Would you like another example of how art saved the day? I will tell you a story.
First off, this is my hairy girl. Her name is Adie, and she’s an old lady. She’s a 10-year old lovable Boston terrier, who unfortunately is beginning to fall apart a bit.
When we first got her, she was weensy. She weighed two pounds and could fit in your hand. She came to us with an ear infection and worms, and had to be medicated, but after some time, she was happy and healthy.
Our other dog, a boxer named Scout, became her adopted big sister, and–despite being three times her size–was VERY gentle with her, and always let her think she was the boss.
Adie loved me from the moment I first held her, and the love was completely mutual. She always has to be near me… she follows me from room to room, and especially now that she’s older and prone to seizures (thankfully, meds keep them at bay), she’s constantly by my side and underfoot wherever I go.
She’s a funny sleeper…
…she sits like an old man…
…and because she’s my little roomba, sniffing around the kitchen, she ALWAYS has something on her snooter.
She’s an absolutely silly, sweet, and stinky girl (in every sense of the word–aside from having a Napoleon complex, she also has extraordinarily pungent gas).
But recently, we were told that a little lump on her nubby tail was cancerous. As a Boston terrier, she barely has a tail ANYway, but now we were told her entire nubby tail needed to be completely removed as soon as possible.
And it’s ironic–my husband just retired from the Army, and suddenly everything breaks down: our AC needed repair, my car tires needed replaced, the dog needs surgery, and one thing after another needed our immediate financial attention. We have some money in savings, but it’s allotted in preparation to get us through his retirement, until the next step of his career. There was no question in my mind that we’d pay for the surgery–both my dogs are family, and if they need it, they need it. But I cringed at our finances taking this kind of hit.
And then my husband half-jokingly suggested I have an art sale. I actually thought it was worth a shot. I have tons of artwork that is just sitting in my house, buried in sketchbooks or folders, waiting to be loved, and if people liked it, maybe I could raise some money for her surgery! I took several pieces out, took photographs of everything, and put it up in my shop. I even decided there were a few of the collaborations from when Myla was age 4 that I was willing to part with (I VERY rarely part with those!).
I made sure that there was nothing I would be sad over losing. I made sure it was all artwork that I love, but I don’t have a deep emotional attachment to. I chose things I thought people might like. When I made my sale stack, there were a couple I decided “nope, I think I need to keep that one.” …It was all for a good cause, and all done with absolute love. I put a post up, and crossed my fingers.
Within a few hours, I was amazed at how many sales we made! The amazing comments that came in, all the wonderful well-wishes, all the kind words from people, it was all so overwhelming in the very best way. Even those who couldn’t buy were happy to share on their own pages to spread the word–something I never expected. We were all smiles over here, let me tell you.
By the end of the evening, with everyone’s amazing support, we made more than enough to pay for Adie’s tail removal! She’s got an appointment for May 1st, and I’ll be sure to update my pages on how she’s doing. Hopefully it’ll be a smooth job, they’ll get all the cancer, and she’ll be better off for it.
So thank you, all of you who helped by buying or sharing! Thank you for all your kind words and thoughts. Art saved the day, and you all made it happen, and I am very grateful for it!
I’ll keep you all posted. Fingers crossed!
Open on the beginning of a long story. The scene: There is darkness. Times are tough. For two years, there is turmoil upon our small family. Thankfully, no one is terribly ill or dying, but events have thrust themselves upon our happy little lives like a terrible monster. Not something between us, but something UPON us…we are worried. We are upset. We feel miserable and unsure of what will happen, and what the state of our future will be. We are in limbo for a long time like this….and there is NOTHING I can do about it.
Hopefully, the vague terms to protect my family’s privacy don’t distract from the telling of the tale. Because really, the details are not important. What is important is that for a very long time, my family was standing on a high cliff with very unstable cracks beneath it, like one of those cartoons where at any moment, the ground falls out from underneath them, leaving nothing but a poof of smoke behind.
I was helpless, and there was nothing I could do but maintain. I kept the house functioning the best I could. I tried to do fun things to get our minds off of the struggle. I put my energy into doing fun things with our daughter, so that she wouldn’t feel the worry that consumed the adults. I kept a brave face. I duct-taped our household together the best I could, and kept on going.
