Recently, I was contacted by Education.com, asking if we’d be interested in trying out one of their many learning projects… They sent us one called “homemade airplane,” which is an airplane made from a hanger, that can “fly” on a zipline….and it looked like a pretty fun project with a fairly small supply list, so I decided to give it a try.
…Of course, we always have to add our little spin. So when I introduced the idea to Myla, she instantly wanted to make it into a dragon instead. WHOOPS okay, that’s fine, we can work with that. So here’s basically how we did the project:
1. Find a wire hanger. This proved to be quite a difficult task, as we apparently threw out all of our wire hangers in a fit of rage one day, but I found ONE hiding in the back of my closet, behind some party dresses I’ve never worn.
2. Bend the wire handle into a loop, and be sure it’s closed, as this will be what it slides down on the zipline.
(This is where I noticed that the bottom of my hanger was only connected by a wonky weak little cardboard tube which broke not long after I touched it, so I bent it into a different shape altogether, and Myla taped it together because scotch tape solves all of her problems.)
3. Trace it onto paper & cut out two. Whatever your shape is, trace it onto a folded sheet of paper so you have a front and a back.
4. Decorate it. While I hot-glued the bent-up hanger onto the back side of the paper, Myla decorated the front.
So now he looked like this:
…which she said looked ridiculously duck-like, and decided she needed to give him some head-fins.
5. Hot glue that junk. Glue it all to the hanger. Myla added the head-fins, wings, and a tail to hers.
And BOOM this is the final dragon. Pretty cool! And aside from the gluing, she pretty much did it herself.
So here’s where it springs to life.
6. Get some fishing line…or other such thin thread. The instructions said “fishing line,” but despite my massive craft resources, I couldn’t seem to find any, and decided to give this very thin thread a try. Pin it between two walls with pushpins, and BOOM you have a flying dragon, ready to decimate battlefields and lay waste to various enemies.
…Or, just fly around a corner of your room looking cool.
So there it is! Education.com has lots of other fun learning activities on their site, and I think a free sign-up gets you lots more access.
So have fun storming the castle!
(Side note: “Dracarys” is the command that the Mother of Dragons–Daenerys Targaryen, from Game of Thrones–gives her dragon Drogon, that compels him respond by shooting flames from his mouth, destroying her enemies. So, that’s nice.)
Once upon a time, I wasn’t feeling well, and needed a fun way to keep the kid occupied that didn’t involve a digital screen. That’s when we go to the old stand-by: CHALK.
I like chalk, because of a game that Myla and I came up with, wherein I lie down and close my eyes and do nothing, and she draws things around me.
Like this time, when Myla’s cousin was visiting, and helped draw an alligator eating my head…
Or when she drew a cat in a litterbox with flies all around it (this cracked her up, for some reason…) on top of my head.
And for some reason, they drew a giant Princess Bubblegum (from Adventure Time) eating my head (I sense a running theme here).
Here’s Myla’s cousin, adding bugs with Myla all around me, which also made Myla giggle.
But the best part is, it’s fun and I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING! Granted, the first time we did this, I had to draw something around her to demonstrate. But once I did, she was off and running with ideas, and all I had to do was lie there.
The only bad part is that the photos turn out terrible, because they’re nearly always shots from below your own face, which isn’t a good angle for ANYone. But AHHHHHH well. It’s not about that, it’s about having fun. With minimal effort on my part. Hahah!
I did an interview recently, which reminded me of a lesson I learned a while back: that the best memories are made when you give someone your time. Busy parents don’t have a lot of time, but honestly–it doesn’t take much! Even when you’re exhausted, a little time sharing laughs while your kid draws things around your head–those are things that stick. And it’s never too late. You can always go to a person you care about, and make a little time for them. I’m pretty sure they’ll appreciate it for a long time. ❤
This week, Myla and I decided to work on a little project that met all my requirements: fun, quick, easy, and inexpensive. We got a plain shirt at our local craft store for $3 (Myla chose white), and used Sharpie markers to draw some of her favorite things on it to wear on her first day of school. We used a small sheet of foam core (you could use cardboard, too) in between the shirt so marker wouldn’t seep through to the other side, and started drawing.
