A million years ago, when Myla was four years old, we bought a plastic pumpkin (because the husband was deployed, and I didn’t have the energy to scoop the guts out of a real one). I got out the permanent markers like a good mom (ahem), and let my daughter go to town on it.
I drew a face on it to get her started, thinking she could add things to it. Instead of adding features to the face itself, she drew characters (mostly Batman–her favorite at the time). Which was still pretty cool.
This year (because I just don’t like the mess of a real pumpkin), we were looking at Halloween decorations, and instead of buying a new one, I went back to this old pumpkin, made sure I had a bunch of photos of it, and then painted right over it with acrylic paint.
And once again, we sat down outside with our markers in the warm autumn…sunshine (this is Texas, y’all), and filled it with all sorts of Halloween goodness. I thought this time, we’d draw characters that I could paint with more detail later (which Myla thinks is sort of like magic).
Once it was done, I used my acrylic paints to give it some quick paint detail. It’s a pumpkin, so I didn’t go TOO crazy with detail, but I had fun making the little doodles we drew come to life. (MWHAHAHAH! IT’S ALIIIIVE!!!)
It occurred to me that there was a pretty empty area to fill, and instead of drawing something new, I filled it with a quick lighting bolt, which is SUPER easy, and I’ll tell you how to do it, “step to step” (as Myla used to say).
Step 1: Draw a big ol’ wiggly line that takes up the area you want to fill. Step 2: Add another big ol’ wiggly line if the area is a wonky shape. (It doesn’t matter too much what it looks like–it’ll look fine when it’s done.)
Step 3: Draw wiggly lines coming OFF of your wiggly lines in random places, to fill out the wonky space. End the line in a sort of “branch” Y or V shape (depending on how you see it). Step 4: Keep adding little wiggly lines off of your wiggly lines. It doesn’t look great close up, but from a distance, people will get the idea. and BOOM! You’ve got lightning!
And it filled out the blank spaces in our pumpkin pretty well. Other space-fillers included spirals, rays coming off of the character, and spiderwebs….
(Myla later asked me why her skeleton was on a target…I was actually going for a sort of Twilight Zone-ish sort of spiral, but I guess a target is sort of spooky too, right? RIGHT?)
And there it is! You’ll notice my drawings are pretty indistinguishable from my 8-year old’s, despite my being a grownup, not to mention a fairly experienced illustrator. This is because Myla draws fast, and I have to draw fast to keep up with her. Which is why my “zombie” looks sort of like a green potato waving hello. That’s how I roll sometimes.
But the important thing is, we made a memory! We spent time doing something fun together without some grandiose end plan. Sure, we didn’t get pumpkin goo all over our hands, and we didn’t have to watch it decompose and liquify into slime this whole upcoming month, but we had fun drawing on our plastic pumpkin together, and we have a pretty cool keepsake for awhile now. And that’s totally okay, too.
By the way, if you’re into it, the kid and I will be participating in our own version of Inktober: drawing a spooky thing every day for the whole month of October. You can join us, and post your own thing on your own pages, too. No one wins any awards or anything, it’s just for fun to see if we can do it. We tried last year as well, but failed. We only really succeeded a couple years back–and you can see all our 2015 Inktober drawings HERE.
Happy upcoming October, everyone!
We’re out and about this week, so I thought I’d just give you a little peek into our holiday…
The Fourth of July usually means we take the 8-hour drive to go to my parents’ house in Oklahoma. It’s a lovely place on the lake, previously owned by my mom’s mom–Grandma Mary, and my memories of this place stretch back as far as I can remember–we’ve always been here. As a kid, finding cicadas in the trees, walking through the woods, and exploring the dam, finding frogs by the rocks, and being warned of water moccasins in the murky water. Crawdads and catfish. Good times.
When my grandmother passed away a couple of years ago, my parents were thankfully able to buy the house, and moved from a 3-level house in bustling Maryland to the tiny 1-story house on the lake. They downsized, they remodeled, they added and altered, but it still has that happy feeling.
So my sister drives the 20-plus hours to visit, and we’re stationed 8 hours away in Texas, and we all meet up at the lake. And we try to do all the things we loved as a kid, just a taste, and then some new things to add to the mix.
