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. it’s always great to respect individual attributes and rightly the trait “allowing her to be herself, allowing her to be her OWN artist” will go a long way in the success. Kudos.

  2. what an amazing pair; wonderful parenting too;)

  3. Truly beautiful! Thank you for sharing what you created together. I’m showing my daughter and she enjoys it as well.

  4. this is such a fantastic concept! it’s a great idea for parents or babysitters to use with their charges (regardless of the adult’s art skills haha). it would also make for some really wonderful children’s books, especially if you collaborated on the story as well!

    PeopleIMetInMyTwenties.com

  5. I loved this post so much!!! So much creativity 🙂 Keep going! (Y)

  6. Denise Sherman | Reply

    As a parent, and a creative, reading your post was both inspiring and convicting. Love it!

  7. You’re right! Four year olds should not have jobs, especially those that they have to re-do for other people’s expectations or wishes. Good job mama, keep your child’s creativity alive! It is spectacular and this is a wonderful and magical post. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Reblogged this on sailenyi.

  9. I have to read this all later but it looks amazing. I’m busy being jumped on by my 4year old! We collaborate too! Amazing. This is super encouraging for me! Many thanks in advance for the inspiration.

  10. Reblogged this on Lynx's Emporium and commented:
    Absolutely amazing! Check out their work!

  11. Reblogged this on Janet Ross-Jordan and commented:
    I remember reading about this collaboration when it went viral a couple of years ago. Glad it’s still going on, what a great way to work alongside your child.

  12. I love how you work together or alongside each other.

  13. Its so heartwarming to see you collaborating with your daughter. And your statement about doing art not for other people.
    It will be great when she grows up and looks over all these drawings.
    Such happy memories!

  14. Reblogged this on /c.perry and commented:
    I have always wanted to do something like this! So fun to tap into a mind that isn’t so constricted creatively.

  15. what a great idea, beautiful!

  16. You are an amazing parent and so inspiring! I love the way you feed your daughter’s creativity and how you two collaborate. You two are an inspiration!

  17. Wow. I absolutely LOVE these collaborations! So neat… The mind of a child’s can be so creative. Amazing artwork. Such a talented mother-daughter duo! Keep on the GREAT work!

  18. I loved this post so much!!! So much creativity

  19. I love the part when you say that art isn’t always for other people, that a lot of the time it’s for yourself. I’m so fascinated with the minds and creativity of children. They have this carefree and infinite imagination that I think we slowly lose as we grow older. Awesome post!

  20. beautiful!

  21. This is so amazing!!

  22. She has a great conceptual sense to everything you decide to do. I love the style in your work..

  23. I love love love this!! What a gorgeous creative daughter you have! I love that you can ‘work together’ this time will be special and treasured in future times. Good on you Dad. Best Dad award goes to you! I used to just love hanging out with my Dad as much as I could as a child. I would be in contact at all times possible. I loved him so much! I would love to have had the chance to collaborate on an art project like this. Keep up the great work! And big high five to your young creative, what a little legend! She will have her own empire one day…!! Xx

  24. This is one of the greatest art “things” I’ve stumbled upon in my life. How absolutely creative and beautiful, both yours and Myla’s contribution. I love to draw and have a toddler daughter, you have inspired me so much to try “collaborate” with her in future. What fun!

  25. It really makes me happy to see both someone at such a young age discovering her passion as well as having the backing of her parent.

  26. Your daughter is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the art world one day! My daughter and I have collaborated on a few minor projects over the years, but, although she is very artistic, she has yet to find a direction or passion she can stick with (she is 16, after all). But creativity can take many forms, and although we don’t do as much together anymore, I know she will always be an artistic soul. Cheers to you for encouraging your daughter’s abilities to grow and being her muse!

    1. This is just wonderful! 😊

  27. Oh wow, this is lovely work! Being a mom of a 4 yo boy myself I just got inpired! Ok. We’ll mostly draw cars. Or monster trucks. Or jeeps. But still, art can take many forms can’t it :p
    Anyway, wonderful wonderful work here, congratulations 🙂

  28. Wow! You sound like an amazing parent and both you and your daughter are so creative! I really enjoy your work!

  29. Reblogged this on You Don't Know Me, But You Will… and commented:
    I am Sooooo impressed with this Artist/Blogger and her daughter…brings back happy memories of me and my daughter working together on creative endeavors…we should treasure those times, because eventually, these little “maker-bunnies” hop off and create all on their own. This is just a lovely article, I totally related to it. Enjoy!

  30. I just love your artwork, and ofcourse your daughter’s as well, it’s really fun how you execute these designs, marvellous!

  31. Incredible! Very dynamic art! That’s a talented 6-year-old.

  32. I absolutely love these! Beautiful, both visually and the story behind them 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! With portraits and tattoos especially, I love hearing the back stories!

  33. Es maravilloso ver la manera de educar, ademas de los valores crea un talento en que aparecen los veraderos artistas, felicidades.

  34. […] don’t offer collaborative pieces with our daughter.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, and people have asked, but I’m sorry I won’t. I do have our collaborations up as prints on […]

  35. Great site, I love your artwork 🙂 I’ll keep coming back.

  36. How wonderful to have a lovely daughter who has the same passion for art as yourself. You are blessed.

  37. […] on art projects, from custom portraits to resin monster puppy dolls to her well-known series of collaborations with her young daughter. She often shares her own takes on characters in popular culture, too (check out her recent Mad […]

  38. Hi. my name is carmen. I”m an abstract expressionist. I just wanted to say, that i think you’re daughter has a lot of talent. I hope thats not too forthright. but I see how she makes spaces …shapes….marks….I think you’re both really talented. I think its great shes into art so much.
    Thanks for sharing
    Carmen
    https://cacalanostudios.wordpress.com -painting site
    https://carmenthimble.wordpress.com -writing site

  39. Wow! What an amazing relationship! She will treasure these moments and this freedom of expression forever. She’s quite a lucky kid!

  40. You two are an amazing team! What a lucky girl (and mom). And i love that you decided not to take up all those offers that might have extinguished that artistic flame. She will have plenty of opportunities in the future. Lovely work.

  41. thats great keep it up

  42. Project Design Camp | Reply

    This is excellent! I’m moved…

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