Collaborating With a 6-Year Old

A few years have gone by since I collaborated with our then 4-year old…  And on occasion, people will ask me if we could do more.

outer face

Sometimes we still do.  It’s more of a casual thing.  I’ll toss her a page and say, “here are a few heads if you feel like sketching,” usually when she’s bored or looking for something to do.

Sometimes they turn out okay, and I try new things with them, making little pendants or doodles.  But mostly, it’s just a fun little pasttime.sometimes we do

On occasion, she still adds a body to a face I’ve done, and it turns out pretty well…

sometimes-zissou

For the most part, though, to be honest:  the main reason we don’t always collaborate is that she’s busy doing her own thing!  She’s FIERCELY creative.  She throws herself into her art desk and is consumed with scissors, staples, and tape, making all sorts of wonderful things–

doing her own business

Other times, she just draws.

myladoodles

Lately, she’s been obsessed with “writing books.”  We can’t get enough little thin sketchbooks–she fills them up with complete stories–usually just directional things, like new creatures she invents for her Minecraft game, or the inner anatomical workings of the prehistoric wooly mammoth.

doing her own books

She mixes and matches her Lego minifigures, creating all kinds of new creatures.  She makes “costumes” from construction paper, and spends hours inventing her own board games, like “Fishing for Genies,” and “DeerPeople Land” (it’s like Candyland…but with deer-people, obvs).

doing her own thing

And from time to time, people ask us why we don’t do very many collaborations anymore.  The simple answer is that we DO….but mostly, because you don’t always make art just for other people.  You do it because you love it.

Sometimes, the things people ask us to do work out fairly well:  we did this mural together at Crave Hair Lounge in Killeen, and it worked mainly because the owners gave us complete freedom to do what we wanted.  But even then, it was intimidating to make sure it actually worked out on such a large scale.

mural

I’m sure when our collaborations went viral when she was four, we could’ve been involved in a great deal of things.  We were asked us to do custom portraits together, requesting certain animal bodies.  People wanted us to write a book with a single main character, or wanted me to collaboratively write POETRY with her.  I was asked if we could create new work for ads, for products, for magazine illustrations.

But can you imagine?  Have you ever tried to get a 4-year old to do anything?  It’s tricky.  Now take that 4-year old, take their favorite thing to do, and make it a JOB.  Tell them they HAVE to do that thing a certain way.  Make them do it within a deadline, or re-do it if it’s not exactly what someone had in mind.  Does that sound fun anymore?  Maybe I missed some opportunities, but you know, I’d rather have done that than make her favorite thing become a horrible chore.

Instead, now that she’s older, and she’s developed her own style, I’ve found a different way to collaborate with her.

Now, I ask her to help me.

Often, my favorite thing to draw is her.  Occasionally I do a series for myself I call “Stuff Myla Says,” where I illustrate the funny things she says.  And sometimes, she’ll help me with them.

stuff myla says-i believe

But one time, I was doing a portrait of my dad, and I was trying to find a way to artistically describe some of my best memories from my childhood.  I couldn’t figure out how to tell the story of some of my favorite memories–playing in the woods, exploring castles, enjoying sci-fi, and building gnome bridges.  Do I draw them out realistically?  Do I draw them as a background?

She came over and asked me what I was doing.  “I’m drawing me as a kid, with Papa.  And I want to draw some of my favorite times with him…but I can’t figure out how to draw all my favorite childhood memories of him.”

“I’m a kid–maybe I could help!”  She said.  “You tell me, and I’ll draw it.”  And we did.  And it turned out SO MUCH better than I could’ve hoped for.

dad

Lately, my favorite thing to draw is her.  It’s fun to put her in new scenarios.  And when I do, since she’s her own artist now, I like to ask her to “help” me.  And the things she adds always turn out better than anything I could’ve come up with.

monster doodler

I once drew her from a photo I took of a funny face she made while she played an arcade game, and asked her for help with it.  “I wanted to make it like you’re fighting monsters and robots.”  “Oh, okay!” she said, and her imagination took off from there.  She created this intricate story about these creatures releasing monsters from these eggs, and ones that weren’t good or bad, just “in the way,” and others who were “just trying to survive.”

