Before anything, I want to tell you all how very much I appreciate all the wonderful comments I got on my “Pause” post last week. I was sincerely overwhelmed by all the support out there! Each and every comment was like a splash of fresh water in the middle of a marathon. It felt like smiles from new friends. It felt like a hundred hugs through my computer. People can be awesome, and there’s nothing more awesome than people being awesome to someone they don’t even really know.
For me, when the going gets tough, the tough get….drawing. And I have been drawing a lot. I wish I was the type of person that obsessively worked out and got super buff in times of stress, but I’m not. I’m quite squishy….because instead, I bury my head in sketchbooks, custom work, random doodles, and projects with the kid.
Remember those tiny sketchbooks I got a couple of weeks ago? Well, I’ve already filled one completely. And through the magic of the internet and magical blog-incantations (which I just spent some time trying to figure out), I can show you a little video of the sketches it’s filled with:
(Music by Bach)
So I’ve been drawing a lot. I’ve been working my regular job and taking care of my regular things, getting ready for a convention in Austin at the end of October, fulfilling custom portrait orders, and dealing with everyday things, and I fill every space in between with sketches.
So I thought that with my compulsive sketching surge, I’d join in on Inktober. Have you heard of Inktober? It’s basically just a drawing challenge…a drawing a day for the month of October. I usually don’t commit to something like that with the sort of random hectic schedule I keep, but I thought that if I got Myla on board (she’s six years old now), it might be a fun thing to try to stick with and see it through…
Similar to Drawloween, Intober’s subject matter is wide open. Some people have made posts with halloween-related topic suggestions (like “pumpkin,” “vampire,” “frankenstein,” etc), and some of my artist friends have made their own lists of subjects (BreakfastJones puts her own topic out every day if you want to follow along with her).
As for Myla and I, we sort of skip around. Here’s a little show of the first few days of Inktober we’ve done so far…
Day 1: Villain. I chose Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver in Kill Bill, and Myla chose Megamind.
Day 2: Beetlejuice. I drew Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, wearing a shirt of Beetlejuice (from the Howard Stern Show), and Myla drew Beetlejuice with a snake-tail and bugs in his hands (she’s never seen the movie).
Day 6: Edward Scissorhands. From the minute she saw a photo of him somewhere, Myla thought he was just the super coolest. She’s still too young to watch the movie (she’s pretty sensitive), but she gets the idea.
Day 7: Wednesday Addams. Since it was Wednesday, we HAD to draw a Wednesday! Again, she didn’t know who she was, but Myla was digging the idea of a creepy family.
So there you go. And there I still am, face-first in my sketchbook, getting through things the best way I can. Just like you are. Just like we all are. And it’s so, so good to know we’re not all alone…
I always think it seems silly to write “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to write a post this week,” as if everyone’s sitting around holding their breath, WAITING for one. It’s such a quiet, solitary task, writing these posts on my own, without real audience in mind.
But I know you’re out there. I’ve read wonderful, inspiring comments from people. Working distance from home the past 8 or so years has made me pretty solitary. I don’t talk to many people all day. I have my very good friends I text & call, and I have a wonderful family, but day-to-day is so quiet…I like it! I really do. I ENJOY time to myself; I soak it up. But since it’s so quiet, I often use the internet as an outlet; as a way to communicate. I know there are people who find wonderful things in the things I post, and I am so very grateful for those comments. That anyone would take the time to write something thoughtful means so much more than you can imagine.
The reason I started this blog was to share ideas with people, to encourage them to try new things, and not be afraid to jump in and do it, no matter what the outcome. I wanted people to know that art isn’t perfect. It takes work and practice, and sometimes even if you do the best you can possibly do, it doesn’t always turn out the way you planned it in your head…and that’s totally OKAY (and sometimes even BETTER!).
I put more pressure on myself than anyone else, I think. Don’t most of us? That makes my standards (for myself, at least) very high…sometimes unattainably high. I’ve always maintained that a positive attitude can change a LOT of things. After a lifetime full of military culture, I consider myself an “optimistic pessimist.” I live by my own Army Wife mantra: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Having such high standards for myself means I don’t like to admit when I’m having a hard time. I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking,” and it nearly makes me cry with each chapter, because it’s so absolutely FOREIGN to me. Although I have needed lots of help from time to time, my life has been all about trying to maintain self-sufficiency. It’s seemed shameful to me, to admit that I’m having a hard time, even to my family. In military culture, not being able to handle things just ISN’T AN OPTION. When my husband is deployed, I CAN’T break down–things would just fall apart for EVERYone. He would fall apart. Our family would fall apart. So you have to stay strong and hold it all together the best you can. Some duty stations, you get so very lucky (like we did in Alaska), and people pull together like family does, and we all help eachother–some even becoming lifelong friends. Some duty stations (like here), they just leave you out to dry.
In any case, I’ve always felt that spreading bad times creates more bad times. I don’t pretend they’re happy times, I usually just keep them to myself. I figure EVERYONE has rough times. Everyone’s got their own struggles. What good does it do to share mine?
