My Monster Book of Monsters
Hey did I ever tell you about the time I turned my day planner (yes, I still use a really real paper book day planner) into the Monster book of Monsters? I’ve been meaning to show it to you for a while…
I was sorting through my day planner one day and decided, “you know what? I probably really need to turn this into that.” And I did. And it didn’t take very long! Its removable, and I can replace the day planner with a small sketchbook if I want.
It’s incredibly wonky and terribly made, but it works, and it makes me smile. I started by laying my book open flat on the fabric, cut a big rectangle to size, and sewed the little pockets to the ends, even adding a little side pocket for pens and post-its. After the pockets were sewn on and flipped, I sewed the fringed tentacles straight to it (thankfully, the stitches are fairly well-hidden because of the fur).
And see that piece of white cardboard on the left hand inside, in the photo above? I’ll explain that in a moment…
I sculpted lil teeth and gums from Sculpey, heated them up, and glued them straight on. I didn’t do a bottom set because I wanted it to still be functional, and that just wouldn’t work because I’m right-handed and those teeth would totally get in my way.
So that white piece of cardboard on the inside I mentioned earlier? That’s sort of the wonky key holding the top part of the “head” together. There are probably a dozen better ways to do this, but I just cut a curved section out of the top fur, added some stuffing, glued another piece of fabric that I attached some glass doll monster eyes to, and closed it all up on the underside with the cardboard. It’s wonky, but it works. The book slides on top of the wonky cardboard, and everything stays together (fingers crossed).
I sewed a quick little “tongue” bookmark, which holds my place on the calendar section.
And there you go! My favorite projects are not only fun, but FUNCTIONAL…so having something that I can actually use AND that makes me smile is pretty much a happy project for me, all around.
Technically, it should have the bottom teeth and a belt to close it, of course, but again–I needed it to be FUNCTIONAL, and anything that hinders the function isn’t gonna work.
Finally, I used gold paint on some pleather-like material, and cut it out around the letters, gluing it to the top. And BOOM! There’s my Monster book of Monsters day planner!
It reminded me of the homemade paper bag book covers I used to make for my textbooks ages ago (because that’s what we did a million years ago). But this was on a much fuzzier scale, of course… ❤
On the first day of the year, Myla and I took a walk in the woods, and saw proof of what surely was a forest full of fairies, yeti, and strange imaginary creatures. When I got home, I printed out a photo from our walk, and painted a few of them. I even did a blog post about it called Imaginary Monsters.
Since then, I’ve been adding little monsters to several photos I’ve taken of her, for fun. Sometimes silly little forest creatures….
And sometimes, more serious bigger fellas…
I paint them playing with her…
And just hanging out…
Sometimes, I add little poems to them, in the hopes of one day making a little book collection for her…
“What kind of dragon are you?” she said to the girl. “Your teeth are so small, and your tail doesn’t curl.”
“You’re an odd little puppy,” the graggin said. “Why haven’t you got any horns on your head?”
When I posted them, people asked if I did them digitally, but they’re all sketched in pen and handpainted in acrylic on photo printouts.
They’re fun to do and quite relaxing for me. She has such a great imagination when we’re just exploring, and it’s fun to take a peek at the world the way she might see it.
Sometimes I ask her what kind of creature I should add, but usually I just come up with something on my own to make her smile.
When I posted one recently, someone suggested it might be fun if I offered them as customs…
So are you up for it? Do you have a kid (or kid-at-heart) that needs a portrait with an imaginary friend for Christmas, or birthday, or just to make them smile?
Well, I’ve decided to offer a few for custom order! I have an Epson Artisan printer with archival inks and photo papers, and will offer two sizes: 8.5″ x 11″, and 11.17″ x 16.5″. I can take your child’s drawing or description to work with, or I can create one from my own imagination.
I put up a listing in my etsy shop…have a look!
I have so much fun with them–I’d love to do some for you!
“Mom, are mermaids real?” Well, no one’s ever really seen proof of a mermaid. “But they COULD be real.” I suppose they could, but so far nobody has found proof, so we can’t say for sure. “Well they’re real, I know they are. Oceans are deep, maybe they just haven’t found any proof yet.” …Okay.
Myla is six, and believes in EVERYTHING. I know this because she told me so. “All that stuff that’s not real–I believe in it.” She doesn’t have any interest in the burden of proof. If she wants to, she just believes. She CHOOSES to. And who am I to tell her she’s right or wrong?
