An Art Room Tour!

Having so many hobbies comes with a small price…where the heck do you put all your ART STUFF???  I’ve been lucky enough that everywhere we lived, my husband helps me make space for an entire art room or art area of some sort, to house all my art supplies.

So in the spirit of sharing, I thought it’d be fun to walk you through my art room…

When we were young & first married and lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, my workspace was just a big ‘ol industrial tool box.  I kept all my paints, paintbrushes and tools in there, and they were in really bad shape.  But I’d drag them out, lay them on the floor, and paint or draw whenever and whereever the mood struck.

Over the years, my work space has been everything from just a spot on one end of the couch, to the middle of the floor, to a rickety old art table in our very first house, and I’ve been grateful for every bit of it.  I’ve had many many work areas.

But when we first moved to Texas, this is what my art space looked like:

BEFORENot too shabby!  It’s an IKEA bookshelf/desk combo.  But the desk space was always completely overtaken by whatever project I was working on at the time.  A quarter of the desk is taken up by the sewing machine, and the desktop itself is covered in cut marks (because who needed a cutting mat, eh?).  I placed a little table at one end for Myla (which was much too small for her, and consistently got covered in her projects), and the shelves at the end of the bookshelf were full of her art supplies.  It was crowded, awkward, and I always had trouble finding things.  The table desk itself wasn’t always the most secure mount, and one time it COMPLETELY collapsed with everything on it (much to my panic), and although I later reinforced it, I’d always been concerned that’d happen again.  The other side of the room (not pictured) was full of broken bookshelves filled with junk.  Literally, junk that I was just hanging onto that I reeeeeaaallly needed to get rid of, being held up by broken-down, falling-apart bookshelves.  Still, I created lots of fun things there, and life was good.

But then when my parents moved to a smaller house, they got rid of a TON of furniture, and offered me a big wooden corner desk they had.  I didn’t really have a concept of what it looked like, but I figured it’d be good and sturdy, and probably make for a much better arrangement than what I had setup.  So after hauling it in pieces from Oklahoma in our truck, and after much toil and frustration, I finally installed the desk completely and did a huge art room overhaul.

The desk space now:  BOYYYYYY was I glad we adopted that desk–what a difference a good desk space makes!  There’s SOOO much room to spread out several projects at one time….

put together(Sorry about the bright light–please squint your eyes!)

side n shelfTo the left of the desk, the IKEA bookshelf still comes in handy, holding all my finished Dream Creepers up top.  The box in the top right is my resin / mold station.  On the shelves I keep sketchbooks, some fabric, sculpting tools, patterns, beads, jewelry supplies, glue guns, my iron, sewing supplies, and paper.

(Also pictured below:  the Boston Terrier, who assumes when you have the camera out, it is to take a photo of her.)

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To the left of the bookshelf, is Myla’s little workstation.  It’s basically a flat end of the wooden panel from the black IKEA desk laid flat on the floor (since she usually spreads her stuff all over the floor anyway).  I “acquired” the window panel from my mom (thanks, Mom!), who got it on a visit to Japan…There are signed photos on the wall of Jim Henson (one from when I sent him a fan letter as a kid).

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To the left of Myla’s space is the TV.  (There’s also a closet full of mostly fabric, but don’t open that or everything will fall out.)  The TV holds cutout stands that Myla and I did for the Austin convention last year.  On the walls are some of my favorite roller derby shirts, mounted in embroidery hoops (a SUPER easy & fun project).  And there’s one of the little plastic drawer bins for Myla’s stickers and paper and art supplies.

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My “new” big ol’ desk:  As for the desk area itself, I’ll walk you through it, from left to right.  On the wall are some old paintings, along with three little shadow box sculptures my sister & nieces did for me.  The hanging shelf holds a few of the ornaments and necklaces in my Etsy shop.  There’s also an adorably colorful monkey-mermaid made by the very multi-talented Kendyl from BreakfastJones.

