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?
We’re at a countdown in school to the last day–and at our school, they’re doing an alphabet a day all the way until Z for Zip up and go home! The countdown started this past Wednesday with Awesome Art Day…and I was so happy to be asked by the teacher to help with a project!
At first, I considered a sort of collaborative project (which is what we have so much fun doing together), but the teacher asked if we could have it relate to ecosystems or nature in some way. So I thought it’d be fun for the kids to have a take-home, and with the help of ideas from artist friends, I drew out these little paper dolls, with the idea that they could create a predator and a prey.
I let Myla give it a try at home first–I had the pieces cut out for her, so all she had to was punch holes where she wanted them, and put in the little brads. Then, she could decorate and color them whichever way she liked.
So I cut out 20 pages of the creatures and pieces in the template above (WHEW!), and put them in individual baggies for each kid. I had decided to pre-punch holes in the bodies where legs & arms would be to save a little time, and brought my hole puncher in case they wanted more punches.
And it was so much fun! Their teacher had talked to them earlier in the day about predators and prey, so it was fun for them to create a creature and then a creature that gets eaten by it. I had them each open their baggies and start putting their creatures together, and I walked around, offering more punches and extra brads, asking them which creature was which.
The teacher brought out markers for them to color with, and a couple of them used construction paper to make extras to add on.
They had fun coming up with unusual creatures!
So if you’re looking for a fun little project to do, grab some brads at your local store’s office supply section, use a hole-punch, and feel free to download and cut out the critters from my template above. I’d love to see what you come up with!
Ages ago, I wrote about something I was trying out–painting tiny miniatures. It was something new for me, but DANG I had so much fun with it!
I mentioned in that post that I was inspired to try the tiny things after seeing the tiny cameos of Mab Graves. Since then, I’ve chatted with her online (have I mentioned how much I love Instagram as a resource for artists???) and we’ve sort of shared a little artwork back and forth.
If you follow her Instagram page, you’ve probably become familiar with her nephew, Ransom, and all the silly fun things they do together. That’s when I decided to paint a tiny Ransom on a rectangular porcelain tile, 1″ x 1.5″…Well, she got the package this week, and sent me some lovely photos of it (because her light box skills are strong)…
Since I was having so much fun, I painted a few other little things. Just because I wanted to…and because she let me. 🙂
So we were chatting once about how since my husband’s often deployed, I don’t really have many good photos of Myla and me painting together…
And when I sent a photo of another little piece I did for her, she sent me THIS:
YOU GUYS. It’s a tiny painted cameo of Myla and me!! With Donkey!! And dinosaurs and bats, because that’s how Myla rolls. Maybe I can express my excitement with a few extra exclamation points:!!! I was floored and grateful. It’s so tiny and lovely! It’s supposed to come in a day or two, and I can’t wait to see it.
I’ve really been so lucky with the people I’ve met online (knockonwood). And the artists I’ve met on Instagram–save for a random few whose ego have overtaken their personalities (and that’s okay; that’s their choice)–have been the most generous people, in sharing their ideas, resources, tips, techniques, and thoughts. The wonderful artists I’ve met are too many to name (Lori Nelson, Sean Regalado, Annie Frenzel, Tony DiTerlizzi, Aaron McMillan, Matt Gordon, Tyler Thrasher, Kendyl Lauzon, Zach Landrum, Aletta Walker, and of course, Mab Graves, just scratch the surface of the list of artists and online friends who have helped and inspired me in some small way). And all it really takes is a little kindness. A little consideration.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that mean the most. A friend once told me that the most precious thing you could give someone is your time. To me, the fact that someone would take a little of their own time to spread a little kindness is one of the best kinds of things.
So if you get a chance, see if you can share a little kindness today! Nothing big. You can open a door. Pick up a dropped thing up for someone. Tell someone you like their shirt (but only if you really mean it). Let someone in front of you in line.
Because there’s nothing at all wrong with sharing the little things.
(PS: If anyone’s interested, I’ve put up a few offers in my etsy shop for tiny CUSTOM pendant portraits. So if you’d like a tiny kid or pet of your own, very similar to Mab’s, check me out over there on etsy and say hello!
If you’ve follow this blog for awhile, you may already be familiar with the collaborations Myla and I did when she was four…
Back then, lots of people asked if we’d do custom collaborations–where maybe they could send photos for me to draw from, and have Myla draw the bodies. LOTS. of. people. I mean, TONS of people. I mean, so many that it was overwhelming.
