Okay, so I’ve been really sick lately. It was bound to happen.
I was lucky enough that when my husband was deployed the first time and our daughter was in her Terrible Twos–with tantrums, teething, and terrors at night, and all sorts of terrific things–to have avoided the plague that crept around other peoples’ houses. If someone had the sniffles, I avoided them completely, and my efforts paid off: for that entire year, I was lucky enough to have avoided injury–either from roller derby practice, or the calamities of the common cold.
When your spouse is deployed, being sick is sort of like getting shot in the back as you’re running away from the enemy. “AUUUUGH, they got me! Save yourself!” you scream, as you fall dramatically to the ground, like in a scene from a Vietnam War movie.
Okay, well. That’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea: when you’re the sole person having to take care of the kid and the dogs and the bills and the house and school and appointments and everything and you’re suddenly out of commission…things can go from bad to worse really fast.
Our kid is an only child, and because she is, my only complaint about her has ever been that she has trouble playing on her own. It’s not her fault, really–being isolated indoors in the frozen temperatures of Alaska for most of her early childhood, I was her constant companion. I get it. So I worried when I was sick, that this would be an issue. But this kid is CONSTANTLY surprising me.
“Mama is very sick,” I croaked, because my voice would only allow a raspy whisper (another dangerous disability when you’ve got a small kid who usually needs constant vocal supervision). “Can you help me by playing on your own?” And to my surprise, she did. And there was much rejoicing.
And here’s where you have to “let go” a bit, and take care of yourself. Forget what the house looks like right now. Forget the mess, forget the dishes. We dragged out the Legos, and dumped them on the living room floor. I put a tablecloth on the coffee table, and dumped a bunch of crafts on it. Things that didn’t need much supervision, like stickers and elmer’s glue and washable paint, kid-scissors, and construction paper.
Also, a friend had just cleaned out her craft room and sent us a LOT of craft things, so that kept her busy awhile, too, and required minimal supervision…
I let her drop the Alka-Seltzer Cold tablets into water and watch them fizz, which made her feel very important. And she had fun giving me a spoonful of honey (especially when she got a little spoon for herself).
And OH! The TV! Our daughter will only watch two movies right now (she’s going through a phase where she’s afraid of “bad guys,” and won’t watch anything with bad guys in it. Um…they ALL have bad guys), so all she’ll watch is the Croods and Frozen. So we watched them over and over and over. And I didn’t really mind, because she was busying herself doing crafts, singing the songs, and keeping herself occupied while I lay all day on the couch and rested.
When I was feeling a bit better, I kept her busy with another project: I printed off some photos (mainly of myself, because hey–I can take a joke) on cardstock and told her she could paint whatever she wanted on them. Her eyes lit up.
I drew a little with her to sort of give her some ideas, and turned myself into a strangely decorated peacock or something (not at all influenced by my foggy flu delirium, I’m sure). She turned me into a purple cat.
Didn’t take much energy on my part, and I was still spending time with her. I only did one, and she got the hang of it herself.
She asked for more, and entertained herself for a couple of hours, just painting and drawing on the printouts while we watched movies.
When it’s just me and her, I can’t really lie down and take a nap. But I found I can let myself rest a little as long as she’s touching me somehow. So I lie on the couch or in bed, and she sits near my legs and plays Ipad games. This works for as long as I have physical contact with her–unfortunately, as soon as she’s up, I’m up. That’s how my mama brain works. Thankfully, the kid was WONDERFUL this past weekend and I was so very grateful for it. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have worked when she was two…
I have some issues with feeling like I need to have a handle on ALL things ALL the time. But I can’t help it–with military life, I often HAVE to, so I have trouble letting that go when I’m sick. But I forget sometimes to take care of myself. For example, it took a call from my husband from Afghanistan to remind me to get a specific medicine, since I often get overwhelmed and forget it.
But being sick, it’s OKAY to let things go that don’t matter: that laundry can wait. No one cares what your dishes look like. So your kid’s been in her pajamas all day? I’m sure she doesn’t mind. So we spent the whole weekend with the TV on? We’ll live. There are worse things out there than Sprout TV. Are you feeling guilty for not spending quality time with your kid? I’m pretty sure, with all the things in our life that we do, this one weekend of laying around the house will not affect her in a negative way. Even Supermom needs some rest.
I tell myself all this stuff because when I’m in the moment, I have trouble believing it. But it really is OKAY. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do just to get by. As long as you’re not neglecting anyone’s basic needs, the rest can wait til you feel better.
