Apparently, a lot of new people have joined our little campfire. I’d like to say “Welcome!” Come have a seat!
I’ve been getting a ton of new questions about how the kid & I doodle our little doodles. I’ll start off by saying this didn’t begin intentionally. I didn’t plan this out. As I described in the post, my “art life” was very separate from my “mom life,” and that’s how I thought it had to be. When our daughter first hovered over my sketchbook & asked to draw on one of my drawings, it was a lesson in letting go for me, and allowing her to be a part of something I have always been very passionate about.
But based on the comments I get on external blogs (probably because they don’t always link back to my original post, which describes the experience), I think some people misunderstand the process. Or maybe they don’t. In any case, I thought it’d be fun to walk you all through one of the pieces we did. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas to doing it yourself!
First off, I love drawing from old black & white movie stills. For some reason, the far-off looks, the black & white imagery–I don’t know why, but I could draw those all day. I like playing with the shapes, changing them a little, slightly altering them, and sort of abstracting the shading a bit. I work in ballpoint pen (because I love it, and I’ve used it over the years and years and years). This time, I worked from a picture of Bette Davis. Probably this one.
(Now the very first time, this was as far as I had gotten before my daughter asked to “help.” Later, I started just drawing faces & heads because she kept asking for them. Plus, that’s my favorite part to draw anyway. So when she asks to “draw the body,” I choose to let her.)
I’m always curious what she’s going to draw. I can give her ideas, but she usually will decide what it’s going to be AS she’s drawing it. This was quite nerve-wracking for me in the beginning. It was HARD to let someone take something you worked on into a completely different direction. Did I always handle it with grace? No. When she drew lines across the faces of some of them, I silently clenched my teeth, did a mental gasp, and squinted my eyes. But you know what? It all turns out fine in the end.
For this one, she drew this funky crescent-shaped body, and said, “She’s a slug.” Um. Okay. You turned her into a SLUG?! Some of the ones we had done were easy to collaborate on…a dinosaur, a bird, a dragon. But a SLUG? I kept any judgement to myself, and instead, decided to laugh with her about the lady with the slug body.
Thankfully, I’m always up for a challenge. And over time, doing these doodles with our daughter, I often think of my part as translating her ideas to make sense to grownups. It’s a fun challenge to try to figure out a way to make her kid-doodle potentially exist in a 2-D environment. For those curious as to who did what, the basic idea is always hers. She did the body, the antennae, the flower, and the sunshine on this one. Nowadays, she even gives me guidelines: “Don’t forget, mama–her wings should be BLUE.” Or, “That’s not a cracker, she’s holding BREAD. Could you please make sure you color it to look like bread?” In the end, we’re both always pretty surprised at the result.
So after she decides what it’s going to be and does her doodles, I do my part. I color in with markers (sometimes she helps).
I used to use plain ol’ Sharpies for base color, until Jerry’s Artarama sent me a HUGE box set of my favorite Prismacolor brush-tips. (big shout out to Jerry’s! Woohoo!) So these days, when I get to this step, I use those instead, and I love love LOVE the color blending you can get with them.
I add some white highlights with acrylic paint or sometimes watercolor.
Now’s the fun part. How the heck to make this look like a slug, as opposed to a random, crescent-shaped doodle? I looked up some slug references, and did the best I could to fit those patterns into the shape she had drawn. I think the little “lip” underneath is what finally made it feel more “real.”
A little more acrylic for the background. I added a little hopscotch grid to sort of put her in some sort of context. I don’t know why, it just felt right. And because plain ol’ grass gets boring. I did a little fine-tuning to bring the lines back with ballpoint pen. Often, I go back over the lines she and I both already made, to bring them out a little more.
And there you go! I called it “Slugs Need Hugs.” One time, playing outside, my daughter said it would be hard to try to give a slug a hug. When I finished this one, I felt a little bad for the little slug lady, trying to play hopscotch, while most likely being unable to perform the required “hopping.” She seemed in need of a hug.
