Friday, May 31, 2013

How about a bouncy castle...

How about a bouncy castle...

Bouncy Castle

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

"How about a bouncy castle?" he suggested.

"Sure!" I said, simultaneously pulling out my iPhone and starting a Google image search. I tried, but could not find a line drawing of a bouncy castle. I handed him the iPhone and he picked this one. "This is going to be hard," I announced.

"Not for me," he said confidently.

"You wanna try?" I asked with a slight challenge in my voice.

"Sure!" he said. 

I was surprised by his answer, but it was cool that he was interested. I wasn't sure he'd have enough time, but felt that if he was diligent he could get it done. Perhaps he'll start and I'll finish? I thought. "You'll have to eat quickly and get completely ready first," I let him know.

"Okay," he said intent on earning the chance.

Without his usual delays, he finished his breakfast and brushed his teeth. He came over and took my usual chair. He picked up the Sharpie and got to work. I coached him through the steps of analyzing the picture and deciding how to get started. He had seen me draw so many sacks that he emulated my tactics. He studied the drawing, placed down the Sharpie, and began at the top of the castle.

It wasn't easy for him to maintain perspective, but I kept pointing out subtleties in the curves and shadows to help him recognize such details. I explained techniques on how to fix some of his errors and how to avoid others. Although I gave him guidance along the way, he really did take on the challenge on his own. He added the stars and embellishments at the top of the castle. 

His name, normally his opportunity to draw on the sack in a creative way, took on a more straight forward purpose this time, namely to announce that this was "Victor's Drawing." Indeed! All the lines drawn are his own.

His face showed how proud he was to have drawn the entire sack on his own. My face showed that I was even prouder.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Star Wars Angry Birds

Star Wars Angry Birds

Star Wars Angry Birds

"Can you do two Star Wars Angry Birds?" he asked with hesitation. "Two?" he repeated.

"Yes," I said, sensing he expected me to say, "no."

I handed him my iPhone and he picked an image with R2-D2 and C-3PO as Angry Birds. I wasn't thrilled about doing just those two and told him so. He found this full version with all the characters and sheepishly asked, "Do you think you can do all this?"

"Yes!" I said confidently. We had plenty of time today.

When I first started he came over to my side of the kitchen table and asked, "How's it going?"

"I'm having a little trouble with the proportions," I said honestly, wondering to myself if it would all come together.

"Well, it doesn't look much like it," he said ruthlessly without intending to be. "At least not right now," he added to soften the blow. I did my best to ignore the comment.

I had to take a break in the middle of drawing to send off an email. When I came back from the office, he told me that there was a surprise on the back and flipped the sack over. He had drawn three small hearts with long balloon-like strings flowing to the bottom of the back of the sack. He added his name too which is why it's not on the main drawing on the front of the sack. I could tell he was proud of the additions. It was very sweet.

When I was done he said, "I like it! I like it, Daddy! Looks cool!" more than making up for the early criticism. The drawing had come together despite all the mistakes I made.

"Thanks, Buddy!"

"Jeez, you're really good at drawing, Dad! You're the best!"

I'm not sure about that, I thought to myself, but he sure does make me feel special sometimes!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How about a playground...

How about a playground...


"I love you," he said hugging my leg in the bathroom vanity area. He had woken up just after I had. "You're the best daddy I could ask for because you draw so well." My heart melted in that very moment. Now that's the way to start a morning!

He had trouble picking something today. I prodded him to start with a category, "Think of people or places or things or activities."

"Things!" he said, but he still couldn't come up with anything. Then all of the sudden he suggested, "How about a playground?"

We searched and searched and searched. I thought it was a good idea, but it wasn't easy to find a good reference playground to draw. He kept looking though. Finally he said, "I'm just going to pick a random one." He did, but neither of us liked it.

"Can I try to find something?" I asked him, trying to be helpful.

"Sure," he agreed.

I searched and searched and finally found a suitable drawing of a playground. Good thing we had so much extra time this morning. I had to chicken scratch my way through this one finding it difficult to maintain depth and perspective.

"Whoa!" he said looking at it when I was finished. "How are you so good? How do you make it look just like it? How do you do it?" he asked insistently.

