You know what kids seem to love (when they’re old enough to stop shoving everything in their mouth)? Sculpting stuff.
Play-doh was great when Myla was younger–easy going, soft enough for little hands to squish. We’ve tried lots of different clays since she’s gotten older, and they all have their own issues (getting stuck in the carpet, for one). But when our craft store had multicolored, never-drying clay on sale, we gave it a whirl. I thought she could have fun building and rebuilding things in a variety of colors.
Of course, she sculpted like a MILLION awesome little figures, and they don’t dry, and she won’t re-use the clay to build something else, and they’re each incredibly amazing, but….now what am I supposed to do with them? I’ve daydreamed of lying them all on a piece of plywood and sealing the whole thing with resin…but that might be a bit beyond my skill level.
There are times as a parent (especially when the husband was deployed and I had a project I desperately wanted to work on, or when I was sick, or–heck–when there were everyday household things that really needed to get done) when art projects are a great distraction. And there are times I have used art projects the way some parents use television (although HEY–there are MANY times when television is absolutely called for and helpful, believe me).
And man o MAN! Did she sculpt! Mermaids are her favorite lately. She says “I am IN to mermaids right now.” But since she’s an artsy art girl, plain ol’ mermaids aren’t enough, and she does fun things, like add a little old-school mobile phone that was a mystery piece in one of my Munny kits….
(Don’t mind the skin change; it was important to her that Storm’s skin be darker, and the assorted Duplos we have (which I purchased in a big random bag from a secondhand store) didn’t include a darker one.)
There are times you are busy, and your kid is happily playing next to you, and you see that everything is going well, but because you’re engrossed in what you’re doing yourself, you don’t REALLY notice what exactly she’s doing until she shows you this:
…which is, of course, a Duplo giraffe in a Nightcrawler costume that she made out of clay. Complete with tail.
And those are the times when your jaw drops, and you stop what you’re doing, get down on the floor to play with her, and really SEE her ideas, get a glimpse of how her little brain works, and all the little creative things she’s doing, because DANG it’s cool.
Once, when I was younger and walking home from school, I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve never seen a real four-leaf clover.” So I sat down right there in the grass and I SWEAR after a few quick brushes with my hands, I found one straight away. I’ve done that quite a few times since. I’ll sit in the grass and think, “I wonder if I can find another four-leaf clover?” and will find them. I’ve found about a dozen, and taped them all in sketchbooks or scrapbooks or in shadowboxes here and there in our house.
Those things are ALWAYS there. You just have to LOOK for them. It’s so easy to pass them by, but they’re the things that pack the biggest punch.
And it’s those little things that can make a rough day feel SO much better in an instant. It’s always the little things.
Awhile back, I got an email from Canadian musician Jennifer Gasoi, who won a Grammy this past year (whaaaa????!!), saying that she enjoyed our collaborations, thought we might enjoy her music, and wondered if she could send us a copy of her award-winning album.
You’d like to send us a copy of some awesomely fantastic, jazzy, hip-shaking music that Myla & I could jam out to? Why, yes PLEASE!
Weeks later, we got her CD in the mail. I turned it on while we were doing crafts, and Myla stopped mid-doodle, and got up to dance and shake around. The music is fun, sort of retro-style, a touch of swing, a bit jazzy, and all around pretty cool for me (as a grownup) to listen too, too. (You can listen to it here.)
I’m constantly amazed at people sharing things they’ve done with us, so I’m quite happy to share it with you. We loved all the happy sounds, and had our own little dance party in our art room. Myla said, “It was very nice of her to send us some music. Maybe we could send her a card to say thank you!”
And so we did.
Myla told me what she wanted to write on the inside, and I helped her spell it. I’m not sure exactly why she turned Miss Gasoi into a catfish, surrounded by other underwater creatures, but that’s what she was inspired by at the time.
So please, go check out Jennifer Gasoi for yourself, and get a little dancing in your toes!
