Kissing the Dragon
They’re called “terrible twos” for a reason.
When Myla was two and her daddy was deployed, we used his R&R from Afghanistan to take a trip to Hawaii, where we were first married. We decided to island-hop, since we knew the islands fairly well…but Hawaii with a toddler was much more difficult than we had anticipated. We did our best to enjoy the islands while escorting (and attempting to entertain) a ferocious little toddler-dragon, ready to explode at any moment with the touch of a hand or a step up a stair. She had been by my side constantly while he was gone, but for most of the trip she clung to Daddy, and suddenly wouldn’t come near me at ALL….until one very special moment that my husband magically caught on camera. She finally let me pick her up and hold her, and I kissed her on her little dragon-nose as she put her arms around my neck.
…And then afterward, she promptly pushed me away. As toddlers do.
Still, it remains one of our favorite photos…a sign of hard-earned affection and unconditional love.
So when CanvasOnTheCheap asked if I’d be interested in trying out one of their canvases, I finally decided on the magical photo of the special time when I dared to kiss a baby dragon on the nose.
I get offers of things from time to time, and I often refuse them, but I was interested in giving this one a try–I had seen versions of these before, but when this one arrived (and it arrived VERY quickly after I ordered it), it was quite lovely.
I chose the simplest options, and yet it came with a wall mount bracket, supported by an internal frame to keep its shape.
I debated on leaving it plain, as it was so lovely on its own, but leaving things plain just isn’t my style. So after a little thought, I decided this one needed an Imaginary Friend.
I started by using a snarling fox reference, and freehanded a little furry girl behind us. I was going for a “luck-dragon” sort of vibe, but with just a hint of the toddler-terror bubbling just below the surface. I wanted her to be cranky, but not feral.
I used acrylic paints, and just brushed the basic shape down with some rough shading after I got a bit of detail in the face… I went with plain greys and whites so as not to compete too much with the color of the canvas.
Painting wispy hairs is one of my favorite things to paint, and the more I added, the more personality and tension it seemed to give her.
And there it is! My lovely printed canvas from CanvasOnTheCheap, mixed in with an imaginary dragon. And it makes me smile.
The great thing, is that they gave me a canvas offer to give away for FREE! So–if it’s your thing–head over to my Instagram page, where I have instructions for how to enter the giveaway of a CanvasOnTheCheap photo of your choice on the post of this photo. We’ll choose the winner from that post, so if you’d like to enter, be sure to enter there! I may let Myla pick the winner by random…because she WAS the baby dragon, after all…. 🙂
On a side note: it’s been a while since I’ve posted! We’ve had some big life changes–my day job as a distance graphic artist has advanced into an in-office Marketing / Graphics position, and we moved up to Missouri to be there for it. I’ll still post here, but only when I can, when it doesn’t feel too stressful. It’s a big change for sure, but it feels like a good thing. Maybe not a “finally kissing a baby dragon on the nose” good, but very good nonetheless. 🙂
When we first moved into our Texas house, I asked Myla (who was 3 years old at the time) what she wanted her new room to look like. All she said was “green and pink dinosaurs.” So that’s what we did. And although her room has changed a little over the years (mostly, getting filled to capacity with stuffed animals and art projects), the little hanging pteranadon I made from cardboard still hangs in the corner by her bed.
On weekends, we do a lot of art projects, so recently, Myla and I decided to make our own hanging fliers. I had a sheet of foam core (but cardboard works too), tape, markers, and an xacto blade. And aside from a bit of string, that’s pretty much all you need.
We started by drawing our creatures onto the foam core with pen. The wings took a little help, as I was planning on having them slide through a slot in its upper back. If you’re not up for that, you can just do half a wing, flip it over, and trace the other side, and just tape it to the body. But not a lot of precision is required, really.
I took on the Xacto cutting myself, as I really didn’t feel like taking Myla to the E.R. for slicing her little kid-fingers off (keeping in mind that I might risk doing the same to my adult-fingers–I am quite clumsy). Once the creature was cut out, I gave it to her to draw on the other side, so her creature would be visible from all angles.
