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!
So Austin Wizard World happened this past weekend, and I thought I’d tell you all about my very first ever Con experience as both a vendor and an attendee…
First off, the fact that the event started on a Thursday was apparently unusual, and had quite a few vendors and staff in a huff. The event also coincided with a football game that same weekend, but it being my first time at all, I didn’t have much to compare it to.
My awesome sister was nice enough to loan me her teenage daughter to help me with the event, so we flew her from Maryland. At 17, Maylin is no stranger to conventions, and loves the art of cosplay (dressing up as beloved characters).
Maylin helped me set up the table and watch it so I could walk around a bit, too. It was awesome having her there! She did get some funny looks, though, when I wasn’t manning the booth. “Yeah, right, this teenage kid has a 4-year old?!?? It must be a HOAX!” Heheh. Myla had school Thursday and Friday, and three days of a 5-year old sitting at a booth would be a little much.
So many people walked by and recognized the artwork, and said very nice things about it. We got a lot of “I feel like I’ve seen this online somewhere….” and “Oh! are you the lady??” It’s a testament to how unreal online things seem, as I got several people saying, “Oh, this is actually REAL?? Are you the real PERSON??” Uh. Yes? Yes, I am.
One of my favorite parts of the convention was just people-watching. SO many fun and clever costumes!! There was a group of four girls, all dressed as different versions of Wolverine. They could barely walk a few feet at a time before having to stop to get their pictures taken by everyone, and made everyone smile who saw them. There was a cute Toothless, a teeny tiny (and very realistic) Predator. I saw lots of cool Gamoras and Starlords, a few Rocket Raccoons, and even a Groot made from foam noodles.
This Phoenix cosplayer had a pair of giant foam wings attached to her back, and she was getting stopped every few minutes to have her picture taken. One of my favorites was a simple costume worn by a very tall woman shopping with her daughters. Green skin and hair, light purple shirt, and brown dress, carrying a 1-ton handbag….LADY HULK!
Another cool chance happening was that while sitting at the booth, this Punisher came up to us and it took me just a second glance to realize it was my very own cousin Andrew! I had no idea he was coming, and he had no idea I’d be there. Small world! He and his girlfriend Bea cosplay all over Texas, and she came as a variety of characters all three days..Catherine from The Cell, Catwoman, and Lady Deadpool–go check her out at Ninja Kitty Cosplay!
They even walked around a bit with Myla and let people take their picture, which made her feel a bit like a superstar.
It was also amazing to meet all the other artists and vendors that worked there, and talk to them about their ideas and projects. I listened to artist Doug Hazlewood talk about making comics the old-school way. We were seated next to the creators of The Cat webseries on YouTube. I talked to artist Brian Essig-Peppard about his project Zeroes for Hire. SOOO many good artists! And it’s really cool to know that people you’ve gotten to know online through their artwork are really nice people in real life.
For example, I first followed artist John Mueller on Instagram because he makes AWESOME artwork, and also because I remember seeing his comic Oink way back when I was in art school. He’s revamped that series, and he actually asked me (and a few other handpicked artists) if I’d do a piece of artwork for the back of his new Dark Horse comic Oink: Heaven’s Butcher, which comes out in February. (I just finished it & sent it, and I’m SUPER honored to be included!)
Anyway, John was at the Con with Sam Gage to promote their awesome game called Bedlam, via Kickstarter, with some cool rewards! At some of the higher tiers, you can even get YOURSELF drawn in as a character in the game!! These guys were lots of fun, made beautiful artwork, and were just all around awesome people. (If games are your thing, I know they’d certainly appreciate a like, a pledge, or a share!)
They were also REAAALLLY big fans of our collaborations, and really made Myla feel special when we went walking around.
Speaking of feeling special, we had a special visit from a facebook friend, Lauren, who (joined by her Tribble) brought her copy of our book to have us sign! Luckily she came on Saturday when Myla was there, and Myla not only signed it, but drew an octo-cat inside. It was so wonderful to meet her!
I even met up with a friend from high school, and his family! (High school, by the way, was in Augsburg, Germany…so again, small world!)
Another fun run-in was spotting tattoo artist and sideshow performer Katzen Hobbes. I mean, she’s pretty difficult to miss, right? I ran into Katzen YEARS ago from a distance at a tattoo convention, and always read about her, so it was cool to finally meet her in person. She’s going to be featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not book, coming in September. She was really nice, and told me she did art with her son Felix from time to time, and that she had heard of our artwork and enjoyed it, and that since she was an artist and a mom, people would send her the article.