UPDATE: Jennifer tweeted us, saying she loves being a catfish…and coincidentally, she’s a Pisces, so…it makes sense, huh? :)
So I just realized it’s been a YEAR since I first posted the story about collaborating with our 4-year old! And while a lot has changed (she’s 5 now, for one), so much is still the same. I thought it’d be sort of cool to share a bit about the whole experience, and what we’ve been doing since…
1. People have been SO super nice! I still get SO many wonderful comments, messages, posts, and emails, saying wonderful things and sharing wonderful stories about how this fun little project that Myla & I do together has affected them in some positive way and it’s such a wonderful thing to hear. New-mom artists saying they couldn’t figure out how to still create while caring for a kid have told me they have hope now for a new way to create. Other type-A’s like me, who have been reminded to let go a little bit and enjoy the ride. People spent time doing similar projects with their kids, their students, their patients, and shared the stories with me. It feels really good to hear that something we did just for fun has had such a positive effect on so many people.
The fact that people take a little time out to say something nice to someone they don’t know personally, is very heartwarming, and makes me feel good about the fate of the human race.
2. Some people can be jerks. I have learned the age-old internet rule, and will agree that it is most definitely true (mostly on external blogs, not my own, thankfully): DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. SO many websites, instead of linking directly to my full story, retold the story using my photos on their own website. Usually, they don’t tell the whole process I went through, leaving readers confused and critical, and more likely to make random nasty (and not at all constructive) comments. Everything from “She’s holding her pen wrong,” “the mom overindulges her,” “the mom probably does those herself, for attention,” “those drawings aren’t THAT good,” and “what the hell am I even looking at???”
…Some people make a point to take a little time out of their day to be total jerks to a complete stranger, which makes me a little discouraged about the fate of the human race. Thankfully, though, there are WAYYYYYYY more positive comments than negative, and I do my best to ignore them, and focus on people who AREN’T talking out of their butts.
3. We self-published an AWESOME BOOK. We had a few publisher nibbles after the post, and even worked for quite a while with one, trying to narrow down how we might possibly turn it into a book for children, until they finally gave up on the idea altogether. It wasn’t until then that I realized it might not BE a children’s book. So I made my own Kickstarter video, and with the help of SOOO many people sharing and getting the message out there, we were able to exceed our goal and make a book I am very very proud of, that tells the story of our collaboration, has pages to doodle in yourself, and is a collection of a great many collaborations, and the fun little titles I gave them. We also were able to make a little children’s book of animal collaborations. I can’t seem to part with the originals, so I don’t sell any of the originals to anyone. I keep them in a very full binder for her to enjoy later. So since we weren’t able to have a professional publisher work with us, at least I was able to make our drawings into a fun little book that we can share with people.
4. We still get around a bit, from time to time. Aside from a great many interviews & articles from all sorts of places in the world, we’ve had a few little online adventures. We had someone contact us to see if they could purchase a few prints to use on a TV show as set design background if the show stayed on. (We allowed it, but I haven’t seen them on the show, and I don’t think it was picked up for a new season.) A theme park on the other side of the world asked if they could display a few for a Mother’s Day event they were having. Our post was shared on facebook by a couple of fun names…
(None of this at all means anything to Myla, though. She just likes to draw.)
5. People have asked us to do stuff. We have been asked to do custom work, but trying to “control” what a 5-year old draws is nearly impossible. Sometimes I can give her suggestions, and sometimes she turns the person into Nightcrawler or a mermaid, just for fun. You can never tell. Nor would I want to stifle what she does, or put any limitations on it. The very few times I’ve tried to steer her in a certain direction is hit or miss: sometimes it works out like magic (as in the Hellboy doodle we did below), and sometimes it doesn’t work, and it’s just frustrating for the both of us. So instead of getting frustrated, I just take the pressure off by saying no to most custom work, unless it’s something fun that we can do in a way that has little to no pressure. (Reading Rainbow’s Kickstarter, for example, is running an art contest for their calendar. We’ll give it a try, but if it doesn’t work out, no big deal.)
We have been asked to design logos for products, but aside from just the logistics listed above, it just feels weird to use them for a product. I don’t have any big political belief behind that thought. It just feels weird, so I just say no.
