I’ve had my daughter come up with doll ideas in the past that have been fairly complicated, and required a great deal of my attention. But a few days ago, in an attempt to keep her occupied in something creative (rather than vegging out on her Ipad), I suggested she DRAW her own simple pillow-dolls.
“I can DO that?!?” She questioned. Of course! And the best part is, it takes minimal mom-effort. 🙂
I started with a bolt of inexpensive off-white muslin fabric I had. I have no recollection of how I obtained this fabric (I think my mom once sent it to me), but it’s been around a long, long, time, and I use it for EVERYTHING.
I grabbed our bag of permanent markers, and told her she could draw away, keeping in mind that it had to have a seam around it, preferably simpler than the drawing, to make sewing easier and more sturdy.
Once she did that, I took her to the sewing machine, where I had her help guide the fabric (she’s still learning to use it herself), and with the fabric doubled over, we just stitched all around the outline, leaving a gap on the leg to stuff it.
I figured this would be much easier than dealing with flipping a doll inside out, as you do with more detailed works, and this was VERY exciting to her. We cut out the doll around the stitching (see the gap in her leg? That’s where we stuff), stuffed her, and then completed the stitching with the machine.
She was SO excited! You’d think we’d never made dolls before. “Why didn’t you ever TELL me we could do this??” she asked excitedly. I reminded her that I had tried to get her to do this MANY TIMES over the years, but she always had WAY more complicated things in mind. Anyway, apparently times had changed, and she was enthralled, immediately sitting down to draw more.
And they were lovely! She said she wanted to call them “SweetKitties,” and asked if she could put them up for sale in my Etsy shop for $5 each. I had intended to offer them here, but surprisingly, they sold out within an hour of posting them!
I am so grateful to have so many sweet and generous people that read our blog pages and social media supporting our art, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you reading these words right now. Her excitement that someone actually bought her SweetKitty dolls was thrilling. She helped me package them up, even making little “adoption cards” for each of them (like I do with my Dream Creepers).
Someone suggested she should put catnip in them so their cats could carry them around, but she worried that a cat would tear them up. She says she’ll make more (because people so kindly asked if she would), but as kids don’t always have the attention span for dedicated business, we’ll see how it goes!
In any case, it was heartwarming to see so many people be so encouraging and supportive towards and 8-year old kid. I had initially made this post to share the simplicity of making fun & easy dolls with kids, but it really truly was endearing.
In any case, if you don’t sew, you could always do what our stuffed animal-loving kid did before this most recent project: make the front and backs out of regular ol’ paper, stuff them with wadded up scrap paper (or toilet paper) and tape all around the edges. BOOM–instant doll!
So make something fun, and easy, and get those kids CREATING!
I love when people decorate for holidays, I do. But EVERY DAY, we drive down the only road to the elementary school, and pass by what the kid and I refer to as “the Gore House.” No simple pumpkins or ghosts or skeletons here. This guy goes all out: customized with expanding spray foam painted blood-red, he FILLS his yard full with buckets of fake guts being poured onto a table, where plastic ravens eat them. There’s a full-size BBQ grill full of guts and fake bloody intestines, and something called “The doll house” (thanks to the giant wooden structure over his front door) with “dead babies” hanging from it. Fake bloody. There are disemboweled mock people, positioned into torturous poses, others getting electrocuted with their foam guts hanging out. This assault on my eyeballs, goodness sake! I mean, it’s his house, and he’s got a right to decorate it I guess. Myla always asks me to tell her when the house is coming up so she can turn her head.
Maybe I’m all sensitive now that I’m older, but gore is not Halloween to me. I mean, I guess in a way it is, but…seriously? On the only road to an elementary school? I don’t know. No, it doesn’t have to be all cute and fluffy, but DANG.
SOooo that being said, the kid has slowly come to enjoy the fun spookiness of getting lightly scared at the Spirit store by things that jump and pop up. Funny stuff. I thought it’d be fun last time we went to let her pick out a couple of prosthetics and see what she’d do if I let her just go crazy making me into something else.
She excitedly picked out some horns and an eyeball. Her goal? “To scare daddy right out of his pants!”
So apologies if this post is heavy with selfies, but I was trying to get good pics of what she was doing, because she learned so much. And she learned about spirit gum, and how you can use it to attach things to your skin.
She carefully did her best to make it “realistic,” as if I just sort of grew these horns straight outta my face. (We always use Snazaroo facepaints, because we both have sensitive skin, and I learned early on that it was the only one that didn’t break us both out in a rash.)
I helped a little around the eyes, and Myla did her best to make it as scary as her lil 8-year old mind could, saying “Daddy is going to be SOOOO scared!!” (…Considering my husband isn’t at ALL a fan of horror, her goal wasn’t exactly unrealistic…)
So there it is! Easy and fun, for any kid to do! Now’s a fun time, because those little Spirit Halloween stores have so much to play with. It doesn’t have to be much–I think both of these pieces cost around $7, and the fun we had making a monster was worth it.