Since I’m a bit on the…”grownup” side, I wouldn’t consider myself much of a fangirl, so when the list of celebrities came out for the show, I didn’t think I’d be interested much. …UNTIL the thought crossed my mind that I might get them to sign some portraits I had done of them…
You might know Michael Rooker as Merle from The Walking Dead and Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy…I brought my portrait of him to pose for a photo with, and had him sign the other, which was just an unfinished ballpoint sketch at the time. He was friendly! Like, VERY friendly. Like, country boy, holding your hand, callin’ you “Sugar,” big-hug friendly. “You did this, girl? Man, you’ve got some skills! All with a ballpoint pen, huh? I’ll be darned.” It was on Thursday, so there was hardly anyone there. I asked him if anyone offers him chocolate covered pretzels. We talked about Mallrats, and having to have his shiny butt full screen for the whole world to see in that one. He was funny. Later on, he walked around the Con floor, chatting with vendors. “HEYYYYY it’s you again!” he said to me. “You still working on that drawing? Man! You’re fast!” And then he strolled off to chat with a scantily-clad Red Sonja.
Friday was Norman Reedus, from Walking Dead. Since there were separate lines (and costs) for autographs and photos, I wasn’t able to take a posed photo, but Norman was super nice. Everyone kept saying, “oh, Norman Reedus? He is SUCH a nice dude.” And they were absolutely right. While Saturday was full of teenage fangirls screaming and shrieking his name, Friday was much more laid-back. As I walked up, he gave me a hug, shook my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Norman.” I asked if he’d be willing to sign my drawing, and he said, “MAN, you did that??” He stared at it a bit and told me I had a very unique style. I told him I was an illustrator, that my husband & I loved the show, and couldn’t think of anything else much to say. I know he enjoys artwork, and even made a book of fan art, but I wish I would’ve known beforehand that he actually MADE art at one time–that’s actually something I would’ve LOVED to have learned more about…..DANG IT!
Anyway, Myla stayed for a good chunk of the day Saturday, and had a GREAT time. She LOVED seeing all the costumes, and she LOVED looking at all the artwork. She said she wanted to stay there for the WHOLE NIGHT. She seemed SO at home there! At one point, inspired by the allure of commerce (or maybe it was the influence of the other artists), Myla drew some pictures, and laid them out on the floor. “I hope someone will buy my artwork,” she said. I helped her spell the words “For Sale” on her sign. “How much will you sell them for?” I asked. “One hundred,” she replied confidently. “I think that might be a little too much. How about one dollar?” “Yes! Of course!” she said. So from then on out (after first trying to sell some to me and Maylin), she would ask people kindly, “Would you like to buy some of my art?” I worried that she might not handle rejection well….but I underestimated the power of a kid’s selling techniques. I mean, who could resist?
One guy came by specifically to meet her, and tell her what a fan he was of our work. When she offered up her drawings, he asked if she had any of Harley Quinn. She didn’t, but grabbed her markers and drew him one right then & there. He happily thanked her with a ten dollar bill and a smile (people can be SO awesome, by the way). Made my heart smile!
By the end of the day, when Daddy came to pick her up, she had made $20. She told me I should go to the shops and buy any doll I choose. Whichever one I wanted for myself. “Hm,” I said. “What doll do you think I should choose?” Immediately, she answered, “FLUTTERSHY!!!” Then quickly added, “Uh…or whichever one you would like.”
So of course, impressed by her moxie, I brought home a stuffed Fluttershy for her, for all her hard work.
And that was that! So much fun meeting so many people, seeing so much artwork, and all the fantastic costumes. I think we may have to go to a few more, even just as attendees. Maybe this time…in costume! I have all these awesome cosplay ideas if Myla would only cooperate, but of course (as she should) she has her own ideas. Like being Fluttershy or Rainbow Dash (can you tell she just discovered My Little Ponies?). My husband says that instead of a pageant mom, I have to be careful not to become a cosplay mom. 🙂
Til next time! Woohoo!
Awhile back, I got an email from Canadian musician Jennifer Gasoi, who won a Grammy this past year (whaaaa????!!), saying that she enjoyed our collaborations, thought we might enjoy her music, and wondered if she could send us a copy of her award-winning album.
You’d like to send us a copy of some awesomely fantastic, jazzy, hip-shaking music that Myla & I could jam out to? Why, yes PLEASE!