Anyway, that’s what happens in our house when Mama’s sick and it’s just us. What do you do? Do you have any special magic tricks for feeling better and keeping the kids entertained?
Sometimes I see a project from another site that I just can’t help trying myself. This one comes directly from Molly Moo Crafts, and when I first saw the little wooden bead necklace she made for her daughter I did an inner squee, and had to give it a try.
Isn’t it super cute? I TOLD you it was super cute.
So I showed the munchkin, and she liked it a lot…but, as usual, her imagination got carried away as she started making mental customizations. “Maybe you could make me a Batman one,” she said. “Or Robin. Or some monsters or creatures or something. Could you make me a pirate giraffe?”
As is often the case, a simple idea, when presented to her, goes in a multitude of directions. So, following her creative lead (as I often do), I gathered my supplies (wooden beads, string, and paint), and made her a gosh-darn pirate giraffe (she requested the additional neck bead, which is a pretty cool idea, actually), although his face & nose don’t really lend themselves well to a sphere-shape…
On Molly Moo’s tutorial, she glues the beads in place, but I thought it’d be pretty cool to leave them all separate and have fun interchanging them each day. I basically just took a strand, tied a knot in the end, and you can slip the different ones down each day.
We made a panda for a friend…
And the munchkin requested her own version, but as a pirate…(I don’t know what the deal is with pirates lately. She’s really not THAT into pirates.)
And, as always, the obligatory C-3PO. Have I mentioned our daughter is madly in love with C-3PO? She is. Which is probably why she wasn’t so impressed by this one. “Um…Mom, he’s too round and he doesn’t have arms & legs.” Jeesh! Everyone’s a critic.
So it seems like a super easy, super fun project, right? Well, if there’s a way to mess a project up, I can find it. At the craft store, I accidentally bought the beads that already have a shiny gloss on them, which I painted on top of, and sealed with varnish spray. I didn’t think it’d be a problem, but after one day with a 4-year old, that thing looked like it had been battle-born and bruised, it was so messed up, scuffed, and dirty. I finally went back to the store and got the plain ones…
These new beads required a smaller string, since the holes were smaller. Worried about the knot slipping through the bottom bead hole (it happened with the thicker rope, too), I put a button down first. I’m sure you could do way cuter bead things, but this is what I came up with about 10 minutes before we had to leave for school. I also didn’t get a chance to varnish it. Surprisingly, though, it came home with her from school fairly unscathed!
So there you have it! A wonderfully simple project directly inspired by Molly Moo Crafts! There are so many fun things you could do with these, and the kids in her class have fun looking at the different sides of the faces of the newest one. The teacher even asked about it, so I’m sure they’d make GREAT teacher gifts! So grab some beads and some string, some paint or some markers, and see what happens!
I have a new favorite hobby: I’ve been pausing the shows I watch. That doesn’t sound like much, right? Well, I’ll tell you a little story about that…
Once upon a time, a million ages ago, when I was an artsy kid, I didn’t have much for artistic references besides what I found in my local library and Teen Beat magazines. This was the Stone Age, so I couldn’t just google what I was looking for; there was no internet. Can you imagine the horror?
I remember really once wanting to draw Kiefer Sutherland from one of my favorite movies at the time, Lost Boys, and not having much to go off of besides the cover of the video (Yes, I said “video.” For you young’uns, that’s like ancient technology, pre-DVD, streaming video, and BR…). I often rented movies from the library only because they kept the actual cover jackets to the film tucked in the case (unlike movie rental stores, who just printed the title with their own blank logo). THIS meant that if I strained my eyes very very very carefully, I might be able to draw one of the pictures or characters from the movie that was printed on the back.
Another fun task was trying to pause the movie at a particular scene, hoping to catch the actor in a certain pose. Here’s a funny thing about pausing a movie in the 80s that is pretty much irrelevant these days: imagine when you pause a show, there is about a 5-second response time from the time you push the button to the time it actually freezes…which is a long time when you’re trying to pause it right in a very specific spot. Imagine not being able to get the right spot, and rewinding (also with a delayed response) and playing and pausing. Rewinding, playing, pausing. Over and over again until you get the right spot. All delayed, all very very frustrating. But say you finally are able to pause the film in just the spot you like….You grab your sketchbook and holy COW you’d better start drawing FAST because not only will the flimsy nature of VCR tapes only allow for a single minute or so of pausing before completely shutting off the VCR on its own, but also: the already low-res image will start to get shaky and warbled after a very short while before it turns itself off. So once you finally overcome pausing a movie in the right spot, you’d better grab & draw like a madwoman, because you’ve only got a minute.