We were once asked to have a film crew film our day to day life and doodles, but I couldn’t see how that would work, since both my husband and I have agreed that we’re not comfortable with the idea of having Myla’s face fully openly out there in internet land. Why not? Well, aside from just the regular worry of creepy old creepers, people can be plain nasty, as I said earlier, and nastier when they have something in front of them to point at behind the safety of their screens. She’s adorable, but she’s five. I don’t need random people commenting and judging her SOLELY based on her physical attributes (as I’m sure the world will do in plenty of time when she hits puberty). No thanks.
6. Life is pretty normal. When we first did the collaborations was just before my husband was deployed, so he missed the majority of the hubub, and watched it lovingly from a distance somewhere in the middle of Afghanistan. Now that he’s back, things are pretty normal again. Myla started Kindergarten, and is on a mission to share her love of superheroes with the world. Like everyone, we have good days and bad days (but they are very nearly all good days). She loves superheroes, mermaids, and “crafty crafts” (which is what we call all the artsy art things we enjoy doing). I post our work primarily on Instagram, but also on Facebook and Twitter. I also use Instagram to post a ton of whatever strange drawings, sculptures, or projects I’ve personally got going on as well.
7. We still draw. A LOT. When we first started collaborating, it was incidental. It just sort of happened. Now, she ASKS me for heads to draw, and sometimes for certain characters. I like to mix drawing, say, a certain actor’s face for her to draw a certain character’s body on, and she has fun with that. If she wants to do one of Wolverine, for example, I draw Hugh Jackman. It’s fun for both of us. Her drawings have become more narrative, with so much more going on, and it’s been REALLY fun for me to try to make them make sense by making the background more detailed, adding more highlights and shading to the artwork, to the faces. It’s so much fun!
People have asked me about her tiring of drawing only the bodies–but she doesn’t LIKE how I draw the bodies on her heads (she hasn’t worked on that “letting go of expectations” thing that I’ve worked on, and is sometimes critical if I go off-course). Drawing faces and characters on her own, though? She’s WAY into that! Oftentimes, I’ll tear out pages from my sketchbook of drawings I haven’t finished, and don’t intend to finish (even if it’s just an eye), and let her just use her imagination:
But now that she’s a little older, a great deal of our work is directly influenced by the things that influence her: superheroes, characters from shows and books and comics. This past summer, I signed her up for day camp (basically 3 hours a day of themed daycare). She could choose between Princess Camp and Superhero Camp. She chose Superhero camp, which has been a huge influence on her drawings:
She’s also had a thing for mermaids lately…
There are also a great many characters she’s never really watched the actual shows of (she’s only 5, remember, and she’s not too fond of too much action & violence), but has seen or heard of the characters. I’ll usually just tell her a toned-down, simplified story about the character, and let her elaborate:
She will draw characters from some of her favorite, most beloved tv shows, books, and movies:
There is always a WHOLE lot of Star Wars:
And some of them come straight from her own imagination:
8. We still LOVE to share… Whether it’s between Myla and me, or other people, we love to share our doodles. I recently did an art trade with an artist on Instagram, whose 4-year old daughter decided to make Myla a little sculpture to add to the package. It was so awesome! Myla loves to show people how to draw “step by step” (but she will almost NEVER tell you what it’s going to be in the end…probably because she makes it up as she goes). She loves drawing marker “tattoos” on any visitors we have who are willing. Last time we visited my husband’s family, they all gathered round chit-chatting and waiting their turn for Myla-tattoos.
…SO WHAT’S NEXT? Well, we’re just gonna keep on keepin’ on. Since I have all these books now, I thought it’d be fun to take them to a vending table at Wizard Con in Austin, Oct 2-4. So I’ll be doing that, and bringing my niece along to help. Myla will mostly be hanging at home with Daddy, and only stopping in on occasion (since I’m guessing it’d be pretty hard to keep a kid at a booth ALL DAY for THREE DAYS??) to see costumes and such (conventions scare her, though, so we’re gonna play that one by ear). I’m bringing TONS of books, some prints, a few of my own originals, and whatever else we can muster up. It’s gonna be FUN! So if you’re anywhere in the area, PLEASE come see us!
I absolutely LOVE watching her develop her drawing. I get so excited when I notice her drawing something new, like Wolverine’s “fists,” and the amount of detail she remembers just from seeing a few pictures of a character. We’ll keep on doing them for as long as they’re fun. And if they’re not fun, we’ll lay off them for awhile. But right now, we still love drawing together, so that’s what we’ll do. And I’m always happy to post them!
