Working Together

Sometimes I get asked if Myla and I still draw together.  My answer, in short, is that YES, we do…but that it’s sort of changed a bit.

The collaborations we did were fairly simple, and happened–as I described in the post–pretty spontaneously, at first.  Now that she’s a little older (she’s five ANDAHALF now), she’s not so interested in just simply adding a body on to a head I’ve drawn.  While she does still enjoy it now and then, her interests (and mine) have changed quite a bit.  So while our past collaborations were a such a wonderful and fun experiment, and we still do enjoy doing them from time to time, we find so many other ways to share our artwork with each other.

I started the new year with some new supplies, anxious to try some new things.  Recently, I tried out some mixed media board, drew a picture of her sleeping, and wondered if it would work if I asked her to draw what she might be dreaming…


So she added onto what I had drawn, telling me what each thing was, and what it might mean.  I asked her questions about it, had her tell me dreams she might’ve had in the past, and if she could draw them.

I later added on some pen detail, to sort of clarify what I thought she was trying to convey (based on what she had told me), and give it some decorative, dreamlike imagery.


And this is what we made.  She dreamt of rolling toys, and the Shcar she had created.  There’s a dragon in the top right, who carries her babies in fire.  Most of her dream is protected by a unicorn with a shield-horn that wraps around her as she sleeps.

sleep3(Consequently, the unicorn also has glitter streaming out from behind him (see those dots?), because…well, because she’s five, and glitter farts are funny.)

She was happy when she saw it finished, although it didn’t come without critique…she said I had forgotten to color the eye of the Shcar white (I later amended it for her), and that in her mind, the unicorn was actually supposed to be BLACK….but that one she was willing to overlook.

Another time, I wanted to draw her from a photo I had.  When I showed it to her, I said, “I want to make a drawing that tells a story about creativity, and how your mind thinks of wonderful things.  do you have any ideas?”  She grabbed the pen right away, and started drawing…


She included dragons playing with her hair, dreaming of Legos.  She’s imagining the Shcar she designed.  She gave herself wolf ears, for fun.  There’s a peacock on her shoulder, disappointed because he thought her hair was worms.  And a sleeping mermaid, resting peacefully on her shoulder.  I don’t know what any of it means.  But I don’t HAVE to.  It’s her creativity, it’s her mind.  It doesn’t have to MEAN anything.


Again, she gasped with delight when she saw how I had finished it, but again, she had critiques.  The mermaid was initially colored wrong.  It’s apparently a toy she has (I had misunderstood which one), so I corrected it.

She asked why I drew circles around her eye, and I told her I was trying to draw the idea that artists see things in a different way than some people do.  That it’s almost like having “special eyes.”

She asked me, “why do I look so sad?”  I showed her the reference photo I used, and said,  “In the picture I used, you weren’t sad,  just thinking.  I didn’t mean for it to look sad, I just meant it to look like you were thinking.”  I told her that when I was younger, people often thought I was mean because I would quietly stare off at nothing while I was thinking, and that (along with my squinting because of bad eyesight), it made people think I was annoyed when I wasn’t.  That made her laugh.  She loves stories of when I was younger…

Speaking of when I was younger, Myla once said to me, “I wish I could play with you when you were a kid. We would have so much fun.”  So I thought it’d be interesting to draw the two of us, around the same age, playing…


Before I gave it to her, I said, “if we were kids, what kinds of things would we do?  I used to like to catch bugs, I liked dinosaurs and robots, aliens and animals.  I bet we’d ride bikes together.”  She thought that was awesome.  But the first thing she drew was the “loves” above our heads.

(Awhile back, she asked me what my “love” would look like, and I drew a heart with BIG BIG arms.  Hers was an envelope with wings to fly with you wherever you go.)

She drew our Donkey to the right, since we both have loved him for YEARS (I got him when I was around 8, and she’s had him since she was a baby).  There’s a spider catching a fly in a web below us, which we’d probably both be fascinated and grossed out by.  On the bottom left, she and I are riding bikes.  You can barely see (as my hand is nearly covering it) that she is pouting on the bike, because even as a kid, she imagines I’m probably still the boss when we ride bikes…


Here’s the piece nearly done…


And the final piece:  Myla and me, roughly 4 or 5, playing.  And she’s right….we’d probably have been the COOLEST of friends. (..And I’m pretty sure I’d take turns on our bikes…)


She smiled a big smile when it was done, and had only one thing to say:  “Perfect.”

Aside from my regular face studies, in my drawings and paintings this year I’ve decided to make more of an effort to try to tap into illustrating a message, or a meaning, or a feeling.  I don’t mean a STANCE–I’ve not got any political or legal or religious statement to make in my artwork (there are others who excel magnificently in that), but more of something that means something TO ME.

I find (as an illustrator) that it’s one of the defining differences between “commercial illustration” and “painting”–I know I take things way too literally.   There is not often any deep, hidden meaning in my work, and I’m totally okay with that.  But this year, I’m going to try to tap more into what I’d have to SAY (if anything) in a painting….something I’ve never really done, unless it was a melancholy, depressing image when I was upset, like pitiful gothic teenage “woe is me” poetry.

And that’s exactly what happened with the first one I tried.  I was in a hormonal funk I couldn’t get out of.  Everyone has “down” days, but this one seemed neverending.  I had no motivation.  I wanted to cry all day FOR NO REASON.  It felt like someone handed me a huge boulder to carry as I went through the day, and it weighed down everything I did.  I had trouble really describing how crushing this feeling was.  Instead, I tried to see if drawing it might help.