Weeks later, we got her CD in the mail. I turned it on while we were doing crafts, and Myla stopped mid-doodle, and got up to dance and shake around. The music is fun, sort of retro-style, a touch of swing, a bit jazzy, and all around pretty cool for me (as a grownup) to listen too, too. (You can listen to it here.)
I’m constantly amazed at people sharing things they’ve done with us, so I’m quite happy to share it with you. We loved all the happy sounds, and had our own little dance party in our art room. Myla said, “It was very nice of her to send us some music. Maybe we could send her a card to say thank you!”
And so we did.
Myla told me what she wanted to write on the inside, and I helped her spell it. I’m not sure exactly why she turned Miss Gasoi into a catfish, surrounded by other underwater creatures, but that’s what she was inspired by at the time.
So please, go check out Jennifer Gasoi for yourself, and get a little dancing in your toes!
UPDATE: Jennifer tweeted us, saying she loves being a catfish…and coincidentally, she’s a Pisces, so…it makes sense, huh? 🙂
So I just realized it’s been a YEAR since I first posted the story about collaborating with our 4-year old! And while a lot has changed (she’s 5 now, for one), so much is still the same. I thought it’d be sort of cool to share a bit about the whole experience, and what we’ve been doing since…
1. People have been SO super nice! I still get SO many wonderful comments, messages, posts, and emails, saying wonderful things and sharing wonderful stories about how this fun little project that Myla & I do together has affected them in some positive way and it’s such a wonderful thing to hear. New-mom artists saying they couldn’t figure out how to still create while caring for a kid have told me they have hope now for a new way to create. Other type-A’s like me, who have been reminded to let go a little bit and enjoy the ride. People spent time doing similar projects with their kids, their students, their patients, and shared the stories with me. It feels really good to hear that something we did just for fun has had such a positive effect on so many people.
The fact that people take a little time out to say something nice to someone they don’t know personally, is very heartwarming, and makes me feel good about the fate of the human race.
2. Some people can be jerks. I have learned the age-old internet rule, and will agree that it is most definitely true (mostly on external blogs, not my own, thankfully): DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. SO many websites, instead of linking directly to my full story, retold the story using my photos on their own website. Usually, they don’t tell the whole process I went through, leaving readers confused and critical, and more likely to make random nasty (and not at all constructive) comments. Everything from “She’s holding her pen wrong,” “the mom overindulges her,” “the mom probably does those herself, for attention,” “those drawings aren’t THAT good,” and “what the hell am I even looking at???”
…Some people make a point to take a little time out of their day to be total jerks to a complete stranger, which makes me a little discouraged about the fate of the human race. Thankfully, though, there are WAYYYYYYY more positive comments than negative, and I do my best to ignore them, and focus on people who AREN’T talking out of their butts.
3. We self-published an AWESOME BOOK. We had a few publisher nibbles after the post, and even worked for quite a while with one, trying to narrow down how we might possibly turn it into a book for children, until they finally gave up on the idea altogether. It wasn’t until then that I realized it might not BE a children’s book. So I made my own Kickstarter video, and with the help of SOOO many people sharing and getting the message out there, we were able to exceed our goal and make a book I am very very proud of, that tells the story of our collaboration, has pages to doodle in yourself, and is a collection of a great many collaborations, and the fun little titles I gave them. We also were able to make a little children’s book of animal collaborations. I can’t seem to part with the originals, so I don’t sell any of the originals to anyone. I keep them in a very full binder for her to enjoy later. So since we weren’t able to have a professional publisher work with us, at least I was able to make our drawings into a fun little book that we can share with people.
4. We still get around a bit, from time to time. Aside from a great many interviews & articles from all sorts of places in the world, we’ve had a few little online adventures. We had someone contact us to see if they could purchase a few prints to use on a TV show as set design background if the show stayed on. (We allowed it, but I haven’t seen them on the show, and I don’t think it was picked up for a new season.) A theme park on the other side of the world asked if they could display a few for a Mother’s Day event they were having. Our post was shared on facebook by a couple of fun names…
(None of this at all means anything to Myla, though. She just likes to draw.)