As for any meaning or symbolism in using Bette Davis and then drawing a slug? There is none. AT ALL. I just like to draw faces. She just felt like drawing a slug. I usually alter them enough that I don’t always remember who they started out as.
As for my daughter’s drawing skills? I understand that I’m her mother and I while I can see all the beautiful, wonderful magic in the way she draws (and while her teachers have commented on how focused and detailed she is at drawing), I am the first to admit that maybe her drawings themselves aren’t particularly masterful. But, you know?–for that matter, neither are mine. Anyone focusing on that aspect is sort of missing the point.
So what IS the point? To me, it’s about enjoying the experience more than the end result. It’s about combining the “internal” life of an artist with the “external” life of a parent. It’s about helping your kids express themselves without limitations. It’s about sharing your passion with someone else. It’s about taking that thing you love and placing it in someone else’s hands, and trusting that everything will be okay.
I had planned on making my own R2D2 costume (at my daughter’s request), but since Halloween plans were dampened by a bad week-long case of strep throat for the little one, I was a bit distracted, and time sort of slipped away. Luckily, inspiration struck at the grocery store, when I found a sad little kid’s Vader costume for 6 bucks in the Halloween aisle. It came with a tiny cape that was way too tight around the neck, so I just extended it by sticking a longer piece of velcro to it where the ends met up. I mean, technically, Vader DID CREATE C3PO, so I think it’s a better companion piece than R2. …At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
But Vader alone wasn’t enough–I wanted to spice it up a little, so I wore a sugar skull shirt (because it’s black and I already own it), which gave me the idea of painting the helmet. There are a bajillion sugar Star Wars characters online (which I love), so I just grabbed a paint pen (which I already had) and BOOM–two minutes later, my costume was complete.
The kid was feeling better, but still pretty sick, so we just went down the street & back. She had a chance to do her thing, and then she had fun handing out candy. People seemed to dig her homemade costume. We even saw a kid dressed as Vader, one as Yoda, and another as a Jawa! Star Wars still lives, if you ever have your doubts.
So if the costume giddiness is over and you’ve got the dressup blues, I present, for your consideration, a paper doll I made ages ago for an art show I once had. She’s got a mix of old-skool circus performer, pinup girl, derby blocker, and steampunk fanciness. And if paper dolls aren’t your thing, just head on over to that bucket of candy. There’s one in there calling your name….
Call me old fashioned, call me overprotective, but I’m a little weird about having my daughter’s face all over the internet. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the internet, while a wonderful and amazing resource, can be quite creepy.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned from the “Collaborations” post going viral is that nothing is sacred. People are free to say and do anything from behind the protective shield of a computer screen. And they do.
I am reminded of an installation piece by Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal, who lived in a room for a month with an internet-controlled paint gun. Anyone at all could log on and shoot him, with no repercussions, no consequences. And they did. A LOT. SO much so that he was haunted and traumatized by it. As this article states, “…when people no longer fear reprisal from their actions then they will become monsters with little regard for other human beings.”
So if I’m so protective of her, why post anything at all about my daughter? Simply put: she is an enormous part of my life. I know the things I do with and for her are things another mother or father might like to know, or might feel better for having read. People can be nasty, and while I’m a big girl and can handle it, I feel there’s no real reason (other than the fact that she is, in fact, super adorable) to show her face. Cropping and sideshots, folks. That’s just how it goes.
But since my artistic likenesses aren’t exactly photorealistic, I feel fairly comfortable sharing a painting I did of her. My first one of her, actually–and it was pretty intimidating. Photos rarely capture someone’s personality, and I find with portraits, I will sometimes paint it as closely as I can to the photo, and yet there is something always missing: the personality, which (unless you know the person) is difficult to grasp and (even if you do know them) is difficult to separate from.
One time, my daughter told me she wanted a “gown” to play dressup, so we got some pink thing (a dress? A nightgown?) at my friend’s vintage clothing sale for $3. At the time, her kid-drawings were nothing more than circles with faces, and lines for arms and legs. She called them “monsters,” so I recreated them in acrylic in the background.
