It all started when Myla asked me why I loved Furiosa.
I told her how I was a big fan of the older Mad Max movies…but that Mad Max: Fury Road was the first time I’d ever seen a character like Imperator Furiosa: she was a strong woman, but she had weaknesses. She was fierce, but she also had emotions. She was powerful, but also terrified. There aren’t many characters like her in movies, and it didn’t end with a boring old love story. I love her because despite her robotic arm, her character was HUMAN.
Myla asked if some day she could be Furiosa at a convention. (I’ve had artist booths at ComiCons in the past, so she’s familiar with that world.) I thought, “MAN that arm would be difficult, but I bet I could do it.” And you know I love a good challenge.
But when she asked ME to dress up too, I decided if we were going to do this as a team, we were gonna need to go all out….So there was only one character I could be that would go with hers…. the villain, and her nemesis, Immortan Joe.
I won’t go into character and plot descriptions too much, but I’ll just say I. LOVE. THIS. MOVIE. I love a good character, and no one (in my opinion) has done a better, more well-rounded female character than George Miller did with Furiosa.
Myla knows the basic idea of the story, but hasn’t seen the violent parts of the movie. She knows about the Green Place, and who Furiosa and Immortan are. I even told her the story of Thunderdome, and she’s fascinated by it all.
So I decided to jump in and give a go. There was a convention in Austin that I had a few months to prepare for. For those who don’t know, one of the best things about ComiCons is all the people doing cosplay, or dressing as their favorite characters. I’m always so impressed–people get quite creative with their costumes, and put so much work into them–most of them built completely by hand. I had seen it done many times, but I had never done it before. This would definitely be an adventure!
For Furiosa (above, left): the big build is the arm. And the belt buckle. And all the leather belts. For the Immortan (above, right): good GOLLY. The clear plastic chest piece. The medals. The mouth piece. The codpiece. The hair. It all seemed SO overwhelming. But as my husband always says: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (NOTE: no elephants were harmed in the making of this cosplay).
It was a long, tedious process, but lots of fun….So come with me, and I’ll walk you through the Wasteland…
First off, I am SO grateful to my friend Aletta (from TheFoxyToyBox). When I told her what I was doing, she said “Hey I’m spending the next couple of weeks thrift store shopping. Want me to find you things??” Umm..YES PLEASE!!! So lovely Aletta sent me a few boxes just FULL of things I could use: several leather belts, tools, buckles, hoses, wire, canteens, shirts, pants, you name it. To quote My Little Pony, friendship IS magic–she was a lifesaver.
So I started with the breathing apparatus. Immortan Joe has this giant breathing thing on his back. I browsed a lot of forums before I started that had tons of ideas of how to do this, (carved in foam, using a baby buggy topper, etc) and their main concern was for movie accuracy, but I didn’t take it THAT seriously. I wanted it pseudo-realistic, so it was fairly representative of the movie, without stressing too much about specifics. I went for the basic look, and build a sort of neck-pillow from a thick brown faux suede fabric I had, stuffed it with poly-fil stuffing, glued breathing filters from the hardware store to the end pieces and velcro’d it to my shirt, so it was detachable.
I took the easy way out on the mouthpiece, and purchased a blank used one on Amazon (don’t judge me). I have seen people build amazing ones from scratch, but I lack the patience and stamina for that. I painted it myself, though, and tried it on with the breathing bag. MWAHAHAHAHAHAH. I already felt awesomely evil.
Next, I turned my attention to Furiosa. Aletta had found these wonderful little brown leggings for us, and I drew on them with marker, to simulate the pattern of Furiosa’s pants. She sent TONS of leather belts, so I cut a few up to size Myla’s little body. The best find was a sort of foldup jewelry bag belt (or something?), which you can see at the top right below. I used that as the basis of Myla’s “corset” and laid the other belts below it.
I started working on the arm by using a kid’s long black dressy glove slipped over a paper towel roll as the base, and glued things to it from there. I took a trip to the hardware store, and just grabbed anything I thought would help: bits of siding, wire, little sockets and bolts, and a tiny wrench (which is one of the most identifiable things on her arm). When I got the basic structure (shown above) I put it aside and started working on the shoulder.
This black piece needed to be solid, and after reading a few forums, I went with Kydex plastic sheets. It was only about $10 for a 2-pack of 12″x 12″ sheets, and I only really used one sheet for everything. I took a heat gun and shaped it carefully, burning my fingers all the while, because I am clumsy. I used E600 glue to attach it to a little padded oval of muslin I sewed to fit under the main black part, and attached the little mower-pull (which I found in the weedeater section at the hardware store. A little bigger than what I wanted, but it worked just fine). I build a little velcro’d cuff under the main padded shoulderpiece, which you can see in the bottom right picture below.
