Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Little Birdie

A Little Birdie

Little Birdie

"What's for the snack sack today?"

"A little birdie."

"Okay," I said as I ran a search and handed him my iPhone.

"I wanted a real bird," he complained after a minute of flicking through the options. "These aren't even real birds." He was right about that. Most of the images were not birds.

"Aw, this one's cute!" he exclaimed showing me a picture of a painting of a parrot in a cage.

"No it's not."

"Why not? He's cute."

"He's in a cage and he doesn't look cute at all."

"Aw, this one's so cute! And he's wearing a cute hat!"

This time I had to agree. When I was finished, he reiterated his sentiment, "Aw, how cute!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Today is the Fun Run at school and Victor came downstairs wearing his special Fun Run t-shirt. It had a large imprint of his elementary school mascot, the monarch butterfly. He liked the new shirt and it was no surprise when he chose a monarch butterfly for the snack sack today.

I got the proportions all wrong and had to throw out my first sack. "Sometimes I start things out too big," I explained to him.

"Can you do it in color?"

"No, I don't have time for color," I explained. He was right that it would have looked great in color, but I've resisted adding any more complexity to the project. It already takes me 30 minutes or more sometimes to complete a drawing. Adding color will only make the process more challenging.

This one was harder than I expected with lots of detail on the wings. I found it difficult, as I often to do, to maintain reasonably symmetric proportions. I wasn't too happy with the butterfly and paid extra attention to the branch to help it stand out more in an effort to take some attention away from the imperfections.

He didn't think my cursive 'r' looked like an 'r' and wanted to add his own secret 'r'. I told him to write out his name however he wanted. He did so, twice! He scattered his letters across the wings and put one 'r' on the back of the sack. "That silly 'r'," I said to him, "It's always trying to trick us."

"I think that's the best you've ever done!" he said sincerely. "It's beautiful. I know the girls will like this one." I was pleasantly surprised with the flurry of compliments. "I like the monarch butterfly more than anything you've done. It's the most beautiful thing in the world. Thank you Daddy."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Robot

A Robot

Dinosaur Robot

"What's for the snack sack today?" I asked him.

"Let's see," he said contemplatively, "a machine!"

"What kind of machine?"

"Um, no. A robot!"

"Okay." I searched for robots and handed him my iPhone. He flicked through the images for some time and picked this one.

"That's not a robot." At least not really, I thought. It was sort of like a cyborg dinosaur.

"I know. They don't have robots," he said about the options.

That wasn't true and I shot him a look that said as much.

"But I want that one. It looks cool."

I couldn't argue with that. I wasn't sure I'd have enough time to get in finished in time, but I worked efficiently to get it done. This was our 100th snack sack! I had no idea when we started that our little project would have such longevity.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snowboarder Guy

Snowboarder Guy

Snowboarder Guy

We spent last week at Mammoth Mountain. I skied for the first time in over 20 years and he snowboarded for the first time ever. He really wanted to try snowboarding, but after being told by all sources that it's easier for kids to start on skis, my wife and I weren't sure who to listen to. Ultimately we left the decision up to him and his passion was clearly with snowboarding. He was a natural, picked it up right away, and was snowboarding down the mountain on his second day of lessons. We had a really great week in the snow.

The only downside is that I caught a cold and was feeling pretty sick today. I let him know that as I suggested, "How about something with the snowy mountains? I'm not feeling well, so how about something easy?"

"A hotel!" he exclaimed.

"Uh, that doesn't have anything to do with the snowy mountains. A hotel can be anywhere."

"Oh. Right," he said as he considered several options out loud. "A mountain is too easy. A gondola is medium.  A snowboarder guy is too easy. A hotel can be anywhere." He paused before settling on an idea he felt worthy for today, "How about a village?"

After hearing him brush aside options he felt were too easy, then settling on something complex, I reminded him with some anguish in my voice, "I don't want hard. I'm not feeling well."

"Sometimes people are tricking when they say they're not feeling well," he responded blankly.

His lack of sympathy and the insinuation that I was faking it got me very mad. I left the kitchen and went upstairs to change. On my way up I said, "I'm not going to do a snack sack today. You're just being mean."