I read a statistic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association that the ocean “covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.” Can you IMAGINE? 97 percent of the oceans on our earth are UNEXPLORED! In our people-filled world, it seems odd to think of places of the world humans haven’t touched, but with stats like that, it’s absolutely, 100 percent possible.
So Myla believes in everything. We once built a little gnome house, and found tiny muddy footprints from the yard (I may or may not admit to being responsible for those).
My favorite thing to do with Myla is to take walks through the woods. When I was younger and my dad was stationed in Germany, my family always took long walks through the woods. My dad would bring dental floss and build gnome bridges with twigs across little streams. My sister and I would pretend we could see gnome houses in the knots in the trees, and we’d have stick-sword fights. I have lots of wonderful memories from inside the forest.
So on the first day of the new year, I took Myla on a hike. She found a muddy footprint. “It’s proof! A yeti was here!” Hm. I don’t know, there’s a dog paw print next to it… “Nope, it’s a yeti. Maybe he has a dog that’s a friend.” Okay.
(She also believes she can fly…but only for very short moments, when she jumps from one place to another.)
There were broken twigs on the ground. Fairy bones! And broken rocks, which everyone knows that forest creatures eat. We obviously were treading on what once was the site of a huge fairy battle.
We passed some people going off on a hike of their own. “Hi there! We found yeti footprints!” Myla shouted to them. Smiling politely, they scurried awkwardly away. This did not phase my girl in the slightest.
When we got home, I was looking at some of the photos I took on our walk, and printed some of them. Looking closely, I decided to draw in and paint an imaginary monster onto this one of a stream crossing–because even though he didn’t show up in pictures, I’m almost certain he was there.
There was another of her looking at the forest in a clearing, and I was sure this creature was there, too.
I went back and looked at some of the photos we took over break, from the woods near where my grandma used to live.
They were there, too. I just needed to paint them in.
I’ve always been one for proof and logic, which is why it’s so wonderful to see her believe whatever she wants, to see through her imagination. She’s not an infant, I’m sure somewhere she doesn’t REALLY think they exist…but none of that matters to her. It’s more FUN for her to believe. The world is more beautiful and interesting that way. She chooses to believe them, so they are.
We’ve had extensive conversation about gnomes and dwarves, fairies and mermaids, the loch ness monster…and god. My answer to all of these when she asks, is that if you truly believe in them, no one can tell you it’s wrong. No one should make you feel bad for what you believe in, even if it’s completely different than what they believe. And if someone believes differently than you do, that’s okay too. There’s no need to argue about it. There’s no need to pressure them to believe what you believe. Someone believing differently doesn’t threaten your own belief, so there’s no need to disagree. You believe what you believe, and no one can take that away.
Making More Monsters
After the last couple of conventions, I was surprised to come home with only a handful of our little monster puppies…I thought I was done making them…until I realized that they’re kind of relaxing to make. And as long as I enjoy it, why not, eh?
So I sculpted and cast couple of new faces to add a little extra to the group. I’m not sure I’m as attached to them as some of the others, but they do make me smile.
But what I realized, talking to people at the conventions, was that although the dolls themselves were weirdly cute, it was the story BEHIND them that people seemed to enjoy the most. So I’ve been working on a little foldout flier to put in with each of my orders (and eventually to have at conventions) that explains the story of how the Dream Creepers came to be.
This is the story I usually tell in person, over and over again, several times a day during the span of a convention, to anyone who ever seemed curious about them. It was nice to make it into an easy little flier with cute little drawings that better explained it.
So I thought for fun, I’d share the little pages with you right here, right now…
So there it is! The mostly-true (because–alright, I’m not ACTUALLY a doctor, and Myla’s name isn’t really “M”) story of how the Dream Creepers came to be. As I said, people seemed to find the dolls interesting, but once they heard the story, and learned that Myla named them, they would nearly always find them a little more sweet.
Myla has about 9 of them (she’s not obsessed or anything, she just thinks they’re all cuuuuuuuute), and whenever she starts to worry about something at night, I pretend to suck out her bad thoughts and feed them to the Creepers. Weird, sure, but that’s at least good for a bedtime smile.
I only have a few guys left in the shop right now, but I think I’ll be making more soon, for as long as I find it fun. I don’t really like to do customs with them, as they usually come together based on what fabrics I have, what fur is available, and what faces I’ve cast. They’re much more fun when I get to play!