Ahhhh, those were the days!
Oh wait—no. That wasn’t much fun at all, actually. Also, I’m guessing this problem wasn’t really much of a problem for most people besides artistic teenagers like me, desperate for movie references to draw from. Sorry.
Fast-forward (with only a few years’ delay) to the amazing awesomeness of blu-ray, streaming video, and the internet! Looking for an obscure image to use as a reference to draw from? Easy, just Google it, and I’ll bet it’s there, along with a million other obscure things you never asked for. Or you want to draw a specific scene from a movie? Easy: if you can’t find the image online already, just push pause and take a quick picture of it with your phone to draw from later. Boom.
Can you believe it?? Of all the comforts of modern times, for an artsy teen of the 80s, this ranks up there pretty high in my world….but maybe it’s just me.
Anyway, this brings me back around full circle my new favorite hobby: pausing my shows. I have re-discovered, through AmazonTV, the wonders of the Twilight Zone. I had seen quite a few episodes from when I was a kid, and they stuck with me for ages. So many great stories!
I’ve mentioned before that my favorite things to draw are faces from black & white movie photos. And lucky for me, they have every season of Twilight Zone on Prime (which means no additional fees)! How exciting for me! And yes, some of the material may be dated, but the fascination with it, for me, is a new story, a new strange tale in every episode. New people, new characters, new situations. Fun little snippets of strange stories that never fail to hold my attention.
So lately, after the kid is nestled in bed, I sit in front of the TV with my remote and my phone, pausing and snapping photos for later. Compared to what I USED to go through to get references, this is nothing short of bliss.
So. You don’t have references? You need some practice drawing from references, but can’t find anything to draw? I beg to differ. It’s SO much easier out there than it used to be, and there are SO many opportunities to learn something new. There’s a whole WORLD of things out there to use as inspiration! Sometimes, you just have to work a little harder for them…
If you have an Instagram account, I post a lot of artsy artwork over there (@busymockingbird), especially from the Twilight Zone, so come follow along, and join me in celebrating the weirdness!
Sometimes my little artsy project ideas don’t always turn out exactly as I plan, or don’t hold our 4-year old’s attention span the way I think they might. Still, though, it’s all about enjoying the time together, right?
So I had this idea about Georgia O’Keeffe. We had recently found this kid’s book at the library called Georgia in Hawaii. Despite not being a huge fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read about artists to our daughter.
Innuendo aside (seriously: way, WAYYYY aside), Georgia painted NATURE. She looked very, very closely at nature, and found beautiful and amazing things there. I thought it might be fun to see if the kiddo could look at things very close-up and see what happens.
(A quick side story: Once, when rolling around in the grass as a kid, I rolled over and found myself directly nose to nose with a praying mantis who was very quietly and casually gnawing on the neck of a headless dead cricket. He was chewing slowly like a cowboy, not even seeming to care if I was there, and suddenly stopped….turned his head ever so slowly….and looked at me, like, “what’re you looking at, kid?” (Also, in my head, he had a voice like John Wayne.) Anyway, the point is that I remember it VERY clearly because I was a kid and would never have seen him if I wasn’t staring VERY closely at things in the grass. As a grownup, I sometimes wonder what magical worlds I’m overlooking because I don’t roll around on the ground as much as I used to…)
Ahem. Sorry about that.
So anyway, back to Georgia. The next grocery store visit, I grabbed a few very colorful flowers from the in-store florist.
When we got home, I laid out our trusty ol’ tablecloth, sat the flowers down, and grabbed our sketchbooks. “Remember Georgia from the story?” I asked. “Georgia liked to look at plants very very closely and find beautiful shapes in them. I thought we could try that, too!”
She was enthusiastically game at first, really looking up closely at the little red flowers she thought were pretty. I had paints out, but she preferred her markers. With us, one of the keys of our art projects is that I HAVE TO DO THEM, TOO. So I did. I doodled some flowers close-up, while she doodled on her page.
