When Myla was born, my mother and I wrapped her up in a little blanket to take a photo of her. “Oh no.” I said. “Delete that one. It doesn’t look anything like her.” We took photo after photo, again and again, and with each photo we took, a completely different little baby popped up on the screen. Nothing on that little camera compared at ALL with the beautiful little creature in front of me.I love drawing our daughter. When she was younger it was very intimidating, and I was so awkward drawing her, because no matter what I did, it didn’t really LOOK like her. It didn’t seem to capture that beautiful little person in front of me. It’s one of the most intimidating things about painting portraits: trying to make the image capture the personality of its subject, especially when you don’t already know that person very well. I comfort myself with the idea that (in my mind) it doesn’t HAVE to look exactly like them. It’s supposed to be a representation of an aspect of their perceived personality.
So Myla has reached an age where she is slowly beginning to be self-aware of her appearance. Not to the extent that some kids are….she cares nothing at all about clothes (you could put a space suit on her and she’d say, “oh, okay.” and rock that for the day. On Kinder graduation photos she said “did you see they put a GENIE costume on me?” when referring to the cap & gown, which she didn’t even question–just rolled with it). She doesn’t really care about how her hair is styled, other than in a functional way (to keep those curls out of her eyes). But from time to time, she has started to notice little things, like how everyone’s skin is different colors. That some people “seem fancy” when she doesn’t really notice that sort of thing. That people keep telling her she’s doing “boy things.”
If her girlhood is anything like mine was, I know the worst of it will come when she’s a teenager. But I’m hoping to sort of help her enjoy and celebrate herself–whatever that means to her–now. Not by constantly showering her with praises of beauty (although I think telling her she’s pretty is a good thing to hear, too), not by inflating her ego by making her feel superior, but by asking her what makes her FEEL happy and pretty, and trying to be comfortable with and rock whatever she’s got.This will totally work, because my parents actually did the same things for me, and I NEVER had any image issues. (INSERT SARCASTIC FACE HERE) ….Okay, yes, I’m fully aware that no matter what I do, she’ll have issues. But one can try, right?
So I drew this little Myla-face on a piece of pressed chipboard, and asked if she wanted to draw what she liked. What made her happy. What made her smile. What made her feel like a good person. How does she see herself? And I let her use my acrylic paints to paint on it.
She painted pink hair, because she’s always wanted pink hair. We used paint-in temporary dye from time to time when she was younger, but they sort of frown at wonky hair color at her current school (which I find ridiculous). She drew a streak of black (which sort of looks like a beret). If anything, it was a fun opportunity to teach her a little more about using acrylic paints…
She asked if she could use a pen to draw the rest, and drew things that make her smile: dragons, animals, made-up creatures, Lego characters.
So later, I finished painting the background for her. I thought it was fun that instead of TELLING her what I thought of her, I got to see what she thinks, what she feels…how she sees herself. Not to judge, but just to think about and be comfortable with.
- Elsa and Kristoff telling Anna (when Anna wants to marry someone she just met) “You don’t even KNOW him!”
- How Cinderella and her Prince marry after only a few nights of dancing and missing footwear.
- Flynn in Tangled liking Rapunzel’s for more than her hair. And the big mean guys in the tavern who sing “I Got a Dream” look creepy, but are (mostly) quite sweet.
- In the book “the Paper Bag Princess,” that the clothes you wear and the way you look doesn’t make you a good person.
And those are just a few that Myla (at age 6) and I have had pretty in-depth discussions about. Not in some lecture, not by me bringing it up, but just in talking about what we just saw or read.
You can have fun with what you look like, you can change your hair and decorate it. Your body can be bigger or smaller or shorter or taller than everyone else’s. Your skin can be so many different colors. You can have fancy clothes, or secondhand pants.
But what’s MOST important is being smart, being caring, being kind.
I hope she always sees herself the way I see her.
My mom & I sometimes swap art supplies. Last time she visited, she brought these little wooden disks that I wasn’t sure what I’d do with…but I knew I WANTED THEM.
So one day I drew some little faces on them, and let Myla add doodles however she wanted.
She drew a snake and a ghost mouse….you know.
Then I added detail and painted them….
She even made me a mockingbird! (It’s the blue one on the left.) There’s also an elephant, and a robot drawing on her own smile.
At this point, they needed some cool little beads, and hey–why not put them on a necklace?
