I’ve been drawing and painting our daughter Myla for a long time. I was intimidated at first, but she quickly became my favorite subject.
I was looking back at some of my artwork featuring her, and noticed how it’s changed as much as she has over the years.
My first of her was this one, where I armed her in a gentle pink dress-up dress, with Han’s holster, Leia’s belt, Wonder Woman’s lasso, and She-Ra’s sword, surrounded by some of her very first drawings of “monsters.” She’s ready for the world, ready to face whatever’s coming with a soft smile. I’ve wanted this for her since she was born.
Soon, my drawings of her (most of them eventually turning into collaborations with her) centered around imaginary creatures, unusual monsters, and just all the make believe things that made her smile.
I also enjoyed illustrating the wonderful things she said.
I began taking photos of her, and adding all kinds of creatures to them, trying to capture a tiny glimpse of the magical world that might be in her mind, and celebrate the magic of being such a creative kid.
And as she got out into the world a little more, I felt this strong urge to teach her to enjoy all the creative weirdness that makes her so wonderful. To never be ashamed of being who she is, and to be proud of being creative and different. I felt a pang of pride the day she told me how a kid at school called her a “weirdo,” and she confidently said, “thank you!”
The more she had conflict, the more I wanted her to meet those monsters if she must, and make friends with them, instead of fearing them. I want her to be comfortable enough with herself to know who she is when she goes up against them.
I want to protect her heart from harsh arrows, and keep her kind but strong–a tough balance for anyone, I know.
I see her as such a magical little creature, and in my desire to protect her and teach her to protect herself, I began arming her in my artwork with horns and armor.
One day, an image came to me so strongly that I had to put it on paper. She’s been faced with her own obstacles recently, and I have been discussing them with her, so she can better understand how she works, and not be afraid or feel bad about it. And although I saw a slight nervousness in her, I was so impressed that she just accepted it all, and mentally prepared herself for the battle.
I want her to know that everyone struggles. EVERYONE. There’s not a person you see that’s not facing SOME sort of issue at this very moment. You can’t let it knock you down forever. You have to find ways around it–whatever it may be–and keep on going. Whatever that struggle is, it doesn’t have to be the only thing in the definition of who you are...it can simply be a side note.
She doesn’t have to be the kid who–despite having elaborate and complex stories in her mind–has trouble writing letters or remembering instructions. She doesn’t have to just be the kid whose energy and excitement keep her from holding still in class. Those things don’t have to be the only things that define her.
She is the kid whose creativity knows no bounds; whose mind is overflowing with amazingly creative ideas–so much that it’s sometimes a little distracting for her. She has quiet moments, too, and can spend hours patiently drawing or working on detailed art projects. This is the kid who can remember things from years ago in full detail. Who is extremely empathetic. Who can make friends with anyone. Who says “have a great day!” when she leaves a store. Who creates complicated board games and makes three-dimensional, fully posable creatures out of construction paper and tape. Who is goofy, and will do pretty much anything for a laugh. Who surprises me sometimes with the depth of her thoughts.
I wanted her to see the kind, strong warrior I see.
She posed for a few reference photos for me, and I started sketching. I saw determination in her eyes. I filled her armor with dragons, because sometimes you can turn monsters into friends.
She saw me working on it one day, and although I hadn’t planned it as a collaboration (I just had the basic image in my mind, I wasn’t sure what else to do with it, really), I thought it was a perfect opportunity for her to add her own creatures to it. To draw out those little demons and give them faces.
I told her a little about my idea, and the image I saw in my mind. She came up with the concept of drawing demons (the enemy) and dragons (her friends). Some of the demons she created had names like Fear, Jealousy, Pain, and Chains. The dragons had names like Kindness, Humor, Bravery, Energy (a negative into a positive!), Peace, and Strength. I added a few leaves to the background to give it a setting, and went on my way…
I start with a thin layer of turquoise acrylic on top of my ballpoint pen drawing on the skin areas. The turquoise gives the skin a little depth, I think, and I build up thicker layers of acrylic on top so it becomes more opaque.
And after a lot of work and a TON of time, I think she’s finished. And I think it says what I wanted it to say.
Everyone’s got struggles. You don’t have to be completely fearless–they can scare you a little–but you’ve got to get past the fear, and adapt and overcome by facing it head-on. Don’t let it get in the way of whatever it is you want to do. In your struggle, you might feel like you’re not coping or handling things as well as other people might. It really helps, I think, to know other people are dealing with things the best they can, too. Make friends with your monsters. Learn to live with them. Don’t give up.