But here’s the thing I forgot, and I’m sorry: Um….I don’t really find sceneries and flowers very fascinating. I’m very sorry and don’t mean to offend if that’s your thing. I am very happy that Georgia DID, but I personally found myself getting a bit…well…BORED of the little plant doodles. I really prefer faces and stuff. And if I don’t like doodling plants, why was I trying to have HER do it? So I was feeling kind of bad about it. Like it was a lame idea. Like maybe this one was a flop of a project for her.
And then I looked over at her drawing…
It was so cool. She, too, had tried the detail and focus of looking at the flowers as a reference, but then her imagination took over, and she filled the page with dinosaurs. And you know what? That’s AWESOME. Because if something you do isn’t exciting for you, you don’t have to suffer through it…just customize it and MAKE it fun! Make it into something you feel good about. Step out of your comfort zone occasionaly, look around & try new things, but know that it’s totally okay to stick with the thing you like most, and go add some dinosaurs to make it fun.
There’s no “right” way to do these kinds of projects with your kid. I think it was the guys from Freakonomics who researched whether or not reading tons and tons of parenting books actually made you a better parent, and what they found out was that NONE of the information in the book actually improved your ability to parent, but the FACT that you went out and READ all those books or sought out information or researched things online about how to be a better parent means that you’re doing just fine. Same with doing fun projects with your kid–the end result DOESN’T MATTER. It doesn’t matter if you have a Pinterest-worth project to show in the end; the fact that you’re actually doing things WITH your kid is what matters. And it doesn’t have to be in art, either….it can be in whatever it is that you enjoy doing with your kid. The fact that you’re DOING it is what matters.
So there you go.
I hear ya, kid. Staring at flowers=not that fun, actually. But hey–at least we know now, huh?
Heading back to our comfort zone (and because Georgia has a really cool face to draw), we did a portrait of Georgia together. Because that’s what we like to do.
And her flowers look like flowers and my flowers don’t have any special deep meaning, but you know what? That’s cool. We had fun, and that’s what matters.
Yes, I love bugs. Insects. Beetles. Whatever.
Well, mainly, I really love the IDEA of bugs, and I love LOOKING at bugs. (It’s a whole other story when they’re actually touching me.) I don’t like squished bugs, but sometimes if they’re all dried up and pretty, I love looking at dead bugs. I have a few I’ve collected here and there, that I’ve hung up on the walls of our house for the past ten or so years. By “collected,” I don’t mean I’ve gone out & hunted them down myself–I mean that I either found them, bought them, or was given them by friends.
One day, while helping our daughter get ready for bedtime, my eyes tripped over a rhino beetle we had hanging in our bathroom. It had been there for YEARS (in different houses, but in roughly the same spot), so long that it just sort of blended into the scenery of everyday life, overlooked. But this time, a strange and very intense thought occurred to me, and it did so with a very loud voice: “I wonder if I could paint on its wings?”
Then I wondered, if beetles could customize their wings with painted “tattoos,” what would they get? Beetles often fight, so maybe they would be aggressive battle scenes with intimidating imagery. But not the typically intimidating human skulls, since beetles lack an internal skeleton and therefore it wouldn’t mean the same to them. Perhaps instead of a skull and crossbones, they’d have two sticks and some decayed leaves around them? Maybe a Japanese fighting beetle would have ornate scenes of fighting beetles emblazoned on their backs, or a fear-inspiring giant sole of a boot, since their main natural predator might be our own feet trampling down on them. Maybe there would be peaceful, hippie-tattooed beetles. Or images of their larvae with birth dates. Or a portrait of “mom.” And what on earth would a DUNG beetle get?
Yes, these are the kind of thoughts that sometimes go through my head while staring at the shell of a beetle and getting our daughter ready for bed.
So, like most ideas I have, once they’re in my head, they won’t go away until I do it. So I did. At my husband’s suggestion, I drew a preliminary sketch. I don’t always like to do this–I often like to just wing it (haha, see what I did there?). But this time (like most times) he was right.
Apparently, this beetle had been sprayed with a kind of varnish (because I bought it at a store and of COURSE they sprayed it to preserve it), so it was a little like painting on plastic. I used acrylic paints, and took my time going over and over and over it, layer after layer, since the paint had a habit of beading up.
But with each new layer, the image started coming together, and the basic layout was falling into place.
Thankfully, the wing shells were pretty sturdy, and although they had the slightest give, they didn’t really move much. Since I am impatient, I tried using thicker blobs of paint to cut back on the amount of layers I’d need to repaint, but I still needed to go over and over it again and again to bet the basic underpainting. Once that was dry, I could go back and add the little details and shading and fine-tune the whole thing.