I always said no. I wasn’t trying to be rude or elitist, but the most important thing to me was that our daughter have FUN drawing. I didn’t want it to be a JOB at age four. I was so overwhelmed with requests that it would’ve been impossible to have her do them at age four and still make it fun…especially since people asked for specifics: a bird, a donkey, a bear. Can you imagine making a 4 year old sit down and do custom orders? While it sounds like it would’ve been nice, I assure you, it would’ve been impossible. And exhausting. And most importantly, it wouldn’t have been fun.
But now Myla is six, and wants to “be a grownup.” Despite my convincing her to stay a kid forever (because being a grownup stinks big time), she still wants to do big-kid things. One of those things, surprisingly, has involved the desire to do custom drawings.
When we ran the Kickstarter to print a book of our collected work (which you can get here, by the way) I offered as one reward level a hand drawn portrait (by me) onto a pre-printed drawing of Myla’s, which was my alternative solution, aside from trying to make her do them all by hand, and still allowed me to give people a portrait that would make them smile.
So she asked me the other day why I never let her do custom pieces…and I told her all of the above. She’s seen me do custom portraits for people, and didn’t realize I had never allowed it when she was younger.
“But I’m older now,” she said. “And I know I could do it.”
“The thing about custom work is that you have to draw what people WANT you to draw. And I always just wanted you to draw whatever made you happy.”
“But now I can do that. I can draw what people ask.”
“They might say they like turtles, and you might feel like drawing robots.”
“But I know I can do it. Now I want to make OTHER people happy.” (Which is funny, because that’s my favorite part of custom portraits, as well.) “So maybe if that happens, I could do a robot-turtle” (which sounds awesome, actually).
So there it is. That’s where we are.
I told her we’d try it. So here we go: I’m only starting with five, in my Etsy shop, so please have a look! For the first time ever! And not for very long. Once you purchase a portrait, you can send me reference photos for a single face, and maybe tell me something that person is into…and I’ll do my best to steer the kiddo in that direction for her part.
So If you’re up for an interesting portrait and you’ve got wiggle room for a 6-year old’s creativity, combined with my illustrations, we’d love to make you happy! 🙂
UPDATE: WOW those five sold out in the first ten minutes! I added five more, but that’s probably all I’ll add for now, until I see how she handles these. Maybe if she has fun with them, we’ll offer a few more. Thank you so much for all your support. 🙂
UPDATE UPDATE: Sold out! Sorry… If she enjoys doing these, we may offer them again sometime! Thanks!
Blast from the past: So cute!! Wonderful reader Laurie reminded me of one of the VERY few portraits we did when Myla was four, as a prize for a creative contest we ran on the blog ages ago. Here are the bluebirds Myla turned her and her daughter into:
Last month, as if I didn’t have a million other things going on, I decided to join in on Inktober. Have you heard of it? I had seen artists do this last year: a drawing a day for the month of October, usually spooky-themed, and usually done in ink or pen. And just because I wanted to make it a little more fun, I asked Myla (the 6-year-old) if she’d like to join me. This was a challenge because 1) I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to keep with the theme for the whole month, and 2) it sort of limited what I drew, as I had to sort of keep it within something that fit both of us, and wasn’t TOO creepy for her.
I made my own rules, so it didn’t feel like pressure: if I wanted to add color, that was fine, and if I didn’t get to it one day, I wouldn’t stress it too much. But Myla was already full of enthusiasm, so we got started.
Day 1: VILLAIN. Elle Driver from Kill Bill, and Megamind (who’s she said is special because he’s a villain who turns nice).
Day 2: BEETLEJUICE. This is one of those characters that she didn’t really know, because she’s not so into creepy things…but with things like that, I tell her about them, and she gets the jist. My Beetlejuice is wearing a shirt of a guy named Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern show, and hers is the cartoon version, holding beetles in his hands.
Day 3: WITCH. Bellatrix LeStrange from Harry Potter, and the Playmobil witch from a show Myla likes called Super4.
Day 5: WEREWOLF. Old school Teen Wolf and Aisling, the little wolf-girl from Secret of the Kells, who’s sniffing another girl…like ya do when you’re like a dog.
Day 6: EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. Another character she doesn’t personally know, but she’s always been fascinated by. I told her the story, and she loved it. (Hers is crying because he has no friends, poor guy…)
Day 7: WEDNESDAY ADDAMS. It was a Wednesday. It was another character she didn’t know. I used to LOVE the old Charles Addams drawings as a kid, and devoured his books and drawings. I told her about the movie characters, which cracked her up (especially Thing).
Day 8: HELLBOY. Again, I did NOT let my 6-year old watch Hellboy, but she’s seen him around (especially at conventions), and always liked the fact that he’s a good guy who was supposed to be bad but CHOOSES to be good…and she really digs that he loves cats.