5. People have asked us to do stuff. We have been asked to do custom work, but trying to “control” what a 5-year old draws is nearly impossible. Sometimes I can give her suggestions, and sometimes she turns the person into Nightcrawler or a mermaid, just for fun. You can never tell. Nor would I want to stifle what she does, or put any limitations on it. The very few times I’ve tried to steer her in a certain direction is hit or miss: sometimes it works out like magic (as in the Hellboy doodle we did below), and sometimes it doesn’t work, and it’s just frustrating for the both of us. So instead of getting frustrated, I just take the pressure off by saying no to most custom work, unless it’s something fun that we can do in a way that has little to no pressure. (Reading Rainbow’s Kickstarter, for example, is running an art contest for their calendar. We’ll give it a try, but if it doesn’t work out, no big deal.)
We have been asked to design logos for products, but aside from just the logistics listed above, it just feels weird to use them for a product. I don’t have any big political belief behind that thought. It just feels weird, so I just say no.
We were once asked to have a film crew film our day to day life and doodles, but I couldn’t see how that would work, since both my husband and I have agreed that we’re not comfortable with the idea of having Myla’s face fully openly out there in internet land. Why not? Well, aside from just the regular worry of creepy old creepers, people can be plain nasty, as I said earlier, and nastier when they have something in front of them to point at behind the safety of their screens. She’s adorable, but she’s five. I don’t need random people commenting and judging her SOLELY based on her physical attributes (as I’m sure the world will do in plenty of time when she hits puberty). No thanks.
6. Life is pretty normal. When we first did the collaborations was just before my husband was deployed, so he missed the majority of the hubub, and watched it lovingly from a distance somewhere in the middle of Afghanistan. Now that he’s back, things are pretty normal again. Myla started Kindergarten, and is on a mission to share her love of superheroes with the world. Like everyone, we have good days and bad days (but they are very nearly all good days). She loves superheroes, mermaids, and “crafty crafts” (which is what we call all the artsy art things we enjoy doing). I post our work primarily on Instagram, but also on Facebook and Twitter. I also use Instagram to post a ton of whatever strange drawings, sculptures, or projects I’ve personally got going on as well.
7. We still draw. A LOT. When we first started collaborating, it was incidental. It just sort of happened. Now, she ASKS me for heads to draw, and sometimes for certain characters. I like to mix drawing, say, a certain actor’s face for her to draw a certain character’s body on, and she has fun with that. If she wants to do one of Wolverine, for example, I draw Hugh Jackman. It’s fun for both of us. Her drawings have become more narrative, with so much more going on, and it’s been REALLY fun for me to try to make them make sense by making the background more detailed, adding more highlights and shading to the artwork, to the faces. It’s so much fun!
People have asked me about her tiring of drawing only the bodies–but she doesn’t LIKE how I draw the bodies on her heads (she hasn’t worked on that “letting go of expectations” thing that I’ve worked on, and is sometimes critical if I go off-course). Drawing faces and characters on her own, though? She’s WAY into that! Oftentimes, I’ll tear out pages from my sketchbook of drawings I haven’t finished, and don’t intend to finish (even if it’s just an eye), and let her just use her imagination:
But now that she’s a little older, a great deal of our work is directly influenced by the things that influence her: superheroes, characters from shows and books and comics. This past summer, I signed her up for day camp (basically 3 hours a day of themed daycare). She could choose between Princess Camp and Superhero Camp. She chose Superhero camp, which has been a huge influence on her drawings:
She’s also had a thing for mermaids lately…
There are also a great many characters she’s never really watched the actual shows of (she’s only 5, remember, and she’s not too fond of too much action & violence), but has seen or heard of the characters. I’ll usually just tell her a toned-down, simplified story about the character, and let her elaborate:
She will draw characters from some of her favorite, most beloved tv shows, books, and movies:
There is always a WHOLE lot of Star Wars:
And some of them come straight from her own imagination:
8. We still LOVE to share… Whether it’s between Myla and me, or other people, we love to share our doodles. I recently did an art trade with an artist on Instagram, whose 4-year old daughter decided to make Myla a little sculpture to add to the package. It was so awesome! Myla loves to show people how to draw “step by step” (but she will almost NEVER tell you what it’s going to be in the end…probably because she makes it up as she goes). She loves drawing marker “tattoos” on any visitors we have who are willing. Last time we visited my husband’s family, they all gathered round chit-chatting and waiting their turn for Myla-tattoos.