And here it is: the final beetle! I really REALLY wanted to put a skull on his head, but that didn’t make sense, so I put a tiny leaf that ended up looking a bit like a snowflake from a distance. Still, I like the little “skeleton beetle skull with crossed sticks” (instead of a skull & crossbones) on the inside of his back. And instead of “bad to the bone…” Well, you know. Because beetles don’t have bones, right?
So I had SO much fun with that, that I immediately looked around the house for more insects I could vandalize. Some of my nicer ones are contained completely inside wooden frames and sealed plexiglass, which makes breaking into them nearly impossible (probably for the best), but I was able to accost one of my dragonflies.
So what would a dragonfly get? There are so many different styles of tattoos! This one is a tribal-style dragon on dragonfly wings…
Those wings were hard to paint, by the way. I was hoping for more detail, but this guy died about 14 years ago, and is really fragile. Plus, dragonfly wings, with all those little cells, are almost like tiny little tissue-thin accordions. Keeping a straight line was pretty difficult.
And the last one was this brittle old moth. (The light one, not the dark one who just happens to be glued next to him.) I gave this guy old-school flames, because of the ol’ “like a moth to the flame” standard, and because moths love light, right? So he’d probably tattoo some daring flames on his wings to show off his bravery at dancing close to danger. Or something. Anyway, they didn’t turn out as detailed as I had envisioned either, because moth wings are fuzzy, and it’s like painting on a tiny little carpet.
So there are my painted insects. I immediately went on Amazon and ordered a few more beetles to paint on, but apparently I didn’t notice they’re shipping from THAILAND and will be here in like three years. Or two months. Either way: a long, long time.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas: with all the different styles and influences, what do you think different types of insects would get if they could customize their wings?
I’ll be honest with you, here. Shhhhhhh—-lean in a little bit; I’ll whisper it to you: ….I don’t really like Valentine’s day.
Not even a little bit. Maybe it’s because I was always the “new kid” who was a bit weird, so on V-day the fancy little box we made in class only ever had a scant card or two in it. Maybe it was because as I got older, the flowers & candy seemed to be not simply a sweet sentiment shared between two people, but a rating and judging system that primarily existed ONLY for the sake of some of the snotty girls to announce to us lesser creatures that, “someone likes me THIS much, and now I am royalty.”
Okay, I admit it: the years have made me a little bitter. If there was a humbug for Valentine’s Day, I’d be the poster girl. I can’t help it–I blame the unrealistic expectations of 80s movies and fairy tales. Even now, after 12 years of marriage, I PREFER IT if my husband doesn’t do anything more than say, “Happy Valentine’s Day, babe!”
But having a kid, you start to see the silly holidays in a different light, for what they are probably MEANT to be, and right now, she’s at a stage where they’re just an opportunity to get some candy and give out fun cards. And that’s cool. I’m pretty alright with that.
So when our daughter’s Pre-K class had a Valentine’s party last year, I looked around at some of the kid’s cards out there. Some of the sentiments in the pre-made cards always seemed a little too “lovey-dovey” for my tastes. I mean, they’re in PRE-K! I’m not trying to marry the girl off just yet! I’ve not ever been a big fan of many of the pre-made character cards, and while I realize she will probably insist on choosing some obnoxious character cards later down the road, right now she doesn’t really care WHAT they say as long as candy is involved…..so for now, I get to call the shots. Yay!
So I decided to make my OWN cards for her! I didn’t want to make them TOO pessimistic (I mean my gut idea was “Valentines Day SUCKS” with suckers on them, but OKAY okay–I guess I admit that’s a little harsh for a kid’s class), so since she likes monsters, I just made these…
And you can use ‘em too, if you want to! They’re easy and don’t take much work. Just right click the image and save it to your desktop. Print it out on cardstock, and punch holes where the black dots are, and slip a lollipop stick in. I even cut around each one a little, just for something different, but you can just cut straight on the black lines to keep it easy peasy.
And I don’t really think they’re THAT bad, are they? I softened it up with the “Love, Myla” part. Shoot, Pre-K kids can’t read anyway, but they know lollipops taste good, AMIRIGHT???
This year, with the overwhelming amount of candy I’m sure she’ll get, I thought we could be the ones that send the “different” ones, ones with little toys or something in ‘em. I found some pre-made ones with little rubbery bugs (which our daughter loves), and I decided to keep the homemade theme going for as long as I can get away with it… Maybe “You Don’t Really Bug Me So Much.” Is that too long for a card? Heh-heh.