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The edge of my desk:  There’s an old Ottolight my mom gave me to try out, some portfolio booklets stuffed with some of the nicer finished drawings and collaborations.  And I decided not to TOTALLY mess up this desk, and got a cutting mat.  Tucked in the corner are my paintbrushes and my full set of Prismacolor Brush-tip markers (thankyouverymuch, Jerry’s Artarama in Austin!).  There are about four in-progress projects on that desk.  And those little mirrors next to the lamp?  No, they’re not so I can stare adoringly at myself as I work…They’re actually so I can look up at the reflected image of the TV every now & then as I paint, since the only down side of this layout is that the TV is positioned BEHIND me, and it’s too much work to reroute the cable to face it the other way.  Usually, though, I just listen to podcasts or audiobooks on my headphones anyway.

On the wall is artwork by Sarah Soh, the magnificent Aaron McMillan, Eduardo Vieira, and a portrait of another inspiration–Tom Waits–by John Mueller from BigPigInk.  On the corner shelf, there’s a beautiful little tattooed lady sculpture by Goreilla (Sean Regalado), a little Wednesday paper doll by Ann Lim (Itzbitzart), and (although you can baaaaarely see it, a teeny weeny little hippo sculpture (cute little hippo butt cheeks and all) by Cassandra Jerman.  Nearly all the artwork I’ve started collecting is from art trades done with artists I’ve “met” through Instagram.  (Have I mentioned how inspirational IG has been for me?  It has been.)

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And the right side of my desk, with my sewing machine.  The end of the desk holds some little shelves that a friend gave me when she moved, as well as a stack of projects and…well…STUFF.

On the wall is artwork by Zack from Oldesoul (who shares my love of Jim Henson), the very talented Maria / Bokkei (who did a derby portrait of me, as well as one of Myla and Donkey), and a print from the fantastically magical Lori Nelson (whose art space I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand when I visited in New York–I LOVE seeing where people create!).  Oh and all my army stuff in the big red triangle.

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So there it is!  My lovely little workspace.  And while I oftentimes STILL just spread out on the living room floor or curl up at the end of the couch with a sketchbook to spend time watching shows in the evenings with my husband, the new work area is a “happy space.”  It makes me feel GOOD to go in there.

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It’s my happy place to be.  Sometimes, I just go in there and look around, and it makes me want to create things.  So hooray for happy spaces!  Where’s your happy place?  Does your space inspire you?  Is it a small little peaceful area, a big studio space, or a tiny spot in your room?  Where do you like to create?

Working Together

Sometimes I get asked if Myla and I still draw together.  My answer, in short, is that YES, we do…but that it’s sort of changed a bit.

The collaborations we did were fairly simple, and happened–as I described in the post–pretty spontaneously, at first.  Now that she’s a little older (she’s five ANDAHALF now), she’s not so interested in just simply adding a body on to a head I’ve drawn.  While she does still enjoy it now and then, her interests (and mine) have changed quite a bit.  So while our past collaborations were a such a wonderful and fun experiment, and we still do enjoy doing them from time to time, we find so many other ways to share our artwork with each other.

I started the new year with some new supplies, anxious to try some new things.  Recently, I tried out some mixed media board, drew a picture of her sleeping, and wondered if it would work if I asked her to draw what she might be dreaming…

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So she added onto what I had drawn, telling me what each thing was, and what it might mean.  I asked her questions about it, had her tell me dreams she might’ve had in the past, and if she could draw them.

I later added on some pen detail, to sort of clarify what I thought she was trying to convey (based on what she had told me), and give it some decorative, dreamlike imagery.

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And this is what we made.  She dreamt of rolling toys, and the Shcar she had created.  There’s a dragon in the top right, who carries her babies in fire.  Most of her dream is protected by a unicorn with a shield-horn that wraps around her as she sleeps.

sleep3(Consequently, the unicorn also has glitter streaming out from behind him (see those dots?), because…well, because she’s five, and glitter farts are funny.)

She was happy when she saw it finished, although it didn’t come without critique…she said I had forgotten to color the eye of the Shcar white (I later amended it for her), and that in her mind, the unicorn was actually supposed to be BLACK….but that one she was willing to overlook.