Most of all, I love love LOVE hearing from other people who have been inspired to do their OWN doodle projects with their friends, family, students, and kids, so if you’ve got stories to share, I’d LOVE to hear them!
Love, love love. Just realized there was a WHOLE lotta love in this post. And that’s awesome.
(Posted below are just a couple of the wonderful doodles people have sent me that their kids have done after being inspired to draw by our doodles. I love seeing all that imagination growing!)
So that’s a little update on our doodles this past year! I’m so grateful for all the positive response we’ve gotten from something we just love doing together. It’s SUCH a good feeling to put something good into the world!
(I constantly post new prints for purchase at Society6. Please feel free to take a look!)
I absolutely LOVE drawing faces. I love the detailed mapping of a face, and how the simplest little line or shade can change the entire look of someone, for the better or worse.
In school we learned the proper ways of facial proportion for artists, and if you want to get better at drawing faces, it’s the absolute way to go (something like this). You focus on how to lay out the face by using the eye as a specific unit of measurement. It is mathematical, it is precise, and it is also fluid and easily adaptable…each face is different, but easy to measure, if you pay attention to the proper structure of proportion.
If you follow those guidelines and those measurements (and how they pertain to each person you draw), the person you’re trying to draw will look very much like they’re supposed to.
But once I learned all that and it made sense, I started to have fun with it.
Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” And for anyone just starting out, I’d always recommend learning the basic foundations first. Not because you can’t HANDLE doing it on your own….but because it’ll make you a better artist in the long run.
But once I learned the structure of proportion, instead of laying it out in advance, I began to start in one spot, and just see where it takes me. Here’s a line. What’s next door? Oh, it’s darker here, and lighter a little bit over there….
Now I very RARELY (alright, maybe even NEVER) draw with any sort of preplanned layout, or sketch out proportions in advance.
Instead of measurement and preciseness, I draw a line, look at what’s around it, and make some rough guess as to where it all fits in. Sure, it’s not precise, but it’s more enjoyable to me, to see where the face will take me. That’s where the fun part and the personality in drawing comes from, for me.
Sometimes it works, and what I end up with is basically what I was hoping for, with a bit of that magical distortion that makes my brain smile.
And sometimes it doesn’t, and I get to the end and it’s not quite what I thought it would be. And even though I THINK I’ve followed my own directions as I look at my reference, there’s something that doesn’t work. As if, despite following my map, I took a wrong turn somewhere. Something that’s off, that isn’t making it sing…
Sometimes it’s a little simple thing and it will change the entire look of everything. Sometimes it just can’t be saved. Either way, it’s more fun to me to create this way than aiming for absolute realism.
Sometimes a face is so simple, with such simple characteristics that you have to play very close attention to the tiny little details to have it even come close to making sense. The tiniest line in a carefully placed area can change someone’s entire look. And I mean that literally: one. single. tiny. line.
Babies are difficult that way. Babies, artistically speaking, are circles with simplified features floating in a sea of smoothness, with very little lines around to tell you where to go, or where each thing fits in relation to the other. Babies are hard.
But so are some adults. I drew Angelica Huston recently three times, and still couldn’t get the simple subtleties of her face quite right, even with my altered proportions. Actress Lena Headey (Cersei from Game of Thrones) has such a unique face that has continued to elude me–with such simple but heavy expression even just in the slightest move of her eyebrows, or the littlest smirk.
This is probably why people who are typically deemed “beautiful” or “handsome” don’t seem so at all to me: their faces are devoid of personality, wiped clean of any imperfections. They could be ANYBODY. They look like the same polished versions of eachother with different styling options. They seem empty.
In MY world, imperfections are absolutely what make someone interesting. One of my very favorite lines is from Francis Bacon, who said, “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” It’s the odd things that make us beautiful, make us interesting, and give our faces stories to tell. The things that make you different, make you stand out, or make you uncomfortable? When you remove the emotional reaction, those are the very same things that make you SPECIAL.