Day 9: VAMPIRE. I drew Vampira–and here’s a little trivia break: I learned that she created the character and hosted a show of horror films in the 50s and added campy comments to them. In the 80s, studios wanted to recreate her show, but cast the actress who now plays Elvira in her part, pulling her look and the style of the show directly from hers. Since she created the Vampira character (based loosely on Charles Addam’s Morticia drawings!), she tried to settle in court but lost. Strange, the things you learn, when looking up references. Aaanyway, for Myla’s piece, she drew Drac, Mavis, and the curly-baby from Hotel Transylvania.
Day 14: ZOMBIE. This one was tricky, since they’re one of Myla’s absolute creep-outs. So I tried to keep it harmless with Michael Jackson from Thriller (she even liked the video, although I didn’t show her the full beginning skit). She drew the zombie “Bad Guy” from Wreck-it Ralph.
Day 15: MUMMY. Myla has a thing for mummies–they fascinate her! She even has a bedtime book on the whole ancient Egyptian embalming/mummification rituals (yeah, for some reason, THAT doesn’t freak her out at all! Haha!). Old school Karloff and Akhmenrah from Night at the Museum (she has a little crush on him), both catching some Zs.
Day 16: Another WEREWOLF. Eddie Munster, and the wolf-dad from Hotel Transylvania, covered in his wolf-pup kids. (Side note: I can’t see Eddie Munster without thinking of Ben Stiller playing a grownup Eddie in a skit on SNL…)
Day 19: WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. I had initially planned on drawing the kid from the movie, but then remembered I had once made her a Max Halloween costume when she was 2 or 3, and decided to draw her now, as a wild thing, roaring her terrible roars. She drew the goat-one…plus a flying wild thing she made up.
Day 20: FLYING MONKEY. Easily my very most favorite characters in the Wizard of Oz. I went for a realish-version, and she drew the cutest, most adorable BABY flying monkey that I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, I LOVE that little guy! Can he be my pet?)
Day 25: Another SKELETON. She wanted to draw a skeleton again, so I chose a soggy little skeleton kid based on a character created by the talented Matthew Gordon. She drew a little guy from a book they’d read at school called “Skeleton for Dinner.”
Day 29: GOBLIN KING. We both love the Labyrinth. I drew Jareth and his goblins. Myla drew an “inappropriate” Jareth on the toilet (because bodily functions crack kids up)…then added another, drawing him when he transforms into an owl (so I couldn’t help but post them both).
Day 30: CREEPY OCTOPUS. A category she completely created, because she wanted to draw a vampire octopus from Octonauts. This one stumped me for a bit, until I remembered the COOLEST “creepy octopus” of all: Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean, with his heart chest.
Day 31: DRAGON. Admittedly, we were at the convention in Austin and couldn’t really go out with a bang, but hey–we tried! Myla drew a “rain dragon” (which is how she describes drizzly days), and I drew the sad little Gringott’s dragon from Harry Potter.
So there we are! A drawing a day for October. And honestly, Myla was the motivator the whole time, asking me excitedly every morning, “what’s our drawing of the day today?” We both picked the topics–she was so good at coming up with themes that we both could do.
Anyway, I hope you all had as fun an October as we did with Inktober!
So a couple of weekends ago, I had a booth at Alamo City Comic Con in San Antonio. My friend Annie helped me setup and run the booth, and despite the ENORMOUS amounts of people there (I get VERY wonky in crowds), I had a great time. I thought I’d share a little of it for you, as a vendor, to show you what it’s like!
So I sort of planned out the look of my booth around the idea of a Craft Laboratory (since I have SO many different crafty interests). So that would make me….what? The Craftician? Dr. Mockingbird? The Art Mechanic? I took my old painting smock (which, despite its look, has seen very little action) and sort of designed it with the Organic Mechanic from Mad Max: Fury Road in mind. But less….grungy. Less…organic. More CRAFTY. I attached chains to my scissors, paintbrushes, pliers, anything I’d need to do my craft thing. Here’s my craft smock on the left, and Organic on the right:
And there’s my booth (which accidentally turned out way cuter than I intended. Hm.). If I had planned it better (or knew how, exactly), I’d REALLY want it to look like one of those things that wheels into town playing calliope music and sells you snake oil and moves on to the next down? THAT sort of feel! I wish I knew how to make that happen… I had copies of our Share With Me book there, sticker and postcard packs of our collaborations, but mostly I focused on the Dream Creepers, and told people the story about how they came to be. I was playing with resin faces and made Myla a doll. She loved it and brought it places. Some little girl said disgustedly, “Ew, that’s creepy!” and Myla smiled politely and said, “well they have to be a LITTLE creepy to chase the bad dreams away.” And that’s how they came to be. I also had necklaces and pins of the little monsters, and my handpainted teeny weeny things.
