me to write the words out for her. This one is an Adventure Time story. She doesn’t watch the show (it’s a little too aggressive for her) but we’ve read a few of the comics and she LOVES the characters.
Sure they don’t make a lot of sense, but they crack her junk UP. She gets a big kick out of them. I am asked to read these tales at bedtime, and they’re often built sideways, forward, backward, upsidedown. And that’s just the way she wants it. And although I don’t always know what the heck is going on, she is incredibly proud of them, and that’s cool.
I started thinking about what a great practice it is for a kid who hasn’t got writing skills down yet to work on telling a story in pictures.
She is fascinated by word bubbles and thought bubbles. She once asked me when she woke up, “when you came in, did you see my dream bubble?” She has learned from her own observations that shaky lines mean movement, swirly lines mean “dizzy,” and is JUST starting to understand what some of the punctuation marks do (she cracks up when I read sentences how they would sound with different punctuation).
When she was younger, she didn’t “get” sequential art–she saw multiples of the same person in each frame, and couldn’t figure out why there were so many of them. Are they sisters? Are they twins? Why are there so MANY of them? It didn’t make sense.
But having read a few more little comics, she’s getting the hang of it, and it’s awesome to see. My friend made her a Hobbes doll for her 5th birthday, and sent a Calvin & Hobbes book to go along with it, and she LOVES them. Most of the words are over her head, but what cracked her up the most? Calvin playing in the toilet. Of course.
Awhile back, a small publishing company called Toon Books contacted us. They specialize in comic stories for kids, said they loved our doodles, and asked if they could share some of their books with us. You want to send us cool books? Uh…yes please!
The sequential/comic aspect of books like these has sparked her creativity, and really allowed us to talk about what a story is actually trying to tell you when the frame doesn’t have any words in it. And what it means when a character says “!?!?” (like on the cover of “Stinky“), and what it means when there’s not a word bubble, but instead, a rectangle that says something like, “Meanwhile, in the swamp…” It’s given us a chance to talk about how to make a character say something without saying words.
Plus, again: messes and goo and disgusting things=kid COMEDY GOLD!
But while gross things amuse her, she’s SUPER sensitive about some things. She doesn’t like wild action, or “bad guys,” or crazy adventures where things blow up and people get hurt or trapped. This makes moviegoing a little difficult (there is nearly ALWAYS a bad guy in movies!). Awhile back, we finally saw the movie Totoro and both LOVED it, people told us about Ponyo and Arietty, and of course, Spirited Away. All of them were wonderful, and she loved things about all of them. But Spirited Away was one of those that left us BOTH scratching our heads. It was one of the first that she’d ask me a question about it and I’d have to say, “you know…I really don’t KNOW…” But we both agreed: the characters were AWESOME.
So, the person from Toon Books sent us “The Secret of the Stone Frog,” saying it might be a little too advanced for her, but that we’d both enjoy the artwork. She was right: the artwork was BEAUTIFUL! (Actually, the artwork was great in all of the books they sent!) But since we had so recently seen Spirited Away, this was was similarly strange, and Myla was amped about the strange characters and unusual adventures. And the best part: NOTHING BAD OR SCARY HAPPENED.
So, as I said, sequential stories confused Myla early on. But now, they’re a source of inspiration–to be able to tell a story as you might see it in a show, but on paper. She’s seen the characters say things like “Ooof!” and “Ow!” and “ZZZZZ,” all of which have stuck with her. And I’ve seen them reflected back in her artwork, and in her little handmade books.
So what stories are you or your kids telling?
People ask me sometimes if Myla and I still do our collaborations, and if we will do them forever. I’ve come to learn that kids’ fancies are fleeting, so I do my best to just encourage her and do the best I can to support whatever she’s into at the moment.
Lately, what she’s been into has fallen into two categories…namely, Stuff Stuck to Paper and Paper Creatures. I’ll attempt to describe them, because given a brief moment alone, and she’s furiously scissoring and coloring a creature, with her brow furrowed, and a very faraway look of concentration on her face. In case you labor under the belief that we ethereally flutter around an immaculate house, doing artsy art thing in a perfectly-styled art room designed by artsy art professionals, I will share this photo of what our kitchen table looks like most of the time:
I admit to claiming responsibility for about 20% of the mess that constantly grows in this table (usually concerning school-related paperwork). I have cleaned it and straightened it and battled it in full gear, time and time again, and I have just given up. It has finally won the battle.