She also did a t-rex mermaid and a pterana-maid and I spiced them up a bit with with some little dangle-beads.
So since she was on a roll, I asked if she could help me make ANOTHER necklace for myself (because one can never have enough dangly art necklaces, amiright?): I have been MAD over Imperator Furiosa from MadMax: Fury Road, and showed Myla a photo of her. All I needed to say was “lady with a robot arm,” and she knew just what to do!
Isn’t it lovely if I can say so myself? She did such a great job on Furiosa’s little arm. It’s one of my favorite things to wear lately! I added little watch pieces to represent steering wheels and green beads to represent “The Green Place.”
Anyway, I’m not sure what to do with the others yet–I’m thinking keychains? Maybe little necklaces? Teacher gifts? As with pretty much ALL the projects I do with Myla, I LURV making them and selfishly want to hoard them all for myself….or maybe I could do something special with them…I’ll figure it out eventually! Either that, or our house will eventually spill out overflowing with our collaborations, her doodles, and the millions of cut paper projects and books she creates on her own… 🙂
I get such wonderful mail from time to time, of people sharing stories about how the little collaborations that Myla and I do has affected their lives in a positive way…and I don’t care WHAT kind of cruddy day I might be having, they ALWAYS make me smile.
This set of collaborations is from Charlotte Christian School, where kids in High School worked on drawings with kids from Kinder and Junior Kinder classes. Look at all the amazing things they did!
This is a small sample from a class at Sanna preschool in Jönköping, Sweden, where the teachers took photos of the kids and let them paint whatever they wanted to, after seeing the drawings that Myla and I did (thank you, Ellen, Olivia and Benjamin!).
I got this beautiful image via @januarylark on Twitter, who got our book before she knew she was pregnant, and is reading it to her new little buddy.
I love to see the things people draw together, and I love that you all share them with me! So keep drawing, keep doodling, but most of all, keep enjoying spending real time creating with your kids!
I just thought I’d share a little update on the fun time Myla and I had at Jerry’s Artarama in Austin this past weekend!
If you’re in the Austin area and you love artsy art supplies, you probably know Jerry’s. I sometimes take the hour-and-twenty-minute drive to Jerry’s JUST because they know their stuff. It’s such a fantastic thing to be able to talk to people who are familiar with the art supplies they’re selling, have actually used them, know what they can do, and if they’ll work for your project. Maybe you’ve always had an awesome art store like Jerry’s nearby, but I haven’t been so lucky…
So when we spoke to Jerry’s about doing an art demo there, I was so jazzed! This would be unique in that I have often kept Myla away from events, but now that she’s a little older, I asked if she’d like to help me with the demo, and she was super excited. It would also be unique in that I have given little online talks on our collaborations, I have interviewed about them via video and in emails, and I have done a TED talk telling our story…but I have never done a demo. So this would totally be a learning experience for me.
Myla and I got there pretty early to set up, and I started to worry (as I tend to do) that no one would show up because:
- the SXSW festival madness was in going on,
- it was spring break, and
- it was pouring down rain.
But thankfully, all the seats filled. Yaaaayyy! I started off by telling the story of how Myla and I collaborate. This was weird because Myla was right there, and also because I wasn’t sure how much anyone already knew, and I didn’t want to talk too much, or bore anyone to tears–especially after trekking through traffic and rain…
And then I started to worry because I wasn’t quite sure what people were expecting…. Did they want ME to draw? Did they want Myla to draw? Did they want me to shut up and let THEM draw?
People have messaged me over the years these wonderful stories of how they’ve done collaborative projects based on our doodles with their classrooms and families and friends, and I’m always so blown away by how much goes into it, and how beautiful the results are, and what a great time they had all around. I wanted people to have a good time and still get the experience of collaborations.
So I thought it’d be fun to sort of replicate that same idea by having printouts of some of the heads I had drawn, and having them add an outlined body to the head, and then if they were very brave, they could switch with other people and let them finish their work.
People had a lot of fun switching back and forth with other people in the room–Myla would pass the papers around to whoever needed a rotation. Some just switched with the person next to them (which ultimately gave them more say in what the outcome was….which was TOTALLY cheating! Hahah). For the full experience of enjoying the process instead of focusing on the final piece, one attendee suggested I should have set a timer and made people keep passing it to the person next to them. That might’ve been pretty fun!
One woman even brought some of her kids’ drawings with her to have people add onto. Myla joined in on a little of that, as did a couple of the other attendees.