He came upstairs and apologized while I was getting ready. He gave me a hug and conceded, "Okay, you can do a snowboarder guy."

After the bumpy start, I decided not to get his input on which drawing to choose. I picked this one out and to keep it simple, I blacked out the snowboarder instead of drawing the details. He came to my side of the kitchen table when he was finished with breakfast and took a look. He told me, "It would be more awesomer if you didn't do it all black."

I was amazed that he noticed and had to agree with him. I just didn't have the energy today. I still like it though, as did he.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Skippyjon Jones

Skippyjon Jones

Skippyjon Jones

We had forgotten that he had suggested we do Skippyjon Jones a few days ago after reading one of the funny books in the series. I reminded him this morning.

"Okay, yeah!" he said.

I started this one and had trouble right off the bat. I had to throw the first sack out. I wasn't happy with my second attempt either and threw it out too.

"This is hard," I told him as I was about to start on my third try. It's not very often that I have to throw out a sack. This may be the very first time I've had to throw out two.

"It isn't hard for me," he said confidently.

"Do you want to try?" I asked him. We were running early this morning and I was curious if he'd take on the challenge.

"Yeah sure," he said as if he takes over all the time. In fact, this was the very first time he took complete ownership of the drawing.

I handed him the Sharpie and watched him concentrate for 10 full minutes. Although 10 minutes may not sound like much, it is extremely unusual for him to sit still and focus for such a long period of time. He talked to himself throughout the process. He did a terrific job of looking at the drawing and looking back at the picture being sure to take into account proportions and the alignment of the various strokes. I suggested that he do his name in the style of the title art and he did. This is actually a very good drawing. He did awesome and I was sure to let him feel how proud I was of him and his effort.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Love You...This Much

I Love You...This Much

I Love You This Much

"How about something Valentine's-y?" I asked him.

"Sure," he said but he didn't have any ideas.

On the kitchen table was a cute art project he brought home yesterday. It had two hands made from pink and red construction paper. Written on the left hand was "I Love You." On the right, "This Much!" In between was a folded piece of paper that said "Happy Valentine's Day."

"How about this?" I asked pointing to it.

"Sure," he said to my surprise.

We started out by trying to trace his hands, but they were too big to fit. I was worried that I hadn't left enough room to fully write "Happy Valentine's Day." I counted several times to be sure I had it right. I asked him to write that part out and made sure he got all the letters correct. He looks so cute when he's concentrating hard on something.

This one was easy and fun. It's always special when we collaborate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

We've been talking about Looney Tunes a lot the past few days. We've never watched any of the cartoons together, but it turns out that he's been watching them at school. He picked the Tasmanian Devil for today although he didn't know him by name. I've been sick for the last few days, so I was hoping for something easy this morning.

As I was drawing, we had a nice chat about all the different Looney Tunes characters. I enjoyed sharing my memories of the characters and snippets of my favorite cartoons. Those characters and their silly antics are engrained in my memory. I began to imagine a day soon when we will sit on the couch to watch some of the classics together. I'll be so interested to study his reactions.

Later, he came back from the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, mouth full of toothpaste.

"I saw Sylvester fall off a building and see stars."

"He probably shook his head and was back to normal, huh?"

"Yeah. That wouldn't happen with real people, right? I would just break my head and be dead, right?"

"Right," I said as I nodded in affirmation. My head and heart felt very heavy all of the sudden.

"Aw, I wish I were a cartoon," he said walking back to the bathroom, brushing his teeth along the way.

I suppose that's why we haven't watched Looney Tunes together yet. They are so violent. But at least he's old enough now to understand the difference between real people and cartoons. I was happy to hear that.