monster battle

I drew her as an imaginary astronaut, and asked if she’d like to add to it.  She came up with an elaborate story about all kinds of aliens meeting up on the “deer people” planet…(apparently, that’s a thing, in her world)…

space1

Sometimes, I need clarification on what she’s drawn, and she’s always happy to help me; sometimes telling me what colors things should be…but only if I ask.  She’s not demanding about it at all, and will often say, “You can make them whatever color you like.”

space2

And she always seems happy with the end result…

space3

Another time, I started this drawing of her (from a photo of her in a simple eared hoodie), and turned her into a forest kid.  “She looks kind of scared,” I said.   What do you think she look so worried about?”   She thought for a minute, then said,  “forest monsters.”  And we took turns back and forth drawing monsters, based off of what the other one said.

jungle monsters

IMG_7394

Once, I asked her “If you could be any creature, what would you be?” and she said (without hesitation), “A WINTER CENTAUR.”  So I drew her as one, and she described to me the colors she imagined, and added all her little winter friends.  “Don’t forget, mom:  I should be all white, but with mud on my fur to blend in with the trees.”

winter centaur

Next, we did a spring centaur (mostly because I stink at proportions, and was trying new things).  She drew her walking next to a deer-dragon, surrounded by baby deer-people (creatures she invented) making nests in her hair and snacking on grapes.

spring centaur

Another time I drew her riding a furry beast (think: Where The Wild Things Are), and she added all sorts of monster and bird friends, helping her along her imaginary journey.

beast rider

IMG_7393

I’ve held strongly to the idea that she draw whatever she likes.  I love her creativity, and as a mom, the best I can do is allow her the room to be herself, in any capacity, being sure to gently nudge her on a safe path along the way, or steer her aside if she starts to venture down a dark road.  But mostly, allowing her to be herself, allowing her to be her OWN artist and ASKING for collaborations has been what works best for us.

And instead of the accidental collaborations we started with, now that she’s older, we’re consciously collaborating…working together to tell a story through the pictures…something I’ve always had a problem with in my own art.  But by allowing her to take control for a combined purpose, I think it helps build her confidence.  She’s not just adding on to my work…she’s helping me tell a story together, and I love it.

“We make a great team,” she says.  And that makes me smile.

(I added a few of our newer collaborative pieces to our print site at Society6…)

(Copies of the book of early collaborations we made ourselves through Kickstarter can be found here…)

104 responses

  1. I love seeing your work and especially enjoy your collaborations with your daughter. This post really impressed me, I am in awe of how you facilitate her artistic expression. These moments you share will become cherished memories for her as an adult, a big round of applause to you!!!

    1. I was trying to decide on the words I needed to explain my excitement for your collaboration and then I read this comment and decided it is a better version of what I would have written:) So, I second this applause!

  2. I love this. especially how you both learn from each other. Oh, and the “I can help, I’m a child!” just cracked me up! What a clever little girl!

  3. I LOVE what the two of you are doing now. I think it shows so much about who you are as a mom, who she is as a six year old, and who the two of you are as artists (independently and together)! 🙂

  4. Skills. Keep it up!

  5. Your daughter is so creative! It’s great to see a child be interested in something other than video games or TV. This post is so amazing! I look forward to reading more

  6. This is lovely and had to share with others so twitted for more to see. ☺

  7. No matter how much adults try but they can’t be creatively mature like the kids.
    Nice piece of writing 🙂

  8. This is simply awesome!God Gifted!

  9. Amazing never knew that there are people like u in this world… I am from India where I have had lost the hope in the beauty of the heart and every where I saw only corporates trying to come over each other. As you make me believe that there are still some who listen to their heart.

  10. 6 freaking years old? This girl is so good it’s criminal!

  11. This is great, I saw many other collabs parents do with their children and they usually turn out awesome. If she sticks with it, she’s going to be an amazing artist 🙂

  12. I absolutely love this! Your daughter is so creative the way she just adds so much imagination and creative ideas to your drawings. I love how it went from you helping her to her helping you come up with ways to further perfect your drawings. Your daughter has a lot in store for her. Especially with that amazing art table! Most kids are into the latest technology or TV but she`s into drawing, imagining, and creating! I cant wait to see what’s in store for both of you!