I’ve had fairly decent success teaching a class on something specific. I have also given speeches. This being my first demo, it was a little awkward to have a project going, still share with them the ideas and thoughts behind it, and not have everything be so unstructured it falls apart. In any case, it at least gave me an idea of how to better do it next time!
I’d love to do demos more often! I thought it’d be fun to do weekend demos at children’s hospitals or elderly care centers. I need to look into that, because even if I was awkward, and wasn’t exactly sure how to interact, it was a lot of fun seeing people having fun and mixing their ideas up with other peoples’, not holding on so tight to their own work, and really breaking out and trying new things. I hope people at least had a good time–I know Myla and I did!
So, thank you SO much to everyone at Jerry’s Artarama in Austin for letting us come play and doodle with you! We had so much fun!
“You’re really good at drawing, mom. You’re even better than that lady that’s better than you.”
Um. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that, but it sounded like a compliment.
Then, with her head down, she said, “I’m not even as good as you. I don’t paint very well at all.”
Ouch. Now I know she doesn’t really feel that way. But being a mom of a whole 5 years of experience (trust me, I know from my sister–a mother of two teen girls–that I’m STILL in the beginner levels), I have learned enough to see this more as a confidence cry than an actual honest declaration.
She KNOWS she’s only five years old, and that my own many many (MANY) years on this earth has just given me a bit more time to improve in my artwork. She knows that the more time she spends on something, the better she’ll get at it. And she knows it’s not good to compare yourself to others, as long as you’re having fun.
She knows all that. But she wasn’t just being disingenuous, and she wasn’t fishing for compliments–she just needed to feel something positive. A reassurance that she was on the right track.
But it hurt my heart for her to not be able to see how awesome she is when she does what she loves. So I whipped up an idea to let her run with.
We’ve drawn together many times before, and our collaborations are fun. But it’s not often that SHE does the painting herself.
I had an extra piece of cut wood from an older project, and I sketched a face.
That evening, I laid a tablecloth on the carpet in the art room, gave her a few of my older (but still decent) brushes, and my palette of acrylic paints. I told her it was hers to paint any way she liked.
So she immediately went for the green.
Apparently, they had learned that song “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah” that day at school, but to her ears, it sounded like “DINO…” And she imagined some happy little dinosaur-girl who (for some reason) was dancing around in the kitchen.
Using my “grownup” paints is a really good way to teach her to control the paint…that just a little change in water or pressure, how you mix the paint, how you thin it….it ALL affects how the paint goes on. All I did was watch her, and tell her how she could make it work when the paint was too thick or too thin. She noticed that when there’s too much water and not enough paint, it dries very VERY light….but that a little paint can go a long way if it’s thinned down with water a little bit. I thought of myself as bowling bumpers: letting her do all the work, but there just to make sure she didn’t completely throw a gutterball in frustration.
And after awhile she said, “You can paint with me, if you like.”
I told her that it was her project…that I had wanted HER to do the painting. “But I really like painting with you,” she said.
So I did.
I tried not to add TOO much detail. I didn’t want to discredit what she’d already done by completely painting over it. Her only request was that I not change the colors she had already chosen. AND OF COURSE I WOULDN’T! Why would I? They were already awesome.
So here’s how it turned out in the end…
And here is her sticking it over her own face…
I didn’t want to alter it TOO much, but I also wanted to join in with her, since she asked me to. I made sure to ask her before I did anything. I let her give me direction. And watching me, she picked up that a quick way to make scaly dino skin without too much detail is to paint dots on the face in a darker color. She learned that a little darker or lighter makes shadows & highlights. She ASKED me about these things, not because I sat her down for a lesson…but just simply from observing a fellow artist.
So I told her again: I have many years of experience, but I am not finished learning. I am ALWAYS learning. I love to learn new things. I love to watch other artists, and try the things they do, learn the things they do.
Yes, I have been drawing a lot longer than my five-year-old. But she has parts of her imagination that I no longer have, that are fantastically wonderful. Her artwork is just as valid as mine, and quite often even more amazing. Everyone has value. It doesn’t help to compare yourself against someone else. There is always room to grow and learn, no matter what level you’re at. And wherever you’re at–if you have a love and a passion for it (whatever it is)–that is an amazing thing.
Sometimes I get asked if Myla and I still draw together. My answer, in short, is that YES, we do…but that it’s sort of changed a bit.
