Guest Comic By Lily Watson (Age 5)

The Doctor Is In T-Shirt, Funny Doctor Who Parody Shirt, Charlie Brown, Sci-Fi


Hang on, there must be something in both my eyes. 

I am flying out to Chicago today, so I decided rather than posting some filler I would share with you the side project I’ve been working on with my daughter. It’s called Daddy/Daughter Digital Drawing Time. First some back story: Last December at Dragon’s Lair Webcomics Rampage I picked up the first trade of DC Comics Tiny Titans to bring home to my daughter. I’d been wanting to introduce her to comics and it seemed the perfect title to do just that. The stories are genuinely interesting and funny, but still at a level she can fully absorb and the art is just fantastic. She tore through the first trade in a few days (well, my wife read it to her a little each night before bed as the kiddo was 4 at the time and still learning to read). It turns out that comics are a pretty fantastic way to get young children interested in reading. More so than any other book in her vast library (quite literally hundreds of books), she was super engaged and really trying to read the words to keep up with the pictures and NOT getting frustrated when things got tough like she normally does. I realized we had found a winner and we picked up another trade at Barnes and Noble. Again, she was enthralled. Unfortunately the series ended right around the time we discovered it, but there are still another 5 or 6 trades to pick up which should be plenty for her.

C2E2 in Chicago is this weekend! I’ll be with Blind Ferret at Booth 432. More details HEREIf you are coming to C2E2, you really don’t want to miss our panel:

Panel: Webcomics Roundtable With Blind Ferret and Explosm!
Date: 4/14/2012      Time: 4:00PM – 5:00PM      Location: N426c

Since my daughter has been old enough to hold a stylus, we’ve been drawing on my Cintiq together. At first she would scribble in Photoshop or play with the shape tools. Then she got hooked on KidPix, a drawing app for kids with an unnecessary amount of silly noises, goofy animations and a UI designed specifically to annoy parents and delight children. I don’t remember if it was my idea or hers, but a few weeks ago we decided that she was going to draw a character from Tiny Titans. I realized as we were getting started that this was her very first attempt at replicating pre-existing art. This was essentially how I learned to draw. I would look at panels from Amazing Spider-Man or my Marvel trading cards and do my best to recreate them on paper. This exercise really trains your artistic muscle memory and helps you develop a base skill set to work with when it comes time to create you own original art. So she decided on drawing Raven. I found a reference image, opened a new Photoshop document and set up a brush tool that I thought she could work with easily. I introduced her to the concept of “inking” vs. “coloring” and made sure she was working on the appropriate layer. As she drew I tried not to tell her what to do, but instead ask her questions that might lead to discoveries. “Is that circle the same size as Raven’s head?” or “Are those legs the same length? Do you want them to be?” etc. For the most part she would start by just drawing an arm or a leg the way she always does. After reminding her that we were trying to make it look like the picture, she would stop, think about it for a second then try again. This was one of those proud Daddy moments that sticks with you forever. My little girl was learning how to look at the world like an artist. “How big is this in relation to that?” “What shapes is this made of?” “How many lines does it take to do this?” These are the questions that artists ask themselves 1000 times a day without even realizing it. I’ve always thought the difference between an artist and a non-artist was just the ability to see things for what they’re made of, their base components, and then store and index that information for later retrieval and output. In my brain right next to “my house is grey” is “my house is 2 rectangles, 2 triangles, a square…” and so on. AND SHE WAS LEARNING HOW TO DO THIS! AT FIVE! I was beaming and she was having a blast. She was so happy at the results she told me to “show them to all of my friends,” so I started posting them on Tumblr.

It’s not about teaching my daughter to be an artist. If she gives it a shot and decides she likes softball better, then that’s her choice to make. For me, it’s about exposing her to who I am, what I care about and what I know. I want to show her how to do the things I know how to do, and make her understand why I do them. Why I care about them. I want to be the voice in her head long after I’m gone that asks “Are those legs the same length? Do you want them to be?” just before she says “Nope. Who cares if they are?” and goes back to doing it her own way. I believe this is the way that we, as parents, pass on more than DNA. I started this comic specifically so I would be proud of the answer when my daughter was old enough to ask what I did for a living. Five years into this experiment and I’m prouder than I ever could have imagined, but not of myself. I’m proud of her, and grateful that I get to be the one to show her how to draw super hereoes. Seriously, what is going on with my eyes? There’s definitely something in both of them.