But yes. It’s a hard time right now. I know it’ll pass. Bad things pass, just like the good things, so the best I can do is find gratitude wherever I can, and be thankful for what I do have. Gratitude has always gotten me through rough times.
So in the spirit of change, instead of a complaint, I’m going to send out a hope. I want to send out a hope that the ones we love know how special they are to us, and will ALWAYS know they are special to us. I want to send out a hope that things will change for the better. I want to send out a hope that we can find a way to make the things that we love touch someone else in some small special way. I want to send everyone a warm hug from many miles away, and tell each and every one: THANK YOU. Thank you so much.
I’m gonna giving myself a mulligan. Let’s try this again next week. Or in another week. Let me dust myself off and get back to you, okay? Time heals everything, and gives you new perspective. I’m looking forward to that.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So a couple of weekends ago, I had a booth at Alamo City Comic Con in San Antonio. My friend Annie helped me setup and run the booth, and despite the ENORMOUS amounts of people there (I get VERY wonky in crowds), I had a great time. I thought I’d share a little of it for you, as a vendor, to show you what it’s like!
So I sort of planned out the look of my booth around the idea of a Craft Laboratory (since I have SO many different crafty interests). So that would make me….what? The Craftician? Dr. Mockingbird? The Art Mechanic? I took my old painting smock (which, despite its look, has seen very little action) and sort of designed it with the Organic Mechanic from Mad Max: Fury Road in mind. But less….grungy. Less…organic. More CRAFTY. I attached chains to my scissors, paintbrushes, pliers, anything I’d need to do my craft thing. Here’s my craft smock on the left, and Organic on the right:
And there’s my booth (which accidentally turned out way cuter than I intended. Hm.). If I had planned it better (or knew how, exactly), I’d REALLY want it to look like one of those things that wheels into town playing calliope music and sells you snake oil and moves on to the next down? THAT sort of feel! I wish I knew how to make that happen… I had copies of our Share With Me book there, sticker and postcard packs of our collaborations, but mostly I focused on the Dream Creepers, and told people the story about how they came to be. I was playing with resin faces and made Myla a doll. She loved it and brought it places. Some little girl said disgustedly, “Ew, that’s creepy!” and Myla smiled politely and said, “well they have to be a LITTLE creepy to chase the bad dreams away.” And that’s how they came to be. I also had necklaces and pins of the little monsters, and my handpainted teeny weeny things.
People say things and forget you’re there. For three days, the number one thing I heard the most was, “Those are soooo creepy…but now I really kinda want one!” That was always sweet, and I loved to hear it. I love that little conflicted space between creepy and cute, so I totally understand that comment. I also heard a lot of “That looks just like my DOG!” Also cute. But what I also heard was a bit of very open rudeness. “That’s stupid, who would pay for THAT?” “Oh, they’re probably made it China” (despite my having written “HANDMADE” as frequently as possible). “Those are gross, put those down.” “People BUY these?!?!?!?” I mean, really–I’m standing right here. In ARTIST’S ALLEY. Which means I MADE these things. Listen, I totally get that my little creatures aren’t for everyone, but remember that thing your mom always said about not having anything nice to say….?
Handmade artisan things are not quite as appreciated at a con. I discovered that when people saw the price tag on my Dream Creeper dolls (I priced them at $60), they didn’t always see all the time and effort and handmade work that went into them. They saw a doll. And I get it–these people just paid nearly $40 a DAY to get in (not to mention if they splurged for the $200-$300 VIP packages), and they probably have specific things they already want (including meeting celebrities, which ALSO costs quite a bit), they see a doll and they only see price. I’ve seen many vendors sitting there with AMAZINGLY beautiful handmade artwork and sculptures, and hardly sell a thing. I’ve learned from my mom’s craft show days in my childhood that it’s best to have a variety of prices, so that if someone couldn’t afford something big, they’d be able to buy something small. But the crowd, often young teens and tweens, don’t have the money to spend on handmade crafts, even if they DID find them “adorably creepy.”
People LOVE to see characters they recognize. The booth next to me sold all sorts of little handmade ceramic creatures, and then had one of a cute little No-Face, from the movie Spirited Away. And all day, despite her other unique characters, all day, I heard “OH LOOK! It’s No-Face!!!” (I know, because I said it, too!) When people saw my creatures, they’d ask, “Are these the goblins from the Labyrinth?” But when they saw my little handpainted necklaces, they’d get excited, because they actually KNEW those characters. “Oh look! Dumbledore!” “Hey, it’s Davy Jones!” “Oh, is that Kahleesi?”
GUYS seem to really like my Dream Creepers. I dunno why, but often the first person to be caught by my Creepers as they walk buy is often male. Plenty of girls and women enjoyed them too, but I thought that was a funny little tidbit.
Its great to be friendly to your fellow boothmates. Not only is it great to be able to walk around and see all the booths as they set up and talk to other artists and vendors before anyone gets there, it’s super awesome to be friendly with the people in the booths around you. Listen, you have to spend three days with these people–do yourself (and them) a favor, and make friends. That way, if they need a bathroom break and don’t have someone to watch, they can ask you to keep an eye on their booth. If you’re going out, ask if they need anything. If they see something fall off of your signage, they can let you know & help you put it back up. If they break down their booth for the night and forget something, you can let them know. Good times all around!
