The other day, I sat on the couch next to Myla, sketchbook in hand. I sighed and said, “I’m in an art funk. I’m just not happy with anything I’ve been drawing lately.”
Immediately, our caring 7-year old girl jumped to comfort me, saying, “MOM! Don’t talk about yourself that way. You’re a great artist!” I thanked her, but told her I guess I’m just in an art funk, that I’ll just have to wait it out. It’s okay…it’ll pass.
“You know…” she said, thinking carefully. “You’re always looking on your phone at other people’s artwork. What you need to do is put that down for awhile, and just draw your OWN thing. Just draw what’s in your OWN head.”
She’s so smart.
It’s true, I spend hours each day scrolling through Instagram. It’s been an amazing source of inspiration for me. We’re often stationed in places that aren’t bustling centers of creativity, so Instagram has made me feel closer to the world of art and other artists. But when you catch yourself looking at other peoples’ work and comparing it to your own, and getting DISCOURAGED by it….it’s really time to take a break.
I put my phone down, and looked at my blank sketchbook, and an image came to mind. I’ve always loved the balance between cute and creepy, and this cute little pixie-girl floated to the surface of the page, holding a six-legged monster-kitty. And it made me smile.
The next day, I showed it to her. “See, mom? I told you you could do it! Just listen to your OWN voice.” I gave her a hug, because as she had done so many times in her little life, she had inspired me.
I looked through vintage photos to find references for some of the poses I wanted to use, but strongly avoided looking at Instagram (I nearly only follow artists) until I had seen the idea in my head float to the surface of the page and take shape.
I giggle at my happy awkwardness as a kid, and my love for my rainbow suspenders and E.T. t-shirts (a fashion combo I must’ve gotten from Mars). I had big owl glasses and skinned knees. My sister and I played dressup a lot, and made up characters in our rooms. (I did spare myself the horrible hairdo I had growing up, replacing it in the doodle with a cuter ‘do.) Add my beloved ballpoints, and I called it “Pens are Friends.”
I didn’t question my skills as a kid. Drawing was just a tool to get my ideas out, not a measure of how good or not-good I was. I did it without expecting pay, without attention, and without acknowledgement. I did it whether or not anyone “liked” it or commented on it, because I’m older and we didn’t have social media back then. I did it JUST for the love of doodling, just like my daughter does. Just like I need to remember how to do.
So sure, I’ll do portraits. Sure, I’ll do commissions. Sure, I’ll go back to looking on Instagram and being inspired by other artists. But I need to remind myself that I’m here, too. That I’m right where I’m at, and that’s okay. Sometimes (quite often, in my case) it takes a kid to remind you of something you should know as an adult.
Seven year olds give great advice.
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?
Well, May is nearly over, and it marks two significant events for us: the end of the school year, and Myla turning SEVEN.
So I thought it’d be fun to take a quick little look back for a moment, and appreciate some things…
Do you remember the wonderful little doodles we did when she was so young, that made their way all over different parts of the entire world?
Time has certainly changed both us and our art. We’re always growing, always changing, always creating.
Myla has grown to LOVE making things out of paper. Give her some scissors, paper, and tape, and she’ll get to work creating the most wonderful little three-dimensional paper sculptures you’ve ever seen from a kid…
She gets inspired by ideas, and creates things from her doodles. She’s inspired by people we know, people we meet, people we’ve learned about…
And still, one of our favorite things to do is to make art together. Just taking time with each other to share our ideas, draw things that makes us smile, or create little worlds with our imaginations…
I’ve introduced her to some of the artists I’ve become friends with, and they’ve shared their friendship with her. She’s talked to Lori about art blocks. And she sends packages to Mab and still talks about her–Mab painted one of the few images of us drawing together that I have, gave me the original in a necklace pendant, and put a sealed version in a locket for Myla. It’s one of her favorite things to wear, and something very dear to both of us.
And although we’ve had a great many adventures most of this past year, we’ve sadly done it all without her dad, who’s currently deployed overseas. Thankfully, watching Flat Myla on her European adventures and on his Blackhawk flights through the clouds has helped him seem a little closer to us.
So here’s hoping year seven will be just as creative and magical as age six! And from us to you, thank you for following our adventures! Share some smiles with your family, with your friends. Grab a pen and doodle with someone. And when you part, give them a big hug.
It’s been a busy week, trying to keep up with the world…sometimes it’s nice to just step away and do an easy, fun little thing with the kid.