Furiosa wears a belt with the flaming skull emblem of Immortan Joe, which I cut out of cardboard, painted with acrylic, and glued to a fabric backing, also gluing various sizes of jewelry chains hanging down the back of it (in the above photo, bottom left).
Next up: The arm. Since the Furiosa character is missing an arm and Myla is not, I did what most people do when they cosplay Furiosa: I just built a mechanical arm. I started with the base of a long little dressup black glove, and just added all kinds of nonsense to it. I used the black Kydex to mold the little black finger pieces by heating it up and forming it around my own fingers, while wearing a gardening glove and burned myself again, because I am a professional crafter. Haha! Once they cooled and I glued them to the black glove (being careful not to glue the fingers shut), I glued corrugated metal the outside of a few of them.
The lifesaver, though, was a trick I learned from one of my favorite craft/geek blogs, Epbot: METAL TAPE. After I got the basic shape down, I covered nearly everything in metal tape. It’s a bit thinner than aluminum foil, but softer, and with an adhesive side. And when you paint it, it has this great old metal look! I put it over the black Kydex, and scraped little “holes” in the index and pinkie fingers, to give that holey metal look (I’m pretty sure that’s a professional term). I cut the pin parts of off metal push tacks and glued them down to look like rivets. I wrapped things in wire and leather string. And I think it came out pretty cool….especially considering this is teensy enough to fit on my 7-year old…
Now I turned back to the Immortan again, which I had been putting off because I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about that clear plastic chestpiece. Instead of dealing with it right away, I started on some of his “badges,” most of which are smashed bottlecaps. I had purchased a mixed bag of decorative bottlecaps from Amazon, with coincidentally cool names like Pop’s Soda, Green Seltzer, Dad’s Ale, and Sunshine Soda, none of which are movie-accurate, but are sort of a funny nod to the character, if you know the movie. Now THAT was fun! If you want to get some aggression out and feel super awesome, get a hammer, and smash some bottlecaps flat. Woohoo! I also got a nail and hammered holes into four sides of each bottlecap so I could make them into this sort of chainmail.
The armpieces were a little easier to mold by laying a flat sheet of PETG plastic (around $8 for a 24″ square sheet on Amazon) over a curved rolling chair and heating it up, and I sealed the edges in moleskin tape. I wasn’t so serious about the emblems. I glued down the bottlecap “chainmail,” put a “Mr. Yuk” symbol on his arm (above) because of the poisoned air & water in the movie, and the bear with a star is my husband’s old unit patch from Alaska (just because). My leg chaps (not pictured here) had emblems from random cars (thanks to a trip to the junkyard and scoring several for free) instead of high-end v8 engines, which was funny. Because it’s supposed to be fun, guys.
So the most intimidating part, the clear chestpiece, would’ve been a cinch if I’d have had one of those industrial vacuuforms. But since I did not, I gathered my courage, went in my garage armed with my heat gun, and shaped some of the PETG clear plastic sheets over a mannequin form. I got a couple of pieces of the PETG in case I made mistakes, which was a good thing–since the first couple of times I tried it, it turned out all wobbly and wonky, and looked like I strapped a plastic takeout box to my chest.
The codpiece belt was that same fake suede painted black with a few nuts and bolts glued to it, and the “929, 240, and 49” emblems were cut out of cardboard, sealed in that metal tape, and aged with black acrylic paint.
Finally, after a couple of bad attempts at the chestpiece, I came up with something fairly usable. It was a little wonky, but sturdy. I made a lower back piece to go with it, and attached them to eachother with snap-tape on the sides so I could snap myself into it. Luckily, some of the wonky wrinkles looked like the fake-molded abs he has, so that was a happy coincidence, and I accentuated them with some thinned-down brown acrylic paint.
Aletta came through again with an old cellphone, which my husband broke apart for me, so I could use the keypad and inner panel. I used old necklace chains I had, and a spark plug and other things from the hardware store for his chest decorations. My favorite part was the medals, which I ordered inexpensively from random sellers on Etsy: there were medals of old Russian leaders, and awards for marching band and saxaphone, which made me laugh BECAUSE IT’S FUNNY. I cut up one of my husband’s old army shirts to go under it all (since, um, I’m a FEMALE), and it sort of looked like this now:
And for the last bit, I didn’t want to put all that work into this and use a cheap little thin halloween wig, so I found a $30 lacefront wig on Amazon that looked so much like the real deal, it was scary. I was going to ratt it up a bit, but when I got it out to give it a try, it didn’t really need much of anything done to it…
Whew! Are you tired yet? Well good, because that was pretty much it for the build.
