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.
Contest entries are coming in from all over, and they’re so awesome! Have you entered yet? …Looks like you all are having a lot of fun with it, and I want to see MORE! One more week to enter! If you want to give it a shot, head on over to the last blog post and try it yourself. Good luck and most importantly: have a great time with it!
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.