I'm growing more accustomed to this line of questioning since it keeps coming up. "Practice," I said, "and I believe in myself." I'm hopeful that these lessons will stick with him as he grows older.

"Can you teach me on the weekend?" he asked expectantly.

"Sure! You just have to be patient. You have to practice and believe in yourself," I said looking to reinforce my previous points.

"I should do drawing lessons, right?"

"You want to take art lessons?"

"No, not art."

"Oh, you mean just drawing lessons?"


"You do good when you focus and believe you can do it."

"We should start easy right?"

"Yeah, we'll start easy and work our way up."

I am hopeful that he'll show some patience and begin to practice more. He loves creative drawing, that's for sure. He often comes home with elaborate drawings of dragons and monsters and volcanoes. But I wonder if he'll sit still through a real lesson. I suppose I'll try to give him a lesson and find out!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Henry and Daddo Hugglemonster

Henry and Daddo Hugglemonster

Henry and Daddo Hugglemonster

"Does ESS need a snack sack or do I just put it in your lunch?" There was no school today for some reason so he was going to his extended school services program all day today.


"Do you want me to do a snack sack today?"


"Okay, what's your idea for today?"

"The Golden Gate Bridge."

"Pick something new, not something we've already done before," I said a bit too harshly. I was feeling surly after a poor night's sleep. He looked displeased that I had jumped all over him.

The TV show, Henry Hugglemonster, was coming on and he exclaimed, "Henry!"

"Sure," I said.

"Can you do his whole family?" he asked expectantly.

"No," I said knowing that I didn't have the time. We were already running behind schedule.

"Okay, do Daddo." He considered alternatives, "Can you do Henry and his dad?"

"Sure," I said reluctantly. It was sweet though to draw a father and son, even if they were huggable monsters. He asked me to add the flower that stands between them. It is in the reference image but the arrangement of the characters is different.

He didn't see the finished product until we were on our way out. "Ooh, I like it," he said after looking at it for nary a second before stuffing it into his backpack. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rock Climbing Wall

Rock Climbing Wall

Rock Climbing Wall

"Do my bug-y bot-y." He was referring to one of his toys on the kitchen table. "Never mind. Don't do bug-bot. Ugh. I don't know what to do!" he said suddenly exasperated.

"How about you think of something from school?" I suggested randomly.

"I want you to do the Back to Summer Festival." We had just gone to his school's festival this past weekend.

"Huh?" I said a bit confused.

"I want you to do the rock wall," he clarified. For the most part he didn't enjoy himself, but one of the few things he did enjoy there was the rock climbing wall. He made it all the way to the top after some hesitation at the beginning.

I did a search and we picked a photograph that looked very similar to both the rock wall and the field in which the festival was held. I wasn't sure how it might turn out, but I like the final product and so did he. "Ooh, I like it!" he said when he saw it.

We worked together to hide his letters on the wall. He took a close look at the drawing, comparing it to the picture. "Can you add little lines for, like, tall grass?" he asked. 

"That's not what's in the picture," I noted, pointing out the short cut grass in the photo.

"Can you just do that? It will look better," he cajoled in a cute voice. I had no choice but to comply, although I did so hastily. "Yeah, that's better," he said unconvincingly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Robot Monster

Robot Monster

Robot Monster

"What's for the snack sack today?" I asked absently. I was distracted by work issues this morning.

"My robot. Daddy, do my robot," he said without delay. He was talking about one of his toys.

I didn't respond, lost in my email inbox.

"Never mind. Just do a robot from your phone," he said as I looked up at him.

I'm not sure why he changed his mind about his own robot, but I didn't press. I dismissed his first few options since he kept picking complex transformer-like humanoids. I didn't want to spend the time today drawing all that detail. Plus, I was expecting him to pick something more like a traditional robot which is the image that came to my mind when he first said "robot".

When he picked this image, I initially rejected it as well. He was frustrated with me so I took a closer look and realized that this is a very cool scene. What's more, I always enjoy working on blacked out drawings like this one. They look so striking! I was able to put my work stress aside and become fully immersed in this one. It took a lot longer than I expected. Just coloring in all the black took quite a while, especially on the parts where I took care to leave outlines and highlights uncolored. I'm glad we stuck with this choice because it's actually one of my all-time favorites.