If you’re interested in adopting the ones I have left, take a look at the Etsy shop and get them while you can–I’ll be closing the shop next week for family visits, but then opening again on the first week of December! I’m not sure how quickly I can build more for the holidays (as I still have my own gifts to work on!), but like I said–for as long as it’s fun, I’ll be sure to do more.
Now that the monkey’s a bit older, she tends to take over and tweak her own ideas for projects. It’s been a while since I set something up with a fairly specific goal in mind, but since first grade (with all its new rules) is about to start and we’ve been working on following instructions (WITHOUT complaining), I decided to set up a project using pretty much things I had around the house.
So I decided we’d make some monster masks.
When she came home from summer daycare, I had it all laid out on the kitchen table, ready to go: glue, sparkles, google eyes, puffballs, foam, washable paints, scissors, tape, construction paper, some scraps of fur from my monster dolls, and a couple of cardboard boxes from the recycle bin. The key here is to set it up so that it’s stress-free, and you’re not worrying about paint splashing onto nice things, so I laid out a tablecloth, and put a messy shirt for her to change into. A little prep work, and making messes isn’t so bad.
She was excited right away, and started making her own ideas up, which is usually okay, but as I said, we’re working on following directions–so I asked her if she could start by painting the boxes, and THEN we could decorate them. I tried to work a little ahead of her, so she could see what I was going for. (In hindsight, it might’ve helped for her to see a final version to shoot for, but ain’t nobody got time f’that. That would’ve meant either that I’d be doing a kid project twice, or that she’d be doing it on her own while looking at my final piece, and for me, the purpose is to do it TOGETHER.)
So we painted and decorated… and since she’s pretty fast, BOOM–she was finished with her monster “mask” in no time! I love that she made a little unicorn horn. The funny thing is that I had THOUGHT I’d make a horn, but didn’t get a chance before she beat me to it…
Mine was pretty fancy shmancy, I must say. Quite sparkly and glam. I may need to wear it grocery shopping, to a family gathering, or to my next monster shaman voodoo dancer tribe meeting.
So there ya go. …Now what else are we going to do for the other 16 hours of the day?!?
Collaborating With a 6-Year Old
A few years have gone by since I collaborated with our then 4-year old… And on occasion, people will ask me if we could do more.
Sometimes we still do. It’s more of a casual thing. I’ll toss her a page and say, “here are a few heads if you feel like sketching,” usually when she’s bored or looking for something to do.
Sometimes they turn out okay, and I try new things with them, making little pendants or doodles. But mostly, it’s just a fun little pasttime.
On occasion, she still adds a body to a face I’ve done, and it turns out pretty well…
For the most part, though, to be honest: the main reason we don’t always collaborate is that she’s busy doing her own thing! She’s FIERCELY creative. She throws herself into her art desk and is consumed with scissors, staples, and tape, making all sorts of wonderful things–
Other times, she just draws.
Lately, she’s been obsessed with “writing books.” We can’t get enough little thin sketchbooks–she fills them up with complete stories–usually just directional things, like new creatures she invents for her Minecraft game, or the inner anatomical workings of the prehistoric wooly mammoth.
She mixes and matches her Lego minifigures, creating all kinds of new creatures. She makes “costumes” from construction paper, and spends hours inventing her own board games, like “Fishing for Genies,” and “DeerPeople Land” (it’s like Candyland…but with deer-people, obvs).
And from time to time, people ask us why we don’t do very many collaborations anymore. The simple answer is that we DO….but mostly, because you don’t always make art just for other people. You do it because you love it.
Sometimes, the things people ask us to do work out fairly well: we did this mural together at Crave Hair Lounge in Killeen, and it worked mainly because the owners gave us complete freedom to do what we wanted. But even then, it was intimidating to make sure it actually worked out on such a large scale.
I’m sure when our collaborations went viral when she was four, we could’ve been involved in a great deal of things. We were asked us to do custom portraits together, requesting certain animal bodies. People wanted us to write a book with a single main character, or wanted me to collaboratively write POETRY with her. I was asked if we could create new work for ads, for products, for magazine illustrations.
But can you imagine? Have you ever tried to get a 4-year old to do anything? It’s tricky. Now take that 4-year old, take their favorite thing to do, and make it a JOB. Tell them they HAVE to do that thing a certain way. Make them do it within a deadline, or re-do it if it’s not exactly what someone had in mind. Does that sound fun anymore? Maybe I missed some opportunities, but you know, I’d rather have done that than make her favorite thing become a horrible chore.