People say things and forget you’re there. For three days, the number one thing I heard the most was, “Those are soooo creepy…but now I really kinda want one!” That was always sweet, and I loved to hear it. I love that little conflicted space between creepy and cute, so I totally understand that comment. I also heard a lot of “That looks just like my DOG!” Also cute. But what I also heard was a bit of very open rudeness. “That’s stupid, who would pay for THAT?” “Oh, they’re probably made in China” (despite my having written “HANDMADE” as frequently as possible). “Those are gross, put those down.” “People BUY these?!?!?!?” I mean, really–I’m standing right here. In ARTIST’S ALLEY. Which means I MADE these things. Listen, I totally get that my little creatures aren’t for everyone, but remember that thing your mom always said about not having anything nice to say….?
Handmade artisan things are not quite as appreciated at a con. I discovered that when people saw the price tag on my Dream Creeper dolls (I priced them at $60), they didn’t always see all the time and effort and handmade work that went into them. They saw a doll. And I get it–these people just paid nearly $40 a DAY to get in (not to mention if they splurged for the $200-$300 VIP packages), and they probably have specific things they already want (including meeting celebrities, which ALSO costs quite a bit), they see a doll and they only see price. I’ve seen many vendors sitting there with AMAZINGLY beautiful handmade artwork and sculptures, and hardly sell a thing. I’ve learned from my mom’s craft show days in my childhood that it’s best to have a variety of prices, so that if someone couldn’t afford something big, they’d be able to buy something small. But the crowd, often young teens and tweens, don’t have the money to spend on handmade crafts, even if they DID find them “adorably creepy.”
People LOVE to see characters they recognize. The booth next to me sold all sorts of little handmade ceramic creatures, and then had one of a cute little No-Face, from the movie Spirited Away. And all day, despite her other unique characters, all day, I heard “OH LOOK! It’s No-Face!!!” (I know, because I said it, too!) When people saw my creatures, they’d ask, “Are these the goblins from the Labyrinth?” But when they saw my little handpainted necklaces, they’d get excited, because they actually KNEW those characters. “Oh look! Dumbledore!” “Hey, it’s Davy Jones!” “Oh, is that Kahleesi?”
GUYS seem to really like my Dream Creepers. I dunno why, but often the first person to be caught by my Creepers as they walk buy is often male. Plenty of girls and women enjoyed them too, but I thought that was a funny little tidbit.
Its great to be friendly to your fellow boothmates. Not only is it great to be able to walk around and see all the booths as they set up and talk to other artists and vendors before anyone gets there, it’s super awesome to be friendly with the people in the booths around you. Listen, you have to spend three days with these people–do yourself (and them) a favor, and make friends. That way, if they need a bathroom break and don’t have someone to watch, they can ask you to keep an eye on their booth. If you’re going out, ask if they need anything. If they see something fall off of your signage, they can let you know & help you put it back up. If they break down their booth for the night and forget something, you can let them know. Good times all around!
One of the ladies from another booth bought one of my little monster puppy brooches, which went SMASHINGLY well with her steampunk outfit!
Smile and say hello. As a vendor it’s always such an awkward thing to try to guess what people want. Some people don’t want you to talk to them at all. Some people want to hear more. Most people seemed to really enjoy and appreciate everything once I told them the story of Myla and her Creeper, and how she names them all herself. I try my hardest NOT to be on my phone (unless necessary), because I always think that’s awkward when you walk up to a booth and someone’s too busy on their phone to even notice you. And since I’m not a snazzy salesman (I’ve seen some really good ones that make you WANT to buy things actually in an awesome and not creepy way) and I’m not super chatty, so I just try to look at everyone and smile and say hello. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Hey there!” “How’re you?” This is my “friendly arsenal.” It doesn’t hurt much.
When I’m not using my super-magical friendly booth-powers, I sketch. Annie had a small sketchbook, and was asking other artists to sketch in it. And since she & I were sitting there quite often, I sketched quite a lot in her sketchbook. I try to lay my book flat on the table, in case people want to see what I’m drawing, because I don’t mind it at all, and sometimes it sparks a bit of conversation. I try to look up quite often, so people can see I’m still engaged in my booth. I even got a blank Mad Max comic cover (it has an actual comic inside, but they put a blank cover on it specifically for artists to create their own custom covers, and then some artists sell them…But not me, because: MINE).
So even as a vendor running a booth, I still got to enjoy one of my favorite parts of a Comic Con: the COSPLAY! I absolutely LOVE that people get crafty and make their own costumes, and love it even MORE when they mix it up.