COMMENTERS: Did you parents or any influential adult in your life teach you a skill or get you interested in a hobby as a child?  Did you stick with it? How did that experience affect who you are today, or how you might parent your own kids?

Special thanks to Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani for making such a fantastic comic. Without Tiny Titans as catalyst, I’m not sure we would have started drawing like this together. Whether they ever know it or not, they’ve helped create a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Check out more of there work at Blindwolf Studios. I hope I get to see them and say thanks at C2E2 this weekend. Maybe I’ll bring them a print of this “guest comic.”

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53 Comments

  1. Oh my God, KidPix is still around?! I used to use that when I was a kid in the early '90s! I loved the DrawMe prompts. My sister and I used to imitate the voices. "I'm a humungous mushroom!" I hope the current version still has those, or no one will know what I'm talking about.

    My parents taught me to read early and often; I suppose that's a hobby that stuck around. I was a bookworm all through school. I still consider myself a writer, even though I'm not making a living from it.

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    • KidPix was the best!!

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  2. This is the best thing ever! I wish I'd been encouraged to be this awesome when I was a tot. She is going to really kick some major art booty when she's older.

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    • I feel like I say a lot of things are the best thing ever…I honestly mean it though, your kiddo rocks my socks.

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  3. This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

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  4. My daughter just turned 5 – they definitely increase the likelihood of you getting things in your eyes!

    Your daughter has talent – you should be very proud.

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  5. My Dad loves to cook, which he learned from his mother (and we all know grandmas are the best cooks in the world!). He would call me into the kitchen to do little tasks, but also to watch and taste whatever he was making. Especially the tasting was important to him. He had a similar approach as you do, Joel – he would taste it first, but say nothing, then let me taste and ask what I thought was missing. He essentially developed my palate. Just by watching, I learned how to fillet a fish, butcher a rabbit, a chicken or leg of lamb (well, venison more often actually), how to recognize really fresh fish, what goes in the base of a good sauce, which herbs and spices go best with which food, which spices counteract each other,…
    It also taught me that a) if you're gonna eat it, you should be able to look it in the eye, b) handling raw meat isn't icky, c) you should waste as little as possible, d) with the right techniques and herbs/spices, you can turn the cheapest ingredients into something delicious, and e) you can fix pretty much any mistake but oversalting.

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    • I had the same relationship with my mom. Food is a HUGE part of our culture in my Swedish-Italian family, and the kitchen is where everyone naturally congregates during family gatherings; it's how we show love, and it's one of the few things that both sides of my family always agree on. I pretty much grew up in the kitchen, and working side-by-side with the other women in my family was a really special thing to me. I have my grandmother's apron and her copy of "The Joy of Cooking", and they are two of my most treasured possessions.

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  6. That's better art than some of the stuff I've seen by 'proper' artists!
    Love it :-)

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  7. Great drawings, and an even better story. This is something you will love showing her in years to come.

    Mine has to be cooking. My mom taught me how to bake, but my dad used to be a chef. I still remember going in on the weekends and watching him, then helping him do prep work for banquets and such. It (as Ceri stated above), taught me how to cook and taste. It's one of the most valuable skills I have today, especially considering the health benefits of cooking my own food as well as the savings. When I have kids it's going to be the same thing, sitting on the counter tasting and watching so they too can learn what I've learned.

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    • Mom was the baker in my family too, until I once said thusly to my Dad. He was slightly offended, took it as a challenge and made me a Frankfurter Kranz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurter_Kranz) for my next birthday. That shut me up! 😀

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  8. Had seen your tumblers of these. Those are wonderful!
    My grandma would "let me" use her drawing books when I was young. How to draw hands, etc. It really helped! My fave cartoon to recreate was Mickey Mouse.

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  9. these are great, keep her drawing. I remember my father doing art work, so i would copy him. When i got in to kidergarden they had us draw a person. I drew up a person. the lady that was doing the drawing thing with us stopped and was amazed that i had drawn fingers and toes. Every thing that a person should have. She commented later to my mom that all the kids she had delt with would draw a stick figure. I was the first one to draw a actual person.