The collaborations we did were fairly simple, and happened–as I described in the post–pretty spontaneously, at first. Now that she’s a little older (she’s five ANDAHALF now), she’s not so interested in just simply adding a body on to a head I’ve drawn. While she does still enjoy it now and then, her interests (and mine) have changed quite a bit. So while our past collaborations were a such a wonderful and fun experiment, and we still do enjoy doing them from time to time, we find so many other ways to share our artwork with each other.
I started the new year with some new supplies, anxious to try some new things. Recently, I tried out some mixed media board, drew a picture of her sleeping, and wondered if it would work if I asked her to draw what she might be dreaming…
So she added onto what I had drawn, telling me what each thing was, and what it might mean. I asked her questions about it, had her tell me dreams she might’ve had in the past, and if she could draw them.
I later added on some pen detail, to sort of clarify what I thought she was trying to convey (based on what she had told me), and give it some decorative, dreamlike imagery.
And this is what we made. She dreamt of rolling toys, and the Shcar she had created. There’s a dragon in the top right, who carries her babies in fire. Most of her dream is protected by a unicorn with a shield-horn that wraps around her as she sleeps.
She was happy when she saw it finished, although it didn’t come without critique…she said I had forgotten to color the eye of the Shcar white (I later amended it for her), and that in her mind, the unicorn was actually supposed to be BLACK….but that one she was willing to overlook.
Another time, I wanted to draw her from a photo I had. When I showed it to her, I said, “I want to make a drawing that tells a story about creativity, and how your mind thinks of wonderful things. do you have any ideas?” She grabbed the pen right away, and started drawing…
She included dragons playing with her hair, dreaming of Legos. She’s imagining the Shcar she designed. She gave herself wolf ears, for fun. There’s a peacock on her shoulder, disappointed because he thought her hair was worms. And a sleeping mermaid, resting peacefully on her shoulder. I don’t know what any of it means. But I don’t HAVE to. It’s her creativity, it’s her mind. It doesn’t have to MEAN anything.
Again, she gasped with delight when she saw how I had finished it, but again, she had critiques. The mermaid was initially colored wrong. It’s apparently a toy she has (I had misunderstood which one), so I corrected it.
She asked why I drew circles around her eye, and I told her I was trying to draw the idea that artists see things in a different way than some people do. That it’s almost like having “special eyes.”
She asked me, “why do I look so sad?” I showed her the reference photo I used, and said, “In the picture I used, you weren’t sad, just thinking. I didn’t mean for it to look sad, I just meant it to look like you were thinking.” I told her that when I was younger, people often thought I was mean because I would quietly stare off at nothing while I was thinking, and that (along with my squinting because of bad eyesight), it made people think I was annoyed when I wasn’t. That made her laugh. She loves stories of when I was younger…
Speaking of when I was younger, Myla once said to me, “I wish I could play with you when you were a kid. We would have so much fun.” So I thought it’d be interesting to draw the two of us, around the same age, playing…
Before I gave it to her, I said, “if we were kids, what kinds of things would we do? I used to like to catch bugs, I liked dinosaurs and robots, aliens and animals. I bet we’d ride bikes together.” She thought that was awesome. But the first thing she drew was the “loves” above our heads.
(Awhile back, she asked me what my “love” would look like, and I drew a heart with BIG BIG arms. Hers was an envelope with wings to fly with you wherever you go.)
She drew our Donkey to the right, since we both have loved him for YEARS (I got him when I was around 8, and she’s had him since she was a baby). There’s a spider catching a fly in a web below us, which we’d probably both be fascinated and grossed out by. On the bottom left, she and I are riding bikes. You can barely see (as my hand is nearly covering it) that she is pouting on the bike, because even as a kid, she imagines I’m probably still the boss when we ride bikes…
Here’s the piece nearly done…
And the final piece: Myla and me, roughly 4 or 5, playing. And she’s right….we’d probably have been the COOLEST of friends. (..And I’m pretty sure I’d take turns on our bikes…)
She smiled a big smile when it was done, and had only one thing to say: “Perfect.”
Aside from my regular face studies, in my drawings and paintings this year I’ve decided to make more of an effort to try to tap into illustrating a message, or a meaning, or a feeling. I don’t mean a STANCE–I’ve not got any political or legal or religious statement to make in my artwork (there are others who excel magnificently in that), but more of something that means something TO ME.