I sort of fall in love a little with someone’s lines when I draw them. Not romantic love, but more a VERY deep appreciation of their shapes, their lines, their uniqueness. I think that (aside from just not wanting to give attention to negativity, or show disrespect to any survivors) is why I have trouble drawing serial killers or concentration camp survivors, or some other such mortifying characters.
There are so many stories that faces can tell…especially when you find the unique thing about them, and celebrate their differences and individual strangeness!
Just because I don’t know Robin Williams doesn’t mean I can’t miss him. Just because I miss him doesn’t mean I don’t feel loss for other people who maybe weren’t so much in the public eye, or that I don’t care about other more worldly events going on the news.
I’m not usually too affected by celebrity news, but I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with this one. My WHOLE life, his movies, tv shows, and comedy has been there, in so many wonderful characters, in so many wonderful ways. From when I first saw him as Mork as a kid, to now. He inspired me, he made me laugh. He touched so many people with the simplest of expressions. He could make you laugh in one moment, and melt your heart in the next. I don’t know another comedian who could do that. He’s just always been there.
The point is that someone, no matter who it was, touched our lives and it’s okay to feel sad about that. It’s a testament to me that peoples’ lives, big or small, affect all of us in some way, even if we never know it. We feel the loss of someone when they have touched us in some way. We feel worse when someone’s story, someone’s life, has reflected something in our own lives.
To me, it’s also a testament to that saying that you should “be kind always, for everyone is fighting a great battle.” That person who was a total jerk? Maybe they’re going through something difficult right now.
Like many people, I struggled with depression when I was in my twenties. Recently, my mom and dad were cleaning their shed and found an old self-portrait I did at the time. It’s not at all flattering. I didn’t want it to be. I wanted to show how worn out, how sick of it all, how emotionally EXHAUSTED I was.
Thank goodness I don’t feel that way anymore, and looking back on it, it’s like looking at a completely different person that I can’t even relate to anymore.
Do you remember The Fisher King? (It’s one of my VERY favorites of all time. To me, every Gilliam movie is amazing, but Gilliam with Robin Williams was magical.) Do you remember how the shock jock’s flippantly insensitive words inadvertently set off a chain of events that damaged the life of William’s character, who he had never even met? People are important. Especially in a world where it’s so easy to type a few errant nasty words on someone’s post, the things you SAY are important, whether you know it or not.
And I think aside from just missing his magic, that might be what has affected me so greatly about his suicide, and the internet reaction to it. It’s just reminded me to do my best to ignore people that build themselves up by making “superior” comments or make a point to spread negativity, and remember how important it is to connect with the people in your life, and to spread the positive around a bit. If you surround yourself by that negativity in people, it eats into you, it brings more negativity to you, draws it in like a magnet. That negativity they focus on pulls you down with it. And as much as you might sympathize with them or want to help them, sometimes you just have to step away a bit.
And this new news about the onset of Parkinson’s…in a weird way that made me understand a little better. I’ve lived with chronic pain for over 10 years, and the idea that you eventually might not be able to do certain things the more something progresses is an absolutely terrifying one. Not one worth my dying over, but I get it. I get that pain.
No, I didn’t know him. And knowing him wouldn’t have changed anything. But I know other people in my own life, and maybe connecting with them will help in some small way.
So it doesn’t matter if he’s a celebrity. He touched peoples’ lives. Don’t feel ashamed for mourning him when so many others need attention, too. Not grieving for one person doesn’t show more appreciation for another.
Instead, appreciate the people in your life. You MEAN something to them. They mean something to YOU. Even if you don’t see it, don’t know it, don’t FEEL it….I promise you, you do.
Sometimes you just have to look a little harder for it.
If you look for bad things, I promise you, YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND THEM. Instead, I try to actively search for things in my life to appreciate. For things to feel good about, no matter how small. And if you cannot find them in your own life, there are so many ways to create them for someone else, and that generosity will create good in your life. And if you’re always looking for those good things, I promise you, you will always find them, too.
So I’m going to do my best to focus on the positive…
National suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Info on Soldier suicide prevention
I’m assuming that most of you (especially if you have kids) have all seen the Lego Movie by now? If not, you should–it’s AWESOME!
