The Robot Zork

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I LOVE making costumes for the kid.  So far, the biggest, most in-depth one was Furiosa  to go with my Immortan Mama, which we took to a convention to properly walk it around.

But Halloween is always tricky.  When she was old enough to choose herself (age three?), the first costume she ever asked for was Max from Where the Wild Things Are.  So I found a pattern and lovingly worked on the costume for over a month or so (I had never made a full body jumpsuit before), and then the week before Halloween she said, “Well, maybe I just want to be a bee.”  Um…no, kid.  It’s too late–you’re Max.  Hahah!  And so she was Max, and she had fun, and all was right with the world.   So I always ask her to REEEEALLY think about it.  And then I give myself plenty of time to start.  And once she decides, there’s no changing.


The next year, I used cardboard, paper clay, knee pads, and gold spray paint to turn her into her favorite droid, C-3PO, and it was WAY cool.  Then she learned about Falcon from the X-men, and freaked when she saw the pre-made costume in the store…so I decided to compromise (because it was on sale), and let her wear it to a convention we were going to near the end of October  (Even though I reeeeeeeally wanted her to wear the C-3PO I worked so hard on).  But Halloween, she was all droid.


The following year, she was all about teenage Nightcrawler from the cartoon Xmen Evolution, and I threw together a little 3-fingered and 3-toed costume for her.  I glued simple blue ears to some hair clips and clipped them into the wig.  I used red duct tape over cardboard and flip-flops for the boots, and I just traced around her hand and sewed a simple shape for the 3-fingered gloves.


Last year, she was Pokemon-obsessed.  Well, more like James from Team Rocket-obsessed, and dressed as him.  I used her old karate uniform, her rain boots, and a purple wig, and sewed her a simple Meowth doll with a painted face.  Simple, but so much fun!


This year, she’s been all about the Giant King.  We’ve seen the movie a million times–it’s a foreign film dubbed in English, and she’s in love with the big green robot Zork (which she insists on calling “Zorp”).


I let her think about it for months, and she settled on him for Halloween.  No matter what came and went, she still chose “Zorp.”  She even finally saw all the Harry Potter movies, and said she wished she could dress up as Harry some time at a convention or something, but she still insisted on “Zorp,” and he is her Halloween pick no matter what.  “Maybe we can save Harry Potter for my birthday,” she said. (Oooooh, YES.)

So I got started by raiding our cardboard from the recycling bin, and roughing out a chest piece shape with masking tape and hot glue.  Looking back, I could’ve probably done without the masking tape and just used the hot glue, but–live and learn.


Then I built the head like a little hat, and sprayed it with green spray paint, and adding details in acrylic paint.


I painted up the details on the chest.  The chest piece just slips over her head, and the headpiece has a bit of liner inside it to cushion her head a bit.


And finally, the arm pieces:  The husband picked up one of those accordion-style dryer vent hoses, and I spray painted them green.  I also had her try on the chest piece again (I’ve learned that it’s super HARD to get my kid to try on and size things!), and had to add some cardboard to the neck hole so it didn’t fall off her shoulders.  The tricky part will be attaching the vent hose “sleeves” to the chest piece so they don’t just slide off her arms.  I haven’t figured that part out yet (it will most likely involve a lot of duct tape), but I’ll figure it out in the next couple of days!


She’s so excited!  So yeah, she’s probably spoiled with custom-made costumes, but I really do love making them, so it’s a lot of fun for me, too.  I always think of it as a fun challenge to see what I can come up with to make it work.  It’s a great way to keep the creativity flowing, and make something unique and fun!  But really–whether you’ve got a store-bought or homemade costume, the whole point of the thing is FUN.  It’s gotta be fun for everyone, right?

Myla asked me what I’d be, and I told her I’d probably just paint my face, robot-style.  That’ll be fun.  So keep an eye out on Facebook and Instagram for a Halloween update.  And have some good, clean, safe fun out there!!!  Happy Halloween!


Bad Starts

Have you ever looked at other artists’ media feeds, and just assumed that everything they touch turns out perfectly?

I have.  And aside from a few magical unicorns for which that may be true, I am pretty sure that all artists suffer from bad starts, and art block.

Mine has been going on a while now….I’m not sure if it’s related to the fact that I’ve had a massive headcold that later turned into a sinus infection for the past three weeks, and has been totally clogging up my brain, but it sure shows in my sketchbooks, which are FULL of bad starts.


The thing about bad starts, is that sometimes all it takes is the beginning of an eyeball for me to realize it’s not worth holding onto.  And then I get discouraged about the bad start.  And feel bad for wasting paper in my awesome sketchbook.  And then I feel like nothing I draw has been turning out right lately.  And I start completely re-thinking my whole style and technique, and everything that has made sense to me in the known universe up until that particular moment, because WHAT AM I DOING I TOTALLY FORGOT HOW TO DRAW.

…And then a decent doodle will show up.  It’s not GREAT, but it at least gets the idea out.


Sometimes I go back to my comfortable spaces, where I feel the best, to try to pull something out from there.   I always let Myla join me, because she always makes it better, and reminds me that it’s not that serious.