So the best thing about this is that despite a few simple dress rehearsals, you really have NO idea what it’s all going to look like altogether til the day of. We got to the convention center and put ourselves together in the parking lot. I painted us both up, and wiped my painty-fingers on Myla’s shirt and arms and my pants, because we’re supposed to be all dirty from the Wasteland. I needed my husband to help me put everything on and snap me in, but once we did, it was pretty spectacular, you guys…
Myla’s Furiosa was pretty awesome once it was all together. We opted for NOT shaving her head (hahaha), and pulled her hair back instead (darn, those curls always escape, though!).
(And despite it being velcro’d to her shirt and supported by straps, her little shoulder piece kept sliding off the whole time. Kid-shoulders aren’t as supportive as grownup ones, I guess.)
My “Immortan Mama” (as Myla called me) was a sight–people cleared out of our way when we walked through the aisles, and we were asked to stop for photos a LOT (which is all part of the fun of it).
People go to conventions for different reasons. There’s usually an Artist Alley (where comic and other fine artists and crafters go) and a vendor section (full of t-shirts, comics, toys, and dolls). There are celebrities (actors from Walking Dead, Lord of the Rings, and Dr. Who, for example) to sign autographs and take photos. There are also panels and classes you can visit outside of the main convention area.
Any and all of that would have been very difficult to do in my Immortan costume, so we just walked the main convention floor, looking at tables and stopping for people to take our picture. We had a pose down, and people seemed pretty excited by it all. On the down side, no one could hear me or understand me, so it was a little awkward meeting Bob Camp (the co-creator of Ren & Stimpy), and trying to tell him my name so he could personalize a doodle. But really, that’s fine, because I got THIS cool pic:
He was a pretty energetic dude. I even sang along with him to the theme song of Log and the Muddy Mudskipper Show, but in my mask, it was pretty much a mumbled mess. I sounded like a Peanuts parent. Hahah!
We had fun walking around the convention, looking at cosplay, vendors, and displays, and talking to artists. One challenge was that I wear glasses and don’t have a contacts prescription, so I had to squint my way through. I kept my glasses in my pocket, and since I’m nearsighted, I could see general things, but they were mostly blurry unless I squinched up close. By the time we were done, my face was super sweaty and Myla was tired and hungry.
Since my peripheral vision and speech were limited, I didn’t get to get a good look at much, so the next day we decided to meet up with my friend (and awesome tattooer) Annie, and just enjoy the sights. We posed in front of Myla’s favorite Ninja Turtle, saw some excellent cosplay, and splurged on ALLLL sorts of goodies (Labyrinth Funko Pops, anyone!??!).
So if you’ve ever considered going to a ComicCon but thought it was maybe too weird, go ahead and give it a try! And if you’re not up for going through all the construction and costume building that I did, just wear a superhero t-shirt and call it a day, because that’s fun too. Just have a good time, and let your geek flag fly!
PS: Did you see my super cool luna moth necklace up there? It was from a vendor at the convention–Monica L. Knighton–she turned out to be one of my favorite booths there(once I could actually SEE)…. I got a few things the first day and had to go find her again the second day and get some more. :) Go check her out!
Last year, at the end of first grade, Myla told me “I have an idea for a backpack.” She drew out a doodle that sort of looked like Yoda hanging on Luke’s back, but with her own little character she created: an arctic fox in an orange sweater.
(I drew it on a napkin in her lunch once:)
Since I have no magic skills in patternmaking on my own, I found a beautiful little backpack pattern from a website called Birch that was functional, not too complicated, and adaptable to the idea Myla had. (The free tutorial I used & altered a bit is HERE.)
Then I gathered supplies at the craft store. The idea of a WHITE backpack–especially for a kid–is daunting, but thankfully Myla gave me some artistic leeway by at least letting me choose fabric with pattern–a thicker canvas with stripes, and another with zigzags. I had some orange fabric in my own stash, and purchased everything else I needed on the pattern’s supply list. I bought extra, because I decided to add a little extra to the measurements to make it larger all over (it’s perfect for a smaller kid, but I needed to really make sure I could fit her school folder and her lunchbox in there).
The cool thing about this pattern was that it closes & opens with velcro with an elastic bunched opening under the flap–no crazy buckles or zippers to deal with, and even an intermediate amateur like myself was able to figure out the elastic situation pretty easily.
The tutorial itself was very easy to follow (like I said, I’m no pro) and I made little tweaks as we went along. She chose the inside liner herself, which was a brown pine cone pattern…
And BOOM here it is! She wanted to be sure there was a little white fur tail at the bottom (which lines right up with her pants, making it look like SHE has a tail, which is fun). I added a face & ears to the flap (she initially wanted the flap to be the face but cut to a point like an animal nose, but we met halfway, so it could be functional). Admittedly, I got a little confused with the strap situation, but it’s probably because I was trying to alter the straps a bit to make part of them look like paws, lying over her shoulders.
