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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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. 🙂

 

Interview with a 7-Year Old Artist

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.

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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.

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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.

myla-1She 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.

mess 2And 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.

drawingShe can turn anything into an art project…from making cookies, to cleaning up.myla-2

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.

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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!

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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…)

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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.

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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

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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.”

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Thank you so much!

 

 

 

 

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Beetles and Bugs

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.

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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.)

MESSAGE-MOTHAnd 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.)

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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.

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And one of my favorites–a steampunk-styled lovely for my sister.

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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!”

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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.

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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.”

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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:

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And this handsome little flowered fella:

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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.🙂

Draw Your Own Thing

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.DRAW1

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Daddy’s Home!

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.flat myla

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.

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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.❤

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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!

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But we found him at last, and she was so excited she could barely contain her smile.

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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!

The Fourth Lasts All Week

We’re out and about this week, so I thought I’d just give you a little peek into our holiday…

The Fourth of July usually means we take the 8-hour drive to go to my parents’ house in Oklahoma.  It’s a lovely place on the lake, previously owned by my mom’s mom–Grandma Mary, and my memories of this place stretch back as far as I can remember–we’ve always been here.  As a kid, finding cicadas in the trees, walking through the woods, and exploring the dam, finding frogs by the rocks, and being warned of water moccasins in the murky water.  Crawdads and catfish.  Good times.

When my grandmother passed away a couple of years ago, my parents were thankfully able to buy the house, and moved from a 3-level house in bustling Maryland to the tiny 1-story house on the lake.  They downsized, they remodeled, they added and altered, but it still has that happy feeling.

So my sister drives the 20-plus hours to visit, and we’re stationed 8 hours away in Texas, and we all meet up at the lake.  And we try to do all the things we loved as a kid, just a taste, and then some new things to add to the mix.

My uncle takes us for a ride on his boat, and we look at the fancy villas and wonder which house we’d choose if we had a billion dollars to spare.

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The family plays out in the lake.  I usually stay on the sidelines, keeping my pale white skin out of the sun, doodling,  and throwing sticks in the water for our dog to bring them back.  Sometimes I join in, but mostly I love to watch and listen.  It’s my favorite thing.

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And admittedly, my face is in my sketchbook a lot of the time, but I can’t help it–I love listening to everything.  When grandma was alive, my husband could pull stories from her that I’d never have even thought to ask, and I’d sketch and listen, afraid to ruin the flow, and it was my very favorite thing.  I always wished I could get her to tell stories like he could, but I’m so grateful I got to hear them nonetheless.

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We weren’t allowed to play with fireworks much (beyond sparklers and snakes) when I was younger, and probably for good reason.  The one time my dad let me try at about Myla’s age now, I got burned across the chest by an errant wonky bottle rocket.  So there’s that.  But my sister is always careful now to buy the little ones, the fun ones that Myla can join in on, and a few fancy bigger ones, and we sit by the lake popping little fireworks.

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Because we lead a fairly nomadic army life now, I don’t always get to be this close to my family (if 8 hours is “close”), so I’m grateful for the time we have.  I’d love to visit all the other family, but I’ll take what we can get.  We’re used to being far from friends and family.  My husband is still deployed, but heading back soon, thankfully.  It’s not easy, but it’s life…so when we have it within visiting distance, it’s definitely worth the trip.

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Gratitude and love and good memories.  What do your 4th memories look like?  Where are your happy places?

Wonder Woman Repaint

While I was browsing the grocery store toy aisle the other day, I came across something that made me gasp out loud.  A Wonder Woman Barbie!  I’m not really a big fan of Barbies, but this was something I had to splurge on, because I am a responsible adult, and sometimes you just need a really awesome Wonder Woman doll in your life.wonder1

I’ve had a love of Wonder Woman for awhile, shared mostly between me and my roller derby friend–we even used to wear matching WW derby shorts! (Here’s me on the right as Captain Wonderpants, and her wearing our team shirt–from North Pole, Alaska.)

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So back to the doll…Since I couldn’t just leave her with a factory paint, I was thrilled to learn of the amazing custom repaints people do online!  I’m nowhere near that level of detail and professionalism, but I always love the idea of painting everything and making it my own.

The first step:  taking off the factory face paint.  This can be done easily with acetone-based nail polish remover and a washcloth.  I used a little tiny paintbrush to get the hard-to-reach places in her eyes and mouth.

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I printed some photos of the new Wonder Woman actress, Gal Gadot, to look at as reference, but I didn’t really follow them too closely.  And I wanted her eyes staring to the side, instead of just straight ahead.  I used acrylic paint, and started out with a soft dark pinkish color to find the shapes I wanted, remembering that if I absolutely hated it, I could always wipe it away with the acetone.

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There were several moments I did actually consider wiping her away completely–it’s so difficult to paint a three-dimensional figure that small!  But I kept working with it wiping small areas here and there and starting over again, and finally got it where I liked it.  I’ve read that most of the pro doll painters use chalks and blushes, but I sort of enjoyed the painted look for some of the shading, and since it’s mine and I’m the boss of it, that’s what I did.

I also added quite a lot of shading and highlight detail on her headpiece and uniform to make it pop out more, and not look so plasticky.

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And lastly, I decided she needed a chest tattoo of a big ol’ eagle because Wonder Woman is awesome like that. I might fill her up with more.  In fact I’m pretty sure I will…those legs look a little bare for my taste.  :)  And I debated on it with myself a bit, but finally decided she needed a few freckles, because…why not?    And to finish her up, I gave her a good spray-down with Testors varnish, which works well on dolls, and dries to a matte finish.