I find (as an illustrator) that it’s one of the defining differences between “commercial illustration” and “painting”–I know I take things way too literally. There is not often any deep, hidden meaning in my work, and I’m totally okay with that. But this year, I’m going to try to tap more into what I’d have to SAY (if anything) in a painting….something I’ve never really done, unless it was a melancholy, depressing image when I was upset, like pitiful gothic teenage “woe is me” poetry.
And that’s exactly what happened with the first one I tried. I was in a hormonal funk I couldn’t get out of. Everyone has “down” days, but this one seemed neverending. I had no motivation. I wanted to cry all day FOR NO REASON. It felt like someone handed me a huge boulder to carry as I went through the day, and it weighed down everything I did. I had trouble really describing how crushing this feeling was. Instead, I tried to see if drawing it might help.
It felt like pointy-beaked birds nesting in my hair. It felt like ribbons of tears. It felt like a dark cloud. Still, drawing it still seemed to trivialize it a bit. It still felt like bad teenage poetry.
I debated showing it to Myla–I didn’t want to worry her or upset her. But when she saw it on my art desk, she asked about it. I told her I was doing a painting about feeling sad, and was trying to show how it makes you feel. She asked if she could add on, and why not? She drew a dragon tangled in the hair, trying to hold on. There are x-rays to “show what’s inside.” And little wind-up mice, crawling all over–into the heart, chewing the hair, chewing at the bones. She hesitantly asked if it was okay if she drew something creepy (because there’s a time and a place for creepy things, and school isn’t one of them..and also because it was my drawing and she wanted to know if it was okay), and I said of course–that it was what the drawing was about, that I was trying to show things that bother you, that upset you. She drew the thing that creeps her out the most–zombies (which she only knows about courtesty of the halloween sections at the grocery store, and the game “Plants and Zombies,” and from a few kids at school).
So she helped me with this one. And to me, it seems like a stereotype…a morose self-indulgence. Maybe I’m just uncomfortable with negative feelings. It must’ve helped, though, because the horrible funk passed not long after.
But every new journey starts with just one little step, and that’s my goal this next year…to try to see (from time to time) if I can start with very simple, little ideas, and get them on paper, without it being all melodramatic and serious. Not because it’s a “new year” and I have to “make a resolution” (I’ve mentioned how I feel about that)…but because I love trying new things, and it just happened to coincide with the new year. SO there. 🙂
And while I’m taking my own little journey, I’m wondering how it’ll influence Myla’s views on her own drawings. She is VERY literal (like me). She has an AMAZING imagination, but she’s not sure (spatially) why I have made things float around in the paintings above. I’ve told her the idea behind why I did it that way (that I’m illustrating dreams and ideas instead of THINGS), and she’s nodded, deep in thought. I can tell she’s mulling it over.
But I don’t think this means my artwork will get more “SERIOUS”–I think humor is a big part of what I enjoy (and not taking yourself too seriously is EXTREMELY important to me)….I just think it’ll be fun to see where digging a little deeper takes me. Where it takes us. Because as long as it’s fun and it’s making us happy, who CARES what it means, right?
…So what new things are YOU trying?
I am not good at selling myself. I’m horrible.
You might say, “wait, don’t you WORK in marketing??” And I would respond with “I am a graphic artist. I just put together eye-catching imagery.”
Once, after I got out of the army, I had a job where I had to call up existing clients and offer to schedule them for their yearly meetings. It was the closest thing to a telemarketer I had ever been (even though it was for EXISTING clients who probably NEEDED to schedule their yearly appointments), and I was often treated as one. I hated it. When they were short with me or shoot me down, my attitude was, “Oh. Okay, then.” Way to make that hard sell, Mica!
I’ve SEEN people be good at it, and it’s sort of amazing to watch. I was once a graphic artist for an auto ad sales department, and worked with some amazing salesmen who could pull out the charm and still talk you into something you’d be happy to have, and not in a sleazy way, but in a “Oh! This would be a great deal for BOTH of us!” sort of way. It always felt genuine, even though you know it was a sell. It was always impressive to see.
I am not one of those people that even knows how that works.
There’s a quote I quite like, by psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, that says: “Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” I like that. It makes a LOT of sense to me. It’s very true for me. I am an introvert, but I want to connect with like-minded (and sometimes different-minded) people. I have no desire to be “famous,” but I’d LOVE to share my work with a lot of people. If you ask my opinion on something, I will tell you everything I feel–until then, I keep it to myself for the most part.