My uncle takes us for a ride on his boat, and we look at the fancy villas and wonder which house we’d choose if we had a billion dollars to spare.
The family plays out in the lake. I usually stay on the sidelines, keeping my pale white skin out of the sun, doodling, and throwing sticks in the water for our dog to bring them back. Sometimes I join in, but mostly I love to watch and listen. It’s my favorite thing.
And admittedly, my face is in my sketchbook a lot of the time, but I can’t help it–I love listening to everything. When grandma was alive, my husband could pull stories from her that I’d never have even thought to ask, and I’d sketch and listen, afraid to ruin the flow, and it was my very favorite thing. I always wished I could get her to tell stories like he could, but I’m so grateful I got to hear them nonetheless.
We weren’t allowed to play with fireworks much (beyond sparklers and snakes) when I was younger, and probably for good reason. The one time my dad let me try at about Myla’s age now, I got burned across the chest by an errant wonky bottle rocket. So there’s that. But my sister is always careful now to buy the little ones, the fun ones that Myla can join in on, and a few fancy bigger ones, and we sit by the lake popping little fireworks.
Because we lead a fairly nomadic army life now, I don’t always get to be this close to my family (if 8 hours is “close”), so I’m grateful for the time we have. I’d love to visit all the other family, but I’ll take what we can get. We’re used to being far from friends and family. My husband is still deployed, but heading back soon, thankfully. It’s not easy, but it’s life…so when we have it within visiting distance, it’s definitely worth the trip.
Gratitude and love and good memories. What do your 4th memories look like? Where are your happy places?
The end of the year is here, and for our family, that means a little time with family for Christmas. Since the husband’s deployed, I’m going to count myself lucky enough that we at least have some extended family close enough to visit for the holidays.
The end of the year always gets me thinking a little about the year behind me. This was a bit of a bumpy year for our family, but all told–it really could have been SO MUCH WORSE. I really don’t consider myself an eternal optimist (I call myself an “optimistic pessimist”), but whenever I’m low, I try my hardest to look around for the good things, no matter how small, and if you really take the time to look, they’re all around you. The fact that you’re even breathing is just ONE small gift. It helps to stop and get some perspective on that now and then.
Myla and I have done so many projects and drawings and activities this past year, it wonderful to stop & look at it all over. Sometimes, during my day, I actually stop and look around, and take a minute to enjoy the things around me–paintings we’ve done, sculptures done by friends, artwork from others, cards, books, dolls, toys, and little cutout scraps of paper from Myla’s crafts. I’m grateful for all of it.
This next year, I plan to continue creating. Maybe doing more shows (I’ve got my eye on you, Designer Con!). Maybe doing more custom pieces. Who know what the next year will bring?!
I’ve been flipping through pictures of older portraits I’ve done, and I’m inspired again by some past work–especially in these machine-stitched portraits I used to do. Maybe I’ll do more of those, and offer customs….
In any case, I know it sounds goofy, but I truly am grateful for everything. In the darkest times, in the happiest times, I’m grateful for everything I have, everyone I know, everything I can do. I’m glad for the very good friends I have, even if they’re always far away on the map. I’m glad for the support of my husband, even from thousands of miles away. And I’m glad for YOU! For the fact that you’re even reading this!
I don’t like to set resolutions at the new year (to me, resolutions are for whenever you want to make them)…but I’m looking at a goal this next year of trying to figure out how to maybe have these doodles or sculptures or whatever it is that we do, do some good in the world. I’m not quite sure how. I’m still working on that. There are still a lot of changes to make, and I’m ready to see what sorts of transformations this new year will make.
Being a military family, we’re exposed to so much variety–we have such diversity in our lives that we can celebrate so many types of people around us, no matter what their gender, their politics, their lifestyle, because when you break it down, we’re all just people. (Remember that guy in Muppets Take Manhattan? He said,”peoples is peoples.”)
The important thing is that we CAN be different. We CAN show small kindnesses to one another, despite our differences. I want to make sure we share that, and spread it around a little. You might not be able to change the world all at once, but if you can do some good for someone, that kindness is absolutely contagious.