She drew the little body on the back in pen, and I painted it with acrylic paints. One reader thankfully suggested sealing it in Scotchgard, which was a VERY good idea, so it’ll hopefully protect it a bit from dirt and stains for as long as possible.
Sometimes people think working together is some sort of ethereal, magical situation, but it does take some patience that I don’t always possess. I got pretty crabby near the end of this one, because she was trying to explain the arm situation and I wasn’t understanding what she was wanting, but we finally worked it out, and overall it turned out to be another good collaboration!
I may not always be rosy and cheery working through some ideas, but I always consider it a fun challenge when she has an idea she wants to make. I’m working on teaching her a little bit of sewing here and there so that one day she might make things herself, but at this age, she doesn’t always have the attention span for it, and I don’t always have the patience. So we start of sharing for a bit, then she runs off and does projects nearby, while I work at my art desk. But at least she can say she was part of building it!
So, yeah. BOOM. We made a backpack. Yay!
On the first day of the year, Myla and I took a walk in the woods, and saw proof of what surely was a forest full of fairies, yeti, and strange imaginary creatures. When I got home, I printed out a photo from our walk, and painted a few of them. I even did a blog post about it called Imaginary Monsters.
Since then, I’ve been adding little monsters to several photos I’ve taken of her, for fun. Sometimes silly little forest creatures….
And sometimes, more serious bigger fellas…
I paint them playing with her…
And just hanging out…
Sometimes, I add little poems to them, in the hopes of one day making a little book collection for her…
“What kind of dragon are you?” she said to the girl. “Your teeth are so small, and your tail doesn’t curl.”
“You’re an odd little puppy,” the graggin said. “Why haven’t you got any horns on your head?”
When I posted them, people asked if I did them digitally, but they’re all sketched in pen and handpainted in acrylic on photo printouts.
They’re fun to do and quite relaxing for me. She has such a great imagination when we’re just exploring, and it’s fun to take a peek at the world the way she might see it.
Sometimes I ask her what kind of creature I should add, but usually I just come up with something on my own to make her smile.
When I posted one recently, someone suggested it might be fun if I offered them as customs…
So are you up for it? Do you have a kid (or kid-at-heart) that needs a portrait with an imaginary friend for Christmas, or birthday, or just to make them smile?
Well, I’ve decided to offer a few for custom order! I have an Epson Artisan printer with archival inks and photo papers, and will offer two sizes: 8.5″ x 11″, and 11.17″ x 16.5″. I can take your child’s drawing or description to work with, or I can create one from my own imagination.
I put up a listing in my etsy shop…have a look!
I have so much fun with them–I’d love to do some for you!
I’m a Grownup. I have a job. I’m a mom. I’m all responsible and stuff.
So why do I keep buying toys?? Because I’ve been repainting them. And that automatically turns it into an “art project,” right?? Some people even make these repaints into a business. I’m not really good enough to be in that league, though–I just do it for myself, for fun.
I’m not going to play with these dolls (which the 7-year old doesn’t quite understand). I just like looking at them. I stick them on a shelf when I’m done, and they make me smile. It’s similar to the little twinge of heartbreak I feel when I happily build a lego kit and it gets destroyed once the kid starts playing. I have to fight the urge to Kragle lego kits with superglue because I realize I am secretly neurotic.
So here’s one of my “grownup” art projects: repainting a Monster High doll!
Ages ago, when I played roller derby, these little roller derby Monster High dolls came out, and they were SO cool. But I talked myself out of them, because I was a Grownup. I have trouble justifying buying things for myself that don’t serve a purpose. I admire when people can collect things just for the fun of it, but I seem to have trouble with it sometimes….
So when I was telling my daughter about them, she asked to see photos. I showed her my favorite: Lagoona Blue, who came with finned roller skates and a helmet with an awesome fin on it.
I told her how I had always wanted one, and she said, “you should just go ahead and get one, mom. If it makes you happy, you should just DO it!” …which is easy for a kid to say, but since this is pretty much the same advice my husband gives me, I decided that after 6 years or so, I was just going to go ahead and get her.
And since I’m a grownup, I justified to myself that if I repainted her, she’d at least have a purpose: she’d be an Art Project. (Don’t ask me why I always feel the need to justify these things to myself.)
When she arrived, I wiped her face off with acetone (nail polish remover), and started painting her in acrylics.