My mother’s day weekend was spent with a large group of giggling Girl Scouts, on a Mother-Daughter Campout in the woods. (Please please, calm your envy…)
Even with the archery, horseback riding, and nature walks we did, if you asked Myla what her favorite part was, she’d tell you it was the nature project. She’s been asking me to do it again, and since our Texas days have cooled down for a couple of days, we were able to just go into our yard and have some fun. So I thought I’d share what we worked on, in case you’d like to give it a go yourself!
First step is to Pick some plants. You want to find things that have a variety of shapes and sizes and colors, but you want to make sure they’re fairly flat. You don’t need to go far; if you’ve got houseplants nearby, or have access to grass (unlike some Ohioans I’ve heard, who are currently covered in snow) and plants in your own yard, all you have to do is gather them up.
Next, you’ll need contact paper. I’m sure it’s cheaper sold in rolls, but I only happened to have self-laminating sheets on hand, which are admittedly a bit pricier. But they got more action with this project than they’ve seen in a while, so I didn’t mind.
With your gathered plants nearby, unpeel half of the sheet with the sticky side up, so you can start placing your plants where you want them, into whatever design you choose.
Since Myla’s more into building animals and creatures and things with faces, she went straight for making something adorably weird, even adding little bits of paper for the eyes, while I made a simple little mouse. Fun little tip: clover petals look like hearts. 🙂
Or you can go decorative, like my wonky little tree-shape below.
Myla moved on to making a rabbit from various plants, being very careful in properly laying them out how she wanted. With have the page exposed, when you feel finished, just unfold the other half and fold it over your piece to seal it up.
Once you’ve folded it over and sealed it up, cut around your piece, being sure to leave quite a lot of space around. Sometimes, it even helps to seal it twice, making sure all the edges or sealed, or air will get in, and your little creations will discolor and “turn rotten,” as Myla says.
And there you have it! Just a fun and easy little idea to make into bookmarks or punch holes to make a mobile to hang in a window. And a calm little happy project that nearly anyone of any age can do. So get out and spend some time in the sunshine (if you have it) and make some lovely little things with someone you love!
This weekend found Myla scribbling on her paper in agonizing frustration. “I can’t draw foxes anymore!” she cried. She told me that she had been thinking of a new way to draw a fox face, and it just wasn’t coming out right, no matter what she did. She even tried going back to her old way of drawing foxes, and even THAT didn’t work. It brought her to absolute tears, and all I could do was hold her as she sobbed uncontrollably, pen clenched in her hand. It was the first time in her life she WANTED to create something that just didn’t work out. It was a new frustration that she had never experienced before.
Luckily, I’ve had this problem myself. Most artists have. I’ve written blog posts in the past about art block, but this is the first time it had ever happened to her.
“You’ve got a wonderful, creative mind,” I told her as she cried in my arms. “But the down side is that sometimes you’ll have a block. It’s usually when you’re trying something new. And you try and you try and it just doesn’t look right. So you try your old way, but your mind is already trying to figure out the new way, so you can’t go back. But as hard as it is, it’s actually a GOOD thing, because it means you’re getting ready for something new. And I promise you EVERY artist I know has had a block before.”
After talking to my friend Lori Nelson, who is a Brooklyn painter (who reassured Myla that it does, in fact, happen to every artist), I started thinking of what I do that works for me when I have an art block. But this time, I sort of gathered up a list to fit a kid’s speed. Maybe it’ll help someone you know. Maybe it’ll even give you some ideas for when art blocks hit you…
1. TAKE A STEP AWAY. Get out of the house for a bit. Go outside, take a walk around the block. Go to the zoo. Pet an animal. Get lost in the woods. Take a hike. Spend some time in nature to clear your head. Sometimes reconnecting with the world around you can settle a restless mind.
2. TRY A DIFFERENT MEDIUM. Whatever you usually do, switch it up a bit. Get some chalk out and chalk a sidewalk. Bake some cookies. Play an instrument. Sew something. This is a good time to try learning something new, like embroidery or sculpting. Mixing up your medium might give you a fresh perspective.
3. DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL. I cannot tell you how good physical activity is for a stressed-out mind. Go for a jog, take a long fast walk. Skate. Sweat. Take an aerobics class. Focus on something other than your art for awhile.
4. LOOK AT YOUR OLDER WORK. I keep a scrapbook full of my past work, and I take it out sometimes and look at what I’ve done in the past. It’s a good reminder when you’re beating yourself up and doubting your skills, that you’re NOT horrible. Remind yourself that you’re awesome.
5. DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE. Give someone a gift. Make them something. Draw them something. Help someone with their yard, or offer to watch their kid or pet for an evening. Focusing your energy outward is one way to avoid that internal downward spiral.
6. CREATE SOMETHING WITH SOMEONE ELSE. Lori told me the way she gets out of a rut is to ask someone to “assign” her something. Working with another person or with someone else’s ideas helps your mind go places you wouldn’t normally go on your own. Nothing’s helped me more with that than the collaborations I’ve done with our daughter.
7. MAKE A MESS. Gasp! “WHAT?!? But messes are so…MESSY!” Messes are an awesome way to just let go of control for a bit. Just get the fingerpaints out, and go outside. Baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring are also good mess combos. Splash in the water. Splash in the mud. Do you realize how often we DON’T do that, now that we’re adults? Kids know that messes cleanse the soul. If messes freak you out, you should REALLY consider doing it. Get towels, get yukky clothes, and just prepare yourself to make a mess. Like my mom always said, “You’re washable.”
If ACTUAL messes are too much to bear, maybe try a little project Myla and I do, where we take turns messing up eachothers’ drawings. You each start out by drawing something simple, like a mouse. When it’s your turn, you draw something silly on the other person’s drawing. When it’s their turn, they draw something silly on yours. It’s a lot of fun, and good practice in letting go of control and expectations in your artwork.
8. DRAW ON YOURSELF. Grab those non-toxic, washable kid markers, and just doodle away. Or use a pen. Once in awhile isn’t going to kill you. Draw on eachother. Sometimes, the idea of drawing on something “forbidden” sparks something in your creative mind and makes it happy.
9. KEEP TRYING AND DON’T GIVE UP. Every now and then, test it out and see if it’s passed yet. If it hasn’t, keep going. Keep trying over and over, keep pounding your head against that sketchbook. If you have to make 100 bad drawings before the good one comes out, then you’d better get started now. When I told Myla this, she asked me, “But isn’t that a waste?” But nothing is a waste if you’re learning from it.
10. KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR. You have to trust that if you can push through this art block, it’ll come back to you. It’s scary at first. You start to question your skills and abilities. But if it’s something that drives you, you can push through it. Keep your chin up, and don’t take it too seriously. Your art skill’ll come back when it’s good and ready, and it’ll probably bring you stories of the road, and some new souvenirs. And that’s a good thing.
So here’s to hoping the foxes come back.
Have you or your kids ever had a big block? What do you do when art blocks hit?
We’re at a countdown in school to the last day–and at our school, they’re doing an alphabet a day all the way until Z for Zip up and go home! The countdown started this past Wednesday with Awesome Art Day…and I was so happy to be asked by the teacher to help with a project!
At first, I considered a sort of collaborative project (which is what we have so much fun doing together), but the teacher asked if we could have it relate to ecosystems or nature in some way. So I thought it’d be fun for the kids to have a take-home, and with the help of ideas from artist friends, I drew out these little paper dolls, with the idea that they could create a predator and a prey.
I let Myla give it a try at home first–I had the pieces cut out for her, so all she had to was punch holes where she wanted them, and put in the little brads. Then, she could decorate and color them whichever way she liked.
So I cut out 20 pages of the creatures and pieces in the template above (WHEW!), and put them in individual baggies for each kid. I had decided to pre-punch holes in the bodies where legs & arms would be to save a little time, and brought my hole puncher in case they wanted more punches.
And it was so much fun! Their teacher had talked to them earlier in the day about predators and prey, so it was fun for them to create a creature and then a creature that gets eaten by it. I had them each open their baggies and start putting their creatures together, and I walked around, offering more punches and extra brads, asking them which creature was which.
The teacher brought out markers for them to color with, and a couple of them used construction paper to make extras to add on.
They had fun coming up with unusual creatures!
So if you’re looking for a fun little project to do, grab some brads at your local store’s office supply section, use a hole-punch, and feel free to download and cut out the critters from my template above. I’d love to see what you come up with!
The other day, I was drawing a little doodle of Patsy from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and thought it’d be funny to add a bunch of strange and silly things to the pack on his back. And then I had an even better idea: what if I asked everyone in Instagram what I should draw?