And sometimes strange things make for decent doodles…



Sometimes, I re-work an older idea for some inspiration, and try to update it…



And sometimes, outside prompts (like this month’s Inktober suggestions) help get me out of my regular mindset…


And it takes some time, but then things start coming back around eventually.


And soon, it’s not as much of a constant struggle, and starts to come out in an easier, more enjoyable way…


The thing to remember is that it’s part of who you are, when you have a passion like drawing.  Whatever your passion is, you’d still do it if no one ever saw it, right?  You do it because it makes you feel good.  You almost NEED to do it.  It’s not this yearning for a title, it’s not a status, but drawing is like skin to me, it’s just there, and I’m grateful for it.

…So why does my confidence in it waver so much?  If you struggle with the same things, try to remember what I keep telling myself:  It’s not gone forever.  It will come back, and you will be better for it when it does.  If it takes a hundred bad drawings to get back to your groove, then by all means, start sketching!

I’m telling myself that right now.  Hopefully when this stupid flu leaves, it’ll take my art block with it.  Until then, I’ll keep making my bad starts and pushing forward! 🙂

I Hate Chalk. Chalk Is Fun.

I hate chalk.  It’s a texture thing.  It’s the same reason I dislike graphite pencils–it’s like dry hands on rough paper, and fingernails on…well…a chalkboard.  I’ve seen people do AMAZING things with chalk, and I’m always super impressed.  But it’s just not my medium.

Myla loves to chalk!  She makes it fun.  Once, when I had a terrible headcold (much like the one I am currently trying to evict), we went outside to chalk.  Trying not to seem like a total weirdo, I put on a garden glove and chalked.  “Can you turn me into a monster?”  She asked.  She lay down in our driveway, and I drew a shape all around her.  It was a fun way to pass the time with very little energy output on my part (because: headcold).

We made monsters and mermaids…chalk1

And when it was my turn?  Ahhhh, sweet relief for a sick mama–I lay down and closed my eyes to the sun and relaxed while she happily chalked all around me.


So that’s become our thing, and sometimes when the mood strikes, we pick up the giant container full of chalk we keep in a planter by the front door bench, and chalk chalk chalk, turning ourselves into all sorts of little beasties.




It came in handy when my husband was deployed, and we’d send him pictures.  We made a soldier…


(I’m pretty sure that’s the same face I made when I was enlisted…)

We made helicopter pilots…


And since he couldn’t be there for father’s day last year, we chalked a great big “daddy.”


We’ve been chalking “daddy”‘s for a couple of years…


And it comes in handy as a nice “hello” when he came home from deployment…


So yeah.  I hate chalk.  I hate the way it feels.

But it’s fun, and it sure does come in handy for the memory-making, and that’s definitely worth a little discomfort!  And that’s why I love it.

(….But yeah…I still sort of hate it, too.  Hahah!)



It Got Me

It got me.  That flu that’s been going around, harassing everyone.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  Maybe you narrowly escaped it.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t invite it in…

I’ve posted before about how hard it is to keep the kid busy when I’m sick and alone, but this time I have a secret weapon: MY HUSBAND’S HOME! 

And he’s been helping a lot, even taking Myla to Austin for lunch and the children’s museum so I could sleep nearly ALL DAY.

So yesterday I was feeling a bit less foggy, and did a few projects with Myla.  We keep several projects on hand, but we had a particularly fun time building a wooden automata kit a friend sent. Minimal supervision, minimal work on my part, and lots of fun.

But during all this (and before my energy failed me again and I slept another few hours), we discovered a fun little project: mix-match stories!  

Myla’s practicing reading and writing at school, so we start off like this: one person starts by writing a sentence (like “A monster lives in my closet”), and the other has to draw it out.  After drawing it, they continue adding a bit to the sentence (such as “wearing a tutu”), and the other person draws it out. And you swap back and forth, adding onto the sentence until it feels done.

We did several of these, and it was so much fun!  Super easy, and I didn’t even have to move.

It’s fun to set the other person up with a funny thing they have to draw, and it’s great practice reading and writing, and doesn’t even FEEL like learning.  (Because if it felt like learning, I’m pretty sure she’d immediately stop.)

Anyway, being sick is why I feel so horrible. Its why I’m behind on my custom orders.  It’s why I haven’t gone to the gym all week.  It’s why I’ve been sleeping nearly all day every day.  It’s why I’m late writing  a blog post this week. It’s why I’m posting from my phone instead of my desktop.  Hopefully I’ll be back at it next week, nice and strong. 

Til then, I’m going to surround myself with comfy blankets, comfy pillows, and tissues, and take another nap.

Immortan Mama

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.1

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, EpbotMETAL 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!

We Made A Backpack

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…pinecones

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!


Imaginary Friends

im4On 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!


Being Grownup

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.

1-originalI 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.2

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…

Designing Dolls

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.mossy1

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?

Painted Prosthetic Project

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.

There are so many great artists already involved:  Mab Graves, Megan Buccere, Chris Haas, Lauren YS, and Richard J Oliver–(all artists I follow on Instagram)–plus SO many more!

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. 🙂


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