When she saw the final piece, she looked for a minute with a critical eye and said, “…is that me?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Is that mine drawings?”
“Yes,” I said. “I put them on the painting. Do you like it?”
She paused for a long time. “I think it is beautiful.” She said.
And that’s pretty cool.
First off, I want to give a great big THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH to everyone who participated in our little contest! Win or no, I think it’s amazing how wonderful it is that everyone was able to connect with someone else for such a wonderful experience. Myla said as we were looking through the over 200 entries: “I’m so very PROUD of those people!” And I am, too.
I sent each entrant a personal message of thanks, and our own doodle of the contest head, just for them. Myla & I spent a long time sorting through the entries, and I have to tell you, she was SO excited at what everyone had done. I mean, visibly excited and thrilled. It took a lot of honing down to get her to narrow it down–she wanted to pick them all. And since it was SO very difficult to choose, I decided to not only pick one winner…but THREE. I pretty much let the 4-year old take the lead on choosing, and I respected each of her choices. So, without further ado, here are the winners, in no particular order (since the prize is the same):
Now, when our kid doesn’t win, she gets upset. (She was actually a little upset at first that she couldn’t win THIS contest.) But I’ve taught her to say “I really really wanted to win, but I’m very happy for you.”
Telling a wonderful story was not factored into our decision, but in the spirit of stories, I will tell you some tales of the winning pieces.
- The girl and her robot were created by Christine Kenney and her 6-year old son Desmond. Since the collaborations post, Christine had been meaning to try this with her son, and hadn’t found the time until the contest idea came up, and they enjoyed it a great deal.
- The next (very colorful) piece was created by Susan Garver and her 5-year old Eden. Eden saw the woman as a unicorn with a flower friend. Later, when adding the final touches, Susan remembered the loss of a family friend’s child, whose favorite color was “rainbow.” She finished it with her in mind, and hopes to eventually give it to the family.
- And finally, Laurie Silverstein passed this drawing back & forth to her older daughter. The story goes that when her daughter was around 4, she was happily singing “zip a dee doo dah” in a grocery store cart, and then suddenly burst into tears at the thought of being a mommy…It occurred to the little girl that her own future kids might starve because she “didn’t know where the stores are.” Years later, the daughter got a shoulder tattoo that said “zip a dee doo dah,” to remind her, I suppose, that it will all be okay.
There were so many beautiful stories that weren’t told, and so many beautiful pieces that weren’t chosen, from ALL OVER THE WORLD. Teachers sharing it with their classes, nurses collaborating with patients, families doing the project at a family get-together. Friends adding to the piece from far away to combine a single piece. I sincerely hope it was a fun and fair experience, win or no, for everyone involved. The most amazing thing to come of the Collaborations post, for me, has been hearing about all the wonderful ways the post has inspired you all to do similar projects with your family & friends. And that’s the best thing of all, in my book.
So thank you again to everyone who entered! They were all so beautiful and we are all so very proud. Thank you SO VERY MUCH!
And please, go check out all the beautiful entries on the Facebook page!
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, our daughter was terribly sick from a flu and was relegated to basically lying in front of the television. We had watched nearly every kid’s movie imaginable already. It was my birthday, and I had just gotten the entire Star Wars series on blu-ray. I wondered…is New Hope too “grownup” for a robot-loving kid? I asked her if she was interested in a movie about robots and outer space. She said yes…
And that was where her love of C3PO began.
Funnily enough, C3PO was my favorite as a kid, too. (When had I painted our Munny family portraits well before her discovery, you may notice I was C-3PO.) Yes, R2 was funny and silly and snarky, but you wouldn’t really know what his beeps & whistles meant without the other half of the conversation. 3PO was silly and personable and charming. And our daughter developed a “crush” of sorts on him. All you’d need to do is say “Oh deah!” in that dainty little accent, and she’d giggle tremendously, as if she had just been spoken to by a movie star. This meant that she would often ask ME to pretend to be C3PO, which I didn’t usually mind doing (even in the grocery store).