Another time, I wanted to draw her from a photo I had.  When I showed it to her, I said, “I want to make a drawing that tells a story about creativity, and how your mind thinks of wonderful things.  do you have any ideas?”  She grabbed the pen right away, and started drawing…

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She included dragons playing with her hair, dreaming of Legos.  She’s imagining the Shcar she designed.  She gave herself wolf ears, for fun.  There’s a peacock on her shoulder, disappointed because he thought her hair was worms.  And a sleeping mermaid, resting peacefully on her shoulder.  I don’t know what any of it means.  But I don’t HAVE to.  It’s her creativity, it’s her mind.  It doesn’t have to MEAN anything.

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Again, she gasped with delight when she saw how I had finished it, but again, she had critiques.  The mermaid was initially colored wrong.  It’s apparently a toy she has (I had misunderstood which one), so I corrected it.

She asked why I drew circles around her eye, and I told her I was trying to draw the idea that artists see things in a different way than some people do.  That it’s almost like having “special eyes.”

She asked me, “why do I look so sad?”  I showed her the reference photo I used, and said,  “In the picture I used, you weren’t sad,  just thinking.  I didn’t mean for it to look sad, I just meant it to look like you were thinking.”  I told her that when I was younger, people often thought I was mean because I would quietly stare off at nothing while I was thinking, and that (along with my squinting because of bad eyesight), it made people think I was annoyed when I wasn’t.  That made her laugh.  She loves stories of when I was younger…

Speaking of when I was younger, Myla once said to me, “I wish I could play with you when you were a kid. We would have so much fun.”  So I thought it’d be interesting to draw the two of us, around the same age, playing…

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Before I gave it to her, I said, “if we were kids, what kinds of things would we do?  I used to like to catch bugs, I liked dinosaurs and robots, aliens and animals.  I bet we’d ride bikes together.”  She thought that was awesome.  But the first thing she drew was the “loves” above our heads.

(Awhile back, she asked me what my “love” would look like, and I drew a heart with BIG BIG arms.  Hers was an envelope with wings to fly with you wherever you go.)

She drew our Donkey to the right, since we both have loved him for YEARS (I got him when I was around 8, and she’s had him since she was a baby).  There’s a spider catching a fly in a web below us, which we’d probably both be fascinated and grossed out by.  On the bottom left, she and I are riding bikes.  You can barely see (as my hand is nearly covering it) that she is pouting on the bike, because even as a kid, she imagines I’m probably still the boss when we ride bikes…

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Here’s the piece nearly done…

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And the final piece:  Myla and me, roughly 4 or 5, playing.  And she’s right….we’d probably have been the COOLEST of friends. (..And I’m pretty sure I’d take turns on our bikes…)

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She smiled a big smile when it was done, and had only one thing to say:  “Perfect.”

Aside from my regular face studies, in my drawings and paintings this year I’ve decided to make more of an effort to try to tap into illustrating a message, or a meaning, or a feeling.  I don’t mean a STANCE–I’ve not got any political or legal or religious statement to make in my artwork (there are others who excel magnificently in that), but more of something that means something TO ME.

I find (as an illustrator) that it’s one of the defining differences between “commercial illustration” and “painting”–I know I take things way too literally.   There is not often any deep, hidden meaning in my work, and I’m totally okay with that.  But this year, I’m going to try to tap more into what I’d have to SAY (if anything) in a painting….something I’ve never really done, unless it was a melancholy, depressing image when I was upset, like pitiful gothic teenage “woe is me” poetry.

And that’s exactly what happened with the first one I tried.  I was in a hormonal funk I couldn’t get out of.  Everyone has “down” days, but this one seemed neverending.  I had no motivation.  I wanted to cry all day FOR NO REASON.  It felt like someone handed me a huge boulder to carry as I went through the day, and it weighed down everything I did.  I had trouble really describing how crushing this feeling was.  Instead, I tried to see if drawing it might help.

It felt like pointy-beaked birds nesting in my hair.  It felt like ribbons of tears.  It felt like a dark cloud.  Still, drawing it still seemed to trivialize it a bit.  It still felt like bad teenage poetry.