Instead, now that she’s older, and she’s developed her own style, I’ve found a different way to collaborate with her.
Now, I ask her to help me.
Often, my favorite thing to draw is her. Occasionally I do a series for myself I call “Stuff Myla Says,” where I illustrate the funny things she says. And sometimes, she’ll help me with them.
But one time, I was doing a portrait of my dad, and I was trying to find a way to artistically describe some of my best memories from my childhood. I couldn’t figure out how to tell the story of some of my favorite memories–playing in the woods, exploring castles, enjoying sci-fi, and building gnome bridges. Do I draw them out realistically? Do I draw them as a background?
She came over and asked me what I was doing. “I’m drawing me as a kid, with Papa. And I want to draw some of my favorite times with him…but I can’t figure out how to draw all my favorite childhood memories of him.”
“I’m a kid–maybe I could help!” She said. “You tell me, and I’ll draw it.” And we did. And it turned out SO MUCH better than I could’ve hoped for.
Lately, my favorite thing to draw is her. It’s fun to put her in new scenarios. And when I do, since she’s her own artist now, I like to ask her to “help” me. And the things she adds always turn out better than anything I could’ve come up with.
I once drew her from a photo I took of a funny face she made while she played an arcade game, and asked her for help with it. “I wanted to make it like you’re fighting monsters and robots.” “Oh, okay!” she said, and her imagination took off from there. She created this intricate story about these creatures releasing monsters from these eggs, and ones that weren’t good or bad, just “in the way,” and others who were “just trying to survive.”
I drew her as an imaginary astronaut, and asked if she’d like to add to it. She came up with an elaborate story about all kinds of aliens meeting up on the “deer people” planet…(apparently, that’s a thing, in her world)…
Sometimes, I need clarification on what she’s drawn, and she’s always happy to help me; sometimes telling me what colors things should be…but only if I ask. She’s not demanding about it at all, and will often say, “You can make them whatever color you like.”
And she always seems happy with the end result…
Another time, I started this drawing of her (from a photo of her in a simple eared hoodie), and turned her into a forest kid. “She looks kind of scared,” I said. What do you think she look so worried about?” She thought for a minute, then said, “forest monsters.” And we took turns back and forth drawing monsters, based off of what the other one said.
Once, I asked her “If you could be any creature, what would you be?” and she said (without hesitation), “A WINTER CENTAUR.” So I drew her as one, and she described to me the colors she imagined, and added all her little winter friends. “Don’t forget, mom: I should be all white, but with mud on my fur to blend in with the trees.”
Next, we did a spring centaur (mostly because I stink at proportions, and was trying new things). She drew her walking next to a deer-dragon, surrounded by baby deer-people (creatures she invented) making nests in her hair and snacking on grapes.
Another time I drew her riding a furry beast (think: Where The Wild Things Are), and she added all sorts of monster and bird friends, helping her along her imaginary journey.
I’ve held strongly to the idea that she draw whatever she likes. I love her creativity, and as a mom, the best I can do is allow her the room to be herself, in any capacity, being sure to gently nudge her on a safe path along the way, or steer her aside if she starts to venture down a dark road. But mostly, allowing her to be herself, allowing her to be her OWN artist and ASKING for collaborations has been what works best for us.
And instead of the accidental collaborations we started with, now that she’s older, we’re consciously collaborating…working together to tell a story through the pictures…something I’ve always had a problem with in my own art. But by allowing her to take control for a combined purpose, I think it helps build her confidence. She’s not just adding on to my work…she’s helping me tell a story together, and I love it.
“We make a great team,” she says. And that makes me smile.
(I added a few of our newer collaborative pieces to our print site at Society6…)
(Copies of the book of early collaborations we made ourselves through Kickstarter can be found here…)
Playing With Dolls
It all started with a Blythe doll….
Not too long ago, I was introduced to the crazy world of dolls when a friend traded me a Blythe doll in exchange for some artwork. She had warned me I may become addicted. “Oh pshaw,” I thought. “They’re cute, but I’m not really that into ‘people’ dolls.” I really didn’t know much about Blythe…just that they were a very unique doll that I had seen around for ages, and thought it’d be fun to have one for Myla.
But then I started learning about this whole other WORLD of customizing dolls. Now THAT I could get into–not so much to sell, but just for fun. Taking something that was factory-made and changing it to your own version? That’s pretty darn cool, I guess. People do ALL kinds of crazy customizations to their Blythes, and I started to find it fascinating.