When she asked for a doll, I decided to scour the internet for one I might make, and came across the idea to make one from a wooden artist’s figure model. Once painted and presented, he brought lots of kid-smiles.
I made her a shirt with sharpies.
I appliqued a shirt.
And she even made her own C-3PO shrinky dinks and drawings.
So this year, when it came to Halloween costume choices, she had one request from the get-go: she wanted to be C-3PO. Now if you’ve seen the pre-made costumes online, they look pretty goofy. So I decided to get abstract with this, and see if we could pull it off cosplay-style.
Since I didn’t want her face to be covered completely, I cut up a gold plastic craft store mask. I had seen all these awesome online tutorials about how to build your own cardboard armor, so I built up a chestplate and back with cardboard, masking tape, and paperclay (which is super fun stuff). When it dried, I sanded it and painted it gold. I got a black bodysuit, and used fabric glue to tack on little pieces of gold “plating” to the arms.
I got a super cheapo set of kid’s elbow, wrist, and kneepads and painted them gold. Got a pair of gold dance leggings for kids, to which, after putting them on for the first time, my daughter exclaimed, “Oooh! These feel soft to my legs!”
A pair of costume glasses spraypainted gold (with stripes on the eyes–she was VERY insistent that it have stripey eyes), and BOOM! We have a funky C-3PO costume.
So there you have it! Yes, it’s strange. And yes, it’s unusual. But you know, it was fun to make and she ABSOLUTELY LOVES it. She walked around with her arms stiff, saying “Oh DEAH!” Hopefully it’s at least a step above the storemade ones, and passable enough that people won’t make fun of her while she walks by (because if they do, they can expect my momma banshee to come out).
I was going to try maybe a little brown pullover and get by as a Jedi, but she asked if I could be R2 with her. Oh lord! I guess if she’s willing to go all out, I should too. But I think I might go a LIIIIIIITTLE simpler on mine.
Sometimes, inspiration is found in strange places.
There are some children’s books that are so dull and obnoxious that every word irritates you as you read it to your wide-eyed kid. These are usually the same books that your kid is madly in LOVE with, and therefore insists you read them over and over and over again until the grumble inside your head starts to show on the outside of your face. But there are good ones, too. Sweet ones with beautiful drawings and lovely stories and poetry, charming and funny and endearing.
And then there’s Calef Brown. He’s a different sorta bird.
We discovered “Polkabats and Octopus Slacks” quite by coincidence, but the fact that the poems are so strange and lovely, combined with the use of the words “polka turds” cracked the Kid up, and we were hooked. I had never seen a kid’s book like that before. I’ve read them all tons of times, and I have yet to be bored by them. He’s a whole lot of funky, a little bit full of one of those giggles you cover with your hand, but all kinds of fun.
One of my daughter’s favorites (especially, I think, since we like to combine animals and people in our own doodles), is in a book called “Flamingos On The Roof.” I was reading one of her favorites, called “Allicatter Gatorpillar,” when she said, “I sure wish I could see an Allibutter Gatorfly.”
You know what? I would, too, kid. That sounds like fun.
So I decided to sew one. Challenge accepted.
I’ve made a few dolls before…..thing is, I can only follow a very simple pattern, and can’t really do anything fancy. But this shouldn’t be THAT difficult, right? I’ll walk you through what I did for your own amusement, but I’ll have you know I’m no perfectionist when it comes to this sort of thing. With things like this, I sort of frantically jab and tie and cut everything together and glue it and tape it and bandage it up and say (dusting my hands off), “whelp, that should just about do it.”
So I sketched out a little shape of the gator part, and just sewed the top seam, from the tip of the tail to about the bottom of the…”chin?”
I wanted the wings to be bendable, so I dug in my wire drawer for some very flexible wire I have used in sculpture before, and laid it out on two separate wing shapes. There was a front & back to one side, and a front & back to the other. I sewed them together without the wire, right sides together with the end open, and turned them two make two top wings. Then I did the same for the bottom wings. (PS, from the looks of my desk, I should probably make better use of my cutting board.)