While she decorated the back side of her dragon, I hurriedly cut out the mockingbird I’d drawn, and hastily colored the flip side of mine (because she is a kid and works three times as fast as I do).
Next, we put their wings through the slots, and taped them down. BOOM–our own creature fliers!
Here’s my finished chubby mockingbird, which I can then tape a piece of string to and hang from wherever I like.
And here it is with Myla’s dragon…
You can also make little fliers on a much smaller scale…While digging through old blog photos, I found this little project from ages ago, where we had made tiny palm-sized fliers one weekend, just using cardstock, scissors, and tape.
So there you go! If you’re looking for a quick & easy project to do with the kid (or to do for your own room), they’re fun and don’t require a big supply list. You could even use old box cardboard from the recycling bin (which is what I did with the pteranadon).
So play around and see what you come up with! And if you do, please show me on our Facebook page!
Recently, I was contacted by Education.com, asking if we’d be interested in trying out one of their many learning projects… They sent us one called “homemade airplane,” which is an airplane made from a hanger, that can “fly” on a zipline….and it looked like a pretty fun project with a fairly small supply list, so I decided to give it a try.
…Of course, we always have to add our little spin. So when I introduced the idea to Myla, she instantly wanted to make it into a dragon instead. WHOOPS okay, that’s fine, we can work with that. So here’s basically how we did the project:
1. Find a wire hanger. This proved to be quite a difficult task, as we apparently threw out all of our wire hangers in a fit of rage one day, but I found ONE hiding in the back of my closet, behind some party dresses I’ve never worn.
2. Bend the wire handle into a loop, and be sure it’s closed, as this will be what it slides down on the zipline.
(This is where I noticed that the bottom of my hanger was only connected by a wonky weak little cardboard tube which broke not long after I touched it, so I bent it into a different shape altogether, and Myla taped it together because scotch tape solves all of her problems.)
3. Trace it onto paper & cut out two. Whatever your shape is, trace it onto a folded sheet of paper so you have a front and a back.
4. Decorate it. While I hot-glued the bent-up hanger onto the back side of the paper, Myla decorated the front.
So now he looked like this:
…which she said looked ridiculously duck-like, and decided she needed to give him some head-fins.
5. Hot glue that junk. Glue it all to the hanger. Myla added the head-fins, wings, and a tail to hers.
And BOOM this is the final dragon. Pretty cool! And aside from the gluing, she pretty much did it herself.
So here’s where it springs to life.
6. Get some fishing line…or other such thin thread. The instructions said “fishing line,” but despite my massive craft resources, I couldn’t seem to find any, and decided to give this very thin thread a try. Pin it between two walls with pushpins, and BOOM you have a flying dragon, ready to decimate battlefields and lay waste to various enemies.
…Or, just fly around a corner of your room looking cool.
So there it is! Education.com has lots of other fun learning activities on their site, and I think a free sign-up gets you lots more access.
So have fun storming the castle!
(Side note: “Dracarys” is the command that the Mother of Dragons–Daenerys Targaryen, from Game of Thrones–gives her dragon Drogon, that compels him respond by shooting flames from his mouth, destroying her enemies. So, that’s nice.)
Little Dragon Warrior
I’ve been drawing and painting our daughter Myla for a long time. I was intimidated at first, but she quickly became my favorite subject.
I was looking back at some of my artwork featuring her, and noticed how it’s changed as much as she has over the years.
My first of her was this one, where I armed her in a gentle pink dress-up dress, with Han’s holster, Leia’s belt, Wonder Woman’s lasso, and She-Ra’s sword, surrounded by some of her very first drawings of “monsters.” She’s ready for the world, ready to face whatever’s coming with a soft smile. I’ve wanted this for her since she was born.