I chased this little punk Ariel all over to get a picture, and finally nabbed her. She has Flounder in a net on her trident, and her crown was spectacular. This version of Flash (with Wonder Woman) had some whole routine that drew a crowd, because he had a yellow thong-thing around the back that made people laugh as he posed for photos.
This lady did a spot-on Goblin King with the stolen baby from the Labyrinth (even recreating Jareth’s awkward…um…”bulge.”) And Frodo posed with his Ring. His little feet were flip-flops with plastic hairy feet on top!
This Hawkgirl had a very impressive wingspan. And look, a lady Totoro!! She has the ears and little leaf on her head, and under her dress were attached several little soot sprites. So cute!
Jerry’s Artarama had a booth that demo’d bodypainting, hence the lady Predator. And here’s a VERY fancy lady in a beautiful and extremely ornate costume (who I thought was queen of hearts, but maybe now I’m thinking Joker?).
This cute couple dressed as Ghostbusters, and had their kid cleverly strapped on the back as one of the proton packs.
While walking around one of the days, I heard a very familiar “EXTERMINATE!!!” and turned around barely JUST in time to take a quick pic from behind of a CARDBOARD dalek from Dr. Who! People are so creative. (There’s the one from the show on the right)
And I practically YELLED at these two to stop and take a picture because OMG GENDER-SWAPPED MAD MAX AND NUX!!!
She had pretty amazing detail going on her costume, even down to the leg brace (which people often overlook) and her face muzzle was pretty realistic. And Nux had some great fake scars on his chest (the V8 “scar tattoo” from the movie). The chain with the bloodline attached was the icing. So shiny! So chrome!
And look! SPACEBALLS!!! Is that not a pretty hilariously awesome Barf?
There were SO many great costumes, but THIS girl blew me away. She came ALL three days in THREE different costumes she built herself. The first day, she was Lady Loki. The second, day, standing in line for Ron Perlman, I saw a Hellgirl and thought “she looks familiar…” Until we realized it was Lady Loki from the day before!!! She got a photo with Perlman in her Hellgirl costume, how cool is THAT?!?! And the last day (although my photo doesn’t do it justice), she threw on a last-minute Bellatrix costume from Harry Potter. She told us she was part of a cosplay group that dresses up and visits kids in schools & hospitals, and I wish I knew how to reach her so I could give her a long-distance hug for all-out awesomeness.
Anyway (because this post isn’t QUITE long enough yet), Annie had signed us up to get a photo with Ron Perlman (of all the great things he’s been in, one of my very favorite movies of all time has him in it: City of Lost Children). So I doodled him in her sketchbook while we sat at my booth. He has SUCH great lines in his face!!! Some people have bad feelings about their own lines, but they sure do tell a person’s story in a sketch…
But some of these photo meetings are a big rush job. Celebrities are part of the fun of ComicCons, and they charge different prices for photos or autographs (often in separate lines for separate fees). After waiting nearly an hour in our Perlman line, we were rushed in, and in the span of about 15 seconds, we were sort of shoved up against Ron, and ushered directly out. I had barely enough time to shake his hand and say “thank you so much,” which is why look completely unprepared and derpy in this photo. I mean, what is this face? Where is my neck? I didn’t even get a chance to show him my drawing of him as One with Miette, or the drawing of Hellboy at the petshop that Myla and I did. Poop.
In my experience, the better opportunity is to get something signed, because at least then you get to talk to the person for a bit. And if you’re going to meet anyone, a good bang for your buck (in my very limited experience) is Michael Rooker (Merle from Walking Dead, and Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy). I met him last year at Wizard World in Austin. He’s so super friendly to everyone, talks to you like you’re old friends, and makes you all around laugh. He’s got that Southern gentlemen swagger with a whole mess of cocky, but it sure does crack you up. Annie met him, got this drawing signed that I had given her of him as Merle from The Walking Dead. According to Annie, he said, “Did a girl or a guy draw this?” and when Annie answered a girl, he said, “Ah! Girls always seem to draw me much more better lookin’ than I am. Hahah!” He got a kick out of it.
And of course, EVERRRRRYONE wanted to meet Stan Lee, aka Stan the Man. Stan Lee CREATED all the superheroes everyone loves. He practically INVENTED the whole superhero genre, and he’s in his 90s, and he’s still coming to these things and meeting people! Thankfully (for him), they seemed to make it pretty painless for him, keeping him seated most of the time, and blocked off so that he wasn’t bombarded or overwhelmed. Neither Annie or I went to go see him (he was by far one of the most expensive guests to see, understandably), but she snapped this photo from quite a ways away. Still, good for him.