I wanted the wire to go all the way across to span the top two wings for strength and the bottom two wings the same. I pushed the wire into the open wings, and held the wire in place with machine stitches. I also stitched the top set of wings to the bottom set, so they’d sort of stay in place. Now I had a pretty cool pair of wings…with no way to attach them together. I decided to at least get some embroidery floss and sew the open ends to each other to sort of hold the wire in place and keep the wings from just sliding off. This is where all hell broke loose.
So now I’ve got all these exposed seams on the wings. How the heck do I get it on the body? I can’t sew through wire. So I made a little green “belt,” wrapped it around the open seams (which covered them fairly well) and then stitched that onto the back of the gator’s body. Pretty sloppy, and if you look at it closely, the wires will pop out. Good thing I bent the edges so they don’t totally cut you like a brassiere underwire.
So with the wings shoddily attached to the gator skin from both the outside and the in, the time for stuffing had come.
After what seemed like 18 hours of hand-sewing the bottom of the gator’s body (a good tutorial for hidden stitches here, by the way), it was time to paint the eyes. I got out my acrylic paint, and risking my daughter’s critique for putting both eyes on the same side of the head (it’s like that in the illustration!!), I painted them on. I wanted to add some antennae as a final little touch, and found some bendable wire floral rope that I had lying around that I can’t for the life of me remember why I own. Do I have any clue how to attach it to the head? No. In hindsight, I probably could’ve just used embroidery floss to tack it to the back (Yep, I probably should’ve done that). Instead, I cut a couple of tiny snips in the back, threaded the wire through, and glued a fabric panel down with fabric glue. This did actually keep the antennae standing upright, but I suppose a few good stitches could’ve accomplished the same effect without making this fella look even MORE strange.
And so here is the final result in probably the weirdest little doll I’ve ever made. The thing is, though, I think he sort of matches the style of the one in the book, which is sort of what I was going for. I mean, an allibutter gatorfly’s not SUPPOSED to be “cute”…right?
Well, it’s okay if he’s a little creepy. When I picked my daughter up from school and presented her with it, she sighed with delight. “He’s so BEEEAAAUUUUTIFUL!” she said.
And that’s all that really matters.
From the time she was little, my daughter (like most kids, I think) loved nothing more than a big mess. Now, I’ve mentioned I am a bit of a perfectionist–which I once defined as someone who thinks they’re ALREADY perfect…I’ve learned that instead, I’m someone who always WANTS things to be perfect, or in their right spot, or “just so,” which is a constant feeling of internal frustration since things NEVER EVER ARE.
I have a problem with that. I’m working on it.
But since I wanted my daughter to be a fearless mud puddle-splashing, bug-loving kid, I make a point to allow her to be messy and try my best not to worry about it. That mud on the patio? Calm down, mama…I can hose it off. Sand in her hair? That’s what bathtime’s for. Doodles all over her skin? Well, that’s why you get washable markers.
I let her cover her arms in stick-on tattoos, paint her hair with temporary pink mousse, and make magical messes experimenting with food coloring, baking soda & vinegar. The way I see it, childhood is the BEST time for messes! The BEST time to color your hair and marker your skin, when the responsibilities of the world and work and jobs and life don’t interfere.
Well. That’s all well & good in theory…until she started asking ME to join in.
As a kid, I was a mess-lover, dirt-digger, and bug-catcher. But something changed as I grew up (as I’m sure it does in us all) that made me not WANT to lie down in the grass anymore (it’s itchy! There are bugs!) or splash in the puddles (my pants will get soaked! I’ll ruin my shoes!) or catch a bug (I don’t WANT to touch a mealworm!). I started realizing, though, that unless I joined in, all my talk to her about having fun and making messes would be just talk. My kid learns more from what I DO than from what I say, and unless I joined in, she might feel that the beautiful messes were somehow wrong. So I did.
I let her paint on me. I let her polish my nails. I get down in the grass and get dirty. Not every day. Not always. But when the opportunity presents itself and the only thing stopping me is my own discomfort.