Once the paint is dried, I sprayed her with Testors spray, and gloss varnished her eyes and lips to add some shine.
And here she is. And she may not be such a big deal, and she may not bring about world peace, and she may serve no other purpose than to sit on a shelf with my other dolls and look cool, but she makes me smile. And I guess that’s okay.
At age 42, I’m trying to get used to the idea that there’s validity in things not having a major purpose–other than just simple enjoyment. It’s a “stop and smell the roses” sort of thing. It’s an “enjoy the little things” kind of thing. And with all the things in the world, why not have a bit of that–ESPECIALLY as a Grownup?
So enjoy the little things today, grownup or not! Look around for the simple things that just make you smile, and enjoy them, just because you can…
The other day, I was in a crafty mood, and felt like doing a project with Myla. I pushed all my “to do” things and other commitments I’ve been putting off, and asked her if she wanted to make a doll.
She ALWAYS wants to make a doll. “There’s a creature I’ve been thinking about,” she said excitedly. “I think it would make a great doll!” She grabbed her markers and started drawing it out.
When I do projects like this, I like to let her feel like she’s a big part of making it. We went to the craft room, and picked out some fabric from my stash. Apparently, this creature is a sort of cat-like mossy dragon, so we found some mossy-looking fabric that fit perfectly. I let her decide what fabric would work best. She gave me details on how it should look–long tail, webbed feet, spiky hair…
I sat her on my lap and had her help a little with the beginning. She’s still a little needle-shy, but I showed her how to guide the fabric without pushing it. After awhile, it’s easier to finish it up myself, so she bounced off to another paper project while I finished up the sewing.
Later, when the body was done, I asked her to draw the eyes on with a pen the way she wanted, so I could paint them.
And finally, the little mossy cat-dragon was done! I’m no master sewer by any means, and my dolls are ALWAYS quite wonky, but the best part is that she doesn’t care, because we made it together and she designed it herself.
I always ask her what she thinks when it’s done, and she always says she loves them so much. Once, she said “when we make dolls, it doesn’t always turn out exactly like I thought in my drawing….but it always turns out so much BETTER.”
I noticed she uses dolls as an icebreaker with other kids at the child care room at the gym, and sort of walks up to kids and just starts playing dolls with them. Sure, they ask what the heck it is, but when she tells them, I think they sort of dig it. I brought it to visit her at school lunch the other day, and made it move around like a puppet and play, and had the kids (who had at first looked at me like I was odd…which I am, btw) cracking up and laughing at the silly antics of her little mossy doll.
So wonky or not, it took me about an hour and a half to make something that she could make connections with. In just a short amount of time, we made something she could proudly tell people she designed…and that little feeling of pride glows on her face when she talks to other kids. Which makes ME smile. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
What do I want to be when I grow up? An artist? Ahhhh, I would love to be able to sit around all day, painting whatever my heart desired, while sitting back and watching the money roll in.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I have a day job, and thankfully it’s one I enjoy. I’ve worked very hard to get to the day job I’ve always wanted, and worked a lot of cruddy jobs (truck driver, vending machine stocker, night shift newspaper printer, you name it) before this one. Several years ago, my manager plucked me from a depressing job building small copy ads for a tiny black and white classifieds paper, and since then I’ve been SO grateful to be working for her, happily designing posters, flyers, and marketing material for army and family facilities on military posts, as well as any events that come through. It’s an awesome job.
So I art in my spare time. I art ALL the time. I’m very lucky that my daughter loves to art, too, which is why we art together. I decided that if I can’t make full time money with our art, I’d be happy if we could find ways to use our artsy art powers for the forces of Good.
Once upon a time, when I saw an Instagram artist post their progress on something called the Painted Prosthetic Project to support Veterans, I was immediately curious, and contacted them. If you haven’t followed me long, you may not know I come from a military family. My dad was Army. I was an Army dependent in my high school and college years. And I did four years in the Army myself (photos of my Army scowl below), where I met my husband, who is still in the Army.
And just like that, I became part of the Painted Prosthetic Project. This group has joined artists together to paint a used prosthetic limb that will eventually be professionally photographed and displayed in Florida galleries. They’ll be turned into a coffee book to raise money to help wounded and homeless Veterans get back on their feet. Working with Warriors Pathfinder, 100% of the money gathered from an online auction of the art pieces themselves will help veterans and their families.
They’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help offset things like the cost of shipping the prosthetics to the artists as well of any out-of-pocket expenses so that ALL of the rest of the money can go directly to Warriors Pathfinder.
Since they knew the work my daughter and I do together, they assigned me a child’s prosthetic, and shipped it to me straight away. I debated for a long time as to what to draw on it. I wanted to get Myla involved, and decided to go for the idea of a sort of imaginary world; something a kid would love to look at.