(I’m not sure if I’ll be throwing in spoilers, so if you worry terribly about that sort of thing, part of me says maybe you shouldn’t read any more of this post. And another part says, really—calm down, it’s just a movie! In any case, if it doesn’t make much sense, it’s because it relates to it. But hopefully, it’ll still make sense.)
Anyway, it struck a chord with me, especially when I realized that I’m…well…I’m totally a Lord Business.
(This is a “Mom Business” doodle I sketched, and the 5-year old painted with watercolors)
Like I assume most parents do, I initially bought “big kid” Lego sets so Myla could learn to build all the magically fun things that are on the box by following instructions that are so simple they don’t even need words. And maybe it’s because I’m a bit obsessive, but the same thing happens in our house as what I assume might happen in all of yours: the kid eventually loses interest, and I end up building them all myself.
When a person like me spends hours and hours putting a complicated Lego spaceship together, the urge to superglue it in place so it never ever moves or gets broken or taken apart ever again is very very difficult to resist.
This is where the kid comes in. I have begun to realize that Myla doesn’t really care WHAT the final product looks like. She loves the characters. She loves that she has more Lego blocks to play with. She loves Lego Superman and Batman and Pepper Potts. She loves mixing the other characters around, swapping out their body parts until they all look like they should belong in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
For a Lord Business like me, that’s just crazy talk.
(A face I started sketching that Myla later turned into Lord Business sitting in a pile of Legos)
Where I like to follow the instructions step by step, the kid would love to just rip open the bags and play. While I enjoy methodical organization, she prefers errant, whimsical chaos. This has taught me that the message of the movie is true: you can’t REALLY get the most out of your Legos if you Kragle them so they never move, or only play with them the way that’s on the box. You’re supposed to use your imagination. Sometimes the best fun comes from using something in ways you never expected. Where I see the box as instructions for a goal meant to be victoriously accomplished, she sees them as VERY loose suggestions.
It’s a whole other world for someone as “type A” as me. But I do find myself fascinated by it.
I consider myself a pretty creative person, flexible to quite a few mediums, and adventurous in always trying new ones. I like to draw, paint, sculpt and sew…but there are some places where my creativity just shuts down to a screetching halt. The first place is in the kitchen. The second is with Legos. Give me some chicken and veggies, and I can get about as creative as a VERY simple stir-fry. That’s about it. Hand me some Legos with no instructions, and I might be able to build a chair. Or a very very simple spaceship.
And here’s where I turn into Emmet, and try to embrace my inner Master Builder.
My favorite character from the movie is Metalbeard. The story goes that he and his pirate crew tried to defeat Lord Business, and were destroyed, his ship and his body blown to bits so all that remained was his little Lego pirate head. Being a Master Builder, Metalbeard survived by rebuilding himself from bits and pieces of his ship. I built him from the kit and it took me ages (in between day-to-day kid and house stuff). I was so stinkin’ proud of how cool he looked when he was done!
But after months in the Lego box, he’s started to fall apart. I’ve tried my best to patch him up, but without my instructions, I’m pretty lost. So I’ve tried adding this or that onto him. Bits of a palm tree. Parts of the Batwing. Like Emmett, it equates to sticking two blocks together and throwing them at the bad guy. Under my building supervision, Metalbeard’s days are sadly limited. But the idea of him is still there, and I love him.
I want to be a Metalbeard, taking bits and pieces of different things that I love and slapping them to myself so that they work like new. (Actually, that’s sort of like a mockingbird, right?)
You lose a little of that devil-may-care spontaneity when you grow up. There are times I choose to sit & play with Myla and my mind is completely blank, void of any possible scenario we might create. There are other times when the simplest, silliest things entertain us both. There are even better, more rare moments, where she is playing on her own and doesn’t know I can hear all the wonderfully creative things she comes up with.
So I’ll continue to follow the kid’s lead on things like that. She builds without the concern for failure. She builds without the worry of “messing up.” Because to her, just enjoying the time playing is what it’s about. And isn’t that pretty much what I learned from her when we started drawing together?
Proof positive that kids already know a few things that adults have forgotten. Once you grow up, it’s a constant struggle to run back to that childhood place where grownup stuff doesn’t matter and things are fun just for fun’s sake.