The main key to it all is preparation. Painting outside, or with a mat down, or in a cruddy shirt, and ALWAYS with washable, skin-friendly, or water-based supplies. Have a towel ready.
It was difficult at first, ignoring the inner “irk,” but I told my inner voice the same things I’d say about her: “it’s washable. I can take a bath later. It’ll come off.” And the fun we have doing it is always worth the cleaning up. I can’t say that afterward I don’t run immediately to the shower & laundry to clean everything off, but I try my best to wait til we’re all done to internally freak. I can’t say it’s not a challenge sometimes, but I try my best to enjoy it IN THE MOMENT.
Because I allow the messes, you’d think that nothing would be off limits. But she is VERY sincere about knowing what’s okay and what isn’t. She knows not to paint on the walls in house, and respects that story books are for reading. Thankfully, she asks before she doodles on things. Because I allow the messes, she doesn’t seem to feel the need to go crazy elsewhere. It seems with her that giving her the opportunity to go wild sometimes keeps her calm in other places.
We have a world full of no. Every day of her little life is full of boundaries and structure, struggle, conflict and organization. There are rules and manners and courtesies, permissions and consequences. These are good things. These are necessary. But there are moments you can let go of your hangups and just enjoy the feeling of paint slopping around and mud between your toes, for no other reason than that it’s fun.
You forget those things when you’re older, and you’d be surprised how quickly and fiercely that happens. So why not cram your childhood full of them?
So, kids or no, artistic or not….when’s the last time you made a beautiful mess?
One day, while my daughter was happily distracted in her own marker drawings, I decided to risk pulling out a new sketchbook I had special ordered. It had dark paper, and was perfect for adding highlights to. I had only drawn a little in it, and was anxious to try it again, but knowing our daughter’s love of art supplies, it meant that if I wasn’t sly enough, I might have to share. (Note: I’m all about kid’s crafts, but when it comes to my own art projects, I don’t like to share.) Since she was engrossed in her own project, I thought I might be able to pull it off.
Ahhh, I should’ve known better. No longer had I drawn my first face (I love drawing from old black & white movie stills) had she swooped over to me with an intense look. “OOOH! Is that a NEW sketchbook? Can I draw in that too, mama?” I have to admit, the girl knows good art supplies when she sees them. I muttered something about how it was my special book, how she had her own supplies and blah blah blah, but the appeal of new art supplies was too much for her to resist. In a very serious tone, she looked at me and said, “If you can’t share, we might have to take it away if you can’t share.”
Oh no she didn’t! Girlfriend was using my own mommy-words at me! Impressed, I agreed to comply. “I was going to draw a body on this lady’s face,” I said. “Well, I will do it,” she said very focused, and grabbed the pen. I had resigned myself to let that one go. To let her have the page, and then let it go. I would just draw on my own later, I decided. I love my daughter’s artwork, truly I do! But this was MY sketchbook, my inner kid complained.
Not surprisingly, I LOVED what she drew. I had drawn a woman’s face, and she had turned her into a dinosaur-woman. It was beautiful, it was carefree, and for as much as I don’t like to share, I LOVED what she had created. Flipping through my sketchbook, I found another doodle of a face I had not yet finished. She drew a body on it, too, and I was enthralled. It was such a beautiful combination of my style and hers. And she LOVED being a part of it. She never hesitated in her intent. She wasn’t tentative. She was insistent and confident that she would of course improve any illustration I might have done. …And the thing is, she DID.
Soon, she began flipping through my sketchbook, looking for more heads. “Do you have any heads for me today?” she would ask me each morning. So I began making a point at night to draw some faces for her (which was my pleasure–faces are my favorite part, anyway). She would then pick up a pen with great focus, and begin to draw. Later, I would add color and highlights, texture and painting, to make a complete piece. Sometimes she filled in the solid areas with colored markers, but I would always finish with acrylics later on my own.