I debated showing it to Myla–I didn’t want to worry her or upset her.  But when she saw it on my art desk, she asked about it.  I told her I was doing a painting about feeling sad, and was trying to show how it makes you feel.  She asked if she could add on, and why not?  She drew a dragon tangled in the hair, trying to hold on.  There are x-rays to “show what’s inside.”  And little wind-up mice, crawling all over–into the heart, chewing the hair, chewing at the bones.  She hesitantly asked if it was okay if she drew something creepy (because there’s a time and a place for creepy things, and school isn’t one of them..and also because it was my drawing and she wanted to know if it was okay), and I said of course–that it was what the drawing was about, that I was trying to show things that bother you, that upset you.  She drew the thing that creeps her out the most–zombies (which she only knows about courtesty of the halloween sections at the grocery store, and the game “Plants and Zombies,” and from a few kids at school).

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So she helped me with this one.  And to me, it seems like a stereotype…a morose self-indulgence.  Maybe I’m just uncomfortable with negative feelings.  It must’ve helped, though, because the horrible funk passed not long after.

But every new journey starts with just one little step, and that’s my goal this next year…to try to see (from time to time) if I can start with very simple, little ideas, and get them on paper, without it being all melodramatic and serious.  Not because it’s a “new year” and I have to “make a resolution” (I’ve mentioned how I feel about that)…but because I love trying new things, and it just happened to coincide with the new year.  SO there.  :)

And while I’m taking my own little journey, I’m wondering how it’ll influence Myla’s views on her own drawings.  She is VERY literal (like me).  She has an AMAZING imagination, but she’s not sure (spatially) why I have made things float around in the paintings above.  I’ve told her the idea behind why I did it that way (that I’m illustrating dreams and ideas instead of THINGS), and she’s nodded, deep in thought.  I can tell she’s mulling it over.

But I don’t think this means my artwork will get more “SERIOUS”–I think humor is a big part of what I enjoy (and not taking yourself too seriously is EXTREMELY important to me)….I just think it’ll be fun to see where digging a little deeper takes me.  Where it takes us.  Because as long as it’s fun and it’s making us happy, who CARES what it means, right?

…So what new things are YOU trying?

 

Talk About the Passion

Myla loves to create.  I’m not sure if all kids have this same sort of passion for different things, but with her and art, it doesn’t seem like just a hobby.  It’s a fierce, overwhelming, and wonderful passion.

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You can see it in her face when she has an idea.  It’s in her posture, in her body positioning.  It’s in the endless scraps of paper, staples, and tape scattered all around her feet.

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She gets an idea, and starts pacing as she thinks it through out loud, figuring out a plan, then hunches furiously over her workspace, anxious to get the idea out.  I recognize it because I do it, too.  It’s just amazing to witness in someone else.

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Sure, this means her workspace is in constant need of being cleaned & straightened up.  Sure, we have tons and tons of projects taped to the walls, stuffed in drawers and baskets, and tucked away in scrapbooks and closets.  But to me, having her be able to make an idea turn into reality, no matter how big or small, is worth every bit.

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So the first day of January, Myla woke up saying, “I had a dream about a doll I have never seen before–but in my dream, it was mine.”

She wouldn’t stop talking about it.  It overtook all conversation.

I asked her to describe it, so she rushed to her table, saying “I’ll just draw it for you.”

As she sketched it out, she asked, “could we maybe try to make it?”  I didn’t really understand what she was describing, but when I said we could try, she sketched out step-by-step instructions.

“First, a tube out of fabric.” (Most likely, this idea came from watching me make my little Dream Creeper dolls).  “Next, stuffing.  Then, wooden wheels on the bottom.  We could even use the wheels from one of my wooden racecar projects.”

It was a sort of sheep-car.  She called it a “shcar.”

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There have been times she’s had ideas that, for whatever reason, were impossible to make, and I’ve had to say no.   But when I’m able, I like to do what I can to help her make an idea come to reality.  Mostly because I know how GOOD that feels…

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And when we work on ideas like this, the general guideline is that we have to use things that we already have in the art room.  Thankfully, with a little wonky ingenuity (and after only an hour or so), we made it happen.