One of the ladies from another booth bought one of my little monster puppy brooches, which went SMASHINGLY well with her steampunk outfit!
Smile and say hello. As a vendor it’s always such an awkward thing to try to guess what people want. Some people don’t want you to talk to them at all. Some people want to hear more. Most people seemed to really enjoy and appreciate everything once I told them the story of Myla and her Creeper, and how she names them all herself. I try my hardest NOT to be on my phone (unless necessary), because I always think that’s awkward when you walk up to a booth and someone’s too busy on their phone to even notice you. And since I’m not a snazzy salesman (I’ve seen some really good ones that make you WANT to buy things actually in an awesome and not creepy way) and I’m not super chatty, so I just try to look at everyone and smile and say hello. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Hey there!” “How’re you?” This is my “friendly arsenal.” It doesn’t hurt much.
When I’m not using my super-magical friendly booth-powers, I sketch. Annie had a small sketchbook, and was asking other artists to sketch in it. And since she & I were sitting there quite often, I sketched quite a lot in her sketchbook. I try to lay my book flat on the table, in case people want to see what I’m drawing, because I don’t mind it at all, and sometimes it sparks a bit of conversation. I try to look up quite often, so people can see I’m still engaged in my booth. I even got a blank Mad Max comic cover (it has an actual comic inside, but they put a blank cover on it specifically for artists to create their own custom covers, and then some artists sell them…But not me, because: MINE).
So even as a vendor running a booth, I still got to enjoy one of my favorite parts of a Comic Con: the COSPLAY! I absolutely LOVE that people get crafty and make their own costumes, and love it even MORE when they mix it up.
I chased this little punk Ariel all over to get a picture, and finally nabbed her. She has Flounder in a net on her trident, and her crown was spectacular. This version of Flash (with Wonder Woman) had some whole routine that drew a crowd, because he had a yellow thong-thing around the back that made people laugh as he posed for photos.
This lady did a spot-on Goblin King with the stolen baby from the Labyrinth (even recreating Jareth’s awkward…um…”bulge.”) And Frodo posed with his Ring. His little feet were flip-flops with plastic hairy feet on top!
This Hawkgirl had a very impressive wingspan. And look, a lady Totoro!! She has the ears and little leaf on her head, and under her dress were attached several little soot sprites. So cute!
Jerry’s Artarama had a booth that demo’d bodypainting, hence the lady Predator. And here’s a VERY fancy lady in a beautiful and extremely ornate costume (who I thought was queen of hearts, but maybe now I’m thinking Joker?).
This cute couple dressed as Ghostbusters, and had their kid cleverly strapped on the back as one of the proton packs.
While walking around one of the days, I heard a very familiar “EXTERMINATE!!!” and turned around barely JUST in time to take a quick pic from behind of a CARDBOARD dalek from Dr. Who! People are so creative. (There’s the one from the show on the right)
And I practically YELLED at these two to stop and take a picture because OMG GENDER-SWAPPED MAD MAX AND NUX!!!
She had pretty amazing detail going on her costume, even down to the leg brace (which people often overlook) and her face muzzle was pretty realistic. And Nux had some great fake scars on his chest (the V8 “scar tattoo” from the movie). The chain with the bloodline attached was the icing. So shiny! So chrome!
And look! SPACEBALLS!!! Is that not a pretty hilariously awesome Barf?
There were SO many great costumes, but THIS girl blew me away. She came ALL three days in THREE different costumes she built herself. The first day, she was Lady Loki. The second, day, standing in line for Ron Perlman, I saw a Hellgirl and thought “she looks familiar…” Until we realized it was Lady Loki from the day before!!! She got a photo with Perlman in her Hellgirl costume, how cool is THAT?!?! And the last day (although my photo doesn’t do it justice), she threw on a last-minute Bellatrix costume from Harry Potter. She told us she was part of a cosplay group that dresses up and visits kids in schools & hospitals, and I wish I knew how to reach her so I could give her a long-distance hug for all-out awesomeness.
Anyway (because this post isn’t QUITE long enough yet), Annie had signed us up to get a photo with Ron Perlman (of all the great things he’s been in, one of my very favorite movies of all time has him in it: City of Lost Children). So I doodled him in her sketchbook while we sat at my booth. He has SUCH great lines in his face!!! Some people have bad feelings about their own lines, but they sure do tell a person’s story in a sketch…
But some of these photo meetings are a big rush job. Celebrities are part of the fun of ComicCons, and they charge different prices for photos or autographs (often in separate lines for separate fees). After waiting nearly an hour in our Perlman line, we were rushed in, and in the span of about 15 seconds, we were sort of shoved up against Ron, and ushered directly out. I had barely enough time to shake his hand and say “thank you so much,” which is why look completely unprepared and derpy in this photo. I mean, what is this face? Where is my neck? I didn’t even get a chance to show him my drawing of him as One with Miette, or the drawing of Hellboy at the petshop that Myla and I did. Poop.