A place, maybe, where “everything is awesome…”
(A Lego Superman collaboration between the kid and I, where Superman has decided that if you want a goshdarn spaceship built right, you’ve got to build it yourself)
I grew up on science fiction. My dad was a big sci-fi fan, so when we’d go to the video store (yes, I understand that’s an ancient concept these days), he’d choose anything so long as the cover had space, spaceships, or aliens on it.
I remember seeing Star Wars when I was younger, and collecting figurines and spaceships. Alongside the wooden playhouse my mom designed for us in the backyard of our little house in Oklahoma, my dad built what was meant to be the head of AT-AT.
I remember staying at home with a sitter while my parents saw what they thought was a grownup movie about aliens, only to take my sister and I out the very next night when they realized how good (and kid-appropriate) E.T. was.
I remember one of the very first “grown up” movies I saw was Blade Runner. I was blown away.
So I think it’s fair to say that me & sci-fi go way back. Which is why of COURSE I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not going to review it, or go into in-depth conversations about how it relates to the comics (which I have not read, and don’t really intend to), but it was a fun little movie, and I enjoyed watching it.
What makes a sci-fi movie “real” for me is the characters. I love them, humor, flaws and all. GotG had some great ones, and nearly ALL of them interesting-looking enough to draw (which is why my IG feed has been flooded with all sorts of amazing character sketches from various artists). For me, GotG has a similar campy feel as Fifth Element did, with a sense of humor, and a lot of colorful characters.
So, of course, I couldn’t help but draw a few of ‘em, too….
(Don’t worry, I don’t think I’ve got any spoilers here…)
I tend to start off on the beaten path, so one of my favorite characters was Drax the Destroyer, played by WCW’s Dave Bautista (who was so good I forgot he was an athlete-turned-actor). Drax is extremely literal (as am I). I could totally relate to him, as a lifetime of literal misunderstandings have made my own life a bit confusing. He has one of my favorite lines in the movie, saying “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.” I had to get my blue & red ballpoints out and sketch him.
Later, I sketched the character named Yondu (played by Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker) who controls a deadly arrow with his whistles. This one I sketched in ballpoints, and highlighted with acrylics, and I’d just like to say that it was QUITE hard to draw a person whistling. Just sayin’.
I have a couple of characters I’d still like to draw if I don’t run out of steam…like Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and everyone’s beloved Groot. I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by the plethora of inspirational imagery in that movie, so I think a couple more drawings and I’ll be okay.
Guardians of the Galaxy is rated PG-13, so I know a lot of kids went to see it, but aside from the fact that Myla is only five, heavy action understandably frightens her. Sometimes that can be a little challenging, trying to find kid’s shows that have no “bad guys,” and where no one gets hurt and there’s no conflict whatsoever, but I’m also quite okay with her enjoying the simpler things.
So when there are shows that come out where the marketing and products are EVERYWHERE, or other kids are talking about it, I like to tell her the simplified version. Instead of telling her the entire story of GotG, I tell her about the characters, so she still knows what everyone’s talking about, but doesn’t have to actually see the “scary show” herself. And in my doing so, she has developed a love for characters she’d never otherwise see: like Khaleesi, Daleks, and in this case, Rocket and Groot–as has most of the sci-fi world. I show her little video clips of the characters on YouTube sometimes, she asks me questions, and she loves ‘em.
So the next time she asked to draw on some heads (as we do), she immediately turned one into Groot, complete with a little leaf on his shoulder.
And seeing Rocket in stores out & about, she asked lots of questions about this little raccoon character. She thought it’d be funny if he had bubbles coming from his gun instead of bullets…
So there ya go. Nothing like a little sci-fi influence for your day!
Inspiration comes in strange places. With the excitement of Austin Wizard Con looming, I have been playing with all kinds of ideas for the table display and the idea of little knick-knacks to show. And since I follow a ton of very talented artists on Instagram, I was inspired by them to try something completely new for me: molding and casting.
So I watched a few videos on YouTube, and now I’m an expert.
I won’t do a full DIY step by step, since I don’t really know what I’m doing and this is all new to me anyway (trust me, this is one of those situations where you have to just jump in and try it). But I’ll give a rough rundown of the basic steps, just to show you what was involved…
Step 1: Sculpt something.