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It would be much easier to have said “no.”  It would have been very easy to “shush up” a kid.  To tell her to go make something on her own, to not bother you, to go play.

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But if she’s passionate about an idea, and you can help her make it happen, then wouldn’t it be nothing but good to TRY?

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So here is Shcar.

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Shcar is wonky and misshapen.  His wheels wobble.  But you know who thinks he’s awesome?  Myla does.  Because she helped create him.  And I don’t think it’s the actual DOLL that she loves as much as the idea she had that became a real thing.

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She’s shown kids at school her Shcar, but they unfortunately don’t see the magic in it that I do.  I told her it was okay–that artists see and think about things in a different way than a lot of people–like we have magic in us–and that makes people see artists as “weird.”   But honestly, I wouldn’t trade my “weird” creative brain for all the “normalcy” in the world.

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I don’t think anything but good can come out of encouraging creativity, and encouraging someone’s passion.  You have to be willing to recognize that passion and respect it, even if you don’t understand it.  You have to make room for it, and feed it so it can grow.

One of my all-time very favorite things on this (despite the “stoner” reference) comes from director Kevin Smith:

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So whatever you’re passionate about, KEEP DOING IT!  Instead of discouraging it in others, KEEP DOING IT!  And whenever you see it in someone else, whether you understand it or not, encourage them to KEEP DOING IT!

 

New Year Wishes

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I’m not really a big celebrator of New Year’s…I don’t make a point to stay up & watch the ball drop, or give a kiss at midnight.  Never have.  I don’t MEAN to be a humbug about it, I just don’t notice it.  But I do appreciate that people see the start of a new year as a new beginning; a chance to start over with something, to begin again, to try new things.  The slate seems clean, wiped away of any negativity of the past, and full of endless possibilities.

But the thing is that EVERY day is like that!  Every single day you wake up, every hour, every minute, every MOMENT…..it’s a chance for a brand new start.

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You can CHOOSE to see the bad side of things.  Negativity always speak MUCH louder than anything else.  It’s REALLY easy to find it because it speaks so loudly (especially online, amIright?).  It seems bigger, because it’s full of hot air.  But if you look a little harder, a little CLOSER, you’ll find there are “good things” EVERYWHERE.  They’re often smaller, much simpler, much harder to see, but there are infinitely WAY more of them, like the tiniest little fireflies, lighting up the whole sky for you.  And sometimes, the things that LOOK like a negative might be a positive in hiding.  It might not seem like  a positive thing in your world, but as unpleasant as it might have been, it might have HAD to be there to be a positive force in someone else’s life.

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So do what you love.  Do what you feel.  Share the things you love with the people that love you.

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You don’t have the change the whole world at once; that’s too big a challenge.  It’s too much to tackle all at once.  But you can make a BIG difference in a very big way, by starting very small.  With kindness.  With sharing.  With generosity.  With empathy.  With focusing on the positive.  With GRATITUDE for the things you DO have.

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You don’t have to pound your fists in anguish so much against the machine…just step out of its way.  Be a stone in a passing stream.  Do something small in your own world.  Do something that’s a little scary for you.  Do something different.

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Those mistakes?  They’re not always mistakes.  There’s a chance to change them, and turn them into something better, every minute of every day.

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I believe in change.  It’s solid; it’s real.  It’s a strong force that will happen whether you understand it or not.  Try to embrace it and roll with it.  It might take you places you’ve never dreamed…

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So happy new year, everyone!  But also, happy new month, happy new week, happy new day…I hope each one is better than the next one for you!

In the Belly of the Beast

New York is full of people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on the Beasties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that’s what’s going on.

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

So here’s what I’ll be showing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff Myla Says

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

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

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

I have a longstanding love of Moleskine sketchbooks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Play With Your Food!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With a pink tail and a cane.  TaDAHHHHH!

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

Anyway, it smelled good.

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

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

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

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

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

Nuudles!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And look at these teensy weensy little bats!

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

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And some other cute little critters…

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

Doodle Wars

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

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

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

It cracked her up in a cascade of giggles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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