How We Doodle
Apparently, a lot of new people have joined our little campfire. I’d like to say “Welcome!” Come have a seat!
I’ve been getting a ton of new questions about how the kid & I doodle our little doodles. I’ll start off by saying this didn’t begin intentionally. I didn’t plan this out. As I described in the post, my “art life” was very separate from my “mom life,” and that’s how I thought it had to be. When our daughter first hovered over my sketchbook & asked to draw on one of my drawings, it was a lesson in letting go for me, and allowing her to be a part of something I have always been very passionate about.
But based on the comments I get on external blogs (probably because they don’t always link back to my original post, which describes the experience), I think some people misunderstand the process. Or maybe they don’t. In any case, I thought it’d be fun to walk you all through one of the pieces we did. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas to doing it yourself!
First off, I love drawing from old black & white movie stills. For some reason, the far-off looks, the black & white imagery–I don’t know why, but I could draw those all day. I like playing with the shapes, changing them a little, slightly altering them, and sort of abstracting the shading a bit. I work in ballpoint pen (because I love it, and I’ve used it over the years and years and years). This time, I worked from a picture of Bette Davis. Probably this one.
(Now the very first time, this was as far as I had gotten before my daughter asked to “help.” Later, I started just drawing faces & heads because she kept asking for them. Plus, that’s my favorite part to draw anyway. So when she asks to “draw the body,” I choose to let her.)
I’m always curious what she’s going to draw. I can give her ideas, but she usually will decide what it’s going to be AS she’s drawing it. This was quite nerve-wracking for me in the beginning. It was HARD to let someone take something you worked on into a completely different direction. Did I always handle it with grace? No. When she drew lines across the faces of some of them, I silently clenched my teeth, did a mental gasp, and squinted my eyes. But you know what? It all turns out fine in the end.
For this one, she drew this funky crescent-shaped body, and said, “She’s a slug.” Um. Okay. You turned her into a SLUG?! Some of the ones we had done were easy to collaborate on…a dinosaur, a bird, a dragon. But a SLUG? I kept any judgement to myself, and instead, decided to laugh with her about the lady with the slug body.
Thankfully, I’m always up for a challenge. And over time, doing these doodles with our daughter, I often think of my part as translating her ideas to make sense to grownups. It’s a fun challenge to try to figure out a way to make her kid-doodle potentially exist in a 2-D environment. For those curious as to who did what, the basic idea is always hers. She did the body, the antennae, the flower, and the sunshine on this one. Nowadays, she even gives me guidelines: “Don’t forget, mama–her wings should be BLUE.” Or, “That’s not a cracker, she’s holding BREAD. Could you please make sure you color it to look like bread?” In the end, we’re both always pretty surprised at the result.
So after she decides what it’s going to be and does her doodles, I do my part. I color in with markers (sometimes she helps).
I used to use plain ol’ Sharpies for base color, until Jerry’s Artarama sent me a HUGE box set of my favorite Prismacolor brush-tips. (big shout out to Jerry’s! Woohoo!) So these days, when I get to this step, I use those instead, and I love love LOVE the color blending you can get with them.
I add some white highlights with acrylic paint or sometimes watercolor.
Now’s the fun part. How the heck to make this look like a slug, as opposed to a random, crescent-shaped doodle? I looked up some slug references, and did the best I could to fit those patterns into the shape she had drawn. I think the little “lip” underneath is what finally made it feel more “real.”
A little more acrylic for the background. I added a little hopscotch grid to sort of put her in some sort of context. I don’t know why, it just felt right. And because plain ol’ grass gets boring. I did a little fine-tuning to bring the lines back with ballpoint pen. Often, I go back over the lines she and I both already made, to bring them out a little more.
And there you go! I called it “Slugs Need Hugs.” One time, playing outside, my daughter said it would be hard to try to give a slug a hug. When I finished this one, I felt a little bad for the little slug lady, trying to play hopscotch, while most likely being unable to perform the required “hopping.” She seemed in need of a hug.
As for any meaning or symbolism in using Bette Davis and then drawing a slug? There is none. AT ALL. I just like to draw faces. She just felt like drawing a slug. I usually alter them enough that I don’t always remember who they started out as.
As for my daughter’s drawing skills? I understand that I’m her mother and I while I can see all the beautiful, wonderful magic in the way she draws (and while her teachers have commented on how focused and detailed she is at drawing), I am the first to admit that maybe her drawings themselves aren’t particularly masterful. But, you know?–for that matter, neither are mine. Anyone focusing on that aspect is sort of missing the point.
So what IS the point? To me, it’s about enjoying the experience more than the end result. It’s about combining the “internal” life of an artist with the “external” life of a parent. It’s about helping your kids express themselves without limitations. It’s about sharing your passion with someone else. It’s about taking that thing you love and placing it in someone else’s hands, and trusting that everything will be okay.
For those who have never heard of it, “exquisite corpse” is a surrealist game played with either words or drawings, in which several artist collaborate on a piece by only being able to see the tail end of what the previous person contributed.
When I did the collaborations with my 4-year, a few people commented that it reminded them of the “exquisite corpse” game, in having to elaborate and expand on someone else’s work.
By chance, a coordinator with Exquisite Corpse Festival contacted me about doing a page for a potential comic book idea with the same premise–picking up where the previous person left off, and elaborating on it. They thought the idea of me working with my daughter fit in well with the project, and might make for an interesting page. I thought it sounded fun.
When the time came, I was surprised to get not a drawing to elaborate on, but a snip of text. It was something that sounded like a large creature confessing to a therapist of some sort. …And that was it. I had no idea what this creature was supposed to look like or anything. No clue of what had happened before it.
So I started by just drawing a dragon head. I tried to make him sort of expressive…if he was confessing his tale, he’d probably be pretty personable, right? I wanted to make him very “foresty” (maybe just because it’s autumn, and I wanted to use the colors), but that’s about as far as I got. I wasn’t sure WHAT to do with him next.
I showed our daughter. It was strange–it’s nothing at all like what we usually do. But we love experimenting and having fun drawing together, so I was sure she’d come up with something cool.
Sure enough, she drew a big circle body and looked at it for a minute. Then she added some zigzag lines. He was in an egg. “He’s hatching!” she said. And certainly, he was. Awesome! I decided for my part, to have him telling a story about an “awkward phase” he had gone through. That way, it didn’t matter WHAT he looked like in previous pages. Pretty unintentionally clever, kiddo…!
Now, we’ve been playing around drawing monsters, which are quite fun. We’ll see what comes of it. After all, it’s all just one big surrealist experiment, right?
(What looks like a pink arm on this red & blue one is actually…um…an udder? Apparently, they just learned about milking cows at preschool.)
(This little purple fella is combing his beard)