I tried very hard to focus during this one and I believe it's one of my best drawings. Doing so well boosted my spirits in spite of my sniffles. When I look at this one, I feel proud of my abilities and am immediately taken back to second grade. There was a kid at school who could draw the Smurfs and the entire Smurf village to perfection. He would draw them for other kids. Some even gave him money. I always wanted one of his drawings. I was so amazed at how effortlessly he drew the lines and how at some point during the process the character lifted off the page and came to life. I marvel with that same feeling on days like today when the drawing that I'm creating comes alive as the primary characteristics of the character is drawn.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Action Scene: T-Rex vs. Croc

Action Scene: T-Rex vs. Croc

Action Scene: T-Rex vs. Croc

He asked for another dinosaur this morning, but he returned the book to his school library yesterday. I did a search and handed him my iPhone. I asked him to pick a dinosaur we hadn't already done.

I was pushing for Stegosaurus but he didn't want that. He picked this scene instead. Had it just been the T-Rex I would have refused to do yet another T-Rex, but with the croc there too, this was something new. Action. Motion. Conflict. Maybe this is a new avenue of drawings to try...action scenes!

Monday, February 11, 2013




He picked a dinosaur from the book this morning. It happened to be Ankylosaurus. It was a rough morning with us getting a late start and him not cooperating. I rushed through this one, but stayed focused throughout.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Skylanders: Slam Bam

Skylanders: Slam Bam

Skylanders: Slam Bam

"A rocket?"

Boy he had trouble picking something this morning. He kept throwing out ideas for things we've already done. I blurted out lots of different categories hoping to instigate a new idea, but he wasn't in the mood to brainstorm. Finally he said, "You pick."

He doesn't often give me the choice, and I don't often like taking it. But today we were running out of time and I had an idea. I asked, "How about aliens?"

"Aliens are too kookie," he informed me.

"How about something from Skylanders then?" He was wearing Skylanders pajamas today for pajama day at school.

"Yeah!" he exclaimed, excited by the prospect.

Of course he picked a complex drawing which always makes the process more stressful for me. "You picked that one on purpose," I said knowing that he understood that I was referring to its complexity. "You don't even know its name," I scolded.

"It's a character I used to play with. Um, it's a water character," he said unconvincingly. I had to look it up later, but he was right about that. It is a water character and his name is Slam Bam.

It wasn't easy but I really like how well it came out despite running out of room on one side. It's one of my better efforts. I guess I do like the challenge, even if it does stress me out under such tough time constraints in the morning.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Another T-Rex

Another T-Rex


Yesterday, he brought home a dinosaur drawing book from the school library. That's the third drawing book he's brought home. I tried to resist another T-Rex, but he insisted, "Last time you drew an Allosaurus." He was right about that. But the dinosaur before that was a T-Rex.

I don't really like how these books describe the drawing process. They all start out with basic shapes to help with the proportions. Then the shapes magically transform into a cool drawing. They don't really break it down or provide true drawing tips so that the reader could truly learn how to draw. If they did, I'd be taking notes. I know I should probably block out my drawings with basic shapes, but I prefer just to eyeball it and see how it turns out. Today I was feeling brave and used the thick end of the Sharpie for the primary outline. Today's effort led to a drawing that looks very much like the reference, which is what tends to happen when I focus and am also in a good, confident mood.

He took the Sharpie again today to add his letters on his own. I find it funny how he scatters them all about, especially the ever elusive "sneaky R."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Turtle Mask

Turtle Mask

Turtle Mask

"What's for the snack sack today?"

"How about..."

"Oh, you said Hawaii yesterday," I interrupted.


I searched Hawaii drawings but didn't find too many options. He picked this turtle mask type thing that happened to be in the list of images.

We were already running behind schedule having both slept extra this morning. Then, right before I got started, I spilled an entire cup of Jamba Juice onto the floor. It splattered everywhere and ran underneath the refrigerator. I had to move the fridge and clean under it as best I could. By the time I finished cleaning up I wasn't in the best of moods. I started drawing too hurriedly and had to throw out my first attempt. I took a deep breath and started a new one. It wasn't very symmetrical right off the bat, but I had to just keep going.

He had finished his breakfast by the time I got started. He came over to sit next to me to read his short reader books. There were three of them. He decided that today he would read his books in a sing-song voice. I tried to tell him to read normally but he ignored me. His song reading won me over quickly and a smile came across my face for the first time all morning. He sang the stories with the intense drama you might see in a Broadway show complete with da-da-da-dunt-da-dum type interludes. Then he started drumming on the table as he read. It was funny to see him in action. He made me chuckle even as I struggled through this drawing.

