The State of Stuff

bugle dino

People ask me sometimes if Myla and I still do our collaborations, and if we will do them forever.  I’ve come to learn that kids’ fancies are fleeting, so I do my best to just encourage her and do the best I can to support whatever she’s into at the moment.

Lately, what she’s been into has fallen into two categories…namely, Stuff Stuck to Paper and Paper Creatures.  I’ll attempt to describe them, because given a brief moment alone, and she’s furiously scissoring and coloring a creature, with her brow furrowed, and a very faraway look of concentration on her face.   In case you labor under the belief that we ethereally flutter around an immaculate house, doing artsy art thing in a perfectly-styled art room designed by artsy art professionals, I will share this photo of what our kitchen table looks like most of the time:


I admit to claiming responsibility for about 20% of the mess that constantly grows in this table (usually concerning school-related paperwork).  I have cleaned it and straightened it and battled it in full gear, time and time again, and I have just given up.  It has finally won the battle.

But see the look on that kid’s face?  That one of absolutely overwhelmingly engrossed concentration?  I’m okay with that mess.  Plus, I can sit on my end of the table and just draw in my sketchbook.  Win-win, if you can handle a messy kitchen table.  (We’ll see what happens when the husband gets back from deployment and might like a place to–oh, I dunno–EAT, maybe.)

In any case, here is what she’s been up to:

Stuff Stuck to Paper

The things she’s been creating come from out of nowhere.  A scrap of paper, a bottlecap.  Left unattended near her, they are at high risk of being glued or taped to a page and made into a “project.”  I have had to give her very good reasons why it is not a good idea to GLUE scissors to the page just for a projects’ sake.  But for the most part, I don’t mind the random things.

Sometimes, when she’s glued or taped food to the page, I’ve either secretly smuggled it to a temporary holding area (in the garage) before secreting it out to the trashcan (0nly after taking countless photos, of course) to avoid an onslaught of ants, or (as in the case of the Bugle-dragon above) I’ve sprayed it with a multitude of layers of varnish to hopefully keep ants at bay.  She’s also glued or taped a birthday candle, bottlecaps, and pieces of plants, creating a little scenery (or what she calls a “project.”)


She’s made birds with Bugles cracker beaks, and carrot parrots…


Once, I gave her a bowl of dry mixed pasta to make “projects” out of, and she made this little crab for me:


I once showed her some doodles by InkyGirl on Instagram, and the next morning she drew this:


Paper Creatures

The other thing she’s been doing is making “creatures.”  These are things she builds out of paper to be “toys.”  (Because, you know, she doesn’t have like a million ACTUAL toys.  Heheh)

Here, she frantically cuts up tiny pieces of paper and usually tapes (because she’s got no time to wait for glue) or glues them together to make some sort of creature.

paper creatures

(From left to right: Mouse from Cinderella, a talking tortilla, Unikitty, a cow, a porcupine, and a lion.)

Sometimes she cuts out & colors all the pieces, and other times she markers them…


(Catbus from Totoro, and her green catbus friend)

They’re fully realized characters, since they almost always have backsides, too.


I showed her how to use metal brads once, and she created all the pieces, cut them out, and had me help her put it together…


Other times, they are full sheets of paper (with backsides, too) that are like “dolls…”


She voraciously made this dinosaur finger puppet for me, which is pretty gosh-darned cool.  It even has a tail!


So those are exciting.  And she’s been obsessed with these paper things.  I’ve had to stock up on construction paper and tape, something I didn’t need to do when she was voraciously drawing.  But that’s what she’s into.  And that’s cool.

But the other day, I wasn’t feeling well, and I lay on my stomach on the couch with my sketchbook, and she dragged her marker box, scissors and tape into the room and started making paper bats like a madwoman.  And then she suddenly looked up, climbed onto the pillows over my head, and stared at my sketchbook, watching me draw.  I was playing with colored ballpoint pens, drawing Napoleon Dynamite.


“Are you using shading?”  she asked.

“Yes I am,” I replied, and I showed her how layers and layers of colors can look like they’re mixing to make other colors, and that darker things look like they’re behind.  Sort of like when we played with pointillism.

“I’m going to try that, too.” she said.  “And I’m going to make it look SO REAL.”  So I watched her look at the photo for references (or what she calls “estructions”), and drew her own version:


I was blown away!  Shading, “realistic” features.  So exciting, and pretty darned awesome, for a 4-year old!  She really took her time with it, focusing very hard on looking at the picture and trying to draw it the same way (making me instantly recall the Napoleon Dynamite quote: “It took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip. It’s probably the best drawing I’ve ever done.”  Hehehe.)

Yesterday, I had a doodle of Wonder Woman in my sketchbook, and she tried her hand at it again, and again–I’m blown away.


It’s so cool to be able to see your kid change and grown and learn new things.  Sure, it’s a little sad to see a beloved phase go by, but my mom always said, “enjoy whatever phase she’s in, because the next phase might be a rough one.”

So while we still doodle the occasional heads from time to time (and I’ll be sure to keep giving her the option to), it’s so great to see her trying new things!  Believe, me, the collaborations have changed our lives so much for the good that I’m going to keep trying them with her, and it’ll be fun to see how they look once she’s a little older.  Maybe she’s ready to let me draw the bodies to HER heads now…

Whatever the case, I’m just glad for it.  All of it.  Messes and ants and all.


12 responses

  1. I love how in tune you are with your daughter’s interests–and how you support and encourage these interests. Keep up the good work–and the messing about ; )

  2. Love your blog and this post is particularly endearing!

  3. Brilliant, just brilliant. Thanks for sharing. This made me smile several times over after a long day at work!

  4. I love drawing so much I can’t believe that my toddler only wants to try writing numbers and letters and nothing more! I hope one day when he is older I can do something this creative with him, love the use of carrots by the way!!

  5. It’s hard to decide between the lobster and the movable tiger as my favourite… So clever and talented; how she comes up with such unique and interesting little characters, and at such a young age, is really sweet. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Oops, I meant crab!

  7. Debbie Ridpath Ohi | Reply

    Wow, this is fantastic! Your daughter is amazing, and so are you for encouraging her like this.

    1. Thank you Debbie! We love your things, too! (Obviously!)

  8. You are the best mom ever. As amazing as your daughter is right now, she is going to grow up knowing she can do anything she wants to. I love reading your blogs. Yes, for the art and fun, but also to see a fabulous role model for how to raise a child. You make such a great team and your mutual love is very obvious and heartwarming.

  9. I love it! She’ll be so thankful to have this journal of your creativity together as she grows up. My favorite is the lion with the strawberry top!! Adorable.

  10. Inspiring work !!!
    My daughter is turning 5 soon and hasn’t mastered the cutting yet for our collage play yet. She did created a Unikitty drawing the other week … I still need to upload the post.
    I love her lion creature … very, very cool stuff !!!

  11. I’m so blown away by Myla’s passion and imagination. It’s interesting to see her go through various phases – makes me wonder what will be next! I particularly love the orange cat she made with fasteners. 🙂

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