So there you go. That’s pretty much the whole experience of the convention, from my point of view at my artist’s booth! Myla and my mom came to visit the third day, but the experience was a bit overwhelming for Myla, I think, and after a little shopping and bouncehouse shenanigans, it wasn’t long before my poor mom had to drive her the two and a half hours back home. Poor girl was worn out.
And so was I!! I haven’t been to many cons, and the couple I’ve been to, I’ve been to as a vendor. I like walking around and meeting other artists and vendors before it’s open so there’s not a huge crowd. I like sitting at my little table and meeting people. I like talking about my work, and hearing stories from other people about their work, and I love seeing all the cosplay creativity. But it sure does wipe you out!
(this is me early during and at the END of the 3-day con)…
In any case, I’m going to do one more this year: I signed up last minute for Wizard World in Austin Oct 30 – 31. It’s a short one, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.
AND OMG you guys, if all goes well and the stars align, I’m going to be meeting CARROLL SPINNEY (who puppetted Big Bird and Oscar from the Muppets)!!! (“I Am Big Bird” was such a GREAT documentary…) I am such a huge fan, and Henson and the Muppets have been such a HUGE inspiration that I might possibly babble incoherently and cry. I am hoping to talk to him and thank him and chat a minute. I am hoping he doesn’t cancel. (Hey, other people have their superheroes, I have mine…hahah!)
Myla’s going to be there the second day, dressed as James from Team Rocket (she’s WAYYYY into Pokemon right now). So if you’re anywhere near there, and you’d like to celebrate Halloween surrounded by cool costumes and great gear, COME SEE MEEEEEE!!!!
PS: Mike Tyson will be one of the celebrities there. Weird, huh? I’m afraid if he ever saw this (very very old) caricature I did, he may rip off my ears with his teeth, so SHHHHHH let’s just keep that between us…AUUUUUGHGGHGHGHHHH!!!!!
I’m unpacking (mentally and physically) from the 3-day ComicCon, and I’ve got a lot of cool photos to share from it. For now, I’ll mention a fun little aside that came from it.
One of the best things about conventions is meeting other people. I’m not so good at the “walking up and making small talk” thing, but I really really enjoy one-on-one connections, and a booth gives you a great chance for that.
So the first day of the Con, a guy named Kenneth Rocafort walked up and said he enjoyed my artwork, and that he had a table set up in the Artists’ Alley, and also that he works for Marvel or something. No big deal. 😛 He talked about how much he loves drawing in sketchbooks and tries to just draw a little every day. Then he pulled out his little tiny sketchbook, and I was blown away:
It reminded me (in a different way) of the sketchbook diaries I used to do, ages ago…
And although I draw every day ANYway, I thought that was a good habit to get back into; maybe carrying a little book around, and not making it so “precious.” Just drawing whatever I wanted, just for fun.
My friend Annie had come to the show to help with my booth, and–inspired by Kenneth’s tiny sketchbook–brought a little sketchbook, and was asking artists to draw in it. Usually artists at conventions will do this for a fee, but some will do it just for the fun of doing it.
Since we had watched Mad Max: Fury Road in 3D at her house the night before, I drew her a little Furiosa and Nux to kick things off:
Later, I added a Ron Perlman (since we were going to meet him for a photo later):
When we met him for the photo, we were ushered in there, snapped, and then ushered out. The whole thing took about two minutes (if that). I didn’t get a chance to show him the Hellboy drawing that Myla and I had done, or the drawing I did of him as One from one of my all-time favorite movies, City of Lost Children. But I DID get this derpy photo of me, unready for the camera, surprised at how normal-sized he was (I imagined 9 feet tall, at least), and making the most unintentionally goofy face, while everyone else looked great:
(I mean, what is that face? Really? Where is my neck? I don’t think I’ve ever even made that face before. I didn’t even have time to be awestruck or anything, so that face was more of a “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY HANDS”…..)
The day after the convention, my mom and I went to the craft store, and I found these cool little watercolor sketchbooks on sale, and thought I’d try one.
It was longer & thinner, which would make for a more awkward drawing space, which I found to be a fun challenge. That night, while my mom & I watched movies, I doodled Myla and some autumn moths in a pair of antlers.
Anyway, I liked the sketchbook so much, I went back and got more because they were on sale and they were trying to get rid of them. So don’t try to find them at the store in Killeen, Texas, because they’re all gone, I got them. I couldn’t help it, and I don’t even really feel bad about it at all, because they’re awesome, and there weren’t very many of them anyway. Sorry.
My mom had been giving herself a “drawing a day” challenge to get back into her own artwork, and bought she and my dad one, hoping to get him on board. I know another friend, who does amazing things with those drawing prompt books… (I’m talking about you, Kendyl…) I bought one of those books one time, and only ever drew one thing in it: a bulldog in a monocle. So there’s also that.