But PAUSE–I’ll come back to Blythe..
I saw that people were customizing other dolls, so soon I found myself eyeballing my daughter’s Monster High ladies (if you’re shooting for impossible body standards, you may as well go ALL out and be a MONSTER, right?). Since she wouldn’t give her approval to let me experiment (although she did let me add some definition to the lovely designs on her Loch Ness Lorna doll) I took matters into my own hands, and started shopping around.
And when I saw this girl based off of Bigfoot–complete with hairy arms, hairy legs, and GIGANTIC feet, how could I turn that down??
So I googled a few tutorials on customizing doll faces (there are THOUSANDS online), and took the paint off of her face and repainted her all over again…a little more hairy. A little more freckly. And those LEGS! Those are some non-shaved winter sasquatch legs for SURE! I love ’em. It was a little intimidating at first….I guess just the idea of totally messing her up. But really, if I had messed her up, I really could just wipe the paint off again with nail polish remover, right?
There are a hundred ways people do and don’t do it, so I won’t give a full tutorial. Really, there are tons of people who make money online professionally customizing dolls, and they really know their stuff. I don’t. I’m just playing around.
I’ll just say I wiped her off with nail polish remover that had acetone in it (apparently, this can melt some plastics, so be careful), and it all came right off. Then I painted her with acrylics (most people use certain types of art pastels and paint that on, which gives more of a soft airbrushed look). The trickiest thing is spraying it to seal it all, because some sprays never fully dry, leaving the plastic tacky. This is particularly annoying because EVERYTHING sticks to it. This is what I accidentally did (despite reading about it), so now her face and arms are a little tacky. I ordered the correct spray, though, so help is on the way! The plasic was pretty easy to paint on–the acrylics didn’t really bead up or anything, and I was able to get a LITTLE bit of smooth shading (pastels would’ve probably been a lot smoother).
So to me, store-bought Monster High doll: boring. CUSTOMIZED Monster High doll? SUPER COOOOOOOOL!!!
And despite insisting I wouldn’t become a “crazy doll lady,” I was messing around on etsy, and found an inexpensive little MH WIG from FantasyDolls. And OMGersh, look how cool it looks!!!
She’s almost a proper sasquatch! It’s not properly glued onto her head or anything yet–like I said, I still need to fix that little “tacky skin” issue first–but I think it’s going to be pretty darn cool. And since she’s a “bigfoot,” I thought clothes wouldn’t look right, but nekkid didn’t quite work either. So the lovely lady from the shop offered to send me some scraps from the wig hair, and I’m going to use it to tack onto her body, like a really real sasquatch!
So why, you ask?
I don’t know. Because it’s fun. And why not?
In the meantime, my friend has fully supported my new experiments by sending me two Blythe doll bodies to play with. So I “tattooed” them with acrylic paints and permanent marker…I want to see which will hold and which won’t on what kinds of plastic. And hey–doll tattoos!
So let’s return back to Blythe…
Myla has a blonde, curly-haired Blythe doll she named “Sweetie.” I have a long brown-haired one we named “Mabel” (after the backyard gnomes that used to “visit” us).
There are SO many options for customizing Blythe dolls–you can change their bodies, paint their faces, paint their eyelids, you can give them completely new hair, and you can adjust their eyes so they don’t have that creepy straight-ahead doll stare, just to name a few. Since I’m not so skilled in all of THAT (and since they’re quite expensive dolls), I decided to do a few littler things, like paint “tattoos” on their bodies, and make horn headbands for them.
I made deer antlers for Mabel out of Super Sculpey, hot-glued and E-6000’d onto a little doll headband. Myla asked if I could make Sweetie a pair of goat-horns, so I made those the same way. (I tried to cast them in resin so I could make a lot more, but my molding and casting skills still need some work.)
When I told Myla I was going to “tattoo” my doll’s body, she asked if I could do Sweetie’s too. She told me exactly what she wanted: a deer-girl. Because she says Sweetie is someone loves caring for all kinds of animals. So that’s what we did! And since Mabel seems like some sort of wood-nymph fairy girl (yeah, you heard me), I did a moth on her.
Anyway, call me crazy for playing with dolls. I get it, really–it does seem pretty strange. But really, it’s quite fun! To be able to take something and make it into something else completely your own is pretty awesome. I wish I had some spare Blythe faces to play with. Apparently they come straight out of the box looking VERY plastic, like this:
And when you start looking at what people do to them (just google “custom Blythes,” if you’re curious), it’s actually pretty impressive.