In my experience, the better opportunity is to get something signed, because at least then you get to talk to the person for a bit. And if you’re going to meet anyone, a good bang for your buck (in my very limited experience) is Michael Rooker (Merle from Walking Dead, and Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy). I met him last year at Wizard World in Austin. He’s so super friendly to everyone, talks to you like you’re old friends, and makes you all around laugh. He’s got that Southern gentlemen swagger with a whole mess of cocky, but it sure does crack you up. Annie met him, got this drawing signed that I had given her of him as Merle from The Walking Dead. According to Annie, he said, “Did a girl or a guy draw this?” and when Annie answered a girl, he said, “Ah! Girls always seem to draw me much more better lookin’ than I am. Hahah!” He got a kick out of it.
And of course, EVERRRRRYONE wanted to meet Stan Lee, aka Stan the Man. Stan Lee CREATED all the superheroes everyone loves. He practically INVENTED the whole superhero genre, and he’s in his 90s, and he’s still coming to these things and meeting people! Thankfully (for him), they seemed to make it pretty painless for him, keeping him seated most of the time, and blocked off so that he wasn’t bombarded or overwhelmed. Neither Annie or I went to go see him (he was by far one of the most expensive guests to see, understandably), but she snapped this photo from quite a ways away. Still, good for him.
So there you go. That’s pretty much the whole experience of the convention, from my point of view at my artist’s booth! Myla and my mom came to visit the third day, but the experience was a bit overwhelming for Myla, I think, and after a little shopping and bouncehouse shenanigans, it wasn’t long before my poor mom had to drive her the two and a half hours back home. Poor girl was worn out.
And so was I!! I haven’t been to many cons, and the couple I’ve been to, I’ve been to as a vendor. I like walking around and meeting other artists and vendors before it’s open so there’s not a huge crowd. I like sitting at my little table and meeting people. I like talking about my work, and hearing stories from other people about their work, and I love seeing all the cosplay creativity. But it sure does wipe you out!
(this is me early during and at the END of the 3-day con)…
In any case, I’m going to do one more this year: I signed up last minute for Wizard World in Austin Oct 30 – 31. It’s a short one, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.
AND OMG you guys, if all goes well and the stars align, I’m going to be meeting CARROLL SPINNEY (who puppetted Big Bird and Oscar from the Muppets)!!! (“I Am Big Bird” was such a GREAT documentary…) I am such a huge fan, and Henson and the Muppets have been such a HUGE inspiration that I might possibly babble incoherently and cry. I am hoping to talk to him and thank him and chat a minute. I am hoping he doesn’t cancel. (Hey, other people have their superheroes, I have mine…hahah!)
Myla’s going to be there the second day, dressed as James from Team Rocket (she’s WAYYYY into Pokemon right now). So if you’re anywhere near there, and you’d like to celebrate Halloween surrounded by cool costumes and great gear, COME SEE MEEEEEE!!!!
PS: Mike Tyson will be one of the celebrities there. Weird, huh? I’m afraid if he ever saw this (very very old) caricature I did, he may rip off my ears with his teeth, so SHHHHHH let’s just keep that between us…AUUUUUGHGGHGHGHHHH!!!!!
I’m unpacking (mentally and physically) from the 3-day ComicCon, and I’ve got a lot of cool photos to share from it. For now, I’ll mention a fun little aside that came from it.
One of the best things about conventions is meeting other people. I’m not so good at the “walking up and making small talk” thing, but I really really enjoy one-on-one connections, and a booth gives you a great chance for that.
So the first day of the Con, a guy named Kenneth Rocafort walked up and said he enjoyed my artwork, and that he had a table set up in the Artists’ Alley, and also that he works for Marvel or something. No big deal. :P He talked about how much he loves drawing in sketchbooks and tries to just draw a little every day. Then he pulled out his little tiny sketchbook, and I was blown away:
It reminded me (in a different way) of the sketchbook diaries I used to do, ages ago…
And although I draw every day ANYway, I thought that was a good habit to get back into; maybe carrying a little book around, and not making it so “precious.” Just drawing whatever I wanted, just for fun.
My friend Annie had come to the show to help with my booth, and–inspired by Kenneth’s tiny sketchbook–brought a little sketchbook, and was asking artists to draw in it. Usually artists at conventions will do this for a fee, but some will do it just for the fun of doing it.
Since we had watched Mad Max: Fury Road in 3D at her house the night before, I drew her a little Furiosa and Nux to kick things off:
Later, I added a Ron Perlman (since we were going to meet him for a photo later):
When we met him for the photo, we were ushered in there, snapped, and then ushered out. The whole thing took about two minutes (if that). I didn’t get a chance to show him the Hellboy drawing that Myla and I had done, or the drawing I did of him as One from one of my all-time favorite movies, City of Lost Children. But I DID get this derpy photo of me, unready for the camera, surprised at how normal-sized he was (I imagined 9 feet tall, at least), and making the most unintentionally goofy face, while everyone else looked great:
(I mean, what is that face? Really? Where is my neck? I don’t think I’ve ever even made that face before. I didn’t even have time to be awestruck or anything, so that face was more of a “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY HANDS”…..)
The day after the convention, my mom and I went to the craft store, and I found these cool little watercolor sketchbooks on sale, and thought I’d try one.