He told me not to write "Victor Monster" which is definitely what I would have done had he not said anything. He was excited to add his name, although I wasn't happy with where he put it. The sneaky R, however, found a great spot hiding amid the rubble.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013




"A TV," he said. "Not like, 'copy this TV,'" he continued gesturing toward our family room TV. "Some random TV," he added for further clarification.

I ran a search and handed him my iPhone. After he picked a plain TV reference, I thought to myself, I wonder if we are losing our creativity or interest level?

He's been less enthusiastic about picking new things. Plus, I've been more stressed at work which makes me tense in the mornings. I feel pressure to be doing other things like checking email rather than drawing. I put those pressures aside and pressed on, knowing that the idea of forcing some creativity in the morning is exactly what got us started on this project in the first place. I finished the TV pretty quickly not giving it a lot of my time or energy.

"Can you draw something in the TV?" he asked.

"Yes, of course," I replied.

"Can you draw this house?" he asked pointing to a knick-knack. "And this thing," he added as he walked over to the pantry door and held up a Christmas stocking that was hanging on the doorknob. I had never seen it before and don't know where it came from, especially on this day late in May. It was a stocking with a print of Santa flying in a hot air ballon over a house with Frosty looking up from below. Bizarre!

"Why would those things be on TV?" I asked with genuine curiosity. He had no answer and came over to sit in my lap. I was about to scold him for not heading to the bathroom to brush his teeth, but took a deep breath instead. He curled up in my lap and I sighed, enjoying his warmth. We were running behind schedule, so after a few moments, I began to gently remind him about the morning routine. He ignored me. 

"Can I draw something on the TV?" he asked softly.

"Of course," I said, forgetting about the clock for the moment.

He began with the fat tip of the twin-tipped Sharpie. "Do you know what I'm drawing?" he asked playfully.

"Waves," I replied.

"Right," he said as he drew a fish in the water with the thin tipped end.

He decided he wanted to add a boat, but confessed that he wasn't sure what it might look like. I ran a quick search and we picked a simple line drawing of a boat. His eyes repeatedly switched focus from the reference boat on my iPhone, then back to the sack. He drew carefully with deliberate lines. He's observant and matched each and every one of the boat's lines.

"I messed up a little bit," he said commenting on the parts that found their way outside of the TV. "Other than that it looks pretty good," he said proudly. 

"Very good!" I said praising his effort.

When he added the puff of smoke, he laughed, "It kind of looks like a puppy."

"It does," I agreed.

He drew an eye on the puff of smoke to further compliment the unintended effect. Then he added his name. "The R is going to be very tricky. Close your eyes," he commanded. "Can you find it?"

I did right away because I knew exactly where he would put it. "In the fish," I said.

"Yup," he said smiling. I smiled too. Our closeness and creativity had, in fact, never been stronger.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Couch

A Couch


"Have you ever done a couch?"

"A couch?"

"Yeah. A couch."

"No, I've never done a couch."

"Okay! Let's do a couch!"


 I ran a search and handed him my iPhone. "Found it! Here!"

"Why'd you pick this one?"

"'Cause I just like it."

It is a very modern couch designed by an Italian furniture company. It looks sleek but not at all comfortable. The rigidity of the lines and stiff appearance are contrasted by the utilitarian nature of the storage compartments under the cushions. The seats are covered in deep red leather. Perhaps it caught his attention because it is a couch style very different from our own deep pillow, black leather, dual reclining love seat. It's always a surprise what catches his attention.

I struggled with this one just as I have with all of the references that come from pictures or that are simplistic in their lines. The perspective and proportions are not on target and overall it just feels a bit bland, especially after yesterday's deep sea scene.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

"What's for the snack sack today?"

"A coral reef."

I ran a search and he picked this complex underwater scene complete with a sunken ship and lots of undersea flora. On most days, I would have dismissed it as being too complex, but today I had some extra time on my hands. I worked diligently and silently. We sat together independently fixated, he by a show on TV and me lost in the drawing. I don't often get the chance to draw a full scene and I enjoyed working on this one.

"I liiiike it," he said in a sweet voice when he saw the finished drawing. I like it too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Humming Bird

A Humming Bird

Humming Bird

"Any ideas for today's sack?"