I only drew what she asked me to, so while she drew the characters from Harry Potter, I drew the Basilisk and Finn from Adventure Time.
She asked me to draw the new big-eyed pink lemur she just got.
She’s a very social kid, and sees it as an icebreaker; a way to find something in common with other kids when she first meets them. I thought at first that she might choose to draw only things that other kids might recognize, but when I said, “do you think people will know who the basilisk is?” and she said, “If they don’t, I’ll just have to tell them all about it.” …Which made me smile.
She added Marceline, and I added the little ‘ello worm from Labyrinth.
And then Nightcrawler, Jake, Spiderman, and Robin from Teen Titans Go. These aren’t her ONLY favorites, by any means, but I think it’s a good start!
On the back, she wrote “wands rule,” for some reason (I guess it may have something to do with her excitement for our upcoming trip to California, which will involve a trip to Harry Potter World at Universal Hollywood), and drew a Harry Potter, a pygmy puff with a wand, and a Cornish pixie.
And there you go! Next step is to give it a quick iron to set the permanent marker, and then wash it inside-out on gentle.
Boom! Ready to start school and meet some new friends!
I love bouncing around from project to project, medium to medium. Next week, I’ll show you a fun little project Myla and I did together. But in this post, I’ll tell you how I’ve been a little focused on these guys: our Dream Creepers.
If you don’t know the story, they were created when I was trying my hand at resin casting and made a monster doll for Myla. Once, when she had it with her, a little girl told her it was creepy. She thought for a moment, and said, “Well, they have to be a little creepy to chase bad dreams away.”
And every Dream Creeper that finds a new home arrives with a little pamphlet on the story of how the Dream Creepers came to be.
Lately, I’ve had family that’s been able to help me sew, so I’ve been able to make a LOT more of these little fellas, and signed up to the the Austin Wizard World–a comicon we’ve enjoyed in the past. So we’ve been focusing on that. And with the extra sewing help, I’ve even been able to offer custom Dream Creepers in my Etsy shop!
Recently, when I took a trip to my local craft store and walked past the fabric section (totally not intending to buy fabric), I didn’t WANT to see this sparkly mermaid fabric. I didn’t want to….but I did. And then I had to get it.
I quickly asked my sewing helper: can we make Dream Creepers out of this? And with a little struggle (and a lot of pins), it was possible…
If you’ve never seen mermaid fabric, it’s fun, because it’s so shiny, and if you pet the sequins one way, they turn one color, and if you pet them the other way, they change. (The fabric kind of freaks me out a little, because my Type A brain wants them always to be facing the same way…but I think it really works for these guys!)
We liked it so much we later got some in black…
So we decided to do these special shiny fellas as a limited edition release–and we’ll have a few in my Etsy shop on August 1st at 1:00pm central time! There are only a limited amount, and we’ll probably not make many more of these (the fabric is REEALLY expensive), so if you’ve ever been interested in a shiny little monster who can chase your bad dreams away, then please set your alarms for AUGUST 1st!
There will be a variety of faces with a variety of fabric combinations, so there’ll be several options to choose from! If we have any left from the sale (often times, they sell out), we’ll take them to the convention in November.
Soooo if any of you happen to be located near Austin, Texas around the 17, 18, and 19th of November, I hope we’ll see you at Wizard World (there are going to be SOOO many cool people at this one), and you can come by and check out our Dream Creeper booth–we’ll have all sorts of goodies to look at!
And don’t forget: to snag the special shinies, keep an eye out on August 1st!
I’ve been drawing and painting our daughter Myla for a long time. I was intimidated at first, but she quickly became my favorite subject.
I was looking back at some of my artwork featuring her, and noticed how it’s changed as much as she has over the years.
My first of her was this one, where I armed her in a gentle pink dress-up dress, with Han’s holster, Leia’s belt, Wonder Woman’s lasso, and She-Ra’s sword, surrounded by some of her very first drawings of “monsters.” She’s ready for the world, ready to face whatever’s coming with a soft smile. I’ve wanted this for her since she was born.