It was longer & thinner, which would make for a more awkward drawing space, which I found to be a fun challenge. That night, while my mom & I watched movies, I doodled Myla and some autumn moths in a pair of antlers.
Anyway, I liked the sketchbook so much, I went back and got more because they were on sale and they were trying to get rid of them. So don’t try to find them at the store in Killeen, Texas, because they’re all gone, I got them. I couldn’t help it, and I don’t even really feel bad about it at all, because they’re awesome, and there weren’t very many of them anyway. Sorry.
My mom had been giving herself a “drawing a day” challenge to get back into her own artwork, and bought she and my dad one, hoping to get him on board. I know another friend, who does amazing things with those drawing prompt books… (I’m talking about you, Kendyl…) I bought one of those books one time, and only ever drew one thing in it: a bulldog in a monocle. So there’s also that.
I drew Tuna from @tunameltsmyheart…do you know Tuna? His little face makes me smile. Anyway, there was a contest or a thing about drawing him, and this is what I drew. Because: TEETH. Tuna is all about that mug.
I wanted to draw more faces, so I drew a page of Rosanna Arquette….because why not? She’s got a cool face, cool lines, and her face always tells a great story…
Apparently, though, she saw it on Instagram and didn’t really like it….
And that’s okay, because you know what? I didn’t draw it for her, I drew it for me. I love her lines, and if she’s not comfortable with my version of her lines, that’s alright with me. (sniff). Of course, I’d have loved her to love it, but the thing that makes me enjoy making art is not whether or not someone else likes or doesn’t like it…even someone famous.
Because I learn from each one, and that experience is inexchangeable (that’s a word I just created. You’re welcome to use it). I learn something new and nonverbal each time I doodle, and that’s why the end result doesn’t matter. I used to hate people to look through my sketchbook if it was full of false starts. I wanted to say, “NO! I’m better than that wonky eye I scratched out!”
But it doesn’t matter. I HAD to draw that wonky eye to learn. All the struggles, all the mess-ups….at least it’s a STEP, right? You have to make those mistakes to show yourself, “nope. That’s not the way. Let’s try this way.”
So don’t be afraid of criticism or judgement. Don’t take that criticism seriously. They’re looking at the front steps without walking into the house. It gets better the further you go. You just have to PRACTICE it….
So here’s to new sketchbooks–hooray!
I am an “illustrator.” I draw what I like to see, and there’s usually not any “deep” or lofty meaning behind any of it. It’s nearly always taken best with a good sense of humor, never with a serious face.
But lately, I’ve been trying out a few things that mean something. And since I’m usually so bad at it, I thought I’d sort of go through my thought process, in case anyone else was having trouble connecting those same dots…
There was that time when our daughter was going through a thing. You know those things? Where they’re nearly insufferable, and they make you crazy because you don’t know how to handle it, and the way you’re handling it isn’t working?
Well, I was trying to describe to myself how that FELT. It felt like holding too tightly to too many wild, flapping things, flapping in that aggressively frantic way wild animals act when they’re scared. It felt like I was trying to explain too many things in too much detail, and none of it was taking any hold. It was going skyward, it wasn’t making any sense to this wild, frantic creature. It felt like I had lost my way, and couldn’t even tell from the stars which way to go. And this is what came out (I called it “A Very Bad Day”):
And that felt good. Much better than words.
And as the days went on, I felt like I had sort of found my general shape, but I was torn into so many different directions, in so many different ways. I was having trouble focusing on priorities, because EVERYTHING seemed like a priority, and everything needed attention. And yet nothing was working the way I wanted it to work. It was hard–It would be SO much easier if you just didn’t CARE, wouldn’t it? But I wasn’t going to give up.
So I drew this, and added this line to describe it: “We’ll get through this, one screaming monkey at a time…”
After a bit, I became more comfortable with the chaos, and just sort of settled in. I thought of Ren’s maddening laugh in Ren & Stimpy’s “Space Madness.” You know–the kind in cartoons where someone straight up loses their mind? Yeah that. That’s what it felt like. Like I didn’t know who was more crazy… And that’s like a hyena laugh, right?? That crazy animal giggle because as hard as you’re trying, it’s NOT WORKING and it seems like you’ve tried everything…
So that’s where this one came from…not so much a title as a statement: “You have to keep a sense of humor about these things…”
After a bit longer, things start to settle down a little. What’s so frustrating is that we’re trying to keep a handle on everything, do the best we can, and raise a happy, healthy kid, and she WON’T LET US. All that stuff my parents said about it “being harder on me than it is you,” is true, and I was only JUST realizing that.
And yet, even after all of that, I can look at that sweet little person (usually when she’s asleep) and remember why we’re struggling so hard. Because she’s special and amazing and wonderful. I thought of those wild things, all primitive and clumsy, and how they still survived for years and years without much effort at all…Because you have to protect the Delicate Things…
I thought of how much attention we give to this one little tiny thing that has such a HUGE impact on our world, and how all you want to do is love it and hug it, and sometimes it just doesn’t WANT that. I thought of two or three or four grown adults and the hoops they jump through for a crying baby or a restless toddler on an airplane, because they just want to calm and comfort that spiny little thing…but sometimes it HAS to pull away. I thought of a mother lion, and all these very attentive hands doing their best to cuddle this small, prickly, spiny creature….