It felt like pointy-beaked birds nesting in my hair.  It felt like ribbons of tears.  It felt like a dark cloud.  Still, drawing it still seemed to trivialize it a bit.  It still felt like bad teenage poetry.

I debated showing it to Myla–I didn’t want to worry her or upset her.  But when she saw it on my art desk, she asked about it.  I told her I was doing a painting about feeling sad, and was trying to show how it makes you feel.  She asked if she could add on, and why not?  She drew a dragon tangled in the hair, trying to hold on.  There are x-rays to “show what’s inside.”  And little wind-up mice, crawling all over–into the heart, chewing the hair, chewing at the bones.  She hesitantly asked if it was okay if she drew something creepy (because there’s a time and a place for creepy things, and school isn’t one of them..and also because it was my drawing and she wanted to know if it was okay), and I said of course–that it was what the drawing was about, that I was trying to show things that bother you, that upset you.  She drew the thing that creeps her out the most–zombies (which she only knows about courtesty of the halloween sections at the grocery store, and the game “Plants and Zombies,” and from a few kids at school).


So she helped me with this one.  And to me, it seems like a stereotype…a morose self-indulgence.  Maybe I’m just uncomfortable with negative feelings.  It must’ve helped, though, because the horrible funk passed not long after.

But every new journey starts with just one little step, and that’s my goal this next year…to try to see (from time to time) if I can start with very simple, little ideas, and get them on paper, without it being all melodramatic and serious.  Not because it’s a “new year” and I have to “make a resolution” (I’ve mentioned how I feel about that)…but because I love trying new things, and it just happened to coincide with the new year.  SO there.  🙂

And while I’m taking my own little journey, I’m wondering how it’ll influence Myla’s views on her own drawings.  She is VERY literal (like me).  She has an AMAZING imagination, but she’s not sure (spatially) why I have made things float around in the paintings above.  I’ve told her the idea behind why I did it that way (that I’m illustrating dreams and ideas instead of THINGS), and she’s nodded, deep in thought.  I can tell she’s mulling it over.

But I don’t think this means my artwork will get more “SERIOUS”–I think humor is a big part of what I enjoy (and not taking yourself too seriously is EXTREMELY important to me)….I just think it’ll be fun to see where digging a little deeper takes me.  Where it takes us.  Because as long as it’s fun and it’s making us happy, who CARES what it means, right?

…So what new things are YOU trying?


28 responses

  1. What an amazing idea. I have a 6 year old little girl and this will be our project of the day. We have drawn together but nothing like this. You are truly a pioneer

    1. Thank you so much! I’d love to see what you create with your girl!

  2. Huh. Your bad teenaged poetry art is so much prettier than mine. :p I guess it’s all about self-expression not comparison, though, right? I’m another literal person, and on top of that I have a hard time emoting, so making bad emo art is hard but therapeutic to me. I love the new style of collaborations. I love how it showcases yours and Myla’s personal evolutions.

    1. Hehe! Yes, definitely about self-expression. It’s never good to compare too harshly! Thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoy them!

  3. Oh My GOD! That’s just Stunning!! I’ve inspired a lot by your works! Wow, seriously, I can’t describe what I feel now! Great!

    1. Thank you so much; it’s wonderful to have shared!

  4. This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Totally and completely magnificent!

  6. As always, your posts inspire, delight, and touch my artist’s heart.

  7. I love your work! 🙂

  8. This is exquisite. I’m so glad i recently found your work. It is stunning.

  9. That is so endlessly sweet and touching! It makes my heart ache.

  10. Your posts always inspire me. What a great adventure you have been on, and what a great idea for your future artwork. So glad that Myla is so much like her mother…. we need more of you! 🙂

    1. Aw, thanks so much, Rhonda! You’re one o’ the good ones, too!

  11. Thank you for sharing your journey so eloquently. I love the art you and your daughter create together and that you are teaching her so many life lessons through it.

  12. I love how you collaborate with your daughter. I’m trying to get over the “I don’t want to share my crayons with anyone because they’ll mess up the point” phase of my lost childhood artist. Your work with your daughter inspires me to get my kids involved, to not hold my work as something so precious that no one else can touch it (or ever see it). I love the freedom, the spontaneity, and especially the incredible respect and support you offer your daughter when you include her and validate her efforts. So beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much! Sharing with her didn’t come without a learning curve…but the more I do it, the more comfortable it gets, and the confidence she feels sharing with me is inspiring. 🙂

  13. Absolutley amazing ! I may even now try this with my kids, the result is fantastic , what an amazing idea. I love the idea of collaborating with my kids. Its just fantastic

    1. Thank you! I’d love to see what you try with your kids! And I hope you have fun doing it. 🙂

  14. Hi, Sis

    You have to read this blog – just made me think of you and Brandy, you and Tanya, and me and D’Anne. You and Brandy because she’s the one that draws so much, you and Tanya because of the stuff Tanya (and Andrew) work at and that you understand and do somewhat, and finally, me and D’Anne because of taking creative classes together and dreaming together from the time she was little. Just had to share this blog with you!! (this is same artist I’ve shared with you before!)

    Love you, me [?]

  15. You and Myla take my breath away. I’m speechless.

    1. i heart you, Lori. Thank you!

  16. I had to thank you for all your posts and art that you so generously share with us here and on Instagram… I’m in a terrible slump (you know, the infamous blank page syndrome, going on 2 years now!)… and reading your tips and passion for art does help a lot!

    Please don’t stop 😉

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement! I hope you find the inspiration yo fill that page!

  17. Amazing! What kind of paint are you using? And is that over pen?

  18. Amazing! What kind of paint are you using? And is that over pen?

    1. Thank you! It’s acrylic paint, or sometimes watercolor, over ballpointpen.

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