My husband found my stoicism odd. He worried that I was repressing my feelings. I didn’t THINK I was…I felt like I was doing okay, handling things the best I could.
I drew a lot in my sketchbook. Looking back, there were a lot of monsters, a lot of trying to make friends with monsters as they climbed all over you. I didn’t realize it at the time…
Then I found myself picking up a craft I hadn’t touched in ages: the embroideries. You know the ones? I did a post on them a couple of weeks ago…
They were fun because they were a challenge–what can I fit in the space of these tiny Dandelyne hoops? I found myself bringing them EVERYWHERE. Any free moment I had. Dropping Myla off at school, waiting for her teacher? Bring the ‘broideries. Five minutes in the doctor’s office waiting room? Bring the ‘broideries. On hold on the phone? Bring the ‘broideries. The kid is brushing her teeth? Bring the ‘broideries.
I found myself thinking, “Wow, Mica. You’re kind of sort of obsessed with these silly things…” I was doing one after another, not stopping to think, just making happy little things that made me smile, all in the space of a few inches. It was like my eyes couldn’t see past my hands. It was like my hands were going and going and going and I couldn’t stop them, and all I could do is sit back and watch them go. It was fun, but I also sensed something a little deeper behind it all.
And then a word floated to the surface of my mind, and kept popping up at odd times: Catharsis.
Although there was nothing deeply introspective about Chewbacca or Yoda or a bumblebee, I realized that controlling these tiny little spaces gave me a huge sort of relief. Like, actual PHYSICAL relief. It was like I could breathe. It was like life support that was helping my lungs keep moving. Like, okay–maybe I can’t control what’s going on around me, but I can control this tiny space and make something lovely in it. And it’s not overwhelming. And I consumed that feeling of accomplishment like a junk food junkie, after each one was finished.
It wasn’t so much WHAT I was doing (although that was an additional fun challenge, and still makes me smile), but the process.
I was savoring that feeling of accomplishment over and over and over again. Here were these silly little embroideries, but they were part of making me feel better. I couldn’t DO anything about our situation, so I gave myself the surrogate feeling of accomplishment in these tiny ‘broideries.
AND THEN WE GOT GOOD NEWS. Again, the details are not important. It could be anything. The important thing is, the news was good. Our family was better. Finally, after such a long struggle, we were through the other side, and the outcome was wonderful. We were off on a new adventure, but the ground was reinforced and stable. Things had turned out for the best, and we were going to be okay.
..And there was much rejoicing.
We could breathe again, we could laugh, and things were going to finally–FINALLY–be okay. I felt the obsessiveness sort of slide away, and while I’m still doing the embroideries for fun, I don’t feel that same furious obsession that I felt before.
Listen, it’s a strange thing. And it seems silly. But it’s funny how these things that you love have a way of taking over when you feel like you can’t deal. They go on autopilot; they say “hang on, I’ll take care of this,” and they get you through it. For me, it was art and these silly little embroideries, and I didn’t even realize it until it was over. I wish I could tell it “thank you.” The best I could do to show my gratitude was reward it with a couple of pairs of cute scissors…
If I were another person, it might be books. Or cooking. Or painting, or dancing, or filmmaking, or animation or whatever. What do you have that gets you through? What do you do that lets you breathe, that gives you that feeling of relief?
Whatever it is, nurture it, and with luck, it’ll get you past the storm, through the dark forest, across the cliffs–safe and sound, with only a few bumps and bruises to show for it.
Enamel pins are kind of a big deal these days, aren’t they? They’re so cute and cool. And aaaaall the kids are collecting them. Displaying them is a whole OTHER deal.
I’ve seen banners, hanging fabric, pennants, and other ways to show of a lovely collection. A common theme is corkboard. I took the quick simple way out a while back, and grabbed the adhesive corkboard squares you find in office supply stores….which lasted a few short months before they all came crashing down in shambles…My friend Aletta came up with a suggestion: what if we DREW a background for them? The best part: it was fun and easy to make, and I could do it with the daughter!
I got a couple of embroidery canvases (it’s made to stitch through, so the fabric is a little softer than regular painting canvas, but those would probably work too), and some Sharpie markers.We started by taking a couple of pins that sort of went together, and drawing backgrounds behind them.If I started this project having some fun, it was nothing compared to the fun the kid had. Myla is age seven and tells stories as she draws, so this project was PERFECT for her imagination. She’d grab a pin and start doodling, telling stories as she went–adding characters, sceneries, and battles between pins.