Sometimes I would give her suggestions, like “maybe she could have a dragon body!” but usually she would ignore theses suggestions if it didn’t fit in with what she already had in mind. But since I am a grownup and a little bit (okay a lot) of a perfectionist, I sometimes would have a specific idea in mind as I doodled my heads. Maybe she could make this into a bug! I’d think happily to myself as I sketched, imagining the possibilities of what it could look like. So later, when she’d doodle some crazy shape that seemed to go in some surrealistic direction, or put a large circle around the creature and filled the WHOLE THING in with marker, part of my brain would think, What is she DOING?!? She’s just scribbling it all up! But I should know that in most instances, kids’ imaginations way outweigh a grownup’s, and it always ALWAYS looked better that what I had imagined. ALWAYS.
For example, the filled-in marker of the one above, she told me, was a chrysalis, for the caterpillar to transform into a butterfly. Of COURSE it is. I never would have thought of that. And that’s why kids make awesome artists.
Later, I would show her what I had done with our drawings–the painting and coloring. She seemed to critique them pretty harshly. “That’s silly, mama.” or “you put WATER behind her?” But for the most part, she enjoyed them. I enjoyed them. I LOVE them.
And from it all, here are the lessons I learned: to try not to be so rigid. Yes, some things (like my new sketchbook) are sacred, but if you let go of those chains, new and wonderful things can happen. Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little. In sharing my artwork and allowing our daughter to be an equal in our collaborations, I helped solidify her confidence, which is way more precious than any doodle I could have done. In her mind, her contributions were as valid as mine (and in truth, they really were). Most importantly, I learned that if you have a preconceived notion of how something should be, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE DISAPPOINTED. Instead, just go with it, just ACCEPT it, because usually something even more wonderful will come out of it.
SIDE NOTE: As an idea (mainly for myself) I decided to put just a few of our collaborative prints up for sale on a site called Society 6. I purchased one myself (the space beavers, called “Outer Face”) to see how they would turn out, and I’m pretty happy with it. We’ve done dozens and dozens of collaborative sketches, but I only put a few up as prints. I’m not sure what to do with the others. Maybe make a children’s book out of them? Make poems to go along? I’m not sure, but I love them with a very large portion of my heart, and they need a special place.
When my daughter was nearly two, she was VERY MUCH into the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. She also loved tea parties and hats. (See where I’m going with this?)
Since my husband was deployed, I decided to make a “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” for my daughter’s second birthday, and have a fun time of it with some friends. Keep in mind, deployment can make you a little cuckoo. I threw myself into it, but I didn’t need any additional stress, so I planned it WELL in advance, and although it seems like a ton of work, by the time party day came around, I just sort of got everything out & laid it nicely around the room. Easy peasy.
So I had this funny sketch I had done of my daughter intensely focused on her “tea” that was perfect for the invitations.
The idea was that kids could show up in hats & have some fun. My friends surprised me, and most had not only their kids in hats but themselves as well! One thing I’ve learned from homemade kid’s parties is to have something for kids to DO right off the bat, so there’s no awkward waiting-around-for-everyone phase (kids have been known to have short attention spans). So I got some inexpensive foam visors from the craft store, a few plain stickers, lots of foam stickers, and let the kids have at it. We didn’t even have chairs–I just laid tablecloths on the floor (which fit the “tea party” theme anyway) and let the kids play with the stickers & hats while the mamas talked.
I got plain ol’ cookies (I think they were pre-made grocery store ones), and decorated them with hearts and card symbols with a simple tube of icing.
I had little paper signs that said “eat me, ” “drink me,” “we’re all a little mad around here,” and “don’t step on the mome raths.”
I had splurged a little on a local bakery’s mini-cupcakes, and put store-bought little sugar roses (from the cake decorating section of stores) in them.
My neighbor, a crafty friend, had helped me sew some little bloomers and an apron for my daughter, to pull of a sort of “Alice” look.
The fancy footwork came with the cake. I had done a full-fondant cake for our daughter’s first birthday (more for me, just to see if I COULD), and didn’t really feel like taking that route again. But I did have my mom’s awesome buttercream recipe, and a ton of food coloring. I even made the cake batter rainbow swirl, as I had seen all over online. Fondant eyes, teeth & nose, 2-layer cake, and boom–the Cheshire Cat. (I even accidentally jacked up the top layer, and calmly just cut it out and drew his ears on the bottom.)