  13. beautiful work… this is awesome and so original. i love it!

  14. Love the pictures, and how fun that you can work together on them! Thanks for sharing these!

  15. It’s really a great combination! I like it very much ^^

  16. I can see why people like it so much! She’s a good artist herself and it’s really neat to see her work combined with yours.

  17. I love the painting you made with your daughter that states “I believe in everything”- what a great idea ! Our children can inspire us when we least expect it. One day I saw my daughter chewing on a yoga DVD and I was inspired simple to get up off my bum and do YOGA again! lol May the muse be with you skywalker!! 😉

  18. I am BLOWN AWAY by your art skills!!!!! Absolutely incredible!!!!!!! I love, love, love your artistic collaborations. What an amazing visual of memories that you are making together to cherish forever!

  19. Dorota Alassali | Reply

    Beautiful artwork. Great read. I love collaborating with my own kids as well. Very true that you can’t get kids to create on demand. It takes the natural fun out of it. We have been making our own books for years. Great to see you have been doing the similar things.

  20. Dorota Alassali | Reply

    Reblogged this on Entry Level Post.

  21. I admire the time you spend with your daughter, creating together. These will be lifelong memories for her

  22. Soo amazing creativity! God bless! Keep it up 😀

  23. Your girl is so creative 🙂 And you’re an awesome mother for giving her the freedom to create her own art.

  24. This is just so cute and creative!!! 🙂

  25. gracenande123 | Reply

    Love this!

  26. Reblogged this on montsengmonaheng and commented:
    This is wonderful!

  27. Wonderful post. Best wishes.

  28. It’s good to see you are not moulding her into something you wanted, but let her grow up way she wants

  29. This is inspiring! I have a six-year-old son, and also find that if we’re going to create together it has to be on his own terms. But your post reminds me that it’s still worth giving him opportunities. I love these images, esp. the portrait of your father.

  30. Fabulous! I love it. I saw your earlier collaborations but this was do well written and inspiring, especially as a new father to be.

  31. What you’ve done is awesome. I am an artist, and I always loved and collected my kids’ art, but I never thought to do this! Now they’re too old.
    But the most awesome thing you did was to value your daughter’s unpressured and uncoerced creativity, her own vision and style, over any of the offers you received to officially collaborate on things directed by others. That was a totally noble decision.

  32. katherinejlegry | Reply

    Your kid is lucky and you totally rock! Love the art. 🙂

  33. I think the idea of collaborating with your daughter is wonderful. In this process you have both grown as Artists especially your daughter. It is so inspiring. I have a daughter who is 5, just starting to get a liking for drawing 🙂 you are an inspiration. may you both always have this wonderful bond! God bless

  34. This is freaking awesome!

  35. This is so inspirational. You two tell great stories. Makes me want to pull out my boys’ robot illustrations and do more with them. I just might take it on as a project this summer… But won’t tell them it is lest I stifle their creative process. Thanks! I needed a nudge in addition to the one my boys gave me yesterday to do more art.

  36. I adore those that take the time to recognize how brilliant our children can be. I love this so much!

  37. Reblogged this on DeRu… and commented:
    Take the time to nourish the creativity, it can be such a stunning thing….

  38. nice home place here!

  39. These have really wild & crazy ideas! Think you two may be onto something. #inspired

    – Mark
    http://www.machkeys.com
    http://www.expressxyourxsoul.com

  40. Reblogged this on The Teen And Young Adult Blog and commented:
    Amazing!

  41. This is amazing! A great way to express yourselves too!
    -Paul, thetyablog.com

  42. Reblogged this on fumbletumble and commented:
    This is so amazing. I wish I had someone who would have encouraged me about painting without making it seem like a job. I know how it feels. Its really amazing how she is handling this situation

  43. Reblogged this on where i am at and commented:
    I love this. Encouraging children to be creative and do what they love is so important.

  44. As an early Childhood professional this is something I would like to share with parents of my school . Your work will surely inspire them. keep it up.

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