It didn’t take long before we had filled our three canvases up…And we ended up with some fun, funky little canvas displays…Mine looking a bit like a Keith Haring comic book …And Myla’s turning out pretty cool as well…Later, we decided they needed a little color, and Myla gave me permission to add to them all. I didn’t want to take too much away from the pins or the drawings, so very light washes of acrylic paint seemed to really bring everything together.And voila–DIY pin displays! Ready to hang right on the wall! And if you feel like wearing a pin for a day, just take it off the canvas and put it back on when you’re done!Here’s a better look at them, one by one: Myla’s first one was a tree scene with most everyone hiding in the trees from Casper (who is famous, because there is a camera taking photos of him), and a random arm holding Audrey 2 over everyone…Her next one features Immortan Joe and the “blood bag” Mad Max (see–he’s hanging from the ceiling?) fighting, and two starry-eyed monsters stealing eggos and threatening a very passive, jet-pack flying stormtrooper. At the bottom, a lunch lady chases the running dishes, as the cats all jump on a trampoline, and beetles climb all over a building full of people.
Like ya do.And mine has a skelecorn and magic floating arctic wolf protecting the land from an alien invasion, a strong-arm with tattoos, a very worried arctic fox stressing over tree-climbers, and and Pee-Wee unwittingly driving into a city being attacked by Audrey 2, the Thing, and Godzilla. Yikes!And there you have it! Easy to do…fun for you AND for a kid…looks pretty on the wall, and yet still super functional!So go out and give it a try! Or tell me about your DIY pin display ideas–what do you do to enjoy your pin collection?
(Our pin collection featured here: anxiety wolf by Namoi Romero , pinup Dale Cooper by Emma Munger, the Thing by Annie Frenzel, chubby Stormtrooper, Spiderman, and Casper unmasked by Alex Solis), windup bird by Bleu Louise, Godzilla and box cat by Noosh Studios, sloth, hedgehog, and Nessie by BoyGirlParty, alien-head girl by Julie Filipenko, clean plate club by Mab Graves, Immortan Joe and Mad Max by Pinhead Company, tiny bat, mama otter with baby, and ray gun by LuxCups Creative, bunny-bat and broken-hearted otter by Flat Bonnie, coleoptera beetles by Dianafloresblazquez, Dark Crystal by Zen Monkey Studios, arctic wolf face by Monica Knighton, starry-eyed monsters by BeATrashCat, skelecorn and wicked black cat by Bbllowwn, and a few others that were either gifts or that I can’t seem to recall…)
Last week, I posted about my new tiny obsessions–how they started out as simple fun and have evolved into a frantic therapy of sorts…a calming way to deal with the chaos around me.And they’ve been extremely therapeutic. I may not be able to control what’s going on, but I can do my best to control this tiny space…
(I’ve been protecting myself from custom orders–I’m just enjoying doing whatever suits my fancy, and it feels good. But as it’s the process more than the end result, I thought I’d gather whatever I have available and release them in a shop drop on April 2nd. So keep an eye out in my Etsy shop for that!)As I’ve had a wicked case o’ the ‘broideries lately, it’d be fairly unusual for the kid not to have noticed. So she asked me the other day, “hey mom, can I try?”
I had tried to teach her basic hand sewing before, but it didn’t hold her interest. And yet now, she was asking to join in on her own, because of my interest.
I started by letting her sketch something small with pens (a tiny drawing of Finn and Jake and Fiona and Cake from Adventure Time), and then she added some stitching to embellish it.It held her attention…and it ended up lovely! Sure, she made a few mistakes. Sure, I had to stop and help her a lot, despite being mentally tangled in my own work. And sure, she sometimes stitched over instead of under, meaning I had to completely undo and rethread her needle. But the look of pride when she’d finished? So worth it.She started a second piece, of Fern and Finn from Adventure Time…I didn’t give her a plastic kid’s safety needle, she’s learning on the real one. She’s using the same fabric I’d use, and the same hoops. Although I didn’t have very many of the nice tiny hoops to frame them in (as they were ordered from Dandelyne online), and although I hoard them greedily for myself, I went ahead and sacrificed a couple for her to use.