Being artsy fartsy comes in handy sometimes! My college friend James Stowe knows that firsthand–each year, his son & daughter request themed V-day cards, and he creates them himself. A few years back, he made the CUTEST Star Wars cards that were all OVER the internet. He’s done Dr. Who Villains and Mario Brothers, D&D and now Firefly and he’s offering those over on his website as a printable PDF for only $3 apiece!
So if you’re a humbug about Valentine’s Day (or even if you’re not), feel free to print my sucka sheets out for yourself. Or get some from an artist like Stowe. Or come up with your OWN! I may not like Valentine’s day, but I’d LOVE to see what you do!
I absolutely love when I hear that people enjoy this blog! I’ve been artsy & craftsy for years, but pretty much kept it in my own little world. I kept hearing friends say, “Oh, you just do all those fun projects because you’re crafty…I could never do anything like that.” But you know what? You CAN. That’s part of why I started the blog: to share all the projects I do, to share ideas and hopefully to encourage creativity.
I’ll tell you a secret about the stuff I do: I don’t know what I’m doing. Embroidery? I make it up. Clay sculpture? Just messing around. The thing is, I have a FURIOUS CURIOUSITY about handmade things. I find inspiration, I research a little bit about it, and then I just jump in and give it a try.
Like with the collaborations with our daughter, it’s not so much the END result as the process. That’s where the magic is; that’s where you learn. You want to try sculpture? Read a little about it, and TRY IT YOURSELF!
I have found inspiration in a wide variety of things. I like to look closely at the work other artists do, and see if I can figure out how to do them myself. At first glance, you might think, “MAN! I could never do that!” But if you erase those voices of doubt and just listen to the curious, excited voice, the “work” that goes into figuring out how to do something is not work at all! The result of my experiments with embroidery isn’t as immaculate as the work that inspired it, but I learned so much, I gained an appreciation for the beauty and detail in what other people do, and as an afterthought, it sort of turned out cool in its own sort of way.
Recently, I joined Instagram, thanks to some encouragement from the host of an interview I did on Design Recharge. I was quite resistant to it at first, because I’m already involved in Twitter and Facebook and blogging and a separate email account—the last thing I need is another social media, right? And isn’t it all selfies and cats and posing and food pictures anyway?
Well, I was wrong. BOY was I wrong. As an artist, I’m going give you a quick intro to Instagram and tell you why it’s awesome. (Those of you already on it—sit tight, I’m ‘bout to spread the love…)
Take or leave all the other social media, but for me, Instagram has been the single most exciting form of artistic inspiration I’ve had in YEARS. (Yes, even more than Pinterest.) Why? Because I forgot HOW MUCH I enjoy and learn from other artists. Not only just by looking at art, but behind the scenes. Artists on Instagram often post in-progress shots on their pieces. People ask them questions, and they usually respond. And unlike FB, where your newsfeed is often bogged down by all sorts of random things, you can find EVERYTHING you follow in your feed. “Liking” them is easy peasy. And the good thing about “liking” them is that later, someone can see what YOU liked, and find new artists that way.
I chose to mostly follow only those pages that belong to artists. Most of my friends & family already keep me up-to-date on their lives through Facebook, so I chose to keep Instagram for the arts. So I see the pictures that other artists post, and it’s so AWESOME seeing them working on new things, trying new things, and showing everyone else. People often ask them what tools they use, so artists will often list them.
You can’t use it from your computer. It’s meant to be “on the go.” So you can snap something from your smart phone and put it right up there in the moment.
Posted pictures are done only in a square format, so that is a little odd to deal with, for those of us who work more…”rectangularly.”
There are no links. So you can’t just link to something and have someone be able to click on it, except for one link in your own profile. This seems frustrating sometimes, but I think it’s there for a reason.
I didn’t realize until AFTER college what a positive thing it is to be around so many other artists and be able to see THEIR way of doing things, being able to try new things yourself, and being able to ASK other artists how they did something. You sort of take that for granted when you’re busy learning yourself. But once you grow up & move on (unless you’re in a creative group of some sort), you don’t get to see that anymore! Artists either keep their process to themselves, or you just don’t get the opportunity to SEE that side. So for me, in Instagram, I found a way to see that again, and I love it. And I’m inspired by it. And encouraged by it to try new things.