I drew Tuna from @tunameltsmyheart…do you know Tuna? His little face makes me smile. Anyway, there was a contest or a thing about drawing him, and this is what I drew. Because: TEETH. Tuna is all about that mug.
I wanted to draw more faces, so I drew a page of Rosanna Arquette….because why not? She’s got a cool face, cool lines, and her face always tells a great story…
Apparently, though, she saw it on Instagram and didn’t really like it….
And that’s okay, because you know what? I didn’t draw it for her, I drew it for me. I love her lines, and if she’s not comfortable with my version of her lines, that’s alright with me. (sniff). Of course, I’d have loved her to love it, but the thing that makes me enjoy making art is not whether or not someone else likes or doesn’t like it…even someone famous.
Because I learn from each one, and that experience is inexchangeable (that’s a word I just created. You’re welcome to use it). I learn something new and nonverbal each time I doodle, and that’s why the end result doesn’t matter. I used to hate people to look through my sketchbook if it was full of false starts. I wanted to say, “NO! I’m better than that wonky eye I scratched out!”
But it doesn’t matter. I HAD to draw that wonky eye to learn. All the struggles, all the mess-ups….at least it’s a STEP, right? You have to make those mistakes to show yourself, “nope. That’s not the way. Let’s try this way.”
So don’t be afraid of criticism or judgement. Don’t take that criticism seriously. They’re looking at the front steps without walking into the house. It gets better the further you go. You just have to PRACTICE it….
So here’s to new sketchbooks–hooray!
I am an “illustrator.” I draw what I like to see, and there’s usually not any “deep” or lofty meaning behind any of it. It’s nearly always taken best with a good sense of humor, never with a serious face.
But lately, I’ve been trying out a few things that mean something. And since I’m usually so bad at it, I thought I’d sort of go through my thought process, in case anyone else was having trouble connecting those same dots…
There was that time when our daughter was going through a thing. You know those things? Where they’re nearly insufferable, and they make you crazy because you don’t know how to handle it, and the way you’re handling it isn’t working?
Well, I was trying to describe to myself how that FELT. It felt like holding too tightly to too many wild, flapping things, flapping in that aggressively frantic way wild animals act when they’re scared. It felt like I was trying to explain too many things in too much detail, and none of it was taking any hold. It was going skyward, it wasn’t making any sense to this wild, frantic creature. It felt like I had lost my way, and couldn’t even tell from the stars which way to go. And this is what came out (I called it “A Very Bad Day”):
And that felt good. Much better than words.
And as the days went on, I felt like I had sort of found my general shape, but I was torn into so many different directions, in so many different ways. I was having trouble focusing on priorities, because EVERYTHING seemed like a priority, and everything needed attention. And yet nothing was working the way I wanted it to work. It was hard–It would be SO much easier if you just didn’t CARE, wouldn’t it? But I wasn’t going to give up.
So I drew this, and added this line to describe it: “We’ll get through this, one screaming monkey at a time…”
After a bit, I became more comfortable with the chaos, and just sort of settled in. I thought of Ren’s maddening laugh in Ren & Stimpy’s “Space Madness.” You know–the kind in cartoons where someone straight up loses their mind? Yeah that. That’s what it felt like. Like I didn’t know who was more crazy… And that’s like a hyena laugh, right?? That crazy animal giggle because as hard as you’re trying, it’s NOT WORKING and it seems like you’ve tried everything…
So that’s where this one came from…not so much a title as a statement: “You have to keep a sense of humor about these things…”
After a bit longer, things start to settle down a little. What’s so frustrating is that we’re trying to keep a handle on everything, do the best we can, and raise a happy, healthy kid, and she WON’T LET US. All that stuff my parents said about it “being harder on me than it is you,” is true, and I was only JUST realizing that.
And yet, even after all of that, I can look at that sweet little person (usually when she’s asleep) and remember why we’re struggling so hard. Because she’s special and amazing and wonderful. I thought of those wild things, all primitive and clumsy, and how they still survived for years and years without much effort at all…Because you have to protect the Delicate Things…
I thought of how much attention we give to this one little tiny thing that has such a HUGE impact on our world, and how all you want to do is love it and hug it, and sometimes it just doesn’t WANT that. I thought of two or three or four grown adults and the hoops they jump through for a crying baby or a restless toddler on an airplane, because they just want to calm and comfort that spiny little thing…but sometimes it HAS to pull away. I thought of a mother lion, and all these very attentive hands doing their best to cuddle this small, prickly, spiny creature….