Most often, I have to be the “authority figure.” I’m MOM. I have distractions, I have things to do, worries to worry. In short, I’m busy. The time I take to craft and make art is like fuel to me–I have to fill it up to be able to do the day to day things I need to do. And a little crafting goes a long way.But giving her the respect I’d give any other artist is fundamental. Taking a few moments to really share with her the things I love to do makes her feel important. It makes her feel included.
And it makes her proud.A few days later, she made me a special mockingbird with my name on it. She was focused and careful and took her time. Maybe it’s not something she’d take further, but I think the fact that I didn’t just dismiss her helps build her confidence, and let’s her know she’s capable of doing a great many things.
I remember being a kid, interested in something a grownup was doing, and being sort of dismissed and told to go play. I remember getting the feeling that, “well that must be something I’m not capable of doing, I guess,” and even in adulthood I’d hesitate to try. But I’d like Myla to be able to try things and decide that for herself. A few days later, her Papa–while busy with his own projects–gave her some scraps of wood and a real hammer and nails, a little bit of instruction, and let her create. That’s all it takes!She ended the day happily singing me a little song: ” I, I, I love that you love to do the things I love to doooo…”
So give them the good supplies! Let them try the real things! Show them how, and see where they take it. It only takes a little time and attention…
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve been away. I had lost my voice a bit. I needed to take a little time to remember WHY I was making art, because for some reason social media slipped in, and I started rating myself against others, and feeling down because of it. A little inspiration and competition is healthy, but when you start basing your entire self-worth on what other people think of you, that’s when it gets sticky.
So I took some time, and reminded myself that I love making things. I’d make things even if no one was looking, because it makes me feel good.
So I’m back now, and I’m happy for it! And I thought I’d share a bit about what I did while I was gone.
We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.
I’ll do a full post on this next week, but it’s safe to say I LOVED IT THERE. We had a day to travel, and two full days scheduled at the park. But thanks to some MAJOR messups on the part of American Air (not helped by their VERY bad attitudes), we had to spend the night at the airport and didn’t get to Orlando til the late afternoon of the first park day. Yes, that’s right–we had TWO DAYS to enjoy the park, and one of the days was spent getting there. Anyway, we had so much fun while we were there. We’ve decided we’d like to live there. Not in Orlando specifically, but in Harry Potter World itself. No one would notice us, I’m sure. We wouldn’t bother anyone. We’d dress in wizard robes and carry wands around, and people would just assume we were part of the ambiance. Please, can we make this happen?
We had family time.
My husband’s family came for the holidays, and we had such a great time! My little niece Sophie (who is 3 years old) even doodled some “magic” in my sketchbook drawing of Dumbledore.
It seemed we had Potter on the mind, as Myla turned herself into a wizard in this doodle, surrounded by several characters from the various wizard movies. (Can you tell who they all are?)
Here’s Myla using a stick as a wand while she holds her pygmy puff (which she got at the Harry Potter park), while we wandered around our favorite walking area back home (which is also Bigfoot’s stomping ground, we’ve decided).
Here’s another little doodle we did together, of Myla the animal adventurer, taming some wild sloths. Like one does.
Myla and I also entertain ourselves back home by making on-the-spot stories about a long-bearded goat named Clyde, and his best goat friend Amie, who came from a science lab and can teleport.
We filled our patch shirts.
Myla and I have been collecting patches, and we’ve finally decided these shirts were fairly full, and we each started another jacket, both of which are olive green.
I made tiny Mandrakes
You know those ideas where you just have to run directly out to the craft store to buy all the supplies to make them happen? That’s where these little mandrake seedlings came from.
This first batch had loose dirt inside, which I found got sort of stuck on their tiny faces so you couldn’t see their grumpy expressions, which didn’t work for me.
It took some tweaking, but I finally figured out to put glue in the bottom so the sand would stay put, and sealed the corks so they wouldn’t come loose. I made them mostly for friends & family, but once I make a few more, I was thinking of putting a few in the shop. They have real dried plants on their heads and rough string “roots” on their arms and legs. They’re frustrating but so much fun to make!
I sewed. A LOT.
Okay, I always sew. But this time, I’ve got a goal. I think I’m going to try for a large convention this year, and sell the Dream Creepers. It’ll be fun.
I put some things in the Etsy shop.