…SO WHAT’S NEXT? Well, we’re just gonna keep on keepin’ on. Since I have all these books now, I thought it’d be fun to take them to a vending table at Wizard Con in Austin, Oct 2-4. So I’ll be doing that, and bringing my niece along to help. Myla will mostly be hanging at home with Daddy, and only stopping in on occasion (since I’m guessing it’d be pretty hard to keep a kid at a booth ALL DAY for THREE DAYS??) to see costumes and such (conventions scare her, though, so we’re gonna play that one by ear). I’m bringing TONS of books, some prints, a few of my own originals, and whatever else we can muster up. It’s gonna be FUN! So if you’re anywhere in the area, PLEASE come see us!
I absolutely LOVE watching her develop her drawing. I get so excited when I notice her drawing something new, like Wolverine’s “fists,” and the amount of detail she remembers just from seeing a few pictures of a character. We’ll keep on doing them for as long as they’re fun. And if they’re not fun, we’ll lay off them for awhile. But right now, we still love drawing together, so that’s what we’ll do. And I’m always happy to post them!
Most of all, I love love LOVE hearing from other people who have been inspired to do their OWN doodle projects with their friends, family, students, and kids, so if you’ve got stories to share, I’d LOVE to hear them!
Love, love love. Just realized there was a WHOLE lotta love in this post. And that’s awesome.
(Posted below are just a couple of the wonderful doodles people have sent me that their kids have done after being inspired to draw by our doodles. I love seeing all that imagination growing!)
So that’s a little update on our doodles this past year! I’m so grateful for all the positive response we’ve gotten from something we just love doing together. It’s SUCH a good feeling to put something good into the world!
(I constantly post new prints for purchase at Society6. Please feel free to take a look!)
Just because I don’t know Robin Williams doesn’t mean I can’t miss him. Just because I miss him doesn’t mean I don’t feel loss for other people who maybe weren’t so much in the public eye, or that I don’t care about other more worldly events going on the news.
I’m not usually too affected by celebrity news, but I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with this one. My WHOLE life, his movies, tv shows, and comedy has been there, in so many wonderful characters, in so many wonderful ways. From when I first saw him as Mork as a kid, to now. He inspired me, he made me laugh. He touched so many people with the simplest of expressions. He could make you laugh in one moment, and melt your heart in the next. I don’t know another comedian who could do that. He’s just always been there.
The point is that someone, no matter who it was, touched our lives and it’s okay to feel sad about that. It’s a testament to me that peoples’ lives, big or small, affect all of us in some way, even if we never know it. We feel the loss of someone when they have touched us in some way. We feel worse when someone’s story, someone’s life, has reflected something in our own lives.
To me, it’s also a testament to that saying that you should “be kind always, for everyone is fighting a great battle.” That person who was a total jerk? Maybe they’re going through something difficult right now.
Like many people, I struggled with depression when I was in my twenties. Recently, my mom and dad were cleaning their shed and found an old self-portrait I did at the time. It’s not at all flattering. I didn’t want it to be. I wanted to show how worn out, how sick of it all, how emotionally EXHAUSTED I was.
Thank goodness I don’t feel that way anymore, and looking back on it, it’s like looking at a completely different person that I can’t even relate to anymore.
Do you remember The Fisher King? (It’s one of my VERY favorites of all time. To me, every Gilliam movie is amazing, but Gilliam with Robin Williams was magical.) Do you remember how the shock jock’s flippantly insensitive words inadvertently set off a chain of events that damaged the life of William’s character, who he had never even met? People are important. Especially in a world where it’s so easy to type a few errant nasty words on someone’s post, the things you SAY are important, whether you know it or not.
And I think aside from just missing his magic, that might be what has affected me so greatly about his suicide, and the internet reaction to it. It’s just reminded me to do my best to ignore people that build themselves up by making “superior” comments or make a point to spread negativity, and remember how important it is to connect with the people in your life, and to spread the positive around a bit. If you surround yourself by that negativity in people, it eats into you, it brings more negativity to you, draws it in like a magnet. That negativity they focus on pulls you down with it. And as much as you might sympathize with them or want to help them, sometimes you just have to step away a bit.
And this new news about the onset of Parkinson’s…in a weird way that made me understand a little better. I’ve lived with chronic pain for over 10 years, and the idea that you eventually might not be able to do certain things the more something progresses is an absolutely terrifying one. Not one worth my dying over, but I get it. I get that pain.
No, I didn’t know him. And knowing him wouldn’t have changed anything. But I know other people in my own life, and maybe connecting with them will help in some small way.