I’m not sure what I’m going to DO with these dolls once I’m done. Stick ’em on a shelf? More than likely, Myla will want to play with them. I know some dolls are fancy, and some are expensive, and it may be risky to let your kid play with a “nice” doll. But if you teach that kid to be NICE to your “nice” doll, then hey–why not? I mean, they’re toys, afterall. They’re meant to be played with and enjoyed!
My Little (Unfinished) Mermaid
Sometimes (as I’ve mentioned more than once), you have these weird ideas that you don’t really understand, but for some reason, you just have to do. My little mermaid was one of those ideas.
It’s rare, I thought to myself, to see a mermaid that isn’t some lithe, dainty, graceful creature. And while I’m not super into the details of anatomy, I know enough to realize that most mermaids aren’t portrayed with visible gills. And I bet they ALL don’t have gorgeous singing voices, either. 🙂
And that was my goal: a beautiful, strong, healthy, and FISHY-looking mermaid covered in gills near her face and chest and lungs. So I built a wire structure, wrapped it in tape, and built up my Super Sculpey figure on top of that (this keeps you from using so much clay, as well as from burning the outside while all that inside bulk tries to cook). I learned from friends that are sculptors, to use rubbing alcohol to smooth out some areas, as well as a heat gun to soft-set some areas while you work on others—so you’re not constantly squishing the face as you sculpt other areas.
I put lots of decorative “fins” around her chest and face, to sort of shield the gill areas. I thought nature (because nature is smart) would most likely find ways to protect the softer skin on a mer-creature with scaly sort of decorative things (because nature’s an artist, too).
She has webbed hands, and fins on her arms (to be more aero/aquadynamic, I suppose?). I used the inside pieces from a broken ballpoint to add texture onto the scaled part of her tail, along with two lower fins.
Oh yeah, and I also burned her nose with the heat gun….because it was my first time using a heat gun.
It didn’t matter all TOO much, though, since after it was cooked and cooled (I like to turn the oven on 250, put my sculpture in, and turn the oven off & forget it til it cools off), the next step was to paint her.
I didn’t want her to look too morose and gothy, but again–thinking of nature, she’d probably want to be fairly well-camouflaged, right? So I painted her in sort of blueish grayish purples.
My favorite parts were the gills: I made them sort of reddish, as I recall fish-gills being. And do you see she’s got some curve and a booty? I’m just going for a version I’ve never seen before. That curve is pretty hard to photograph. I at least gave her a little pudge under her arms, because maybe she’s buff and well-fed. And hey…we can’t ALL be as dainty as Ariel.
So at the point when I could go no further, and Her Baldness was staring at me with peaceful patience, I was saved by an order I had made online of a small batch of reddish mohair. I am not at all familiar with laying hair, but I had read a little bit about dolls and laying their hair. Still I wasn’t sure what to do.
So I faked it. I squirted black E-6000 on top of her head, and carefully laid her hair the way I wanted it, and waited for it to dry. (I have since been told that there are many MANY better ways of doing this….but I am impatient.)
So now what? What do you DO with a creature like this? I had initially wanted to mold her and cast her in resin to customize in eighty million different ways. But I’m over my experience level with 2-part detailed molds, so I just stuck with making the original as awesome as I could while I could.
So I made my own mount for her.
But is she hanging on my wall? No. Not yet. I’m afraid she’ll fall off those poles. I keep meaning to paint the board (which I should have done beforehand, but it’s too late now). So she sits on my shelf, flat on her back, on top of two poles. And I’m still scared she’s gonna fall, so I haven’t hung her up yet. I was careful to make sure she didn’t look like a mounted, dead fish, as I also didn’t want to freak out our 5-year old.
So there’s something unfinished. I love her, I’m just not sure yet what to DO with her. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share! Sometimes, the weird things end up pretty wonderful.
I don’t have a lot to say this week. It’s been a busy, wet, cold rainy, icy, tough week.
I usually enjoy where I am and what I’m doing and appreciate every bit of it, whatever it is. But there are times that life sneaks up on you and startles you. And you can either freak out about it, or you can climb on its back, hold on the best you can to its shaggy mane, and ride it out. And that’s what I’m gonna do.
This is Sweetie. She’s a Blythe doll. She came to us via Aletta from TheFoxyToyBox on Etsy (she’s only got a few things up now, but she tells me she’ll be restocking vintage toys soon). Over the years, I’ve seen the madness that is Blythe, and I never really “got it.” But sometimes, you see things so much that after awhile, you actually start to ENJOY them… (ask my mom about Cabbage Patch Kids).