This does not mean I am shy, by any means. I have learned to hold my own in my interactions with complete strangers. I just don’t grow in the spotlight. (I’m a little more like moss that way.)
But from time to time, even though I think I have tooted my own horn a-plenty, I still get asked, “do you sell your artwork?” and “do you have a book/t-shirts/prints?”
I do speak a lot better about something when I’m truly proud of it, or if I truly want to share my opinion. So I thought I’d share a bit about what I feel is awesome, and what I’m proud of. I’m going to tell you what I have for sale, where to find it, and what it’s like…
1. THE BOOK
I am VERY proud of the book we made. Thanks to so many backers on Kickstarter, I was able to put together and print the collection of our collaborations. It tells the story of how our collaborations began, how we do our doodles, and even has some doodle pages you can finish yourself. You can buy copies of “Share With Me” here.
We even had enough funding to print a little animal book of short stories I called “Tail Tales,” which you can buy here.
Both of these books are very near & dear to me. Not only do I think it’s amazing to see all the artwork Myla & I did together, I worked tirelessly putting them together myself, laying them out, sorting the files, and it’s wonderful to see all that work turn into something beautiful in the end.
1. SOCIETY6 ITEMS
When I first posted the “Collaborations” story, I put a few of our collaborations up on Society6. I had seen a friend’s work posted on there, and tried it out myself by ordering one before I ever made the post. Their art prints are beautiful, printed on very nice archival paper. The color is beautiful, and I found them to be a VERY close representation of the original artwork. (First off, let me say that I don’t get any of this stuff for free; I have to pay for it myself, just with only a slight discount.) So I’ll tell you a little more about the other items they offer there:
Their mugs are BEAUTIFUL! The color is excellent, and the printing is so clear. Once, I got a mug that was great except for the signature, and the lower part of the mug, which was completely smeared. I took a photo, sent it to them, and they sent a new one right away. I have a couple that I mostly keep pens & paintbrushes in…
The printing is so cool and clear on them. The big one is BIGGGG. I bring it with me to Myla’s gymnastics class. At first, I felt it was a little TOO big, but the more I use it, it’s just right. It’s one of my favorites to carry around. I initially thought the small one seemed a little TOO small, but actually, I can fit my sketchbook, Ipad, and quite a few other things in there. It’s not bad when you just want to carry a few things around without taking up too much room. (If you promise not to tell, I’ll let you all know that I plan on giving a tote or two as teacher gifts…)
The pillows are nice! We have quite a few of them, thrown all over the house, because I couldn’t decide which ones I wanted. They’re sort of a canvas-y material, and they’re quite stiff at first, but they do soften up after awhile. Myla even uses one to sleep on at night. I changed it out once, thinking it was too rough for her, but she asked for it back once she realized it was gone.
Okay, let me say this. Their t-shirts (at least the three I tried) are SOFT. That being said, I’m not quite as crazy about the printing style they use. It comes looking nearly faded, and I have gotten a few comments about the quality. One of mine was actually stuck to itself, which tore part of the design. When I contacted them, they did give me a full refund. If a faded sort of look and a VERY soft shirt is what you’re looking for, that’s what they’ve got. (I now only offer just a few on Society6).
My favorite t-shirts, however, are on RedBubble…
2. REDBUBBLE ITEMS
I was contacted by RedBubble awhile back to give their store a try. I had gotten many requests like this from a variety of companies, but I had seen quite a few good things come from them. However, since my original “Collaborations” post was already linked to Society 6, I couldn’t just migrate to RedBubble. So I released a few t-shirt options (and at the time, they were the only ones that offered children’s sizes), and an exclusive listing of our ABC animals. I also posted our other animal collaborations there. They have the option of little die-cut stickers, but my favorite thing from them is their t-shirts.
This is Myla in her “Lizapillar” shirt. The shirt itself is a regular, well-fitting shirt, but the design is SO bright and true to our colors. We’ve washed it many times, and it still looks bright and beautiful.
3. MY NEW ETSY SHOP
If you’re looking for a strange, handmade gift, this is where I’m throwing those down. I’ve been having SO much fun making little handpainted resin monster necklaces, monster brooches, and handmade monster puppy dolls.