I started with a sketch and a rough paint layout, using Myla as a reference, sketching her hands open to hold something. Then I explained the project to Myla, asking if she’d like to add any sort of imaginary creatures to it. She always does. Her eyes lit up and her hand started sketching. She drew a gnome, a dragon, some fairies, and a few other creatures. I added pointed fairy ears to her face. She said she wanted it to look like a forest full of fairy friends and strange creatures.
The fun part about drawing with her is trying to clarify her drawings into something that makes sense with mine. I always say I’m sort of like an interpreter, to help people understand what her drawings mean as well as making them make sense in the context of my drawings. It’s like getting a glimpse of the wonder and fascination kids have for EVERYthing.
She gave me guidelines as to what colors certain characters should be. Apparently, the little fairy gnomes at the bottom were looking at the stars, and since she’s fascinated with constellations, I added the stars, and some moths to balance it all out.
And here’s our final piece! I decided to leave the back blank so it could be displayed on a wall or hanging up, with only this side showing, and I’m pretty happy with it!
It’s intimidating putting our little ol’ work next to the likes of such wonderful artists as those involved, but I’m happy to be part of it, and to let Myla be a part of helping someone else.
If you’d like to be on the mailing list to be notified with new info, click here.
You can follow them on Instagram at @paintedprostheticproject.
To follow them on Facebook, go here.
If you’d like to donate to their GoFundMe page, you can do that here.
If you can’t donate, a share would help spread the word! Thank you so much. 🙂
Awhile back, a reader suggested that it might be fun to let other readers ask us questions, and have Myla answer them. Why haven’t I ever thought of that? So although you may have been quite familiar with our collaborations, please allow me to introduce you to the most awesomest 7-year old I’ve ever known: Myla.
Myla not only draws, but is creative in SO many other ways. She sculpts things for hours with construction paper, tape, and scissors. She frantically makes the things in her head out of hot glue and broken electronics.
As an only child, she’s got a burning desire to be around other people and make them smile. She’s never shy. She’ll do practically anything for a laugh. She loves insects of all kinds (as apparent in her fierce desire to obtain a hercules beetle grub–how can I make this happen, universe???), and all sorts of animals.
She didn’t ever seem interested in art until she turned three years old, and suddenly that’s ALL she did. We lived in Alaska at the time, my husband deployed for a year, and we were quite isolated indoors, with winter being 8 cold, dark months of the year. I tried to do projects with her as a toddler, mostly resulting in absolute messes, which was okay, too.
And then at age three, the art bug hit her, and she’d bury her face in her sketchbook, drawing, drawing, drawing. I saw so much of myself in her desire to create things. I understood that urge to get an idea out, no matter the time or place. When she was age four, I shared the story of how we began drawing together, and we’ve filled our world with doodles and art ever since.
She can turn anything into an art project…from making cookies, to cleaning up.
She loves to talk and never stops asking questions, and I never tire of trying to explain things to her…some questions she asks are so complex, I’m surprised at her ability to understand such deep concepts. We have pretty cool conversations.
So she jumped at the idea to answer questions from people on the page. So now I’ll share with you the questions people asked online, and the answers she gave to them….
Myla, do you ever dream the same thing more than once? (Lori) Just one. A nightmare that is so gross I don’t want to tell you. I had it two times. The Dream Creepers must’ve let it through on accident.
How do you wish school was different if you were in charge? (Sylvia) Ice cream sundaes on Fridays! Also, we would do art projects all day, every day–whatever we choose, with no instructions.
Who is your favorite book character and why? (Lauren) The scarecrow from the audiobook from the Wizard of Oz (read by Anne Hathaway) because he was funny, and the voice she did for him made me laugh. My favorite character from a kid movie is Zork from Giant King…because he’s weird–he’s a battlebot who wants to be a kindergarten teacher! And he has a funny voice.
What would you like to be when you grow up? (Lauren) A zoologist and an animator! I want to have a petting zoo and a house with all kinds of different animals like bats, sloths, hedgehogs, parrots, and foxes and everything. And I will live right next to my mom and dad so we can always see each other.
Coffee, Tea, or Juice? Do you like to drink it while you work, or as a reward? (Ashley)
Actually, I love to drink pink milk (strawberry milk) while I’m working on projects. (Side note from Mom: when she was a toddler, her favorite drink was raw carrot juice. She demanded it above all others. She drank so much carrot juice, she was practically orange!)
What has been your favorite project to date? (Ashley) Right now, my favorite paper project is an alien goat I made out of paper.
What is your favorite color, and why? (Ashley) Lately, my favorite color is white. It’s the color of the arctic fox character I created!
