Collaborating with a 4-year Old

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One day, while my daughter was happily distracted in her own marker drawings, I decided to risk pulling out a new sketchbook I had special ordered.  It had dark paper, and was perfect for adding highlights to.  I had only drawn a little in it, and was anxious to try it again, but knowing our daughter’s love of art supplies, it meant that if I wasn’t sly enough, I might have to share.  (Note:  I’m all about kid’s crafts, but when it comes to my own art projects, I don’t like to share.)  Since she was engrossed in her own project, I thought I might be able to pull it off.

Ahhh, I should’ve known better.  No longer had I drawn my first face (I love drawing from old black & white movie stills) had she swooped over to me with an intense look.  “OOOH!  Is that a NEW sketchbook?  Can I draw in that too, mama?”  I have to admit, the girl knows good art supplies when she sees them.  I muttered something about how it was my special book, how she had her own supplies and blah blah blah, but the appeal of new art supplies was too much for her to resist.  In a very serious tone, she looked at me and said, “If you can’t share, we might have to take it away if you can’t share.”

Oh no she didn’t!  Girlfriend was using my own mommy-words at me!  Impressed, I agreed to comply.  “I was going to draw a body on this lady’s face,” I said.  “Well, I will do it,” she said very focused, and grabbed the pen.  I had resigned myself to let that one go.  To let her have the page, and then let it go.  I would just draw on my own later, I decided.  I love my daughter’s artwork, truly I do!  But this was MY sketchbook, my inner kid complained.

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Not surprisingly, I LOVED what she drew.  I had drawn a woman’s face, and she had turned her into a dinosaur-woman.  It was beautiful, it was carefree, and for as much as I don’t like to share, I LOVED what she had created.  Flipping through my sketchbook, I found another doodle of a face I had not yet finished.  She drew a body on it, too, and I was enthralled.  It was such a beautiful combination of my style and hers.  And she LOVED being a part of it.  She never hesitated in her intent.  She wasn’t tentative.  She was insistent and confident that she would of course improve any illustration I might have done.  …And the thing is, she DID.

Soon, she began flipping through my sketchbook, looking for more heads.  “Do you have any heads for me today?”  she would ask me each morning.  So I began making a point at night to draw some faces for her (which was my pleasure–faces are my favorite part, anyway).  She would then pick up a pen with great focus, and begin to draw.  Later, I would add color and highlights, texture and painting, to make a complete piece.  Sometimes she filled in the solid areas with colored markers, but I would always finish with acrylics later on my own.

mr beever

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Sometimes I would give her suggestions, like “maybe she could have a dragon body!”  but usually she would ignore theses suggestions if it didn’t fit in with what she already had in mind.  But since I am a grownup and a little bit (okay a lot) of a perfectionist, I sometimes would have a specific idea in mind as I doodled my heads.  Maybe she could make this into a bug!  I’d think happily to myself as I sketched, imagining the possibilities of what it could look like.  So later, when she’d doodle some crazy shape that seemed to go in some surrealistic direction, or put a large circle around the creature and filled the WHOLE THING in with marker, part of my brain would think, What is she DOING?!?  She’s just scribbling it all up!  But I should know that in most instances, kids’ imaginations way outweigh a grownup’s, and it always ALWAYS looked better that what I had imagined.  ALWAYS.

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For example, the filled-in marker of the one above, she told me, was a chrysalis, for the caterpillar to transform into a butterfly.  Of COURSE it is.  I never would have thought of that.   And that’s why kids make awesome artists.

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Later, I would show her what I had done with our drawings–the painting and coloring.  She seemed to critique them pretty harshly.  “That’s silly, mama.”  or “you put WATER behind her?”  But for the most part, she enjoyed them.  I enjoyed them.  I LOVE them.

outer face

And from it all, here are the lessons I learned:  to try not to be so rigid.  Yes, some things (like my new sketchbook) are sacred, but if you let go of those chains, new and wonderful things can happen.  Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little.  In sharing my artwork and allowing our daughter to be an equal in our collaborations, I helped solidify her confidence, which is way more precious than any doodle I could have done.  In her mind, her contributions were as valid as mine (and in truth, they really were).  Most importantly, I learned that if you have a preconceived notion of how something should be, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE DISAPPOINTED.  Instead, just go with it, just ACCEPT it, because usually something even more wonderful will come out of it.

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SIDE NOTE:  As an idea (mainly for myself) I decided to put just a few of our collaborative prints up for sale on a site called Society 6.  I purchased one myself (the space beavers, called “Outer Face”) to see how they would turn out, and I’m pretty happy with it.  We’ve done dozens and dozens of collaborative sketches, but I only put a few up as prints.  I’m not sure what to do with the others.  Maybe make a children’s book out of them?  Make poems to go along?  I’m not sure, but I love them with a very large portion of my heart, and they need a special place.

1,453 responses

  1. Hi this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if
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    1. Hi! I’m pretty HTML-illiterate, but WordPress is very easy. Write what you want to write, add pictures, publish! They even have how-tos on their site. Hope that helps!