I even painted a color version of the Newt doodle from Fantastic Beasts…
They’re all in my Etsy shop…have a look, if you like!
I did some projects I’ve been waiting to do.
Since I was busy with commissions and requests and gifts, I didn’t have time to do a few “me” projects. So I used this time to do projects like this Tiefling plastic sculpture kit by Dark Sword Miniatures that was sent to me by Tony DiTerlizzi. It was so much fun gluing the tiny pieces and painting them. I finally displayed it by gluing it to a clear frame with a print of the painting the sculpt was inspired by. So much fun!
Hm. Jury’s still out on this one. Just because I learned how to needlefelt by watching YouTube videos doesn’t mean I’m an instant pro. I’m not sure I even have the patience for it. But it was fun trying! After finally learning not to jab myself repeatedly, most of the things I needlefelted I wanted to burn with fire afterward. Thankfully, Myla’s not as critical, and was excited to wear the moth clips I had made for her. (Hopefully my terrible felting won’t traumatize her for life.)
I learned a new (old) thing.
You know how I hate pencils? Maybe you don’t. I always HATED the way rough pencils felt in my hand, and on the paper. Somehow, the grating of graphite on paper was like nails on a chalkboard with cold hands–it’s a textural thing that’s always made my spine shiver.
Aren’t they BEAUTIFUL?!? From time to time over the years, I’ve keep TRYING to enjoy pencils, but I just couldn’t get past the feeling. But when I got these, I decided to give it a really real try. I got a blending stump and an electric eraser (thank you, Christmas gift cards!), took a deep breath, and gave it a go.
And can I tell you, it was like realizing there was a little magic door right in front of you that you hadn’t noticed before, and you happened to have a little proper key, and it opened up into a lovely little forest fairy pixie world you always suspected was there.
It was so much fun, I filled a sketchbook full of little doodles of Myla with monsters, and decided I’d make a book of it, calling it Making Friends With Monsters.
It’s just in the doodle phase for now, and it won’t be anything fancy, but maybe I can make something fun of it. In any case, these pencils have been the magic keys I needed to open up that little door and I’m so grateful to Mab that she sent them to me. So I’m going to keep visiting this little world. I like the things that live there.
But never fear! I will never give up my trusty ballpoint pen. Ballpoint is and will always be my “true love” of art supplies. It’s not going anywhere. It’s been my loyal and faithful magic wand for the doodles I like to make.
So that’s what I’ve been doing! The break has been quite nice, and I’m happy to be back. It’s been such a gift not to place so much mental value on sharing with others, and just draw and create what makes me happy. I need that from time to time, and I need to remember that for the future. So thank you for sticking by me, and giving me the time to grow, and the time to rest. I appreciate that you all read these words and look at my doodles, and I’m so glad to have you around!
❤ ❤ ❤
I hate chalk. It’s a texture thing. It’s the same reason I dislike graphite pencils–it’s like dry hands on rough paper, and fingernails on…well…a chalkboard. I’ve seen people do AMAZING things with chalk, and I’m always super impressed. But it’s just not my medium.
Myla loves to chalk! She makes it fun. Once, when I had a terrible headcold (much like the one I am currently trying to evict), we went outside to chalk. Trying not to seem like a total weirdo, I put on a garden glove and chalked. “Can you turn me into a monster?” She asked. She lay down in our driveway, and I drew a shape all around her. It was a fun way to pass the time with very little energy output on my part (because: headcold).
We made monsters and mermaids…
And when it was my turn? Ahhhh, sweet relief for a sick mama–I lay down and closed my eyes to the sun and relaxed while she happily chalked all around me.
So that’s become our thing, and sometimes when the mood strikes, we pick up the giant container full of chalk we keep in a planter by the front door bench, and chalk chalk chalk, turning ourselves into all sorts of little beasties.
It came in handy when my husband was deployed, and we’d send him pictures. We made a soldier…
(I’m pretty sure that’s the same face I made when I was enlisted…)
We made helicopter pilots…
And since he couldn’t be there for father’s day last year, we chalked a great big “daddy.”
We’ve been chalking “daddy”‘s for a couple of years…
And it comes in handy as a nice “hello” when he came home from deployment…
So yeah. I hate chalk. I hate the way it feels.