As one of the fun parts of the party, I had a few mini felt top hats for anyone who didn’t come with a hat and didn’t want to feel left out. (Also, they decorated the place nicely.) When I was researching some party ideas early on, I had seen an awesome tutorial online that was super easy and fun to do, and basically used felt and random embellishments.
I hot-glued everything together, and mostly used plain felt sturdied with cardboard (although the pre-made sturdy felt works best). I had seen some hot-glued to headbands before, but I wanted something a little sturdier, so I decided to hot glue the top side of hair clips to the underside of the hats, and it worked REALLY well. It allowed the hat to stay on through the whole party.
They were so fun to decorate and embellish with pennies, feathers, buttons, and whatever else I had lying around, and I even invited some guests to take them home as party favors.
All in all, a “fancy” birthday party that seems like a lot of work, but when done in little steps well in advance, wasn’t so bad at all. I had a great time with friends, the kids had fun, and the best part is I wasn’t stressed at all! Seems silly for a party she’ll never remember, but as I said, during a deployment, sometimes your friends are all you have to help you make things better. I was grateful for everyone that showed up, and I’m pretty sure everyone had fun!
The felt hats were especially fun. Might be a cool kid’s project to make a couple of hats up in advance, and let the kid decorate them…
I’ve found being an artist a very solitary lifestyle…it’s something I often do by myself. I could spend hours and hours at a time on my own, just painting and drawing, sewing, sculpting…creating. Often, I wouldn’t start a project unless I could devote three to five hours on it.
After I had my daughter, I found it difficult to find the time to carve out to create. I couldn’t have the hours and hours on end to myself–there was another little person there, asking, needing, wanting, and I enjoyed her very much. I still felt the tug to create, I just had to learn to enjoy it in smaller increments. To be able to put it down at a moment’s notice, and pick it up again quickly, when I got a chance.
People ask me all the time, “how do you find the TIME to do all these projects??” And the answer is that I didn’t much, for the first couple of years. I waited until bedtime.
But now that our daughter is four, the answer to that question is: DISTRACTIONS. She’s developed a love of art and crafty things. When we’re out of something (anything), she’s been known to say “well, let’s just make our own.” I’ve taught her that there are no mistakes you can’t fix. I’ve taught her about “happy accidents” (an artistic lesson my mother instilled in me when I was young, and Bob Ross reasserted). Now that’s she’s a little older and enjoys crafts and drawing and creating, I’ve learned that I CAN create with her around. I’ve learned a little bit about how to SHARE my time, which has always been difficult for me, especially concerning artistic endeavors… And I’ve learned that if I let her go wild doing something similar to what I’m doing, she not only enjoys herself, but she learns from me. If I’m painting on fabric, I let her paint on fabric. I don’t mind a mess (but I also don’t put her in her best clothes when we paint). Sometimes I let her use the “good stuff” (like acrylics and permanent markers), and teach her how to use them correctly. I remember being a kid and the feeling of using new paints, or having a marker that was dried out, or the difference between drawing on newsprint versus fine sketchbook paper. If she’s into it, I want her to experience all that, too.
Many of our trips to the craft store are spent with me getting my supplies and her picking a “project.” Sometimes they are the pre-made ones, and sometimes she comes up with projects all her own. This bird mask is a project she came up with all on her own. I mean , she knew exactly what she wanted to do:
We also subscribe to something called Kiwi Crate, which sends out a box every month full of 2 or 3 super easy, super fun kid projects. She’s always so excited to get them in the mail and get started on the projects. And best part? They require very little parental assistance!
…So this is how I do all the creative projects I do, now that we have a kid. I’m very grateful that she is so artistic, and I’m enjoying that for as long as it lasts. I know as a parent, things constantly change, at just the moment you think you’ve got things under control, but for now I am enjoying sharing my creative time.