He sat thinking for a minute. "It's not a crystal. It's a gem or a ruby or something." He clearly was picturing something in his mind. "Okay, just a crystal," he said in defeat unable to identify what he was thinking about.

"We've already done a crystal. Twice. Pick something new," I scolded mildly.

"Okay, I'll search for a ruby, but it won't look like a ruby since it won't be red." He searched for a couple of minutes. "Since there's no ruby that I like, I'll just pick a humming bird."

He always surprises me with his sudden shifts of subject. Before I got started, we had a heated exchange about him messing around instead of eating his breakfast. He was insolent with me, so when I sat down to draw I was still upset from the exchange.

He took interest in how I got started. Looking over the table at me as I worked, he asked, "Daddy, how do you always get it to look so right? A lot of times you get it to look so right without messing up. How do you do that?"

"I concentrate. I try to focus. I remember to draw what I see," I replied without looking up. I thought to myself, I definitely mess up quite a bit, but am able to cover it up much of the time.

"Can you teach me to draw?"

"Sure, but you haven't wanted to sit down and learn. You've brought home several drawing books but haven't wanted to practice."

"Daddy, your'e almost the best drawer in the... family. Right, Daddy?" He was probably going to say "the whole world" or something like that, but he hesitated and changed his mind for some reason.

"I don't know," I said. There was definitely still a bit of tension in the air between us.

"Well, who's the best builder in the family?"

"Grandpa from California," I said. We'd talked about that before.

I messed up a bunch on this humming bird.  Maybe it was the pressure from the compliments or perhaps it was my surly mood that caused me to lose focus. The worst part is that it is overly puffy which makes it less immediately recognizable as a humming bird.

"Ah, very good. The V has wings!" he said remarking on his name. He gave the bird a closer look and said, "It's kind of fat Daddy."

I explained about the proportions and how I drew the body line too wide making the whole bird appear too large.

"Looks like it's a boy 'cause it's fat!" he said as he chuckled. I smiled too. I gave him a hug and we went to the next room to get our shoes on.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A House

A House


"Any ideas for today's snack sack?"

"A house."

"What kind of house?"

"Like the house we live in."

"Okay," I said as I ran a search on my iPhone.

"All of these are complicated, but I'll pick one that's easy," he said as he scanned the Google images.

He did!

"Well this is sort of a haunted house, but I just want a regular house, so don't draw the spider, the spider webs, the gate, and the ghost."

I was focussed on making his lunch and didn't respond right away.

"Are you listening? Don't draw the spider, the spider webs, the gate, and the ghosts," he repeated. "You got that?"

"Yup. Don't draw the spider, the spider webs, the gate, and the ghost," I played back.


As I started drawing he leaned up from across the table to look at the lines being drawn.

"I still can't believe that when you draw it looks just like it."

"Pretty cool to see it come to life, huh?"

"I just can't believe it! You should be an art teacher. Or a movie maker."

Wouldn't that be fun?! I thought without any misplaced sense of grandeur knowing that the adulation was coming from my own son.

He came back from brushing his teeth to take a look at the finished product. "It's not one house. It's two houses on top of a house," he remarked astutely. "Where's Victor?"

"I didn't add it yet."

He took the Sharpie and proceeded to add a new chimney in the center with a long stream of smoke coming out of it. He hid his letters mostly within. The 't' ended up on the doorknob hardly readable and of course the sneaky R had to be sneaky. It found its way hidden among the chimney bricks. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Real Volcano

A Real Volcano

Volcano Scene

"Do you have a snack sack idea?"

He thought for a few beats, then said, "A real volcano."

I shot him a disapproving look and said, "I've already done a volcano." In fact, I had done a couple of volcanoes.

"I mean a real volcano." I wasn't sure what that meant but figured I'd let him show me. I ran a search and handed him my iPhone. He searched for a long time before he picked this stormy scene.

The scene is an amazing picture with a dark gray and purple sky dominating it. The mountains and water are nearly black in darkness. The lightning shines bright blue and hot white, lighting up the surrounding areas. Lava explodes from the erupting volcano adding orange and red hues to the turbulent cloud cover. "I can try but it won't look the same as the picture," I let him know.