But it’s fun, and it sure does come in handy for the memory-making, and that’s definitely worth a little discomfort! And that’s why I love it.
(….But yeah…I still sort of hate it, too. Hahah!)
What do I want to be when I grow up? An artist? Ahhhh, I would love to be able to sit around all day, painting whatever my heart desired, while sitting back and watching the money roll in.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I have a day job, and thankfully it’s one I enjoy. I’ve worked very hard to get to the day job I’ve always wanted, and worked a lot of cruddy jobs (truck driver, vending machine stocker, night shift newspaper printer, you name it) before this one. Several years ago, my manager plucked me from a depressing job building small copy ads for a tiny black and white classifieds paper, and since then I’ve been SO grateful to be working for her, happily designing posters, flyers, and marketing material for army and family facilities on military posts, as well as any events that come through. It’s an awesome job.
So I art in my spare time. I art ALL the time. I’m very lucky that my daughter loves to art, too, which is why we art together. I decided that if I can’t make full time money with our art, I’d be happy if we could find ways to use our artsy art powers for the forces of Good.
Once upon a time, when I saw an Instagram artist post their progress on something called the Painted Prosthetic Project to support Veterans, I was immediately curious, and contacted them. If you haven’t followed me long, you may not know I come from a military family. My dad was Army. I was an Army dependent in my high school and college years. And I did four years in the Army myself (photos of my Army scowl below), where I met my husband, who is still in the Army.
And just like that, I became part of the Painted Prosthetic Project. This group has joined artists together to paint a used prosthetic limb that will eventually be professionally photographed and displayed in Florida galleries. They’ll be turned into a coffee book to raise money to help wounded and homeless Veterans get back on their feet. Working with Warriors Pathfinder, 100% of the money gathered from an online auction of the art pieces themselves will help veterans and their families.
They’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help offset things like the cost of shipping the prosthetics to the artists as well of any out-of-pocket expenses so that ALL of the rest of the money can go directly to Warriors Pathfinder.
Since they knew the work my daughter and I do together, they assigned me a child’s prosthetic, and shipped it to me straight away. I debated for a long time as to what to draw on it. I wanted to get Myla involved, and decided to go for the idea of a sort of imaginary world; something a kid would love to look at.
I started with a sketch and a rough paint layout, using Myla as a reference, sketching her hands open to hold something. Then I explained the project to Myla, asking if she’d like to add any sort of imaginary creatures to it. She always does. Her eyes lit up and her hand started sketching. She drew a gnome, a dragon, some fairies, and a few other creatures. I added pointed fairy ears to her face. She said she wanted it to look like a forest full of fairy friends and strange creatures.
The fun part about drawing with her is trying to clarify her drawings into something that makes sense with mine. I always say I’m sort of like an interpreter, to help people understand what her drawings mean as well as making them make sense in the context of my drawings. It’s like getting a glimpse of the wonder and fascination kids have for EVERYthing.
She gave me guidelines as to what colors certain characters should be. Apparently, the little fairy gnomes at the bottom were looking at the stars, and since she’s fascinated with constellations, I added the stars, and some moths to balance it all out.
And here’s our final piece! I decided to leave the back blank so it could be displayed on a wall or hanging up, with only this side showing, and I’m pretty happy with it!
It’s intimidating putting our little ol’ work next to the likes of such wonderful artists as those involved, but I’m happy to be part of it, and to let Myla be a part of helping someone else.
If you’d like to be on the mailing list to be notified with new info, click here.
You can follow them on Instagram at @paintedprostheticproject.
To follow them on Facebook, go here.
If you’d like to donate to their GoFundMe page, you can do that here.
If you can’t donate, a share would help spread the word! Thank you so much. 🙂
The other day, I sat on the couch next to Myla, sketchbook in hand. I sighed and said, “I’m in an art funk. I’m just not happy with anything I’ve been drawing lately.”
Immediately, our caring 7-year old girl jumped to comfort me, saying, “MOM! Don’t talk about yourself that way. You’re a great artist!” I thanked her, but told her I guess I’m just in an art funk, that I’ll just have to wait it out. It’s okay…it’ll pass.
“You know…” she said, thinking carefully. “You’re always looking on your phone at other people’s artwork. What you need to do is put that down for awhile, and just draw your OWN thing. Just draw what’s in your OWN head.”
She’s so smart.