Soon, my drawings of her (most of them eventually turning into collaborations with her) centered around imaginary creatures, unusual monsters, and just all the make believe things that made her smile.
I also enjoyed illustrating the wonderful things she said.
I began taking photos of her, and adding all kinds of creatures to them, trying to capture a tiny glimpse of the magical world that might be in her mind, and celebrate the magic of being such a creative kid.
And as she got out into the world a little more, I felt this strong urge to teach her to enjoy all the creative weirdness that makes her so wonderful. To never be ashamed of being who she is, and to be proud of being creative and different. I felt a pang of pride the day she told me how a kid at school called her a “weirdo,” and she confidently said, “thank you!”
The more she had conflict, the more I wanted her to meet those monsters if she must, and make friends with them, instead of fearing them. I want her to be comfortable enough with herself to know who she is when she goes up against them.
I want to protect her heart from harsh arrows, and keep her kind but strong–a tough balance for anyone, I know.
I see her as such a magical little creature, and in my desire to protect her and teach her to protect herself, I began arming her in my artwork with horns and armor.
One day, an image came to me so strongly that I had to put it on paper. She’s been faced with her own obstacles recently, and I have been discussing them with her, so she can better understand how she works, and not be afraid or feel bad about it. And although I saw a slight nervousness in her, I was so impressed that she just accepted it all, and mentally prepared herself for the battle.
I want her to know that everyone struggles. EVERYONE. There’s not a person you see that’s not facing SOME sort of issue at this very moment. You can’t let it knock you down forever. You have to find ways around it–whatever it may be–and keep on going. Whatever that struggle is, it doesn’t have to be the only thing in the definition of who you are...it can simply be a side note.
She doesn’t have to be the kid who–despite having elaborate and complex stories in her mind–has trouble writing letters or remembering instructions. She doesn’t have to just be the kid whose energy and excitement keep her from holding still in class. Those things don’t have to be the only things that define her.
She is the kid whose creativity knows no bounds; whose mind is overflowing with amazingly creative ideas–so much that it’s sometimes a little distracting for her. She has quiet moments, too, and can spend hours patiently drawing or working on detailed art projects. This is the kid who can remember things from years ago in full detail. Who is extremely empathetic. Who can make friends with anyone. Who says “have a great day!” when she leaves a store. Who creates complicated board games and makes three-dimensional, fully posable creatures out of construction paper and tape. Who is goofy, and will do pretty much anything for a laugh. Who surprises me sometimes with the depth of her thoughts.
I wanted her to see the kind, strong warrior I see.
She posed for a few reference photos for me, and I started sketching. I saw determination in her eyes. I filled her armor with dragons, because sometimes you can turn monsters into friends.
She saw me working on it one day, and although I hadn’t planned it as a collaboration (I just had the basic image in my mind, I wasn’t sure what else to do with it, really), I thought it was a perfect opportunity for her to add her own creatures to it. To draw out those little demons and give them faces.
I told her a little about my idea, and the image I saw in my mind. She came up with the concept of drawing demons (the enemy) and dragons (her friends). Some of the demons she created had names like Fear, Jealousy, Pain, and Chains. The dragons had names like Kindness, Humor, Bravery, Energy (a negative into a positive!), Peace, and Strength. I added a few leaves to the background to give it a setting, and went on my way…
I start with a thin layer of turquoise acrylic on top of my ballpoint pen drawing on the skin areas. The turquoise gives the skin a little depth, I think, and I build up thicker layers of acrylic on top so it becomes more opaque.
And after a lot of work and a TON of time, I think she’s finished. And I think it says what I wanted it to say.
Everyone’s got struggles. You don’t have to be completely fearless–they can scare you a little–but you’ve got to get past the fear, and adapt and overcome by facing it head-on. Don’t let it get in the way of whatever it is you want to do. In your struggle, you might feel like you’re not coping or handling things as well as other people might. It really helps, I think, to know other people are dealing with things the best they can, too. Make friends with your monsters. Learn to live with them. Don’t give up.