But see the look on that kid’s face? That one of absolutely overwhelmingly engrossed concentration? I’m okay with that mess. Plus, I can sit on my end of the table and just draw in my sketchbook. Win-win, if you can handle a messy kitchen table. (We’ll see what happens when the husband gets back from deployment and might like a place to–oh, I dunno–EAT, maybe.)
In any case, here is what she’s been up to:
Stuff Stuck to Paper
The things she’s been creating come from out of nowhere. A scrap of paper, a bottlecap. Left unattended near her, they are at high risk of being glued or taped to a page and made into a “project.” I have had to give her very good reasons why it is not a good idea to GLUE scissors to the page just for a projects’ sake. But for the most part, I don’t mind the random things.
Sometimes, when she’s glued or taped food to the page, I’ve either secretly smuggled it to a temporary holding area (in the garage) before secreting it out to the trashcan (0nly after taking countless photos, of course) to avoid an onslaught of ants, or (as in the case of the Bugle-dragon above) I’ve sprayed it with a multitude of layers of varnish to hopefully keep ants at bay. She’s also glued or taped a birthday candle, bottlecaps, and pieces of plants, creating a little scenery (or what she calls a “project.”)
She’s made birds with Bugles cracker beaks, and carrot parrots…
Once, I gave her a bowl of dry mixed pasta to make “projects” out of, and she made this little crab for me:
I once showed her some doodles by InkyGirl on Instagram, and the next morning she drew this:
The other thing she’s been doing is making “creatures.” These are things she builds out of paper to be “toys.” (Because, you know, she doesn’t have like a million ACTUAL toys. Heheh)
Here, she frantically cuts up tiny pieces of paper and usually tapes (because she’s got no time to wait for glue) or glues them together to make some sort of creature.
(From left to right: Mouse from Cinderella, a talking tortilla, Unikitty, a cow, a porcupine, and a lion.)
Sometimes she cuts out & colors all the pieces, and other times she markers them…
(Catbus from Totoro, and her green catbus friend)
They’re fully realized characters, since they almost always have backsides, too.
I showed her how to use metal brads once, and she created all the pieces, cut them out, and had me help her put it together…
Other times, they are full sheets of paper (with backsides, too) that are like “dolls…”
She voraciously made this dinosaur finger puppet for me, which is pretty gosh-darned cool. It even has a tail!
So those are exciting. And she’s been obsessed with these paper things. I’ve had to stock up on construction paper and tape, something I didn’t need to do when she was voraciously drawing. But that’s what she’s into. And that’s cool.
But the other day, I wasn’t feeling well, and I lay on my stomach on the couch with my sketchbook, and she dragged her marker box, scissors and tape into the room and started making paper bats like a madwoman. And then she suddenly looked up, climbed onto the pillows over my head, and stared at my sketchbook, watching me draw. I was playing with colored ballpoint pens, drawing Napoleon Dynamite.
“Are you using shading?” she asked.
“Yes I am,” I replied, and I showed her how layers and layers of colors can look like they’re mixing to make other colors, and that darker things look like they’re behind. Sort of like when we played with pointillism.
“I’m going to try that, too.” she said. “And I’m going to make it look SO REAL.” So I watched her look at the photo for references (or what she calls “estructions”), and drew her own version:
I was blown away! Shading, “realistic” features. So exciting, and pretty darned awesome, for a 4-year old! She really took her time with it, focusing very hard on looking at the picture and trying to draw it the same way (making me instantly recall the Napoleon Dynamite quote: “It took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip. It’s probably the best drawing I’ve ever done.” Hehehe.)
Yesterday, I had a doodle of Wonder Woman in my sketchbook, and she tried her hand at it again, and again–I’m blown away.
It’s so cool to be able to see your kid change and grown and learn new things. Sure, it’s a little sad to see a beloved phase go by, but my mom always said, “enjoy whatever phase she’s in, because the next phase might be a rough one.”
So while we still doodle the occasional heads from time to time (and I’ll be sure to keep giving her the option to), it’s so great to see her trying new things! Believe, me, the collaborations have changed our lives so much for the good that I’m going to keep trying them with her, and it’ll be fun to see how they look once she’s a little older. Maybe she’s ready to let me draw the bodies to HER heads now…
Whatever the case, I’m just glad for it. All of it. Messes and ants and all.
Holy Cow. In just under two weeks, our little 4-year old will be 5. I know it’s cliche, but time does really fly!