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And there she is!  Someone on Instagram already commented that they didn’t like her eyebrows, but since I didn’t really ask for her opinion and I didn’t paint it for her, I don’t care.  I like how she turned out.

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She’s really mine now, and she’ll protect our house as well as a Barbie-sized Wonder Woman can, maybe on the fireplace mantle.

Have you ever had to have a kid doll, and made it your own somehow?  I’m pretty positive I’m not the only one (I’ve got my eye on some Dark Crystal and Labyrinth Funko toys, too)….  So have fun and have a WONDERful day!

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Patch it Up

Remember in our summer post, how I said Myla and I were collecting patches to put on our patch jackets?  Well, we decided to make our own larger patches for the back!

It’s easy:  We took some off-white fabric, cut it in circles, and went to town with the permanent markers.

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Myla drew a fox on hers, and I drew Frida and let her finish it.  She added flowers, a caterpillar, mosquito, a frog eating a fly, and put a mockingbird body on Frida.

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Then I sewed them on to the backs with a quick stitch, and BOOM!  Cool patches.  (That big moth on mine is from Spiders Stitches Parlor.)

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All in all, our jackets are looking pretty spiffy so far!  Here’s how Myla’s looks when worn:

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She loves looking through patches and pins and looking for new ones.  Her favorites are the animals and insects.  And we’ve got a pretty good collection going so far:

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Myla loves finding patches, and choosing where they go on her jacket.  She’s got a rough “food chain” on her sleeve, which is an interesting concept she came up with.

If you’re interested in patches and pins, take a look at some of the places we find ours:

Stay Home Club , Frog and Toad Press, and Spider Stitches Parlor.

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And I found some lovely Wes Anderson patches over at For The Love of Patch… I just love the Zissou whale and the Ash fox!

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It’s so hot, though, we can’t wear them in summer.  I’m thinking I may get a sleeveless jacket to continue the fun.

I’m even looking into making a few of our early collabs into patches.  Wouldn’t that be so much fun?  I’ll keep you posted!

 

Painting Bird Ladies

A couple of weeks ago, my parents came to visit for Myla’s birthday.  While they were here, we did some Austin sightseeing, and found some fun, off-the-wall places to visit…one of them being Graffiti Park–The Hope Outdoor Gallery.  Hope (Helping Other People Everywhere) was started in 2011 with help from street artist Shepard Fairy (see the Obey Crew hanging artwork at the gallery launch), as a place for artists to display large-scale murals and positive messages.  It’s private property, so you have to obtain a paint pass (and if you’re really geeky like me, you speak with the owner about what you plan to paint and if it’s okay).

So a couple of weeks later (and after getting the OK), we showed up that morning paints in hand, blanket ready, ice cold water on stand-by, ready to paint a small mural in a very small spot.  I mostly just wanted Myla to have the experience, and I wanted to leave something little and lovely on the wall.

Well, remember that bit about getting permission?  Most street artists don’t do that.  People assume that if it’s outdoors, it’s open to everyone.  So it goes to figure that on that morning, we were asked if we wouldn’t mind covering a very disappointing piece of “inappropriate” and most unwelcome graffiti that appeared to have been placed there just the night before.  Remember that bit about “positive messages?”  Maybe you can tell from our start that the piece we were covering wasn’t so much “positive” as it was just plain ol’ juvenile.  Even Myla said it best:  “They snuck in here to paint, and all they painted was a giant penis?”  Pretty lame.  But it was a good chance to explain a little bit about why stupid people do stupid things….

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It was hot outside.  …Okay, maybe “hot” is too simple a word.  I get hot when I work out.  This was HUMID.  And even “humid” can’t accurately describe the feeling of sitting full-on in a human-sized preheated oven.  That’s Texas.  So Myla took a lot of rest breaks, while I tried to finish my part as quickly as I could.

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The idea was that we would each paint a head, and then switch up and paint the body for the others’ piece.  When we finished our heads, we swapped places so we could each put a mockingbird body on the others’.

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By this point, our skin was melting off of our bones, because someone left the central heating on full blast in outdoor Texas, I think.  That, or it’s built directly on top of the lava beds of the fiery infernos of hell itself.

In any case, we quickly finished the bodies, and I roughly filled the background with a light blue, as quickly as I could before the heat evaporated the last of the moisture in my bones and made me faint from exhaustion.  It turned out okay.  Not as lovely as I’d have liked it if we had a cool day in the shade, but lovely nonetheless.

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And just as we were about to pack up, a frozen yogurt truck pulled up to sell his wares.  I would’ve gladly given him $20 for a milkshake to cool down my kid.  (Thankfully, it was only a couple of bucks.)

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I think one of the most difficult things for Myla to understand is that all the work we did painting those bird ladies, all the heat and sweat we spent out there, and they might not be there next time we visit.  As you can see in the photo above, those Obey posters are long-gone, despite them being quite famous works of art.  And I guess that’s a good thing?  Or not?  It’s at least reflective of the world around us.  Good things get covered up.  Bad things get covered up.  People come around and do their best to make the world a little better.  Everything you do leaves a little footprint stamp on the world.  It’s up to you if you want to be soft and deep or jagged and destructive.

As another example, the EXACT area we were painting at the Hope Gallery used to be covered just a few short weeks ago (when my parents came to visit) with a cute little (large) baby goat head.  And then a crudely-drawn penis.  And then our crazy bird-ladies.

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But that’s life, isn’t it?   That bad stuff?  It didn’t go away.  It’s still there–we just covered it up with something that’s hopefully a little nicer.  And sometimes the good things you do get erased and covered up.  Which is why you have to keep putting good things out there into the world.  And keep on putting good in the world.  And keep on putting good in the world….<3

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