When I was finished, he said, "I like it but you forgot to do something." He took the Sharpie and added the dots on the turtle's head. "You forgot to add these dots," he told me. "I like it Daddy," he said approvingly.

He had one more book to read. He increased the pace of the drumming and theatrics as I prodded him to wrap it up quickly. He stopped himself a few pages in and said, "I'm just going to read this one regular because this one isn't so easy to do with a song. It's not a good song book." I had to laugh inside to keep from distracting him.

I was happy that the others had been good song books because his animated reading put me into a good mood this morning after having started off on the wrong foot.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let's Do Another Volcano...

Let's Do Another Volcano...


"Why not do an Inca Kola bottle?" he asked me, staring at a 2-liter Inca Kola bottle on the kitchen counter. I had found a store recently that sold the national drink of Peru and took the opportunity to buy this rare treat for myself. Before I could even respond, he said, "Just kidding. Let's do another volcano."

I figured it was okay to do another volcano but I wondered if he's just stuck in a rut. "Are you out of ideas? Is that why you keep picking stuff we've already done?" I asked him sincerely.

"Yeah, I'm out of ideas," he admitted.

"Oh, well, ideas are easy. We can always come up with new ideas. We could pick categories like plants or animals or places or..."

He interrupted me, "Oh! Next time we can do Hawaii."

Okay that worked, I thought to myself. Looks like I'll need to work on giving him more fodder in the mornings. For today, though, we decided to stick with "another volcano."

After I finished, I wondered out loud, "This looks like the first volcano I did for you."

"But it's not right?"

"Actually I'm not sure." I wasn't. "It might be." It wasn't. But it was remarkably similar.

"I love the volcano, Dad!" he said bursting with joy.

"I didn't put your name on it because I didn't know if you wanted to."

"I wanted to!" he confirmed with gusto.

As he added his letters, he talked aloud again. "The 'i' is steaming...look!" he told me. "The 'R' is always sneaky, so he has to be sneaky," he added.

It's always cute to watch him take so much pride in his additions. He really does get into it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Another Kind of Jet

Another Kind of Jet


"What's for the snack sack today?"

"A jet."

"We've already done a jet." He's really starting to repeat himself.

"Another kind of jet." I figured there are definitely lots of different jets to draw so I did the search and handed him my iPhone.

He looked for a long time then said, "You pick daddy." That was odd. I took a look for myself and noticed that there weren't many good options for jet drawings. We scrolled together agreeing that none were suitable. We had a good laugh at a picture of a shower jet in the mix.

I tried a search with "F-14" and that turned up better options. I focussed a lot on this one trying to get all the proportions right and it shows. My attention and my mood both make a big difference to the quality.

Friday, February 1, 2013




"What's for the snack sack today?" I asked him cheerful as I do every morning.


"We've already done an allosaurus."

"No we haven't." He paused for a few beats. "Okay, which one is allosaurus?"

I actually wasn't sure myself. I looked it up. "Okay, we haven't done an allosaurus," I conceded. "Pick an easy one though."

He flicked through the options for 5 minutes. I started to get impatient. I prodded him to "just pick something!" The time pressure can get me cranky on some days. He picked this one but it had a complex silhouette of its head in the background.

"I'm not doing the background," I said firmly.

"Why not?"

"Pick which one," I said impatiently, "the green guy or the background."

I grew more annoyed as he considered the two. He finally picked "the green guy."

One minute later he asked if I was drawing the background. "No!" I said emphatically. "You told me to draw the main guy."

He came by when I was almost done. "I want to see his teeth!" he said with anticipation. "Oooooh!"

I personally don't like this one much as the body is too short and it looks more like a large lizard than a true allosaurus. For some reason I'm not having as much fun lately. I don't know if it's because he is picking options that are too hard to complete within the 20 or so minutes I have to spare in the morning or if I have less confidence in myself for these more complex ones. Perhaps I need to learn how to not be so hard on myself. It would seem that all I really need to do for approval is draw some really cool sharp teeth!