I called it “Attempting to cuddle the crankies…”
Around this time, I had an experience that reminded me to breathe…that reminded me that I had no control over anything, no matter how hard I bash my head against the wall. That I could do everything that I considered “right” ALL the time (which I realize is impossible), and things could still go terribly wrong. There is no REAL control. And keeping it all in and pretending it’s all fine doesn’t help anyone.
And I thought I would try to describe that feeling of bottling everything in…
And this, as silly as it sounds, is one of the most special things I’ve painted because I was able to get out in a drawing almost exactly how I feel. I wrote this thought down, because it came to me so clearly, like a meditation: “Breeeeeathe deeply. Then push it all down low and tighten it all up inside…Maintain what awkward poise you possess simply for the sake of appearances. And keep as calm as a Hindu cow…”
And that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Not a very good way to behave. I thought of all these unpleasant things, these things that weigh on me, that poke and grab at me in a huge dustcloud of shadows, and how I keep telling myself that there’s no time for them right now….that they’re not important enough to spend time on. I thought of them like a corset, giving the false appearance of control, while simultaneously NOT ALLOWING ME TO BREATHE. I thought of trying to cram all that stuff inside while trying to keep strong for everyone else. While trying not to make waves. While trying not to be a burden to anyone. While trying to take care of everyone else. While trying to manage everything and keep it all going. While keeping a calm, brave face because with all that stuff going on, there’s no room for anything else.
And I thought of how painful and harmful and isolating that is…
And I’m working on that.
And it might not look like much, but it was one of the few times I’ve been able to connect those dots–to help my hands get out what’s in my mind. And it helps make things feel a little better.
Art does that for me. Usually, just the act of drawing something (even if I’m emotionally unattached to it) is fairly meditative and calming.
But for some people, it’s cooking, it’s sculpting, it’s reading, it’s whatever. So what connects your dots?
Now that the monkey’s a bit older, she tends to take over and tweak her own ideas for projects. It’s been a while since I set something up with a fairly specific goal in mind, but since first grade (with all its new rules) is about to start and we’ve been working on following instructions (WITHOUT complaining), I decided to set up a project using pretty much things I had around the house.
So I decided we’d make some monster masks.
When she came home from summer daycare, I had it all laid out on the kitchen table, ready to go: glue, sparkles, google eyes, puffballs, foam, washable paints, scissors, tape, construction paper, some scraps of fur from my monster dolls, and a couple of cardboard boxes from the recycle bin. The key here is to set it up so that it’s stress-free, and you’re not worrying about paint splashing onto nice things, so I laid out a tablecloth, and put a messy shirt for her to change into. A little prep work, and making messes isn’t so bad.
She was excited right away, and started making her own ideas up, which is usually okay, but as I said, we’re working on following directions–so I asked her if she could start by painting the boxes, and THEN we could decorate them. I tried to work a little ahead of her, so she could see what I was going for. (In hindsight, it might’ve helped for her to see a final version to shoot for, but ain’t nobody got time f’that. That would’ve meant either that I’d be doing a kid project twice, or that she’d be doing it on her own while looking at my final piece, and for me, the purpose is to do it TOGETHER.)
So we painted and decorated… and since she’s pretty fast, BOOM–she was finished with her monster “mask” in no time! I love that she made a little unicorn horn. The funny thing is that I had THOUGHT I’d make a horn, but didn’t get a chance before she beat me to it…
The constant juggle of too many screaming issues fighting for attention all at once, feathers flying, stormclouds brewing, and the discussion of too many things that were most likely beyond her concept. She’s at an age where she wants desperately to be a big kid (and sometimes I think she is) but with the added frustration of the fact that she still is a little kid, and is starting to question everything, challenge everything, argue with everything.
This is apparently normal. This is apparently something nearly all kids go through. Apparently, it will pass.
A friend once told me that you WANT them to have those skills when they’re older, but you want them to wait til they’re older to USE those skills, and you definitely don’t want them to use them on you! Totally true. Aren’t we the ones teaching her curiosity, standing up to perceived injustices, sticking up for the things she wants, and discovering and deciding her own truth for herself?
Hmf. Well, it’s all well and good, but respect and politeness are also mandatory if you want to have any sort of ability to communicate with people in the general population.
I tell her quite often that it’s part of our job to make sure she doesn’t turn into a stinky ol’ Veruca…
In any case, it’s a raven-juggling sort of week. It’s a phase, I know. For the time being, someone has mind-swapped my sweet little baby kid with an angst-ridden, cranky teenager. I’m not ready for the teen years yet!!–I’d like my sweet little 6-year old back, please! 🙂
So I’m off to do projects, spend a little one-on-one time with her doing some of our favorite things, and hopefully not lose all my hair in frustration.