As an artist, inspiration is key. Learning is key. Practicing is key. As is trying new things. For me, I’ve never understood why artists would hide their knowledge from anyone else. Tattooists are notorious for this—they’ve spent a long time mastering their technique, and have gone through the paces, sometimes with YEARS of grunt work before finally getting to even touch the equipment. So they guard what they’ve known from aspiring up-and-comers who they think might be trying to take the easy way out.. Other tattooists worry that they’ll take the time to teach someone, and that person will take that knowledge and open a competitive shop, which might eventually steal work from their own shop.
I get that. I really do. But if guarding your technique exists only in the spirit of ensuring that you are the only one who can dominate your field? That I don’t understand. I propose this idea: share the knowledge, share the skills, share what you know. It’s a guarantee that the person you teach isn’t going to have the exact same vision as you. So why not put more good artwork out into the world? If they are awful, then it most likely won’t survive.
Suzy Hotrod is a roller derby rockstar, and she said something once in an interview that stuck with me. Something to the effect of “I can tell you exactly what kind of skates I use, what kind of plates, what kind of wheels. But that won’t make you skate like me.” Sounds a little harsh, but what Suzy was saying is that even if you have all the “right” tools, you won’t get better without PRACTICE. Without TRYING new things. Without that furious curiosity to improve and learn.
I have often wondered if people are born with artistic talent, or with the right encouragement, if people could be taught. My opinion varies, but often I think that even if I was taught by the best, the end result will NEVER look the same as someone else’s. People have their own point of view, and teaching them might help them find a way to express it. The key to it all is DESIRE. Do you WANT to get better? Do you WANT to improve? Then get out there! Look at what other people are doing, and instead of getting discouraged, be encouraged by it, and motivated by it to improve. Share your art with other people!
You can ALWAYS learn new things. No matter HOW good an artist you are. Ask questions. Give answers when people ask you. You can have all the art supplies you need, but unless you have the DESIRE to create and try new things and change and grow and improve, then you just won’t go anywhere. You’ll never improve.
So wherever you are, whatever stage of your life you’re in, find that inspiration, and don’t be afraid of messing up! I’ve taught our daughter when rollerskating that FALLING IS GOOD. If we don’t fall, we can’t learn how to get better. Whenever she falls, I applaud her for a “good fall,” but what I’m really applauding is her having the courage to try. And that’s what’s important.
I post a lot of different kinds of artsy art that I don’t always share on Facebook and Twitter over on my Instagram page, so if you’ve got an account, please come check it out! I’m @busymockingbird. Look around you–whatever’s around you, and get inspired!
From time to time, people ask if our 4-year old or I get tired of collaborating together when we draw, and so far, the answer has been a resounding “heck NO!” But to change it up a little so that we DON’T, we’ve done a few animals….and every once in awhile, we’ve started throwing some monsters in there.
Now, I’ve written about the monster doodles before, but since then, we’ve sort of expanded the process a bit. First, they start out with me drawing a monster head, and our daughter (just like with the “people” collaborations) would draw the body & any additional scenery on them.
Several of them end up in the water, for some reason.
Following her art direction, many of them end up patterned and pink.
This one, who needed a helmet before he could hop on his bike…
Or this one, who she insisted be in a rainstorm.
They’re often influenced by her little world, like this creature which came about not long after her first visit to a circus…
This one, which was of a cat-monster tossing candy to her at Halloween (that’s me in the yellow-striped shirt, picking her up)…
Or this one, which happened around the same time we made a gingerbread house for the holidays.
But the process itself REALLY started getting fun when (instead of drawing on the head I had pre-drawn) she and I started taking DIRECTION from eachother. “Let’s make a monster!” she’d say, and I’d get out a pen. “First step: it should have lots of eyes,” she said. So I drew lots of eyes. “Wings for ears. A bird beak.” Each time, I’d draw from her prompts in my own style. Then when it was her turn, and she’d follow my lead. “It should have antennae,” I said. “Pteranadon wings. And a dragon tail.”
Or she’d tell me, “It should have hair like Great Grandma’s (we were visiting her at the time). LOTS of noses. Glasses. Lots of down-pointing teeth, and horse ears.” Then I would tell her, “A snail body with stripes and lots of legs.” And she would add the extra details (like a decorative mouse flashlight and a bed) on her own.