So I did. I asked everyone to give me their APPROPRIATE ideas (I didn’t want people trying to make me draw a bunch of butts or other inappropriate things), and this is what they suggested:
A black cat, goose, tungsten carbide drill bit, rabbit smoking a cigar, Myla, some swallows (both European and African) carrying a coconut, plenty of shrubbery, a severed arm, the Holy Grail, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, a small horse, hamster, elderberries, a whoopie cushion, dollhouse, spatula, a Dream Creeper, ladies undies, a rotary phone, a foot, bubble gun, sunflower, stamps, dead parrot in a cage, small llama, Camelot (it’s only a model) a waiter with a tray, flamenco dancers, and a rat that Myla drew. And, if you please, on the llama’s nose, a waffer-thin mint.
Then I painted it to clean it up a bit, and now Patsy looked like this…
Myla saw what I was drawing, and asked me what I was doing. I told her about how I let other people give me ideas, and she was fascinated, and asked if she could do it too. “It means you’d have to draw whatever people say,” I said. “I know,” she said seriously. “…Even if it’s something weird, you have to try and fit it in really tiny,” I said. “I know I can do it.” she said. So I asked Instagram again.
This time, the list included a quiddich ball, goblet, owl wearing earmuffs and Harry Potter’s glasses, eating hot Cheetos and wearing a time turner, buckbeak, bunny, niffler with gems, ferret holding cheese, motorcycle, quill, mice, Dobby with a sock, hermione’s cat Crookshanks wearing Luna’s glasses, Stonehenge, bowtruckle, birthday cake, gold, watch, oven mitt, lightening bolt, Voldemort, a crown of flowers, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, butterflies, spider, bird with babies in a nest, screaming mandrake, lollipop, a melty chocolate frog, his umbrella wand, a slug, baby Norbert hatched dragon blowing fire, Fang and Fluffy, magic wand, potion bottles, a magic wand, the monster guide book, keys, a golden snitch, dog bone treats, and Hogwarts.
And she was amazing–she drew EVERYTHING on the list. She had me look up references for the things she wasn’t familiar with, and made sure I crossed off every one of their suggestions. Near the end, there were a couple of really obscure things that I had considered just leaving off or drawing myself, but she looked at the list and pushed me on: “I want to get ALL of them, mom.” So I looked up the last obscure things, and she finished them up.
And here’s how her awesome Hagrid looked when he was done…
A few days later, I drew Gandalf, and thought it would be another fun opportunity to let people give me suggestions again. Myla doesn’t know Lord of the Rings. She did ask to do a few of the things, but mostly I did it solo.
I filled Gandalf’s beard with his pipe, Gollum with a flower hat, Saruman, popcorn, Lego bricks, Bruce Lee DVD set, a Hobbit (Frodo) as a bee next to a hive, an Easter basket, rusty old key ring, record player, loaf of bread, marble pouch, pencils, a tandem bike, horse and carriage, chocolate cake, a mockingbird, cat, jack o’lantern, Shadowfax, fireworks, Jean-Luc Picard, dragonfly, his moth friend, a dwarf, eagle, Radagast with his rabbit sleigh, dragon Smaug, a comb, an elven-hewn locket with a portrait of Galadriel, a lawn gnome, ent Treebeard, cave troll, po-tay-to, Orc, cards, spider, a pint of ale, hobbit hole, Gandalf the White’s brooch, a hedgehog, seashells, starfish, mousetrap, Malala, and Gumby, Legolas’ arrows, and the Hobbit book.
And here’s Gandalf, complete…
It’s really intimidating giving your artwork over to everybody, and letting them have control of what you draw. There’s this sort of nervous excitement when all these suggestions start coming in, and you wonder how you’re going to possibly do it, and what if it wasn’t such a good idea after all…
But it’s a good exercise in letting go and seeing what it turns into. In a way, it’s sort of the same lesson I learned when giving my sketchbook to Myla when she was 4 years old…sometimes it’s okay to give up that control. Sometimes when you are able do that, fun things can happen.
All my favorite people are weirdos.
When I was little, my sister and I were playing with my grandma, and we happily said, “Grandma, you’re so WEIRD!” She was mortified and a bit offended, til my mother explained, “in our family, being weird is a COMPLIMENT.”
Our daughter is overflowing with this magical, neverending waterfall of creative ideas. She grabs paper and tape and makes shoes, or helmets, or tails, or spaceships, or her own paper zoo, complete with three-dimensional animals. Her wheels are always turning, and as a person who constantly tries to keep up with all the creative ideas in my OWN head, it’s so amazing to witness and recognize in someone else.