My son loves to pretend he is a Royal Rainbow Crystal Protector dragon who takes care of all the other dragons. What is your favorite kind of dragon? (Christina) My favorite dragon is one I made up called a sheep dragon. It looks like a black dragon but with soft sheep fur. Also, a rain dragon, which flies in the clouds and rains on everyone. If it’s a cloudy day, there’s probably a rain dragon nearby. (Myla and her sheep dragon from Budsies pictured below…)
What is the best and worst thing about working with mum? What advice would you give to other kids considering a family-based business? (Joanne) I LOVE to draw with mom, because in the end it always turns out beautiful. There’s nothing I’d pick as the worst thing! We mix our ideas pretty well. I would say to people that want to draw together to do what you love to do. Try as best as you can, and never give up.
What would you say to people who love to draw but feel like they’re not good enough? Also, what toppings do you like on your pizza? (Amanda) I would tell them to be calm and do what fits you. Trust yourself. Keep trying and trying and you will get better and better. And for pizza, I don’t like ANY toppings, not even a lot of cheese–I just love the pizza bread!
If you had to make as many people laugh and be as happy as possible for an entire day, would you rather do so by being a half bear/octopus, or a half parrot/giraffe? And how would you accomplish your goal? (Alisha) Oh that would be so fun! I would choose to be half arctic fox and half squirrel. I would lick them to make them laugh, and make fart sounds and goofy sounds.
If you owned a magical unicorn that granted you three wishes, what would you wish for? (Alisha) My first wish would be that the unicorn could come back and see me every day. My second wish would be that my mom and other family could be as happy as they can be. My third wish would be for my friend Patrick to be able to be in the same class as me in second grade. Also, I’ll give everyone a pet puppy.
What is your favorite medium to create with? What is your most favorite piece of art your mom and you have created and why? (Kelly) My favorite thing to work with of all time is paper! I love to make projects with paper, tape and scissors. My favorite thing I created with my mom? There’s too many to choose! My favorite, I think? …is the fox lady that we turned into patches…
In closing, I asked Myla if she had any words to share that might inspire any other artists out there. She thought about it a minute, chose her words carefully, and said this:
“If you want to be an artist, listen to me: practice, practice, and practice. And practice. And if you want to, you can even do it a better way by doing it with someone else.”
Thank you so much!
Ages ago, I told the story of how I looked up at my mounted beetle one day and thought, “I think I want to paint on that.”
I asked myself, “what would a beetle get, if it could customize it’s wings?” The first one I did was “Bad to the Exoskeleton,” surrounded by dead leaves and insect exoskeletons, because no skulls, right? I did another one: “Fear no boot.” Just the thing for a badass beetle who’s not afraid of anything….even getting stepped on.
I eyeballed my mounted months, and decided a moth might want flames, like the old “moth to the flame” saying goes, to show people, “yeah, check ME out. Got so close, I got FLAMES.” (Side note: moth wings are fuzzy and VERY hard to paint.)
And then I snuck a sneaky glance at my mounted dragonfly, and thought it might want wing art of its namesake: a dragon, done tribal-style. (Also: with all those tiny little cells, dragonfly wings are very hard to paint.)
But that was ages ago. I’ve since ordered beetles and painted them as gifts for family…moving more from messages to symbolism. This couple was for my parents: Bavarian-style decorations for mom, Egyptian-styled wings for my dad.
And one of my favorites–a steampunk-styled lovely for my sister.
Then I just had fun. I started thinking of the insects that use camouflaged wing patterns to look like eyed to ward off predators, like owls and hawks that might eat them. Which made me think a beetle might want a set of angry eyes or multiple eyes to scare away a HUMAN predator. Like, “hey, don’t touch me! I’m a cranky human!”
Some I’ve just filled with lovely little patterns I’ve had fun with. Human skulls with beetle legs, flower and mehndi-inspired patterns. And even a leaf insect with William Morris wallpaper-inspired doodles to fit in a modern environment.
I even learned to spread and mount them myself, and let Myla do a few. And as much as she hates finding dead insects outside, she actually enjoyed the process of spreading and pin-mounting them on foam core, and then painting them once they’ve set. Like she said when we painted on bones, “we can make something beautiful out of something that’s sad.”
People have asked, but for whatever reason, I’ve never sold them. So I decided to put a couple in the shop, mounted and set in little shadow box frames. I only have two, but as many as I’ve kept for myself, I decided I could dare to part with the two of them. (The shop’s here, if you’re interested.) If not, I’ll do my best to find them good homes!