I called it “Attempting to cuddle the crankies…”
Around this time, I had an experience that reminded me to breathe…that reminded me that I had no control over anything, no matter how hard I bash my head against the wall. That I could do everything that I considered “right” ALL the time (which I realize is impossible), and things could still go terribly wrong. There is no REAL control. And keeping it all in and pretending it’s all fine doesn’t help anyone.
And I thought I would try to describe that feeling of bottling everything in…
And this, as silly as it sounds, is one of the most special things I’ve painted because I was able to get out in a drawing almost exactly how I feel. I wrote this thought down, because it came to me so clearly, like a meditation: “Breeeeeathe deeply. Then push it all down low and tighten it all up inside…Maintain what awkward poise you possess simply for the sake of appearances. And keep as calm as a Hindu cow…”
And that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Not a very good way to behave. I thought of all these unpleasant things, these things that weigh on me, that poke and grab at me in a huge dustcloud of shadows, and how I keep telling myself that there’s no time for them right now….that they’re not important enough to spend time on. I thought of them like a corset, giving the false appearance of control, while simultaneously NOT ALLOWING ME TO BREATHE. I thought of trying to cram all that stuff inside while trying to keep strong for everyone else. While trying not to make waves. While trying not to be a burden to anyone. While trying to take care of everyone else. While trying to manage everything and keep it all going. While keeping a calm, brave face because with all that stuff going on, there’s no room for anything else.
And I thought of how painful and harmful and isolating that is…
And I’m working on that.
And it might not look like much, but it was one of the few times I’ve been able to connect those dots–to help my hands get out what’s in my mind. And it helps make things feel a little better.
Art does that for me. Usually, just the act of drawing something (even if I’m emotionally unattached to it) is fairly meditative and calming.
But for some people, it’s cooking, it’s sculpting, it’s reading, it’s whatever. So what connects your dots?
Kid time is the BEST time for messes…
And drawing on yourself! Sadly, Myla’s school doesn’t allow for crazy hair color and excessive temporary tattoos (weird, huh?). So summertime was a GREAT time to do all that. And even best is when everyone else gets involved, too. At our house, family visits usually mean the markers come out at some point, and Myla offers everyone some “ink.”
I’ve always loved how well our whole family (on Matt’s side and on mine) have always been so cooperative about getting all markered up. This last visit, she got her cousin involved, and they even made a “menu” (unlike the old days, when she used to just draw whatever she wanted on you).
It always reminds me of how ages ago, Myla & I had tried printing some of our own designs on tattoo paper….
So recently, when a sister-run company called Inky & Bear asked me if I’d like to try out some of their beautifully hand-illustrated temporary tattoos, I said “HECK YEAH!” When our Inky & Bear tattoos came, we had a blast figuring out where to put them on. Myla chose a lovely little mermaid, and a sweet lil’ narwhal for her arms.
And, like with most things, Myla always has a great way to kick it up a notch. This time, by asking me to draw all sorts of sea creatures on her to go along with the nautical theme. I doodled them out in ballpoint and she even added a little creature on her own hand.
She added onto my already-existing real tattoos (and an Inky & Bear mermaid), with a little dancing Donkey doodle. (Do you know the story of Donkey?)
Angsty Disclaimer: Everytime I do a post about drawing on yourself, I get comments asking if I’m worried about the toxicity and danger of inks soaking into skin. My response to that is that if you’re worried about it, don’t do it. As for me, I’m not going to leave them on me or my daughter’s skin for very long, so it’s fine. Artist Jodi Steel draws amazing drawings on herself and her friends with Sharpie Markers, and washes it off with coconut oil (and then gets a lot of nasty comments by people telling her she’s poisoning her OWN skin). It’s temporary. It washes off. And ultimately, it’s not your skin, right?. In my opinion, there is just as much danger of chemicals eating non-organic fruit or junk food–all fine in moderation. But if it doesn’t sound right for you, don’t do it. Go get some nontoxic facepaints and try doing the same thing, except with paints! So take a deep breath, take it easy, get creative, and have a little messy fun!
Now that the monkey’s a bit older, she tends to take over and tweak her own ideas for projects. It’s been a while since I set something up with a fairly specific goal in mind, but since first grade (with all its new rules) is about to start and we’ve been working on following instructions (WITHOUT complaining), I decided to set up a project using pretty much things I had around the house.
So I decided we’d make some monster masks.
When she came home from summer daycare, I had it all laid out on the kitchen table, ready to go: glue, sparkles, google eyes, puffballs, foam, washable paints, scissors, tape, construction paper, some scraps of fur from my monster dolls, and a couple of cardboard boxes from the recycle bin. The key here is to set it up so that it’s stress-free, and you’re not worrying about paint splashing onto nice things, so I laid out a tablecloth, and put a messy shirt for her to change into. A little prep work, and making messes isn’t so bad.