This week, while we waited for night to set in and the fireworks to start, Myla (she’s 8 years old now) asked if she could draw in my sketchbook. Along with the other doodles she found, she saw a portrait I had started of our Boston Terrier, Adie, and asked if she could finish it.
Dang. I was having fun drawing Adie! But I don’t mind, obviously. She asked if I was using my imagination to draw, and I told her I had started by looking at a photo of Adie. She was very interested in that. “Can I finish the drawing, and use the photo to look at, too?”
And very carefully, she looked at the photo, doing her 8-year old best to copy what she saw. I mean, look at that little chest wrinkle!! EEE, it’s so cute!
I told her that when you look at a picture to draw from it, it was called a “reference,” and that nearly EVERY artist uses references. She was hooked, and asked if she could draw our boxer, Scout.
So cute! She was fascinated to know that things don’t always look like what you THINK they look like–dog noses aren’t always little triangles, for example. We talked about how that’s part of the fun of drawing from a reference, is to follow the photo to get it to look like what you see rather than what you THINK you see.
Several times, people will ask me if I use references in my artwork, or if I draw it all from my imagination, and I tell them all the same thing: I don’t think I know a single artist that doesn’t at least START with references. The fun part after that, is changing things around to make it your own.
She took this little pug, and made him waving his paw…
She drew a tiger from a photo, and then added her own rabbit (without a reference) who is saying, “I don’t want any of your nonsense.” 🙂
References have always been a jumping-off point for artists, and while some artists strive to make their artwork photorealistic and EXACTLY like their reference, most only use them to piece together an idea they already have in their head.
Myla even gave that a try, asking if I could show her the Alien she had seen somewhere (she’s never seen the movie of course, but I think they reference the queen alien in one of her goat simulator Ipad games).
She asked if I’d show her references for the queen alien, and then drew the alien having lunch, while I told her the story of the entire movie. She asked if there were other aliens, and then added the Facehugger sitting across the table, and the Chestburster popping out of someone nearby (how embarrassing!).
Humor is definitely a driving factor in this kid.
If you were to browse the photos on my phone at any given time, you’d find tons and TONS of references–everything from movie characters, artists, animals, plants, flowers, and of course, TONS of photos of my favorite person to draw: Myla (thankfully, this doesn’t embarrass her yet, and she actually likes it. She said the other day, “I really love that you love to draw me.”). I have folders in my photos of beasties (animals to draw from), movie characters, Twilight Zone screenshots, plants, faces, you name it. Whenever I want to draw, I just scroll through my phone, and I’m never at a loss for something to play around with.
I use references to draw from ALL the time, and it’s perfectly okay to do. I swear, when I was younger, I thought it was considered cheating. But how else would you learn how to draw without looking at something?
The tricky part is that of course there are some rules–if you straight up copy someone else’s photograph, it’s perfectly fine, and a great way to learn; you just need to acknowledge the reference source, or tag the person if you post it. But if it’s YOUR photo, or you only use the photo as your jumping off point and change it up a lot to become your own new thing, it’s absolutely fine! (You could go into a LOT more detail on this, of course, but those are the basics, because that’s a whole other discussion.)
On our long drive home the other day, I wanted to draw, and fought the bumpy road to doodle a photo I had of Myla, and turned her into a little mossy fairy forest sprite creature.
Later, I painted her in watercolors, all mossy and brown. I’m not done with her yet, but it’s a start.
Myla, still on a reference kick, was excited to know that so many of the books on my bookshelves are actually (gasp!) REFERENCE BOOKS! And now the whole world’s opened up to her, it seems. She has been taking bits and pieces from creatures, and making new ones up herself (see the “hammerhead” in the center? bahahah!)
One time during a live stream, a person saw me using a rubbing stick to blend my lines with my graphite pencil and asked me, “but isn’t that cheating?” And I always found that funny, because…cheating? It’s a tool, a technique, the same way using oil to smooth fingerprints out of your sculptures is a technique. Whatever you have to do to get your idea or whatever’s in your head OUT. That’s the fun part!