So I’ll leave you with a little drawing Myla did of our family, in a card she sent to her dad. Here’s wishing you all great things for the new year!!!
It happens. I understand. Things get hectic, and you inevitably forget someone on your gift list. And the teachers! What about the teachers?!? Well, I have a habit of making many of my gifts myself (when time permits), and have learned a few pointers that will help you give them a personal touch, even if time is running out.
1. Something Wooden. In any craft store or section, there’s usually a decent selection of random wooden things. Grab a sharpie, get to doodling, then spray it with gloss varnish to set it.
If you’ve got a little more time, you can paint it in a little more detail with acrylics, or decoupage some little graphics onto it. Doodle some final touches with a permanent marker or paint pens, and you’re good to go!
Got a new baby in town that you need a creative gift for? Give your kid free reign with some permanent markers (hey–be careful with those!) on a package of plain onesies and it makes a cute (and wearable) keepsake. (These are ones our daughter did for her new baby cousin.)
You could also personalize it with some iron-on transfers or shapes you made yourself…(I did a blog post about it ages ago).
3. Embroidery Hoop T-shirt Art. SUPER easy. Take some favorite old “retired” t-shirts, cut ’em up, and stretch them across some embroidery hoops to hang on the wall. Voila! Fancy wall art!
4. Cup Cozy. With some iron-on appliques or your own brand of embroidery work, a quick little cup cozy is a nice touch around the office (at least, I hope my manager thinks so). They even have pre-made base parts in some crafty places. Wrap it around a reuseable coffee cup with a button hook or velcro, and toss in a gift card, or a few packets of tea.
5. Shrinky Jewelry. A good gift for a loved one. We love shrinky art. But what do you do with all those wonderful little doodles? You can make these doodle chimes. Or drill some tiny holes in them and hook them up to a ready-made charm bracelet.
6. A Quick Little Doll. I’m not sure, but most kids like dolls, don’t they? Mine does. If you’re skilled with the sewing of things, a quick little doll can be made with a little bit of fabric and some easy shapes. I made this little brachiosaurus in just a couple of hours. I probably wouldn’t turn to me if I needed help with the basics of sewing, but if you can handle your own, this is a quick & easy gift to make that kids should like.
7. Drill a Hole in a Dinosaur. Okay, I found this on Pinterest somewhere. I got an inexpensive little plastic dinosaur toy & used my Dremel tool to cut his back out, filled him with dirt and put a little mint plant inside. Easy peasy!
8. Turn a Watch into a Locket. Got a little more time? Find a used watch or order a cute crafty-looking one. Take the back apart (just go with it–I had to experiment myself) and replace all the guts with a cute little photo of your intended person’s family, pet, or special something-or-other.
9. Something Edible. If baking’s your thing, you could make all kinds of fantastic, wonderful, edible things. I’m not so good at that sort of thing, but I know an edible thing is nearly always appreciated (as long as you’re aware of someone’s possible allergies or food restrictions). This is an owl cake I made for our daughter’s 3rd birthday. Okay, I’m not suggesting you make someone a full-on CAKE, but if baking is your thing, I’m sure you already have ALL sorts of wonderful, edible ideas. We made cookies for the local firefighters, and they were so happy to have us stop by, that they didn’t even notice (or care) that I pretty much stink at making decent cookies.
10. Fill Up A Cup. This is an easy go-to I like to do for teachers or friends. Find a cute cup (OH! Look! This one happens to be from the shop of our collaboration doodles! Um. Yeah, a lot of people might be seeing those for Christmas this year…). Anyway, fill up the cup with a handful of chocolate kisses or candies, a pen and a notepad, and show your teacher how much you appreciate them!
So there you have it! Just a few little easy ideas for some last-minute gifts. I hope it helps if you’re in a pinch. I know most of my friends and family have personally already seen half the things on this list, or gotten them as gifts already. If not….well….Keep an eye out, you’ll probably see them THIS year, too. Not because I waited til the last minute….but BECAUSE I CARE! 🙂
And since I’ll be out of the loop and full of all kinds of good cheer next week, here’s wishing you all happy holidays, everyone! And my fingers crossed for another very happy new year…