My sister is freaked out by people-dolls, especially ones with big eyes. Once, on a trip, her host family put her up in a room that was filled floor to ceiling with big-eyed, freaky dolls. Apparently, it was pretty traumatic. 🙂
We do know a little about freaky and creepy, though. (Have you seen the monster creepers I make?) I can tell you that Myla falls in love with every monster puppy I make, and it actually surprises her that people find them creepy. She’s used to them, and even enjoys their weirdness. I’m glad.
Life isn’t always a box of chocolates. And if it seems that way, then you’re lucky, and you do what you can to appreciate it. But sometimes, it’s a hairy, shaggy beast. And that’s okay, too. And while you may not ENJOY it, you can do your best to appreciate what you have when it’s growling at you. It’s the hard times that make the good times better. It’s those challenges that show you you’re cared for, and loved. That you’re not in it alone.
So if you’ve got a beast nearby, don’t run away. Find your friends. Hang on tight. After some time, he might not be as creepy as you think.
Sometimes I get asked if Myla and I still draw together. My answer, in short, is that YES, we do…but that it’s sort of changed a bit.
The collaborations we did were fairly simple, and happened–as I described in the post–pretty spontaneously, at first. Now that she’s a little older (she’s five ANDAHALF now), she’s not so interested in just simply adding a body on to a head I’ve drawn. While she does still enjoy it now and then, her interests (and mine) have changed quite a bit. So while our past collaborations were a such a wonderful and fun experiment, and we still do enjoy doing them from time to time, we find so many other ways to share our artwork with each other.
I started the new year with some new supplies, anxious to try some new things. Recently, I tried out some mixed media board, drew a picture of her sleeping, and wondered if it would work if I asked her to draw what she might be dreaming…
So she added onto what I had drawn, telling me what each thing was, and what it might mean. I asked her questions about it, had her tell me dreams she might’ve had in the past, and if she could draw them.
I later added on some pen detail, to sort of clarify what I thought she was trying to convey (based on what she had told me), and give it some decorative, dreamlike imagery.
And this is what we made. She dreamt of rolling toys, and the Shcar she had created. There’s a dragon in the top right, who carries her babies in fire. Most of her dream is protected by a unicorn with a shield-horn that wraps around her as she sleeps.
(Consequently, the unicorn also has glitter streaming out from behind him (see those dots?), because…well, because she’s five, and glitter farts are funny.)
She was happy when she saw it finished, although it didn’t come without critique…she said I had forgotten to color the eye of the Shcar white (I later amended it for her), and that in her mind, the unicorn was actually supposed to be BLACK….but that one she was willing to overlook.
Another time, I wanted to draw her from a photo I had. When I showed it to her, I said, “I want to make a drawing that tells a story about creativity, and how your mind thinks of wonderful things. do you have any ideas?” She grabbed the pen right away, and started drawing…
She included dragons playing with her hair, dreaming of Legos. She’s imagining the Shcar she designed. She gave herself wolf ears, for fun. There’s a peacock on her shoulder, disappointed because he thought her hair was worms. And a sleeping mermaid, resting peacefully on her shoulder. I don’t know what any of it means. But I don’t HAVE to. It’s her creativity, it’s her mind. It doesn’t have to MEAN anything.
Again, she gasped with delight when she saw how I had finished it, but again, she had critiques. The mermaid was initially colored wrong. It’s apparently a toy she has (I had misunderstood which one), so I corrected it.
She asked why I drew circles around her eye, and I told her I was trying to draw the idea that artists see things in a different way than some people do. That it’s almost like having “special eyes.”
She asked me, “why do I look so sad?” I showed her the reference photo I used, and said, “In the picture I used, you weren’t sad, just thinking. I didn’t mean for it to look sad, I just meant it to look like you were thinking.” I told her that when I was younger, people often thought I was mean because I would quietly stare off at nothing while I was thinking, and that (along with my squinting because of bad eyesight), it made people think I was annoyed when I wasn’t. That made her laugh. She loves stories of when I was younger…
Speaking of when I was younger, Myla once said to me, “I wish I could play with you when you were a kid. We would have so much fun.” So I thought it’d be interesting to draw the two of us, around the same age, playing…
Before I gave it to her, I said, “if we were kids, what kinds of things would we do? I used to like to catch bugs, I liked dinosaurs and robots, aliens and animals. I bet we’d ride bikes together.” She thought that was awesome. But the first thing she drew was the “loves” above our heads.