And that’s why it’s so much fun to see my own daughter find new and exciting ways to create. She’s exploring and trying new things, and isn’t that what creating is all about? ❤
Nothing cuter than your own sleeping kid…especially after a long day. Recently, I came across these photos of this collaboration with Myla several years ago that I don’t think I’ve ever shared…
It started with a little ballpoint pen drawing I did of Myla, asleep, cuddled up next to Donkey.
Myla saw me sketching it one day, asked what I was drawing, and if she could draw what she was dreaming about.
She drew herself with a little toy she had built, surrounded by a protective unicorn, wrapping a huge horn shield around herself, keeping out a mean little dream dragon.
Later, I added details to the drawing, filling in the spaces with decorative doodles. Sometimes I try to explain what’s going on in the drawing, or what things are (like adding scales to the dragon, or toys under the drawing she did of herself), and other times, I just add decorative swirls to sort of tie it all together.
She’s the one who added the words “I wish” at the bottom. (More likely, I think she meant to say something about dreaming, but this was a few years ago, when maybe her vocabulary didn’t have the distinction.)
Once it was all drawn out, I painted it in acrylics, starting with the central figure first.
(I remember the very first time I tried to draw Myla, and I was so intimidated by it. Now, I feel so comfortable, it’s very easy to highlight all the beauty I see in her–inside and out.)
And finally, I added light washes over everything else, to keep the attention on her in the center with all that craziness going on around.
And that’s the final piece! It was funny coming across these progress shots, and realizing I never shared them.
But one of my favorite things is that a few years ago, I ordered several throw blankets of our artwork from our own site as Christmas gifts, and I don’t mean to get all excited, but they were the COOLEST THINGS.
They’re so soft and awesome, and the print quality is amazing. That year, I got one for everyone on our Christmas list, and I even got several for us to keep. I just had to–they were SO COOL. Myla has one of herself as a winter centaur in her own bed. We have “Imaginary Astronaut” on our bed, and “Aquatic” in our living room.
Anyway, I didn’t intend for this post to be an ad for our S6 shop, but if I really like something, I want to share it! If you feel so inclined to wrap yourself up in some of our collaborations, you can go to our Society 6 Shop and order what you please. (Especially since while I was writing this post, I just noticed there’s a 20% off and FREE worldwide shipping sale until MIDNIGHT TONIGHT-19 June!)
This past Mother’s Day, I had heard from another artist that you could customize Vans shoes with your own artwork…so I decided to treat myself to a pair of customized Vans with our art on them, and I was so excited! …Until I got a message saying my order was cancelled, because of artwork issues–apparently, if the art is anywhere else on the internet, they assume you may have stolen the image–and I couldn’t get it to upload again.
The artwork I had chosen was a painting Myla and I did about letting your weirdo flag fly, which is up in my etsy shop… To me, it represented something we always try to teach her: to be yourself, and be proud of all the weird things that make you special.
It was based on this picture I had taken of her, by the way, when she had built herself a paper astronaut helmet, spaceship, and bat sidekick. Because I’m constantly amazed at her creativity and uniqueness, and I want her to always be proud of it.In any case, when the Vans order came back cancelled and I couldn’t get it to upload despite my best efforts, I was SUPER disappointed.
…Until my husband suggested I just get a pair of blank Vans and paint them myself. So that’s just what I did.
As often happens when I am furiously gripped by a project I am obsessively compelled to do, I did absolutely no research ahead of time, and started by doing what I THOUGHT was a good idea: smoothing out my painting surface with clear matte gel medium. Maybe if I had taken a little time to research, I’d have left that step out (as I’ll explain later), and just painted directly onto the blank canvas shoes.
But I didn’t, and painted onto the surface I had treated with the clear gesso. I had to alter the composition of our artwork a bit to get everything to fit on there the way I wanted, but I considered that a good thing–that I could change it up to perfectly fit the shoe space.
One of the upsides to painting the shoes myself (as opposed to using the customizer on the Vans page) is that not only could I alter the composition to make everything fit, but I could also put a different image on each shoe (the Vans page only puts the same image on both shoes).
So here’s what my final pair looked like:
Yay! They really make me smile.