She was excited right away, and started making her own ideas up, which is usually okay, but as I said, we’re working on following directions–so I asked her if she could start by painting the boxes, and THEN we could decorate them. I tried to work a little ahead of her, so she could see what I was going for. (In hindsight, it might’ve helped for her to see a final version to shoot for, but ain’t nobody got time f’that. That would’ve meant either that I’d be doing a kid project twice, or that she’d be doing it on her own while looking at my final piece, and for me, the purpose is to do it TOGETHER.)
So we painted and decorated… and since she’s pretty fast, BOOM–she was finished with her monster “mask” in no time! I love that she made a little unicorn horn. The funny thing is that I had THOUGHT I’d make a horn, but didn’t get a chance before she beat me to it…
Last year, before the beginning of preschool, we performed the ritual of Gathering New School Supplies. I know getting new school supplies is fun, but the most fun (probably for me) is getting a new backpack and lunchbox. So I asked Myla what sort of backpack she wanted, and without hesitation, she insisted “NIGHTCRAWLER.”
She had first seen him during a kid’s Superhero Summer Camp, where she was introduced to X-Men Evolution–a Saturday-Morning-style cartoon, apparently about the teenage versions of some of the X-men. Kurt (aka: Nightcrawler) was goofy, jokey, silly and had a tail. She loved him instantly.
But since the X-Men aren’t really the height of current backpack fashion–let alone a Nightcrawler version–we decided to make our own. I ordered a cheap plain navy blue backpack from Amazon, and I got out some acrylic craft paints. I let her paint the main portion of it (since she practically begged me).
And she was ecstatic. She was so proud of that obscure backpack! I tried to casually prepare her for strange looks by telling her that most kids might not know who Nightcrawler was, and she said, “Well, I’ll just have to teach them.” I had some red puffy paint, so I added the “circle x” X-men symbol on each side, and although no kid in school knew who he was, she was so willing and happy to tell them all about the wonders of Nightcrawler.
Her Nightcrawler obsession lasted for quite awhile. We even turned her into Nightcrawler for Halloween…
Sadly, the cheaply-bought backpack was short-lived, as the zipper on it died before the school year ended, so it was promptly replaced with a Ninja Turtle-shell backpack (strange choice, since she’s never even WATCHED the Ninja Turtles…but she thought the turtle shell was cool). Ah, the fickle obsessions of a kid.
Her interests have evolved as quickly as the X-Men’s powers, and Kurt has now paved the way for Minecraft, Phineas and Ferb, and all kinds of other creatures. But I know she’ll always have a soft spot for Nightcrawler.
In any case, if your kid (or you) has a great love of a character you know will never be seen on the school supply shelves of your local stores, painting one on might be a good option! Or if painting skills aren’t your thing, there are iron-ons, patches, and transfers you can order online or get at the craft store.
And for all of you that have kids starting new adventures, good luck, and happy school year!
The constant juggle of too many screaming issues fighting for attention all at once, feathers flying, stormclouds brewing, and the discussion of too many things that were most likely beyond her concept. She’s at an age where she wants desperately to be a big kid (and sometimes I think she is) but with the added frustration of the fact that she still is a little kid, and is starting to question everything, challenge everything, argue with everything.
This is apparently normal. This is apparently something nearly all kids go through. Apparently, it will pass.
A friend once told me that you WANT them to have those skills when they’re older, but you want them to wait til they’re older to USE those skills, and you definitely don’t want them to use them on you! Totally true. Aren’t we the ones teaching her curiosity, standing up to perceived injustices, sticking up for the things she wants, and discovering and deciding her own truth for herself?
Hmf. Well, it’s all well and good, but respect and politeness are also mandatory if you want to have any sort of ability to communicate with people in the general population.
I tell her quite often that it’s part of our job to make sure she doesn’t turn into a stinky ol’ Veruca…
In any case, it’s a raven-juggling sort of week. It’s a phase, I know. For the time being, someone has mind-swapped my sweet little baby kid with an angst-ridden, cranky teenager. I’m not ready for the teen years yet!!–I’d like my sweet little 6-year old back, please! :)
So I’m off to do projects, spend a little one-on-one time with her doing some of our favorite things, and hopefully not lose all my hair in frustration.
From time to time, artists like to offer custom work. Some artists are super comfortable with this, and some are not. For the most part, I LOVE being able to make a wonderful memory for someone, or to be the gift someone gives to someone else. I love when people give me the creative freedom to do what I think will look best. But there is also an amount of anxiety about the possibility of disappointing the client.
Not so funny (but true) story: when I was about 14, I worked in a t-shirt shop after school. One day, a man came in with a tiny, stamp-sized photo of his toddler, and asked (since he had seen my airbrushed portraits) if I’d be willing to do a canvas portrait for him. I did the best I could with this tiny tiny photo, and when he came to pick it up, I felt I had done as good a job as I could do with what I had been given, because DANG I could barely see what was going on. (Also, I was only 14.) He took one look at the portrait and said, “It looks like the photo, but it doesn’t look like my son,” and refused to pay me for the work. I have been slightly intimidated ever since.
Portrait of the amazing portrait artist Maria Bjornbom Oberg (Bokkei). Talk about intimidating!