Soon, my drawings of her (most of them eventually turning into collaborations with her) centered around imaginary creatures, unusual monsters, and just all the make believe things that made her smile.
I also enjoyed illustrating the wonderful things she said.
I began taking photos of her, and adding all kinds of creatures to them, trying to capture a tiny glimpse of the magical world that might be in her mind, and celebrate the magic of being such a creative kid.
And as she got out into the world a little more, I felt this strong urge to teach her to enjoy all the creative weirdness that makes her so wonderful. To never be ashamed of being who she is, and to be proud of being creative and different. I felt a pang of pride the day she told me how a kid at school called her a “weirdo,” and she confidently said, “thank you!”
The more she had conflict, the more I wanted her to meet those monsters if she must, and make friends with them, instead of fearing them. I want her to be comfortable enough with herself to know who she is when she goes up against them.
I want to protect her heart from harsh arrows, and keep her kind but strong–a tough balance for anyone, I know.
I see her as such a magical little creature, and in my desire to protect her and teach her to protect herself, I began arming her in my artwork with horns and armor.
One day, an image came to me so strongly that I had to put it on paper. She’s been faced with her own obstacles recently, and I have been discussing them with her, so she can better understand how she works, and not be afraid or feel bad about it. And although I saw a slight nervousness in her, I was so impressed that she just accepted it all, and mentally prepared herself for the battle.
I want her to know that everyone struggles. EVERYONE. There’s not a person you see that’s not facing SOME sort of issue at this very moment. You can’t let it knock you down forever. You have to find ways around it–whatever it may be–and keep on going. Whatever that struggle is, it doesn’t have to be the only thing in the definition of who you are...it can simply be a side note.
She doesn’t have to be the kid who–despite having elaborate and complex stories in her mind–has trouble writing letters or remembering instructions. She doesn’t have to just be the kid whose energy and excitement keep her from holding still in class. Those things don’t have to be the only things that define her.
She is the kid whose creativity knows no bounds; whose mind is overflowing with amazingly creative ideas–so much that it’s sometimes a little distracting for her. She has quiet moments, too, and can spend hours patiently drawing or working on detailed art projects. This is the kid who can remember things from years ago in full detail. Who is extremely empathetic. Who can make friends with anyone. Who says “have a great day!” when she leaves a store. Who creates complicated board games and makes three-dimensional, fully posable creatures out of construction paper and tape. Who is goofy, and will do pretty much anything for a laugh. Who surprises me sometimes with the depth of her thoughts.
I wanted her to see the kind, strong warrior I see.
She posed for a few reference photos for me, and I started sketching. I saw determination in her eyes. I filled her armor with dragons, because sometimes you can turn monsters into friends.
She saw me working on it one day, and although I hadn’t planned it as a collaboration (I just had the basic image in my mind, I wasn’t sure what else to do with it, really), I thought it was a perfect opportunity for her to add her own creatures to it. To draw out those little demons and give them faces.
I told her a little about my idea, and the image I saw in my mind. She came up with the concept of drawing demons (the enemy) and dragons (her friends). Some of the demons she created had names like Fear, Jealousy, Pain, and Chains. The dragons had names like Kindness, Humor, Bravery, Energy (a negative into a positive!), Peace, and Strength. I added a few leaves to the background to give it a setting, and went on my way…
I start with a thin layer of turquoise acrylic on top of my ballpoint pen drawing on the skin areas. The turquoise gives the skin a little depth, I think, and I build up thicker layers of acrylic on top so it becomes more opaque.
And after a lot of work and a TON of time, I think she’s finished. And I think it says what I wanted it to say.
Everyone’s got struggles. You don’t have to be completely fearless–they can scare you a little–but you’ve got to get past the fear, and adapt and overcome by facing it head-on. Don’t let it get in the way of whatever it is you want to do. In your struggle, you might feel like you’re not coping or handling things as well as other people might. It really helps, I think, to know other people are dealing with things the best they can, too. Make friends with your monsters. Learn to live with them. Don’t give up.