Now, remember when I said I’d probably leave out the clear gesso? Here’s why:
See all those cracks? I’m not sure, but I think if I’d left that step off and painted directly onto the shoe canvas, it might have clung to the fibers more tightly, and not have cracked so easily. Who knows? In any case, it’s not so bad–it’s not TOO terribly noticeable, and I can touch it up if it starts looking too bad.
So that was my mother’s day splurge! That–along with spending the day with my husband and little munchkin doing fun things–made for a pretty darn awesome Mother’s Day!
This year, Myla decided she wanted her birthday party to be Adventure Time-themed…and I was TOTALLY down with that. Because I’m a pretty big fan of Adventure time. And all of the characters. And songs. And everything.
I always look forward to the cake, because even though I stink at cooking a meal, I can bake the heck out of a cake. And when I decorate, I pretend like I’m on Ace of Cakes or something, and do my best to make it special.
I started by sculpting these Marceline and Marshall Lee figures from Sculpey, and building a little cardboard ax guitar and bass for them, since Myla requested they be the centerpiece.
And although I know kids aren’t a huge fan on fondant, I had read that you could paint on it with food coloring, so I gave it a try…
I started by rolling out a little plate full to practice on, and gave Myla a plate full to let her try it, too. I had read that you can put food coloring onto a plate like paint, but instead of water (which makes fondant gummy), you can mix it with vodka (don’t worry–the alcohol evaporates!). So we gave it a try, and it was SO MUCH FUN. It wasn’t even a struggle–it was just like painting with paints!
Once I decided it was going to work out pretty well, I settled on that as the final decorating method for the cake.
The night before her party, I baked, iced and cooled the 2-story cake. I broke a chunk out of it, which thankfully I could piece back together and glue down with icing, since it’d be covered in fondant. And since I’m terrible at fondant, it was full of wonkiness and lumps, which I promptly covered up in more decorative icing. BOOM.
Next, I waited til the kid was in bed so I could reeeeeally focus (plus, I told her that the final cake should be a surprise), and got down with painting TONS of characters all over the cake, around the clay figures. (I realize cake pros would cringe that the centerpiece isn’t edible, but I’m an artist, and I do what I want.)
I had intended to color it all, but as I started working, I realized I really really liked it in just black outlines, so I went with that…
(I swear, I love SO many of the characters on this show, and they’re SO much fun to draw….)
So there it is!
We blew up some purple balloons, which I decorated with Sharpie markers to look like Lumpy Space Princess, and downloaded these fun Adventure Time character masks from HappilyAfter Designs on Etsy.
I got several little goodies for the take-home bags, like Adventure Time slap bracelets and figures from Ebay, little individually-wrapped burger gummies, and random dollar store things. I also got some blank wooden beads and painted very simple character faces on them, and tossed them in little snack bags with random handfuls of beads and necklace string so people could build their own necklaces.
The least expensive goody bags at the craft store were these blank white ones, so I kept up the plain character theme, and drew them again on each bag, in Sharpies.
And that was that! Along with a few helium big balloons we bought online that my husband filled at a flower shop and a plastic table cover, it made for a pretty good Adventure Time-themed party!
Myla chose to have her party at a gymnastics center, where they have trampolines and a huge foam block pit with a rope swing over it. The good thing there was that they gave the kids an hour to play, a half hour to eat cake & ice cream, and then they boot you all out of there! So cool. No big cleanup, no mess at home, no all-day event. And the kids get worn out! WOOHOOOOOO.
And the cake? Yeah, the cake was a hit. Yay!
And remember my birthday sewing story a few posts back? Well, I took the fox pattern I bought from DolphinWing and made Myla the little arctic fox character who wears an orange shirt that she’s drawn for awhile and created herself.
(I think the dog approved. I’m not sure.)
So aside from all the party planning and prep, the big news is that WE HAVE AN EIGHT-YEAR OLD ON OUR HANDS, PEOPLE. She’s still so sweet and kind, smart and creative. I couldn’t ask for a cooler kid.
She’s a funny little goofball who still loves to draw and create, and had the best birthday week ever! Happy birthday, Myla!