But since faces are my very favorite thing to paint, we’ll fast forward a million years, to a few months ago…where, after a little encouragement, I offered some portrait work up on Instagram, and was very surprised to have gotten an enormous amount of positive response from clients. People trusted in my creative freedom, and I really enjoyed every one that I worked on! I liked it so much, I was thinking I would offer custom portraits again….at least for a little while.
So as a courtesy, I thought I’d write down a few things that make custom work easier across the board, for both the artist (at least, in my experience) and the customer:
- Send great reference photos. If you want a portrait of your daughter, send a few closeup pictures of her. Don’t send a tiny shot of her in a large group of people–I can’t see her! Send your favorite photos of just her (if you can). Some editing can be done, of course (I have “removed” braces, changed hair color, added and removed items, added pets and favorite things, and changed the setting), but I can’t SEE the person’s face in a large group of people. Keep in mind that I don’t KNOW this person, so the subtle things about their face are unfamiliar to me. The more photos you send of this person, the better. I need clear shots (great, natural lighting is best) and I need a variety to choose from. I always do my best to work from a favorite photo, but it might not work as a reference without the “backup” of a few more photos. It sounds silly, but a variety of photos actually help me “feel” the personality of the person more.
- Mention a little a bit about the subject. If it’s a daughter (or your dog, for that matter)—what does she like to do? Does she have a favorite toy, or place to play? This helps me come up with things that help make the portrait more personal and more fun.
- Expect to pay half up front to hold your spot. For me, portraits range anywhere from roughly $150-500, depending on what a client wants, and I accept payment either in half or full via paypal. This holds a spot in line, so that when I finish one, I can start right on the next without having to worry about collecting initial payments, or trying to figure out who’s serious or not. The portrait is mailed out when I finish the work, the client is happy with the piece, and the final payment is paid. Yay!
- By all means, please share ideas with the artist (I LOVE that!), but artists usually work best when you leave a bit of wiggle room to be creative. I’m sure it’s probably intimidating to pay an artist and not be sure what EXACTLY you’re getting, but funny things happen when you get TOO involved. I love when someone can steer me to an idea of what they “see” when they imagine what the final piece will look like, but also allow me the freedom to do what I feel will look best. If I have a completely strange idea I’m not sure the client will jive with, I always ask them first.
- Mention anything that might make it more special. I nearly always post progress shots on instagram (unless I’m asked not to), but I always send a rough shot of the under-sketch to see what I’ve got laid out before I start painting. This is the time to ask for final changes or add things, or take things away. Keep in mind, it ALWAYS looks wonky at this stage. The sketch for me is like “notes” on what I plan to do with the color when I paint it, so people have to sort of use their “magic eyes,” or just trust in the final piece.
- It helps to know if there’s a timeline to consider. Otherwise, I go down the list in order of who came first. I’m pretty darn fast, but it takes some time to get to through the list if there are people ahead, so it may take a few months.
One of the first custom portraits I did this past year of the lovely Ms Kitty Noir, and all her lovely cats.
- I don’t offer collaborative pieces with our daughter. I know I’ve mentioned it before, and people have asked, but I’m sorry I won’t. I do have our collaborations up as prints on Society6, but I don’t allow custom ones. She enjoys it for fun, but as I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I can’t take something she loves and make her do it a certain specific way at age 6. Putting limitations and restrictions on something someone loves–that’s a sure way to get someone to stop doing something for good!
- Please don’t mind me posting my “extra” drawings! If someone is anxiously awaiting their turn, is following me on Instagram, and sees me post a Pulp Fiction doodle, It’s just that I took the night off to clear my head. I promise you, this will only make the portraits better, because it ensures I will not burn out. I have a day job, and then my late afternoons and evenings are spent with our daughter, and if I don’t get anytime daytime paint time, this leaves me with only a couple of precious hours at night after the kid is in bed to paint before I pass out in exhaustion at the end of the day. I love painting and drawing, and I really enjoy portrait work, but sometimes, I need to draw something just for me, for fun. Like having a drink or taking a bubble bath after a long day, it sort of cleanses the palate for me. I often feel guilty for it, when I know I have portraits to do, but honestly, it helps me feel refreshed for the next portrait.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for something strange! I enjoy strange and different!
- If you have a particular style you like best that I’ve done, please let me know! I had a client who enjoyed the “Stuff Myla Says” series I work on from time to time:
…And we did a similar piece of her young daughter, and a sweet little saying she had said:
So there you go. A bit of a list, but I think it’s a list of things people wonder about when they ask for a custom portrait, and things that could make the process go a little more smoothly. Many times, people I work with have never had a custom portrait made before, and don’t know where to even begin. I’m not sure how it works for other artists, but I hope this helps give an idea of how it sort of works with me.
I have painted memorial pieces for loved ones that have passed away, as well as peoples’ beloved pets. I have painted children and babies, and all kids of animals. I feel lucky that I get to create something wonderful that people can enjoy in their home for many years.
So there it is: for a time, I’ll be offering custom portraits! So if you’re interested, please email me at email@example.com, and I’ll send you a price breakdown and other information. Here’s hoping to hear from you!