Incidentally, I didn’t exactly scare the pants off Daddy (although he did say I looked terrifying), but he did get a good laugh out of it…
Especially when she asked if I could do the same to her, and I let her tell me where to put everything…She did her own makeup on this one, too…
So, yeah, a little paint-on blood? I can see that. I’m not a nun or anything. But this is about as gross as we get.
What are you all doing for Halloween? Does Halloween mean gore and guts to you? Or just spooky fun?
This week, while we waited for night to set in and the fireworks to start, Myla (she’s 8 years old now) asked if she could draw in my sketchbook. Along with the other doodles she found, she saw a portrait I had started of our Boston Terrier, Adie, and asked if she could finish it.
Dang. I was having fun drawing Adie! But I don’t mind, obviously. She asked if I was using my imagination to draw, and I told her I had started by looking at a photo of Adie. She was very interested in that. “Can I finish the drawing, and use the photo to look at, too?”
And very carefully, she looked at the photo, doing her 8-year old best to copy what she saw. I mean, look at that little chest wrinkle!! EEE, it’s so cute!
I told her that when you look at a picture to draw from it, it was called a “reference,” and that nearly EVERY artist uses references. She was hooked, and asked if she could draw our boxer, Scout.
So cute! She was fascinated to know that things don’t always look like what you THINK they look like–dog noses aren’t always little triangles, for example. We talked about how that’s part of the fun of drawing from a reference, is to follow the photo to get it to look like what you see rather than what you THINK you see.
Several times, people will ask me if I use references in my artwork, or if I draw it all from my imagination, and I tell them all the same thing: I don’t think I know a single artist that doesn’t at least START with references. The fun part after that, is changing things around to make it your own.
She took this little pug, and made him waving his paw…
She drew a tiger from a photo, and then added her own rabbit (without a reference) who is saying, “I don’t want any of your nonsense.” 🙂
References have always been a jumping-off point for artists, and while some artists strive to make their artwork photorealistic and EXACTLY like their reference, most only use them to piece together an idea they already have in their head.
Myla even gave that a try, asking if I could show her the Alien she had seen somewhere (she’s never seen the movie of course, but I think they reference the queen alien in one of her goat simulator Ipad games).
She asked if I’d show her references for the queen alien, and then drew the alien having lunch, while I told her the story of the entire movie. She asked if there were other aliens, and then added the Facehugger sitting across the table, and the Chestburster popping out of someone nearby (how embarrassing!).
Humor is definitely a driving factor in this kid.
If you were to browse the photos on my phone at any given time, you’d find tons and TONS of references–everything from movie characters, artists, animals, plants, flowers, and of course, TONS of photos of my favorite person to draw: Myla (thankfully, this doesn’t embarrass her yet, and she actually likes it. She said the other day, “I really love that you love to draw me.”). I have folders in my photos of beasties (animals to draw from), movie characters, Twilight Zone screenshots, plants, faces, you name it. Whenever I want to draw, I just scroll through my phone, and I’m never at a loss for something to play around with.
I use references to draw from ALL the time, and it’s perfectly okay to do. I swear, when I was younger, I thought it was considered cheating. But how else would you learn how to draw without looking at something?
The tricky part is that of course there are some rules–if you straight up copy someone else’s photograph, it’s perfectly fine, and a great way to learn; you just need to acknowledge the reference source, or tag the person if you post it. But if it’s YOUR photo, or you only use the photo as your jumping off point and change it up a lot to become your own new thing, it’s absolutely fine! (You could go into a LOT more detail on this, of course, but those are the basics, because that’s a whole other discussion.)
On our long drive home the other day, I wanted to draw, and fought the bumpy road to doodle a photo I had of Myla, and turned her into a little mossy fairy forest sprite creature.
Later, I painted her in watercolors, all mossy and brown. I’m not done with her yet, but it’s a start.
Myla, still on a reference kick, was excited to know that so many of the books on my bookshelves are actually (gasp!) REFERENCE BOOKS! And now the whole world’s opened up to her, it seems. She has been taking bits and pieces from creatures, and making new ones up herself (see the “hammerhead” in the center? bahahah!)
One time during a live stream, a person saw me using a rubbing stick to blend my lines with my graphite pencil and asked me, “but isn’t that cheating?” And I always found that funny, because…cheating? It’s a tool, a technique, the same way using oil to smooth fingerprints out of your sculptures is a technique. Whatever you have to do to get your idea or whatever’s in your head OUT. That’s the fun part!
And that’s why it’s so much fun to see my own daughter find new and exciting ways to create. She’s exploring and trying new things, and isn’t that what creating is all about? ❤
My Painted Vans
This past Mother’s Day, I had heard from another artist that you could customize Vans shoes with your own artwork…so I decided to treat myself to a pair of customized Vans with our art on them, and I was so excited! …Until I got a message saying my order was cancelled, because of artwork issues–apparently, if the art is anywhere else on the internet, they assume you may have stolen the image–and I couldn’t get it to upload again.
The artwork I had chosen was a painting Myla and I did about letting your weirdo flag fly, which is up in my etsy shop… To me, it represented something we always try to teach her: to be yourself, and be proud of all the weird things that make you special.