Also listed is a pretty wide assortment of original artwork. These are drawings and paintings from my own sketchbooks that desperately need a home, and that want to look at you lovingly from a behind a frame on the walls in your house.
…So there it is. Self-promotion. Something I’m not entirely great at, but hopefully you will take it for what it’s worth: me, just wanting to share something with you that I hope you will enjoy. Or that maybe you might think someone else will enjoy. Not in any kind of shady way, but in a “I like this stuff. If you like this stuff, here’s where to find it” sort of way.
Thank you all so much, and have a happy day!
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!)
I grew up on science fiction. My dad was a big sci-fi fan, so when we’d go to the video store (yes, I understand that’s an ancient concept these days), he’d choose anything so long as the cover had space, spaceships, or aliens on it.
I remember seeing Star Wars when I was younger, and collecting figurines and spaceships. Alongside the wooden playhouse my mom designed for us in the backyard of our little house in Oklahoma, my dad built what was meant to be the head of AT-AT.
I remember staying at home with a sitter while my parents saw what they thought was a grownup movie about aliens, only to take my sister and I out the very next night when they realized how good (and kid-appropriate) E.T. was.
I remember one of the very first “grown up” movies I saw was Blade Runner. I was blown away.
So I think it’s fair to say that me & sci-fi go way back. Which is why of COURSE I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not going to review it, or go into in-depth conversations about how it relates to the comics (which I have not read, and don’t really intend to), but it was a fun little movie, and I enjoyed watching it.
What makes a sci-fi movie “real” for me is the characters. I love them, humor, flaws and all. GotG had some great ones, and nearly ALL of them interesting-looking enough to draw (which is why my IG feed has been flooded with all sorts of amazing character sketches from various artists). For me, GotG has a similar campy feel as Fifth Element did, with a sense of humor, and a lot of colorful characters.
So, of course, I couldn’t help but draw a few of ’em, too….
(Don’t worry, I don’t think I’ve got any spoilers here…)
I tend to start off on the beaten path, so one of my favorite characters was Drax the Destroyer, played by WCW’s Dave Bautista (who was so good I forgot he was an athlete-turned-actor). Drax is extremely literal (as am I). I could totally relate to him, as a lifetime of literal misunderstandings have made my own life a bit confusing. He has one of my favorite lines in the movie, saying “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.” I had to get my blue & red ballpoints out and sketch him.
Later, I sketched the character named Yondu (played by Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker) who controls a deadly arrow with his whistles. This one I sketched in ballpoints, and highlighted with acrylics, and I’d just like to say that it was QUITE hard to draw a person whistling. Just sayin’.
I have a couple of characters I’d still like to draw if I don’t run out of steam…like Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and everyone’s beloved Groot. I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by the plethora of inspirational imagery in that movie, so I think a couple more drawings and I’ll be okay.
Guardians of the Galaxy is rated PG-13, so I know a lot of kids went to see it, but aside from the fact that Myla is only five, heavy action understandably frightens her. Sometimes that can be a little challenging, trying to find kid’s shows that have no “bad guys,” and where no one gets hurt and there’s no conflict whatsoever, but I’m also quite okay with her enjoying the simpler things.
So when there are shows that come out where the marketing and products are EVERYWHERE, or other kids are talking about it, I like to tell her the simplified version. Instead of telling her the entire story of GotG, I tell her about the characters, so she still knows what everyone’s talking about, but doesn’t have to actually see the “scary show” herself. And in my doing so, she has developed a love for characters she’d never otherwise see: like Khaleesi, Daleks, and in this case, Rocket and Groot–as has most of the sci-fi world. I show her little video clips of the characters on YouTube sometimes, she asks me questions, and she loves ’em.
So the next time she asked to draw on some heads (as we do), she immediately turned one into Groot, complete with a little leaf on his shoulder.
And seeing Rocket in stores out & about, she asked lots of questions about this little raccoon character. She thought it’d be funny if he had bubbles coming from his gun instead of bullets…
So there ya go. Nothing like a little sci-fi influence for your day!
Inspiration comes in strange places. With the excitement of Austin Wizard Con looming, I have been playing with all kinds of ideas for the table display and the idea of little knick-knacks to show. And since I follow a ton of very talented artists on Instagram, I was inspired by them to try something completely new for me: molding and casting.
So I watched a few videos on YouTube, and now I’m an expert.