The other day, I drew a little picture of her with a paper space helmet she made. She had made a paper space helmet for me too, and we took turns exploring a new planet in our living room.
Later, she added aliens in it, and told a little story about them. That she had come to a new planet. That there were aliens that looked like babies but that were adults. They were blue. One was in a spaceship, one was in love with her, and one said hi, as another peeked out of a crater. Another showed off his invention of springy shoes and hands.
We talked about what I could add, and later I showed her my doodle, which instantly brought an “AWWW!” when she saw the cute little big-eyed mouse-elephant-tapir-alien things in the background.
One day during this process, she came home from a regular day at school saying,
“Mom, there was a kid at school that called me a weirdo. I think they meant it in a bad way, but I just said ‘thank you.'”
I absolutely couldn’t have been prouder. She didn’t get her feelings hurt. She didn’t say something mean back to be spiteful. She just happily said “thank you,” which was wonderful. I have been trying her whole life so far to prepare her for the cruelness of other people, even way back when she loved Batman and the other kids tried to tell her that “only boys played with superheroes.”
Listen, I get it…she likes weird things. She likes bug and bats and dinosaurs and Batman. She has a wild imagination and loves to pretend. She knows about sci-fi, and I do my best to answer any question she might possibly have about ANYTHING, and try to explain it to her in a way she can easily understand. Nothing is taboo (and believe me, she ASKS). People are most likely going to call her a weirdo. I’ve been expecting it, because I went through it myself firsthand. So I’ve made it a mission to point out to her that the most creative people around her, the most wonderful people, the most artistic friends we have, have ALL been called “weird” at some point or another.
“People are going to try to make you feel bad for being different. But different is GOOD,” I told her. She caught on quickly, and added in her own words, “sometimes people will try to point you a certain way. But instead of following their pointers, you can help CHANGE their pointers to point another way–the way YOU want to go.”
It can be hard sometimes, it might hurt your feelings sometimes, but that one thing that helps is try to find other weirdos. And if you can’t find other weirdos, try to let kids see how awesome your weirdness can be…
One day at the playground, inspired by “Secret of the Kells” (in which there was a girl character who was a shape-changing wolf-girl), she ran around to the other kids, saying “would you like to play werewolves with me?” The kids looked at her strangely. I’m sure their idea of “werewolf” was more the scary halloween type, and not the cute shape-shifting fairy girl-type. I started to worry that she’d get discouraged and feel bad, but I let her handle it. Cut to ten minutes later, though, and nearly EVERY KID on that playground was playing werewolves with her. She had them all going in a den (under the slide) to rest, and then coming back out into the “trees” (the monkeybars) to run around in the wild, meet with the other wolf packs, and chase prey. She wasn’t bossy or domineering. She just helped them find their inner weirdos.
Hopefully, this girl’s gonna be just fine.
I looked at the drawing we did again, and I realized I had drawn her holding a little banner flag,which made me think of when people say they’re letting their freak flag fly, which seems totally appropriate. Let your weirdo flag fly!
So I told her times might get rough sometimes, and people will try to hurt your feelings for being different, or make you feel bad, but you keep doing what you love doing, and you might even change someone else for the better.
And so far–thank GOODNESS–she’s gotten the message: she’s a weirdo. And so am I. And maybe so are you. And you know what? That’s AWESOME. Because all the best people are.
Last week, Myla’s school celebrated reading week. Myla never misses an opportunity to wear any kind of costume to school, and when the day came to “dress as your favorite book character,” she immediately said, “THIMBLETACK!”
If you’re not familiar, Thimbletack is a house brownie in the Spiderwick Chronicles books by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (containing Mr. DiTerlizzi’s beautiful illustrations), and we have consumed the entire book series like cake in our bedtime reading time.
I always love a good creative challenge. But how the heck was I going to pull off a Thimbletack? With our busy life, I had waited til the last minute on this one, and found myself scrambling for an idea the night before. Thankfully, this was one of those times when the planets aligned and the stars shone down on my craft room, and I was able to magically whip something together within a half hour.
House Brownies, according to the book, make their clothes up from things they find around the house, and their little hats are made from thimbles or scraps of fabric, with buttons and things tucked in. I didn’t know HOW the heck I was going to make a hat with that sort of look….until I remembered a hat called a pakol that my husband had brought back from his last deployment to Afghanistan. I unrolled it, and it had nearly the same silhouette. Magical sparkling birds sang songs of happiness as they flew around my shoulders.