(Awhile back, she asked me what my “love” would look like, and I drew a heart with BIG BIG arms. Hers was an envelope with wings to fly with you wherever you go.)
She drew our Donkey to the right, since we both have loved him for YEARS (I got him when I was around 8, and she’s had him since she was a baby). There’s a spider catching a fly in a web below us, which we’d probably both be fascinated and grossed out by. On the bottom left, she and I are riding bikes. You can barely see (as my hand is nearly covering it) that she is pouting on the bike, because even as a kid, she imagines I’m probably still the boss when we ride bikes…
Here’s the piece nearly done…
And the final piece: Myla and me, roughly 4 or 5, playing. And she’s right….we’d probably have been the COOLEST of friends. (..And I’m pretty sure I’d take turns on our bikes…)
She smiled a big smile when it was done, and had only one thing to say: “Perfect.”
Aside from my regular face studies, in my drawings and paintings this year I’ve decided to make more of an effort to try to tap into illustrating a message, or a meaning, or a feeling. I don’t mean a STANCE–I’ve not got any political or legal or religious statement to make in my artwork (there are others who excel magnificently in that), but more of something that means something TO ME.
I find (as an illustrator) that it’s one of the defining differences between “commercial illustration” and “painting”–I know I take things way too literally. There is not often any deep, hidden meaning in my work, and I’m totally okay with that. But this year, I’m going to try to tap more into what I’d have to SAY (if anything) in a painting….something I’ve never really done, unless it was a melancholy, depressing image when I was upset, like pitiful gothic teenage “woe is me” poetry.
And that’s exactly what happened with the first one I tried. I was in a hormonal funk I couldn’t get out of. Everyone has “down” days, but this one seemed neverending. I had no motivation. I wanted to cry all day FOR NO REASON. It felt like someone handed me a huge boulder to carry as I went through the day, and it weighed down everything I did. I had trouble really describing how crushing this feeling was. Instead, I tried to see if drawing it might help.
It felt like pointy-beaked birds nesting in my hair. It felt like ribbons of tears. It felt like a dark cloud. Still, drawing it still seemed to trivialize it a bit. It still felt like bad teenage poetry.
I debated showing it to Myla–I didn’t want to worry her or upset her. But when she saw it on my art desk, she asked about it. I told her I was doing a painting about feeling sad, and was trying to show how it makes you feel. She asked if she could add on, and why not? She drew a dragon tangled in the hair, trying to hold on. There are x-rays to “show what’s inside.” And little wind-up mice, crawling all over–into the heart, chewing the hair, chewing at the bones. She hesitantly asked if it was okay if she drew something creepy (because there’s a time and a place for creepy things, and school isn’t one of them..and also because it was my drawing and she wanted to know if it was okay), and I said of course–that it was what the drawing was about, that I was trying to show things that bother you, that upset you. She drew the thing that creeps her out the most–zombies (which she only knows about courtesty of the halloween sections at the grocery store, and the game “Plants and Zombies,” and from a few kids at school).
So she helped me with this one. And to me, it seems like a stereotype…a morose self-indulgence. Maybe I’m just uncomfortable with negative feelings. It must’ve helped, though, because the horrible funk passed not long after.
But every new journey starts with just one little step, and that’s my goal this next year…to try to see (from time to time) if I can start with very simple, little ideas, and get them on paper, without it being all melodramatic and serious. Not because it’s a “new year” and I have to “make a resolution” (I’ve mentioned how I feel about that)…but because I love trying new things, and it just happened to coincide with the new year. SO there. 🙂
And while I’m taking my own little journey, I’m wondering how it’ll influence Myla’s views on her own drawings. She is VERY literal (like me). She has an AMAZING imagination, but she’s not sure (spatially) why I have made things float around in the paintings above. I’ve told her the idea behind why I did it that way (that I’m illustrating dreams and ideas instead of THINGS), and she’s nodded, deep in thought. I can tell she’s mulling it over.
But I don’t think this means my artwork will get more “SERIOUS”–I think humor is a big part of what I enjoy (and not taking yourself too seriously is EXTREMELY important to me)….I just think it’ll be fun to see where digging a little deeper takes me. Where it takes us. Because as long as it’s fun and it’s making us happy, who CARES what it means, right?
…So what new things are YOU trying?