It’s true, I spend hours each day scrolling through Instagram. It’s been an amazing source of inspiration for me. We’re often stationed in places that aren’t bustling centers of creativity, so Instagram has made me feel closer to the world of art and other artists. But when you catch yourself looking at other peoples’ work and comparing it to your own, and getting DISCOURAGED by it….it’s really time to take a break.
I put my phone down, and looked at my blank sketchbook, and an image came to mind. I’ve always loved the balance between cute and creepy, and this cute little pixie-girl floated to the surface of the page, holding a six-legged monster-kitty. And it made me smile.
The next day, I showed it to her. “See, mom? I told you you could do it! Just listen to your OWN voice.” I gave her a hug, because as she had done so many times in her little life, she had inspired me.
I looked through vintage photos to find references for some of the poses I wanted to use, but strongly avoided looking at Instagram (I nearly only follow artists) until I had seen the idea in my head float to the surface of the page and take shape.
I giggle at my happy awkwardness as a kid, and my love for my rainbow suspenders and E.T. t-shirts (a fashion combo I must’ve gotten from Mars). I had big owl glasses and skinned knees. My sister and I played dressup a lot, and made up characters in our rooms. (I did spare myself the horrible hairdo I had growing up, replacing it in the doodle with a cuter ‘do.) Add my beloved ballpoints, and I called it “Pens are Friends.”
I didn’t question my skills as a kid. Drawing was just a tool to get my ideas out, not a measure of how good or not-good I was. I did it without expecting pay, without attention, and without acknowledgement. I did it whether or not anyone “liked” it or commented on it, because I’m older and we didn’t have social media back then. I did it JUST for the love of doodling, just like my daughter does. Just like I need to remember how to do.
So sure, I’ll do portraits. Sure, I’ll do commissions. Sure, I’ll go back to looking on Instagram and being inspired by other artists. But I need to remind myself that I’m here, too. That I’m right where I’m at, and that’s okay. Sometimes (quite often, in my case) it takes a kid to remind you of something you should know as an adult.
Seven year olds give great advice.
Well, May is nearly over, and it marks two significant events for us: the end of the school year, and Myla turning SEVEN.
So I thought it’d be fun to take a quick little look back for a moment, and appreciate some things…
Do you remember the wonderful little doodles we did when she was so young, that made their way all over different parts of the entire world?
Time has certainly changed both us and our art. We’re always growing, always changing, always creating.
Myla has grown to LOVE making things out of paper. Give her some scissors, paper, and tape, and she’ll get to work creating the most wonderful little three-dimensional paper sculptures you’ve ever seen from a kid…
She gets inspired by ideas, and creates things from her doodles. She’s inspired by people we know, people we meet, people we’ve learned about…
And still, one of our favorite things to do is to make art together. Just taking time with each other to share our ideas, draw things that makes us smile, or create little worlds with our imaginations…
I’ve introduced her to some of the artists I’ve become friends with, and they’ve shared their friendship with her. She’s talked to Lori about art blocks. And she sends packages to Mab and still talks about her–Mab painted one of the few images of us drawing together that I have, gave me the original in a necklace pendant, and put a sealed version in a locket for Myla. It’s one of her favorite things to wear, and something very dear to both of us.
And although we’ve had a great many adventures most of this past year, we’ve sadly done it all without her dad, who’s currently deployed overseas. Thankfully, watching Flat Myla on her European adventures and on his Blackhawk flights through the clouds has helped him seem a little closer to us.
So here’s hoping year seven will be just as creative and magical as age six! And from us to you, thank you for following our adventures! Share some smiles with your family, with your friends. Grab a pen and doodle with someone. And when you part, give them a big hug.
This weekend found Myla scribbling on her paper in agonizing frustration. “I can’t draw foxes anymore!” she cried. She told me that she had been thinking of a new way to draw a fox face, and it just wasn’t coming out right, no matter what she did. She even tried going back to her old way of drawing foxes, and even THAT didn’t work. It brought her to absolute tears, and all I could do was hold her as she sobbed uncontrollably, pen clenched in her hand. It was the first time in her life she WANTED to create something that just didn’t work out. It was a new frustration that she had never experienced before.
Luckily, I’ve had this problem myself. Most artists have. I’ve written blog posts in the past about art block, but this is the first time it had ever happened to her.