It was based on this picture I had taken of her, by the way, when she had built herself a paper astronaut helmet, spaceship, and bat sidekick. Because I’m constantly amazed at her creativity and uniqueness, and I want her to always be proud of it.In any case, when the Vans order came back cancelled and I couldn’t get it to upload despite my best efforts, I was SUPER disappointed.
…Until my husband suggested I just get a pair of blank Vans and paint them myself. So that’s just what I did.
As often happens when I am furiously gripped by a project I am obsessively compelled to do, I did absolutely no research ahead of time, and started by doing what I THOUGHT was a good idea: smoothing out my painting surface with clear matte gel medium. Maybe if I had taken a little time to research, I’d have left that step out (as I’ll explain later), and just painted directly onto the blank canvas shoes.
But I didn’t, and painted onto the surface I had treated with the clear gesso. I had to alter the composition of our artwork a bit to get everything to fit on there the way I wanted, but I considered that a good thing–that I could change it up to perfectly fit the shoe space.
One of the upsides to painting the shoes myself (as opposed to using the customizer on the Vans page) is that not only could I alter the composition to make everything fit, but I could also put a different image on each shoe (the Vans page only puts the same image on both shoes).
So here’s what my final pair looked like:
Yay! They really make me smile.
Now, remember when I said I’d probably leave out the clear gesso? Here’s why:
See all those cracks? I’m not sure, but I think if I’d left that step off and painted directly onto the shoe canvas, it might have clung to the fibers more tightly, and not have cracked so easily. Who knows? In any case, it’s not so bad–it’s not TOO terribly noticeable, and I can touch it up if it starts looking too bad.
So that was my mother’s day splurge! That–along with spending the day with my husband and little munchkin doing fun things–made for a pretty darn awesome Mother’s Day!
Thank you, Teachers!
As Myla’s 2nd grade school year comes to an end, I wanted to send her teacher out with a proper thank-you gift. Teachers work HARD, and although there are a million ideas online for teacher gifts, I try my best to give something functional that someone can actually use. So here’s a quick and easy project that I hope will be a special gift…
First, I went to our local craft store, and got an inexpensive blank tote bag, They have all kinds of canvas totes–I chose this thicker one with a strong handle and a blank canvas pocket on the outside.
Next up, I grabbed a handful of Sharpie permanent markers, and had Myla draw all over it. Since her teacher had a running Dr. Seuss theme all year, Myla filled the front with some of her favorite characters.
First, she drew the outlines in black, then filled it all in to make it colorful…and don’t forget to sign it!
*Artistic dog assistant optional.
Next, you could put in some stationery supplies, pens, and folders, but we chose to put a signed copy of our “Share With Me” book of collaborations. If you don’t have time to order one of ours, you could maybe throw in a few kid’s books to donate to the teacher’s next classroom.
And there you go! Easy peasy, simple to do, and hopefully a good, functional gift that will be a lovely keepsake reminder to show teachers how much their hard work is appreciated.
So show your teacher some love before the school year ends! And here’s to a great start of summer, and the hopes that we can keep our kids busy and active til next school year begins! 🙂
Taking Time for a Doodle
Sometimes I just have to stop whatever I’m working on and doodle with the kid. It doesn’t matter WHAT I doodle, she’ll turn it into something fun. In this case, I started with a simple little head with a helmet–I wanted her to decided: is it underwater or in outer space? Of course, I always have a few preconceived ideas floating around in my head, but I gently wave those away–because I want to see where she takes it.
She very rarely stops to think too deeply about it. She picks up a pen and starts drawing, like she already knows what she’s going to do.
She decides quite confidently that it’s in outer space, and she starts telling a story as she draws (which I’ll tell to you at the end)…
I like to listen and watch her as she tells these stories, because if I don’t pay attention, I’ll completely miss the magic of them, and looking back at it, it won’t make any sense at all. So I listen. I ask questions, and watch the story unfold.
She wanted things painted certain colors, so I got out the watercolors. Not the kid ones, the nice ones, so I can teach her how to use them the right way. She wants it to look “old fashioned,” with only a few colors.
She wants me to finish it by adding more details later, and color the rest “like it’s from a long time ago.”
And this is how it looks so far…
And here is the story that belongs to it: These dragons are blowing a protective force field around the robot woman. They each have special powers. They are a team of good guys, and there are bad guys outside the bubble, but they can’t get in…and if they try, the powerful one that looks like a bird will vaporize it immediately. There are some at the bottom, who have been attacked with arrows. It would usually be sad, except that they are evil, so you are supposed to be glad, only because it means you are safe. Each of the good dragons has a weakness, but it’s protected. The robot woman herself is protecting a litter of alien cats in her chestplate, and it has feeding tubes to feed them. The “boss cat” is a good guy, and has a powerful foot to attack bad guys, and he has joined in the fight. It looks like they’re going to win the battle.
I still have to do my part, which sort of ties it all together. But I’m always happy with it at this stage, just because I could never in my entire imagination come up with a story like that. It’s amazing what you learn when you really listen to a kid unleash her imagination…
So I’ll keep you posted on it!