It’s another fun little exercise in collaborating with the kid. And secretly, I know she enjoys practicing the rare moment of getting to “boss” me by telling me what to draw! She is still a bit rigid sometimes, and insists that I “didn’t do it right,” and I insist that when you work WITH someone, there IS no “right.” That you have to work WITH people, share their ideas, and just have fun. It takes some getting used to, because I can see those same perfectionist tendencies in our daughter that I have–wanting things to be “just so.” But it’s GOOD to step out of your comfort zone, and it’s GOOD to share.
So give it a try! Sit down for a bit, take your kid’s direction, and let ‘m tell YOU what to do for a moment–just to see what happens….It doesn’t have to be with drawing; try letting them tell you what shapes to glue down, what clothes to put on, or how to decorate cupcakes. And show me how it worked for you!
Once upon a time, our daughter commented that an artist’s work we saw in a shop wasn’t so great because “it looks like scribbles.” In an effort to try to expand her creativity, it occurred to me that other than the rare kid’s book, there isn’t much out there to explain different kinds of art to kids in a way that makes sense in their little world. I guess kids try so hard to learn how to draw things literally, that it’s difficult for them to understand why anyone would INTENTIONALLY draw something unrecognizable!
We had learned a little about Frida, and how she “painted her dreams.” Then I taught her to “dance” with the paint, like Pollock. Like their work or don’t, but each one of them was important to the history of art for a reason, and I think helping someone else make sense of that reason is a fun challenge.
So I saw another opportunity in Picasso. Picasso was a fine artist, and actually drew quite realistically, but what really set him apart was when he expanded on the idea of breaking up the face into its most basic SHAPES. He also played with the idea of seeing if he could show different perspectives in the same piece. Could she be turned to the side, but also show both of her eyes? What would that look like?
This was fun, because it didn’t take a lot of prep work. When our daughter came home from school, I had a plate full of shapes that I had cut out of construction paper waiting for her, along with some glue.
“Picasso made shapes into faces,” I told her. “Let’s see if we can make a face using only shapes.” So we happily cut and pasted. At first she balked a little. “Your dress looks strange,” she questioned me. “And why are her cheeks two different colors?” Because, my dear, we’re trying to mix things up a bit. Picasso-style.
I told her it didn’t have to be perfect, and it didn’t have to look EXACTLY like the thing you were trying to draw. It was just supposed to be a fun experiment. What would it look like if you used shapes for the eyes instead of drawing them?
She couldn’t help herself, and finished some additional spots in pen. And although she struggled with the need for symmetry, she was able to step out of her comfort zone a bit and enjoyed trying something new.
We left the shape plate on the table, and she created a rabbit the next day. (I KNOW those mismatched ears were killin’ her…)
So, like we did with Pollock and Frida, I showed her a drawing of Picasso I had done, and she drew a body for him. She put him in stripes, gluing little shapes down onto paper, just like we did. And while that may not have been Picasso’s medium, the basic idea is there, I think.
Besides, I think Picasso might have actually had fun with construction paper and glue.
So if you’re looking for a fun kid project that also teaches them about art, give it a try! And I’d love to see what you come up with over on the Facebook page!
(OH! And if you’d like to see more artsy artwork from both me AND the kiddo, I’m on Instagram now!–@busymockingbird. But more about that later…)
YOU GUYS!! Did you know you could make your own temporary tattoos from doodles you already HAD?!? …Okay, well I didn’t. But I experimented with them, and here’s how it went down.
First off, I’ll warn you that I only tried two brands–one was HORRIBLE and the other was not too shabby. But neither one of them came out like the ink ones you get at the store or in a pack of gum–instead of transferring the ink, they both had an adhesive backing to them, so it’s basically like putting a very very very thin sticker on your arm. Or like letting Elmer’s glue dry on your skin. (I have super sensitive skin that doesn’t like adhesives, so for freaks like me, that might be a problem.)
I used this brand, which says you should use it with this special die-cutting machine, but you TOTALLY don’t have to (Sorry, Silhouette). You take your images, flip them, and print them out. There’s a plastic sheet you rub onto it once it dries, to sort of hold the adhesive down. Then you have to cut out your “tattoos.”
Not cool. So take my word for it, and just cut closely around your image.
The rest is like a regular temporary tattoo: peel off the plastic sheet, and place it face-down where you want it on your skin. Again, a word of warning: You’re essentially putting a very very very thin adhesive on your skin, so if you have super hairy arms, you might want to opt for a less-hairy spot.
Wet the back of the “tattoo” and peel it off.
And temporarily cover yourself in your own awesomeness! Woohoo!