“You’ve got a wonderful, creative mind,” I told her as she cried in my arms. “But the down side is that sometimes you’ll have a block. It’s usually when you’re trying something new. And you try and you try and it just doesn’t look right. So you try your old way, but your mind is already trying to figure out the new way, so you can’t go back. But as hard as it is, it’s actually a GOOD thing, because it means you’re getting ready for something new. And I promise you EVERY artist I know has had a block before.”
After talking to my friend Lori Nelson, who is a Brooklyn painter (who reassured Myla that it does, in fact, happen to every artist), I started thinking of what I do that works for me when I have an art block. But this time, I sort of gathered up a list to fit a kid’s speed. Maybe it’ll help someone you know. Maybe it’ll even give you some ideas for when art blocks hit you…
1. TAKE A STEP AWAY. Get out of the house for a bit. Go outside, take a walk around the block. Go to the zoo. Pet an animal. Get lost in the woods. Take a hike. Spend some time in nature to clear your head. Sometimes reconnecting with the world around you can settle a restless mind.
2. TRY A DIFFERENT MEDIUM. Whatever you usually do, switch it up a bit. Get some chalk out and chalk a sidewalk. Bake some cookies. Play an instrument. Sew something. This is a good time to try learning something new, like embroidery or sculpting. Mixing up your medium might give you a fresh perspective.
3. DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL. I cannot tell you how good physical activity is for a stressed-out mind. Go for a jog, take a long fast walk. Skate. Sweat. Take an aerobics class. Focus on something other than your art for awhile.
4. LOOK AT YOUR OLDER WORK. I keep a scrapbook full of my past work, and I take it out sometimes and look at what I’ve done in the past. It’s a good reminder when you’re beating yourself up and doubting your skills, that you’re NOT horrible. Remind yourself that you’re awesome.
5. DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE. Give someone a gift. Make them something. Draw them something. Help someone with their yard, or offer to watch their kid or pet for an evening. Focusing your energy outward is one way to avoid that internal downward spiral.
6. CREATE SOMETHING WITH SOMEONE ELSE. Lori told me the way she gets out of a rut is to ask someone to “assign” her something. Working with another person or with someone else’s ideas helps your mind go places you wouldn’t normally go on your own. Nothing’s helped me more with that than the collaborations I’ve done with our daughter.
7. MAKE A MESS. Gasp! “WHAT?!? But messes are so…MESSY!” Messes are an awesome way to just let go of control for a bit. Just get the fingerpaints out, and go outside. Baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring are also good mess combos. Splash in the water. Splash in the mud. Do you realize how often we DON’T do that, now that we’re adults? Kids know that messes cleanse the soul. If messes freak you out, you should REALLY consider doing it. Get towels, get yukky clothes, and just prepare yourself to make a mess. Like my mom always said, “You’re washable.”
If ACTUAL messes are too much to bear, maybe try a little project Myla and I do, where we take turns messing up eachothers’ drawings. You each start out by drawing something simple, like a mouse. When it’s your turn, you draw something silly on the other person’s drawing. When it’s their turn, they draw something silly on yours. It’s a lot of fun, and good practice in letting go of control and expectations in your artwork.
8. DRAW ON YOURSELF. Grab those non-toxic, washable kid markers, and just doodle away. Or use a pen. Once in awhile isn’t going to kill you. Draw on eachother. Sometimes, the idea of drawing on something “forbidden” sparks something in your creative mind and makes it happy.
9. KEEP TRYING AND DON’T GIVE UP. Every now and then, test it out and see if it’s passed yet. If it hasn’t, keep going. Keep trying over and over, keep pounding your head against that sketchbook. If you have to make 100 bad drawings before the good one comes out, then you’d better get started now. When I told Myla this, she asked me, “But isn’t that a waste?” But nothing is a waste if you’re learning from it.
10. KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR. You have to trust that if you can push through this art block, it’ll come back to you. It’s scary at first. You start to question your skills and abilities. But if it’s something that drives you, you can push through it. Keep your chin up, and don’t take it too seriously. Your art skill’ll come back when it’s good and ready, and it’ll probably bring you stories of the road, and some new souvenirs. And that’s a good thing.
So here’s to hoping the foxes come back.
Have you or your kids ever had a big block? What do you do when art blocks hit?