I won’t do a full DIY step by step, since I don’t really know what I’m doing and this is all new to me anyway (trust me, this is one of those situations where you have to just jump in and try it). But I’ll give a rough rundown of the basic steps, just to show you what was involved…
Step 1: Sculpt something.
I used Super Sculpey, and tried to come up with a little sculpted version of the mermaid girl Myla & I made. (I realize she looks very little like the original, but Myla said she was cute, so I think it’s okay…) Since kids have a natural magnetic attraction towards clay, I sacrificed a handful of Sculpey and let Myla make her own mermaid. (She modeled her after a character on Doc McStuffins, who is not, in fact, topless–but she couldn’t remember what her top looked like, so she just gave her breasts. I’m not sure if I should put a censored black bar over kid-sculpted breasts? I just go with it)…
Step 2: Make a mold.
I got my kits from a company called Smooth-On (who have TONS of great videos on their site). I won’t give you every little detail on this, since the directions are really easy (and on the box)…but the basic idea is mix This with That and pour. (Plus, if I told you everything, I’d ruin all the messy fun for you.) The main thing I learned during this step: make sure you mix it REALLY well. If you don’t, it doesn’t set right. I made mine from silicone rubber in a plastic cup. I nearly didn’t mix enough for the tail, but it turned out alright.
Step 3: Cut your sculpture out
You know that bit of instructions that you think, “Ah, that’s not a big deal, I’ll just sort of wing it”? Well, turns out sometimes they tell you those little tips for a good reason. When I put my sculpture in the cup to mold it, I forgot to mark on the cup where the back side of her was. So when it was time to open her, and I “guessed,” I guessed wrong, and sort of sliced up her face. The stubby arms were apparently a little too weak for the whole process and broke off. And the body crumbled because I hadn’t fully cooked her. But the mold itself turned out fairly good. And Sculpey can be touched up a bit, so I patched her up and fully cooked her, and she was just fine.
Step 4: Pour plastic/resin into the mold.
The first go-round, I tried a liquid plastic kit from Smooth-On. And along with my repeated advice of making sure you mix everything the right way, I’ll add a couple of pointers I learned: First thing is that it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves. Initially, I gave that bit of advice a big ol’ “Pshhhht, whatever.” But plastic nearly ALWAYS gets on your hands, and it feels super creepy, like when you get superglue on your fingers. Blecch. And later, when I tried pouring resin, I had a bit of a leak in the silicone mold (it was a different mold, and I had two “air holes”), and it leaked hot resin ALLLLLLLLLLL over my work table. Trust me, that’s not fun at ALL. So my bit of advice there? make sure you don’t have a spot in the mold that might leak. And lastly, GIVE IT TIME TO CURE. I’m very impatient. But hot plastic hurts.
Step 5: Plastic mermaids!
So I messed up quite a few mermaids, but after some trial and error, I was able to get a few decent-looking plastic mermaids! Fun! I couldn’t figure out why their faces were bubbly, though, until I looked closely at the mold, and realized that the mold itself had bubbles set into it. Whoops. Later I made a better mold, and made it smaller and on its back, so I wouldn’t waste so much silicone rubber. That helped clear up any bubble issues, and gave me a much clearer mold. Apparently, having her on her back, and pouring the silicone in the corner and letting it sort of “seep” into the face on its own is the big trick with that. (I HAD done that the first time, but she was positioned upside down, and all the details of the face were on the bottom, leaving lots of chances for air to get trapped in there. Whoops.)
Step 6: Paint that junk
I had a little trouble painting on the actual plastic with acrylic paint. (Myla had no complaints.) I even tried a basecoat of brown primer for plastic, but it just didn’t look so great.
Later, after making the bubble-free mold, I tried casting in resin, instead of the plastic…and despite MANY failed attempts (note the mutant mermaid army in the background) I finally got some good ones!
Apparently, again–the trick is very careful mixing. In my very limited experience, I’ve learned that if your mixture is off, it can do all sorts of wonky things to your cast. I haven’t tried painting these resin casts yet (I’ll try that later), but I’ll be sure to post the outcome!
With new projects, there’s always a level of intimidation for me. That casting kit sat in my art room for about 5 months before I actually got the courage to try it. But you know–when you do, it feels awesome to have finally figured it out! Even if you end up with an school of mutated fish-women, you can’t really consider it a failure if you’ve learned something.
So jump in and try something new! I promise, it’s worth it. Wonky mermaids and all.