"Just do your best." That's what I did, trying to find ways of capturing the essence of the scene as best I could with only the Sharpie. "Dad, it doesn't really look like it," he informed me when I was done.

"I told you," I said a little hurt by his flat tone.

"I know. I like it anyway though," he said in response.

Monday, May 13, 2013

You can do a NERF gun...

You can do a NERF gun...


"I want to do something Mother's Day," he informed me. Last night, he asked me if I would do, "the front of the card I gave to Mom." It had a nice arrangement of flowers on it and I told him that I could definitely copy it.

He sat pensively for a minute. It appeared that he was considering something different. "Hmm," he said, "We already did a chocolate fountain so I guess we need to do the Mother's Day card." The chocolate fountain from our Mother's Day Brunch on Sunday was once again a highlight.

I was ready to get started, but couldn't find the card. It wasn't here. We were stuck. "No card. Mom took it to work," I informed him.

He thought for another long while, then said, "You can do a NERF gun. Well, actually that's way too complicated."

We were running late today and I wasn't feeling in the groove, but I had spent the previous week out of town for work and didn't want to disappoint. "I can do a NERF gun," I let him know. Ha!, I thought, What a wild transition from Mother's Day flowers to a NERF gun!

"No way! Cool!" He looked it over carefully. "You were supposed to do 1, 2, 3, 4, but you did 1, 2, 3. You're supposed to do 4," he said counting the bullets. He was right that there were four visible bullets, but I only had room to draw three. "You're not supposed to do what you think you see," he chastised lightly.

"I ran out of room Buddy," I let him know. He's definitely got a keen eye and keeps me honest!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Let's do a hawk...

Let's do a hawk...


Today was crazy hair day at school and I did my best to gel his hair up into a mohawk before we even came downstairs for breakfast. His hair is pretty long, so it wasn't easy to get it to hold. I doubt it will last even half of the day.

"Since we did a mohawk, let's do a hawk," he suggested. "Mo-hawk," he added, pausing between the two syllables. I did a search and handed him my iPhone.

"Oh wow, this is cool," I blurted out when I saw which one he chose. I surprised myself. I rarely have a positive reaction to his choices.

"Oh that's good. That's really good," he said when I was just getting started. 

I loved the look of this hawk and was very into the process. The thick tip of the Sharpie flowed freely today. I felt very confident. This is definitely one of my all time favorites. 

By contrast he didn't have much of a reaction at all when he saw the finished version. He stared at it for a long while and then said, "I like it," rather flatly. I was hoping he would bring it home, but he didn't and I'm not sure why.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Number Line

My Number Line

My Number Line

"What's for the snack sack today?"

"Part of this," he said holding up the class project he brought home yesterday.

I read out loud, "My number line. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30."

"You can just do part of it," he suggested.

I wasn't sure how much of it I could make fit on the length of the sack, but figured it'd be easy enough. Even though it was a simple thing to copy, as I was drawing I didn't feel I was capturing it as well as I had captured his other daffodil art project a week ago.

"I like it" he said. He took a careful look at everything in the drawing. "What's this?" he asked pointing to the scribbles over 14, 16, 18, and 20. I pointed to a marker smear on the original. The marker color had swirled into a marker stain presumably due to some water spilling on it.  I was trying to stay true to what I saw. "Ah, I see," he said thoughtfully.

I handed him the Sharpie. He had a plan for his name, but spent a lot of time finding a place for the R. He wrote "Fli" in a speech bubble because the R is "flying".

"My number line," he read. He paused, looked up at me, and said, "1-2-3, muah," as he kissed me on the wrist. Now I was the one flying.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You can pick a car...

You can pick a car...

Bentley Speed 8 Race Car

"Go look in my backpack and you can pick a car."

"Okay," I said heading to the entryway to find his backpack.

He brought home a library book, "How to Draw Cars," by Mark Bergin. I took ownership of picking out the car and zeroed in on this race car. It's a Bentley Speed 8. I ran out of room and struggled to maintain the proper perspective throughout. I didn't follow the guidance from the book, preferring to go at it in my own way.

I'm my own worst critic and wasn't all too happy with it. By contrast, when he saw it, he said with a big smile, "Whoa! Jeesh you're good!"