So it doesn’t matter if he’s a celebrity. He touched peoples’ lives. Don’t feel ashamed for mourning him when so many others need attention, too. Not grieving for one person doesn’t show more appreciation for another.
Instead, appreciate the people in your life. You MEAN something to them. They mean something to YOU. Even if you don’t see it, don’t know it, don’t FEEL it….I promise you, you do.
Sometimes you just have to look a little harder for it.
If you look for bad things, I promise you, YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND THEM. Instead, I try to actively search for things in my life to appreciate. For things to feel good about, no matter how small. And if you cannot find them in your own life, there are so many ways to create them for someone else, and that generosity will create good in your life. And if you’re always looking for those good things, I promise you, you will always find them, too.
So I’m going to do my best to focus on the positive…
National suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Info on Soldier suicide prevention
Me and ballpoint pens go way back. I love them.
When I was younger, I carried a ballpoint pen and a sketchbook wherever I went. I liked ballpoint because I was too clumsy for pencil–I didn’t like that I could accidentally smear what I’d drawn in pencil with a single careless arm motion, because that’s how clumsy I am. I pressed too hard for pencil, and still didn’t like the coverage it gave. And I didn’t like the scratchy feeling of rough pencil or charcoal or pastel on paper.
So ballpoint it was. In college, it was implied that ballpoint pen was NOT an art medium. That it was a tool for writing, not drawing. So I tried my hardest to master other tools, only to retreat back into the comforts of my room after classes, with my trusty old ballpoint pen and sketchbook at the end of the day.
Over time, I learned to sketch pretty comfortably with pen–to ease up and add pressure where I needed it. I got more comfortable with accepting that pen was my very favorite tool, fine arts be damned. I drew in ballpoint pen so much, that after tons and tons of practice, I could get a fairly good and smooth sketch that people often mistook for pencil. Primarily, I sketched in black ballpoint–plain ol’ Bic or Papermate pen.
After awhile, I started adding color and shading and highlights in either watercolor or acrylics. I used the black ballpoint as a sort of underdrawing. I like the sketchy feel, seeing the structure underneath. Sometimes I paint on top pretty monochromatically…
And other times, I nearly completely covered the initial sketch with acrylic…
But it just doesn’t feel like me whenever I’ve tried leaving out the ballpoint pen.
Did you know there are different types of pens? There are inky smooth rollerballs and spotty ol’ gel pens… but it took me YEARS to realize that the ones I like to sketch with are “officially” called BALLPOINT pens. Easy enough, right?
Ages ago, I hadn’t heard of anyone using ballpoint as a fine art medium. I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that it was my medium of choice (but not enough to give it up). Ballpoint quality was so bad that the paper I used would yellow around my drawing, or the pen would turn purple or blue. These days, I’ve seen TONS of artists creating wonderful, beautiful things with pen. There’s the hyperrealistic work of Samuel Silva, the amazingly smooth work of James Mylne, and ballpoint pen art cheerleader Jerry Stith, who has EXTENSIVE resources on ballpoints and art. (Those are only a few–there are also a ton more, a few of them listed here).
But one of my VERY favorite ballpoint pen artists is Jim Rugg, whose work is both amazingly realistic at times, and also hilariously funny (like this Divine Wonder Woman, and this Playboy Barbie). He has a sense of humor about his work that I can appreciate. He enjoys drawing, and it shows…but he doesn’t seem to take himself so gosh-darn seriously.
I used to think it would be awesome if ballpoints came in tons of other colors…but when my mom sent me a set of Ink Joy colored pens a few years back, I thought they were awesome, but I wasn’t sure how to make them work for me. My work wasn’t as detailed and realistic as those other artists who had mastered the ballpoint pen.
Until a few months ago, inspired again by Jim Rugg’s work, I realized I could still do my own wonky style while using the colored ballpoints…and I gave it a try.
The first one was Napoleon Dynamite (which I realize I’ve posted before)…
I moved on to other fun faces I enjoy….Like the drag artist, Divine:
This scene with Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction:
And this character from the movie Delicatessen (Myla helped me with the hands):
Since then, I’ve had a lot of fun, really playing with building color.
The process (for me) starts with laying a basic foundation, usually in orange, and building up the reds for color in the cheeks, nose, lips and eyes. (I still think my technique is a little soft–I’m hoping to get a little more bold with the color and text)
Then I build up with the brown for darker areas.