  2. […] gorgeous Tote bag Jon bought me for my Birthday is from The Busy Mockingbird. She creates quirky illustrations with her four year old daughter. You can visit her shop on […]

  3. […] un texto publicado originalmente en el blog “The busy mockingbird” y cuya traducción al español fue publicada hace unos meses en “El Hufftington Post”. […]

  4. […] Source: busymockingbird.com Tweet !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs"); Print […]

  5. […] (Source for all images: https://busymockingbird.com/2013/08/27/collaborating-with-a-4-year-old/) […]

  6. […] is great. A professional illustrator “collaborates” with her 4 year old daughter to create some really whimsical […]

  7. […] she shared some images from a blog post called “Collaborating with a 4-year Old,” which was written by an illustrator whose daughter commandeered her new sketchbook, much to […]

  8. What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious familiarity
    on the topic of unexpected emotions.

  9. […] Angela Hendricks. I'm a graphic artist for MWR and a freelance illustrator. Several months ago, a blog post I did about allowing my daughter to illustrate with me went viral online, and has added a fun […]

  10. Hi Mica,

    Just wanted to say your collaborations with your daughter always made me smile and take a hard look at the kind of relationship with my son. We have a great one going but there are definitely some areas I can work on. 🙂

    I have included some of your pics in my blog post. I hope you are ok with it. Otherwise let me know and I’ll remove them.

    Cheers!
    Nasyitah

    1. Oh that’s wonderful, I love to hear it. Thank you!

  11. An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I do believe that you ought to write more about this subject matter,
    it may not be a taboo matter but generally folks don’t talk about these issues.

    To the next! All the best!!

  12. […] e sua filha completa o resto da ilustração com corpos e às vezes até com paisagens. Ela tem um blog e um site bem bacanas. Confiram as criações de mãe e […]

  13. […] ilustradora Mica Angela Hendricks jamás imaginó que algo así le iba a dar tanta repercusión en la web. Y es que la hija de 4 […]

  14. I think this is such an amazing post. It’s great you’ve chosen art like all the pics above to work with your child. I got to this post off the FRESHLY PRESSED link on wordpress. I’m glad i did thanks for sharing

  15. […] Collaborating with a 4-year Old – Busymockingbird.com […]

  16. This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am actually
    impressed to read all at single place.

  17. […] Vicki Vinton’s final wrap-up about NCTE focuses on what happens when teachers trust their students, let go of control, and invite their students to do important work. She also introduced me to this artist’s blog and I’m totally fascinated by the post about Collaborating with a 4-Yr-Old. […]

  18. Can I be your daughter in my next life? You seem to be the mom of my dreams… (and don’t change a hair for me!)
    Love the work, yours sincerely and forever, Baja

    1. Ha! D’aw, thanks,but dang–one kid is already a lot of work. Wait–do you do dishes? 🙂

  19. Reblogged this on La búsqueda del bíjaro and commented:
    you can see this as pair programming, or just team work… two minds, working together, create beautiful and unexpected things, impossible for only one of them alone…

  20. […] fall, Mica Hendricks‘ “Collaborations” post went viral, making the rounds on social media, blogs, and even the Huffington Post. For […]

  21. […] ilustradora Mica Angela Hendricks jamás imaginó que algo así le iba a dar tanta repercusión en la web. Y es que la hija de 4 […]

  22. Hello, I log on to your blogs on a regular basis.
    Your humoristic style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!

  23. […] Collaborating With a 4-Year-Old at The Busy Mockingbird […]

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    I’m quite sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here!
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  25. […] Collaborating With a 4-Year-Old at The Busy Mockingbird […]

  26. Realy interesting and at once funny

  27. I go to see everyday a few web sites and blogs to read posts, but this web
    site presents feature based content.

  28. i lovethese! ordered 2 on society6. could you add some new ones?

  29. What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious experience on the topic of unexpected emotions.

  30. I love every piece of collaborative art i saw here. The honesty of your daughters expression is truly enchanting. Love your finishing touches. Would have to let go with my son as well and see what we create.

  31. I would love to get my hands on a few copies of your Frida collaboration, but I don’t see her for sale anywhere. Any plans to make her available?

  32. […] "Do you have any heads for me today?" This is the question that greeted illustrator and blogger busy mockingbird daily after she started to let her 4-year old daughter complete her line drawings. What ensued was a creative collaboration that produced some pretty amazing artwork (and a lesson or two). You can read all about it and see more drawings here. […]

  33. […] “Do we have any heads for me today?” This is a doubt that greeted illustrator and blogger busy mockingbird daily after she started to let her 4-year aged daughter finish her line drawings. What ensued was a artistic partnership that constructed some flattering extraordinary design (and a doctrine or two). You can review all about it and see some-more drawings here. […]

  34. […] Mica Angela Hendricks […]

  35. I want one of these collaborations… Tony

  36. […] Mica Hendricks, an illustrator and graphic artist who blogs here. A few months ago, she created this post. She had received a new sketchbook and had started several illustrations when her 4-year old […]

  37. […] I saw this website, the busy mockingbird .. and it is so cute. Mica Angela Hendricks collaborates with her 4 year old daughter and […]

  38. c’est genial… on adore dans la famille richard.

  39. I want one of these collaboration.

  40. many thanks for your collaboration
    just remembered me with my kids and their drawings
    they love drawing very much and my house walls are full of it and so is my bag as they draw and paint, then gave it to me and their mother as a present.
    Wael A. Mohamed, PhD
    http://www.beng.bu.edu.eg

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