For being an introvert, I actually quite enjoy throwing a kid’s party. It’s my sister’s fault, I think–she always threw cool parties for her girls (like the spy party where they all had to put on fake mustaches and costumes and look for clues to solve a “mystery”) and it always looked like so much fun. Honestly, I don’t do it for the guests, really….I do it because it’s FUN FOR ME! (Take a look at Myla’s 2nd “Mad Hatter” birthday party…)
Before Texas, we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. This time of year in Alaska, the waist-high snow-filled yard FINALLY starts to melt after 8 long dark months, and the sun comes out (eventually all day AND night!). Alaska in the spring is AMAZING–people plant and grow and put out as many flowers and plants as possible, and because the ground’s so saturated with melted snow, everything GROWS so well. You’ve got to cram a whole lot of what I called “sprummer” (spring & summer, because it’s so short) into the FOUR months you get without snow. My husband was deployed just before Myla turned 2, but was back in time for this third birthday, so we wanted to make sure it was fun and easy and low-stress on both of us.
So, for Myla’s 3rd birthday, we decided to throw a garden party with our friends. But not a fancy tea party-type garden party…a messy, dirty GARDENING party! I made a point to tell everyone to wear some get-dirty clothes so the kids could have some fun. I found a tutorial online for really cool balloon flowers…
I had a few dollar-store garden tools and water cans, and some paper masks so kids could make and decorate animal mask. I also made headbands with little felt animal ears attached, and little clip-on tails. I had a quick little set of facepaints to throw some whiskers on anyone who wanted them, and little forest-themed temporary tattoos.
With kid parties, I find it works very well to have some sort of project or activity for the kids to do when they FIRST get there, so they’re not sitting around just waiting for everyone to arrive. (I try my best to make sure it’s as stress-free for parents (and therefore ME) by having things to safely keep the kids busy with.) I put some crayons in a bowl, some tablecloths on the floor, and let them doodle. I had a posterboard that I had doodled some animals on out as a coloring page as well.
As crafty as I can be in the art field, I have NO SKILLS AT ALL with actual food. But I CAN make a mean snack! I found most of these ideas on pinterest and kept with the forest-theme.
There were some that were NOT as successful. So in the spirit of sharing what DOESN’T work, let me show you my chocolate spoons, and my ugly hedgehogs…(because I couldn’t find regular donut holes and had to get chocolate ones, and it just turned out all kinds of wonky, and hardly anyone touched them, and I can’t blame them one bit.)
The internet is FULL of all kinds of owl cupcake ideas, so I sort of took them all and made my own version, with pre-made candy eyes, colored icing, and mini nilla wafer wings.
But my FAVORITE part of all is making the cake! The night before, I let Myla help me mix it…
I wanted to see if I could make a mostly fondant-free cake, and I’m pretty proud of it! I am by no means a pro cake-maker, but I used to watch a lot of cake decorating shows on tv, so that counts, right? I just went crazy with the patterns and designs, and had a lot of fun with it.
We are very lucky in the toy portion of life, and Myla has a LOT of toys. So for her 3rd birthday (since she was young enough we could get away with it), we asked that instead of toys or gifts, that if they liked, guests could bring a flower or plant we could plant in our “friend garden.” We were lucky also, because Myla’s birthday falls RIGHT at the beginning of springtime in Alaska. It was SO nice to see all of the beautiful green plants and flowers! I had popsicle sticks and a marker out so everyone could write their names and put it in their plant pot.
After we ate, we all went outside to let the kids get nice and dirty. I had the hose sprayer out for the kids to spray in the kiddie pool, and they all took the little dollar-store tools & buckets. I had gotten a few bigger plantholders and let them throw random seed packets down and water them. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if it grows, right? They had fun just getting dirty and pouring water.
Later, after the party was over, I replanted the plants in the garden bed, using plastic spoons so they’d be waterproof, and put everyone’s name on again (okay I should’ve done that in the first place, but I didn’t think of it at the time).
And after several months of watering and gorgeous Alaskan 24-hour sunshine (because goodness knows I don’t have the gardening skills to actually grow anything on my own), we had a BEAUTIFUL “Friend Garden!”
Like I said, she was young enough that we could get away with the idea of a garden instead of gifts. Still, we try not to focus so much on the gifts as much as getting to have a lot of fun spending time with friends. This year, with the husband deployed, I’m trying to make it easy on myself, so we’re going to a trampoline bouncehouse in town. Myla asked for a Totoro & Ponyo party, which I think is TOTALLY fun, and I’ve already started working on ideas. I can’t help it–I have such a fun time with it! And the main thing is to make it a fun time for her. I know we’ve only had four, but this garden party was one of my all-time favorite birthday parties! It was low-stress, and the kids had fun. For me, doing little things well in advance makes it easy. And it’s so nice when it actually comes together!