And it isn’t just a one-shot kinda thing–I keep those three or four pens handy, and switch around between them all, building up colors, adding colors in another area. I like this whole process, because there is PLENTY of wiggle room to get the shapes right. If something’s off, and you’ve started lightly enough, you can adjust it by the time you start really building up the darks.
And the final doodle: Leeloo (Milla Jovovitch) from the movie the Fifth Element:
Funny thing about ballpoints, though, is that they glurp. Those blobs of ink on her face and in the background? Those are glurps. I don’t mind them all THAT much, but they’re a little tough to work around sometimes (I don’t even know HOW those other guys keep the glurps away). To avoid the glurp as best I can, I am constantly wiping the ballpoint pen (which I SHOULD do on a napkin, but I don’t, so if you were to look very closely, most of my clothes contain a cluster of small dots, usually on my right shoulder or pants, from twisting the glurp off of the pen before drawing). Still, glurps happen…and that’s okay. They’ve kind of grown on me, even. Gives them a bit of gritty character.
“Goodbye Sweetie” (In-progress, from Dr. Who):
Professor McGonagall, in progress, from Harry Potter:
With darker skin, the process is pretty much the same, except that you can use even more of a variety of colors to really build up the skin tones. (Again, I still think I’m too soft in this area. I’m working on filling out more of the white space)
RubyRhod from Fifth Element:
Recently, because of a long-standing back problem that has been misdiagnosed for SEVERAL years, I have begun a series of injections to help with what they’re now calling “spondyloarthritis.” (Which, from what I understand, just means “chronic localized sacroiliatic pain that we can’t figure out and don’t really know how to treat.”) This means I need to sit at their offices for at least THREE hours, attached to a IV tube full of mutant medications and such.
…Except, wait? Three HOURS? In a lounge chair by myself? While Myla’s happily occupied at school or daycare? And I can bring my sketchbook and headphones?? Wait. Wait a minute. This might not be so bad after all…
Jack Black in Nacho Libre:
Nicholas Cage as “H.I.” from Raising Arizona:
Awhile back, PaperMate InkJoy was the only colored ballpoint pen set I knew of. Then I learned that my favorite ballpoints, Bic, came out with the Cristal color pack. Woohoo! But the other day, while looking for some replacements should something tragic potentially happen to my newly beloved pens (as I often fear, once I begin to love a medium), I came across the PaperMate Profile.…and I was SUPER excited to find out that the 12-pack has a sort of GRAYISH MIDNIGHT BLUE…which allowed me to simulate one of my favorite colors of all time: Payne’s Gray!!! (it’s a sort of midnight-bluish gray) Not such a big deal for many people, I’m sure, but very VERY exciting for me!
So I’ve become quite fond of my colored ballpoint pens! And I’m having a WHOLE lot of fun building up shapes. It definitely requires a different sort of thought process than just drawing in straight black ballpoint pen. Still, I think I could cover more of the white area. It just takes getting over the timidity of a new medium. But I love it.
So whatever you enjoy, no matter how timid you may be about it, just rock it. Own it. Make it yours. Because the things that make us different are the EXACT same things that make us special.
I once met a very well-known artist who asked me what medium I worked in, and when I quietly said, “ballpoint pen,” he asked (with honest curiosity), after a long pause, “Um…is that even archival?” I was sort of hesitant to respond, washed over instantly in self-doubt–until I realized with full confidence that I don’t CARE. I enjoy it, I am comfortable with it. And the important thing is this: I AM STILL LEARNING.
Who doesn’t want to cry all through a movie while people sing beautiful songs? I’ve loved Les Mis since I saw a community theater (and I’m sure tamed-down) version as a kid. I love drawing faces. I like stretching them and playing with them–not to the point of ridicule, but just to slightly alter what’s there, and have fun with the shapes. I love the style of Eric White, and when I first saw his work, I thought, “Well, dang–that’s exactly the direction I was going in!” He has such EXTREME detail in his work (“hyperrealistic,” they call it), that I can’t even come close. Still, I love a good face, especially in movie stills.
My agent once asked for a few caricature samples, and since I hadn’t drawn a famous WOMAN in a while, I thought I’d give Anne Hathaway a whirl. It takes several reference shots sometimes to get the right feel for a face, and it’s helpful to combine things from different photos to make up the look you’re going for. In the end, I thought that a pic of Fontaine at her deepest, darkest moment was maybe not such an “upper” for a promo piece.
Perhaps with all the “Hatha-hatred,” I should’ve had a newspaper tabloid in her hand…