I used Super Sculpey, and tried to come up with a little sculpted version of the mermaid girl Myla & I made. (I realize she looks very little like the original, but Myla said she was cute, so I think it’s okay…) Since kids have a natural magnetic attraction towards clay, I sacrificed a handful of Sculpey and let Myla make her own mermaid. (She modeled her after a character on Doc McStuffins, who is not, in fact, topless–but she couldn’t remember what her top looked like, so she just gave her breasts. I’m not sure if I should put a censored black bar over kid-sculpted breasts? I just go with it)…
Step 2: Make a mold.
I got my kits from a company called Smooth-On (who have TONS of great videos on their site). I won’t give you every little detail on this, since the directions are really easy (and on the box)…but the basic idea is mix This with That and pour. (Plus, if I told you everything, I’d ruin all the messy fun for you.) The main thing I learned during this step: make sure you mix it REALLY well. If you don’t, it doesn’t set right. I made mine from silicone rubber in a plastic cup. I nearly didn’t mix enough for the tail, but it turned out alright.
Step 3: Cut your sculpture out
You know that bit of instructions that you think, “Ah, that’s not a big deal, I’ll just sort of wing it”? Well, turns out sometimes they tell you those little tips for a good reason. When I put my sculpture in the cup to mold it, I forgot to mark on the cup where the back side of her was. So when it was time to open her, and I “guessed,” I guessed wrong, and sort of sliced up her face. The stubby arms were apparently a little too weak for the whole process and broke off. And the body crumbled because I hadn’t fully cooked her. But the mold itself turned out fairly good. And Sculpey can be touched up a bit, so I patched her up and fully cooked her, and she was just fine.
Step 4: Pour plastic/resin into the mold.
The first go-round, I tried a liquid plastic kit from Smooth-On. And along with my repeated advice of making sure you mix everything the right way, I’ll add a couple of pointers I learned: First thing is that it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves. Initially, I gave that bit of advice a big ol’ “Pshhhht, whatever.” But plastic nearly ALWAYS gets on your hands, and it feels super creepy, like when you get superglue on your fingers. Blecch. And later, when I tried pouring resin, I had a bit of a leak in the silicone mold (it was a different mold, and I had two “air holes”), and it leaked hot resin ALLLLLLLLLLL over my work table. Trust me, that’s not fun at ALL. So my bit of advice there? make sure you don’t have a spot in the mold that might leak. And lastly, GIVE IT TIME TO CURE. I’m very impatient. But hot plastic hurts.
Step 5: Plastic mermaids!
So I messed up quite a few mermaids, but after some trial and error, I was able to get a few decent-looking plastic mermaids! Fun! I couldn’t figure out why their faces were bubbly, though, until I looked closely at the mold, and realized that the mold itself had bubbles set into it. Whoops. Later I made a better mold, and made it smaller and on its back, so I wouldn’t waste so much silicone rubber. That helped clear up any bubble issues, and gave me a much clearer mold. Apparently, having her on her back, and pouring the silicone in the corner and letting it sort of “seep” into the face on its own is the big trick with that. (I HAD done that the first time, but she was positioned upside down, and all the details of the face were on the bottom, leaving lots of chances for air to get trapped in there. Whoops.)
Step 6: Paint that junk
I had a little trouble painting on the actual plastic with acrylic paint. (Myla had no complaints.) I even tried a basecoat of brown primer for plastic, but it just didn’t look so great.
Later, after making the bubble-free mold, I tried casting in resin, instead of the plastic…and despite MANY failed attempts (note the mutant mermaid army in the background) I finally got some good ones!
Apparently, again–the trick is very careful mixing. In my very limited experience, I’ve learned that if your mixture is off, it can do all sorts of wonky things to your cast. I haven’t tried painting these resin casts yet (I’ll try that later), but I’ll be sure to post the outcome!
With new projects, there’s always a level of intimidation for me. That casting kit sat in my art room for about 5 months before I actually got the courage to try it. But you know–when you do, it feels awesome to have finally figured it out! Even if you end up with an school of mutated fish-women, you can’t really consider it a failure if you’ve learned something.
So jump in and try something new! I promise, it’s worth it. Wonky mermaids and all.
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.