Unsure whether or not my husband would mind me destroying this deployment souvenir, I maintained the integrity of the hat by wrapping it with a burlap ribbon and pinning it to the hat. On the burlap ribbon, I hot-glued a pair of quickly-sewn ears. I dug through one of my many craft drawers and found (to my surprise) several giant buttons that I do not ever remember intentionally purchasing. I hot-glued those to the burlap ribbon, along with some cheap paintbrushes (because when you send something with your kid to school, you have to prepare for the fact that you might never see it again), and BOOM: I think we got what we were going for…
So cute! And not too shabby for the night before. She has a pair of ratty jeans that reeeeally need to be retired, but they came in perfectly for a dress-up day like this. I copied the book jacket, filled it with printer paper, and stapled the sides, to make Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide (which Thimbletack protects). She had a great time with that on its own, just drawing fairies and other imaginary creatures at breakfast.
I draw on her lunch napkin every day (been doing it since she started school), so that day, a little Thimbletack greeted her…
So it turned out pretty well, and essentially just involved her wearing a decked-out hat!
As a fun little side, Myla’s affection for Thimbletack was already there, but she found him even more lovely when we did an art trade with Mr. DiTerlizzi a few months back. We had shared comments often on Instagram, and traded a few things, but the best was a portrait Myla and I did of his daughter, who was a big fan of the Labyrinth…
We drew her as Jareth / Sarah, and Myla drew the main characters behind her–it was so much fun!
In return, he sent us a WONDERFUL package full of magical things, but most especially this:
It’s his Spiderwick character, Thimbletack, collaborating with a mockingbird. Get it?!? Because of our collaborations? Because I’m the mockingbird?!?! I was so very touched, and it’s one of my very favorite pieces of artwork–it sits next to my bed, above the tiny original painting of Big Bird by Carroll Spinney.
And that’s our little story of Thimbletack and the 30-minute costume for reading week. Have you ever had to last-minute throw something together that turned out pretty cool? Well, if you ever do, I hope magic craft-fairies shine down from the sky and light your way. 🙂
When our daughter was a baby, she had a lovely little mess of curls on top of her head that I lovingly referred to as her bird’s nest. I drew pictures of it. I made photo collages of it (complete with little mockingbird!).
So last week I was browsing the Monster/EverAfter High section of a store (like adults do), and I came across the most wonderful thing that made me instantly smile: An Ever After High doll named “Featherly,” complete with curly hair and a little BIRD NEST.
As I mentioned, I’ve been randomly addicted to customizing dolls lately, and set about repainting her immediately. I wanted her to look a little more like a little girl. A little more like Myla. Not in a weird voodoo-doll “I want you to be my pretty little doll and never grow up” way, but just in a simply innocently weird, “I want to make a doll that looks like my kid” way. (Hey, it’s not THAT weird. Girls get those American Girl dolls and dress like them, right??)
So here she is all repainted and pretty… I’ve still got a little learning to do with customizing dolls, but I’m having fun, and the rest will come with practice.
My technique’s a little more scratchy and sketchy than people who do this professionally, but it feels good to see a new little look shining through.
I even redrew some of her drawings onto the doll’s legs, like little doodle-tattoos.
Myla’s seen me do some customizations lately, and asked if she could give it a try. So once , when she had a chance to choose a toy, she chose a Monster High Boo-tique kit. She’s not at all interested in clothing, but the kit inspired her, and she asked if she could draw on the actual doll instead.
Now, Myla is a kid who hears “no” a lot. We give her discipline. She has rules. But sometimes, when you can allow it, a simple yes can make a kid shine.
Awhile later, she showed me her masterpiece…
Okay, I know what you’re thinking–quite terrifying, right? The thing is, she made it her own, and it made her so happy. And it didn’t take a lot on my part. In this case, saying “yes” told her “I believe that you can do it.” And no matter what it looks like, she OWNED it. As wonky as it was, she was pretty proud of her. “I messed up on the eyes,” she said, “and I was frustrated, until I just cut some new ones out of paper.” She markered her hair. She drew a snake tongue on her mouth. Her name is Alia, and she’s an alien (of course).
What did it cost me? A doll. Fifteen dollars for a chunk of confidence? I’ll take it.
One of the things I learned from collaborating with her when she was four was that if you loosen the chains of thinking things should be “just so,” that magical things can happen. As I said in that post so long ago, “Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little.” And the best part is that the confidence she’ll get from me trusting her is worth way more than the sanctity of any doll.