There’s this lovely little black & white lady:
And this handsome little flowered fella:
If you’re interested, you could even find some insects to paint on your own! If you do, I know Myla and I both would love to see what you come up with.🙂
The other day, I sat on the couch next to Myla, sketchbook in hand. I sighed and said, “I’m in an art funk. I’m just not happy with anything I’ve been drawing lately.”
Immediately, our caring 7-year old girl jumped to comfort me, saying, “MOM! Don’t talk about yourself that way. You’re a great artist!” I thanked her, but told her I guess I’m just in an art funk, that I’ll just have to wait it out. It’s okay…it’ll pass.
“You know…” she said, thinking carefully. “You’re always looking on your phone at other people’s artwork. What you need to do is put that down for awhile, and just draw your OWN thing. Just draw what’s in your OWN head.”
She’s so smart.
It’s true, I spend hours each day scrolling through Instagram. It’s been an amazing source of inspiration for me. We’re often stationed in places that aren’t bustling centers of creativity, so Instagram has made me feel closer to the world of art and other artists. But when you catch yourself looking at other peoples’ work and comparing it to your own, and getting DISCOURAGED by it….it’s really time to take a break.
I put my phone down, and looked at my blank sketchbook, and an image came to mind. I’ve always loved the balance between cute and creepy, and this cute little pixie-girl floated to the surface of the page, holding a six-legged monster-kitty. And it made me smile.
The next day, I showed it to her. “See, mom? I told you you could do it! Just listen to your OWN voice.” I gave her a hug, because as she had done so many times in her little life, she had inspired me.
I looked through vintage photos to find references for some of the poses I wanted to use, but strongly avoided looking at Instagram (I nearly only follow artists) until I had seen the idea in my head float to the surface of the page and take shape.
I giggle at my happy awkwardness as a kid, and my love for my rainbow suspenders and E.T. t-shirts (a fashion combo I must’ve gotten from Mars). I had big owl glasses and skinned knees. My sister and I played dressup a lot, and made up characters in our rooms. (I did spare myself the horrible hairdo I had growing up, replacing it in the doodle with a cuter ‘do.) Add my beloved ballpoints, and I called it “Pens are Friends.”
I didn’t question my skills as a kid. Drawing was just a tool to get my ideas out, not a measure of how good or not-good I was. I did it without expecting pay, without attention, and without acknowledgement. I did it whether or not anyone “liked” it or commented on it, because I’m older and we didn’t have social media back then. I did it JUST for the love of doodling, just like my daughter does. Just like I need to remember how to do.
So sure, I’ll do portraits. Sure, I’ll do commissions. Sure, I’ll go back to looking on Instagram and being inspired by other artists. But I need to remind myself that I’m here, too. That I’m right where I’m at, and that’s okay. Sometimes (quite often, in my case) it takes a kid to remind you of something you should know as an adult.
Seven year olds give great advice.
Just a few weeks ago, my husband (who was deployed with the Army overseas) let us know that Flat Myla‘s travels were nearly over, and that he’d be returning home with her at last.
Myla and I decided to do a little decorating. I picked up some chalk markers at our grocery store, and was excited to fill our entryway with lots of doodles, as advertised on their brightly-colored packaging. Unfortunately, all we got was a big, drippy MESS! Myla had fun splashing them around, but as for drawing an actual PICTURE, they were impossible.
Myla also wanted to make a big sign for Daddy so he’d see her in the crowd at the welcoming ceremony, so we got some posterboard and markers. I wrote the message she wanted, and she drew a stunning little portrait of herself and Daddy. If you look closely, the line under “Daddy” says “100% love,” which she wrote because I suspect she saw it as a status line, like on a video game.❤
The actual ceremony was held at night, so clear photos were hard to get. Plus, trying to keep an eye out on everything while trying to take a picture was tricky. But when they released us all, we had to spend some time looking around for him. Finding a particular soldier in a company formation is nearly impossible!
But we found him at last, and she was so excited she could barely contain her smile.
Someone once compared deployments to a boat on the water….when someone jumps ship, the boat rocks a bit, and then eventually gets into a smooth ride. When the person jumps back on, there’s a rocky moment until the boat adjusts, and sailing’s smooth again.
So far, the ship’s been smooth, and we’ve been so happy to have him back. Myla’s happy to have someone to wrestle and roughhouse with (I’m not good with all my back trouble), and has loved showing him all her fun games, projects, and favorites now. She says “I’m not sure if Daddy’s used to me being SEVEN yet,” (because she’s so grown up now and stuff) which may be true, but he’ll get the swing of it.
So, next week I’ll be back to sharing our art projects, but for now, we’re keeping the boat on the water, doing our best to keep it sailing smoothly, and enjoying time together. Hug the ones you love, and let them know you love them, and take care!