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  10. My mother was a handiperson. If something needed fixing, she would figure out how to do it. She also did crafts, knit, crochet and everthing along those lines. Thanks to her, I can sew by hand, rewire a toaster, and juryrig almost anything thing I need. Thanx Mama.

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  11. I love this! Hubby and I already have a child. Ours is 2.5. He is just amazing. I have been teaching him about biology and dinosaurs since he could hold a dinosaur toy.. so 6 monthsish. He talks all the time about being a scientist like Mommy. I love it. He could name off dino species by 18 months and was correcting people. This post about your daughter brought tears to my eyes. As parents we have to strive to do better than our own parents did, especially if they didn't do the best job. I had a really rocky childhood. I spent the first two years of Bug's life finishing college so that I could be proud of what I do when he starts to ask. I know that it will be something we can share in for the rest of our lives. I beam with pride every time he spouts of insect orders or dinos species taxonomy. Watching the achievements of our children is the thing that makes life seem meaningful.

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  12. This is adorable. I don't have any kids of my own, but I'm an honorary aunt to a number of my friends' kids. You should be very proud!

    My mom wasn't around so much during my formative years (nursing school is a huge time-suck), so my love of sports, video games and computers (and possibly my complete lack of interest in shopping and fashion) comes from essentially being raised by my dad with my brothers. My dad doesn't have any sisters, either, so I'm sure he had no idea what to do with a little girl. Also, my love of reading came from both my parents. Every night, I'd see them reading and I wanted to be just like them. I taught myself to read at the age of three and I haven't stopped since.

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  13. Awww, my heart wasn't ready for this. 😀 This is just really great.

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  14. My dad was a brilliant doctor and philanthropist. I looked up to him in so many ways. Then one day, outside of a theater, he was taken from me. Now, I am vengence, I am the night, I, AM, BATMAN!

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    • You made me pee a little just now.

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      • Same.

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  15. My dad loves words. He's a theoretical physicist by training, and he certainly loves physics, but words are a huge passion of his. He does those insane Cryptic Crosswords, and lately he's been reading the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia and using the Oxford English Dictionary to figure out the really obscure words. He adores well-crafted puns. Almost nothing delights him more than seeing a specific turn of phrase perfecting the overall meaning of a sentence or a paragraph.

    My dad taught me to love words. Ever since I started learning to read at age 3 I've loved words more than just about anything else. The two of us have been doing crosswords together for a long time now. I started learning French in middle school and discovered that he actually needed my help for clues like "a hot time in Paris" (été = "summer"). He listens to my epic (okay, super-geeky) tales of French translation and the French origins of English words, and he is entertained when I shout at the English subtitles of a French film for destroying all the nuances and metaphors. Physics turned out not to be for me, but words definitely are, and I'm so happy I get to share them with my dad.

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  16. YES, THE TEEN TITANS ARE ALIVE AND KICKING! (My favorite DC comic series). Best Day ever, great job on teaching your kid Joel, my parents would read and tell me stories constantly, which is why I love reading so much. Awesome Comic today.

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  17. you're a good parent, Joel. Lily must be lucky to have a dad like you!

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  18. My dad has always seen the world a little differently than anyone else I know. While he has not directly influenced my career, he has passed on that strange perspective of things (not only to me, but my brothers ans sister as well). I think it is why I CRAVE (yes caps was necessary) humor.

    I believe he also gave me my love of working with my hands. He is always fixing up his house or doing building projects, and I have found myself doing the same thing. I am currently finishing my basement and doing most of the work myself, and I've found that time just flies right out the window while I'm down there.

    He definitely has the dominant genes (and jeans, but not Genes), because he passed on his father's love of art to my sister.

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  19. WOW! At 5 years of age?! WOW! I almost spilled my coffee man. Jesus, this is great.

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  20. You made me cry. I've had these moments with my kids, too, like when my daughter finished her first NaNoWriMo at age 10, and when my then-5-yo drew the spaceship Yamoto in perspective.

    You made it, man. You're there.

    And you should definitely be proud of yourself that you had the cajones to throw caution to the wind and embrace your dreams. No one sits on the porch when their 85 years old, looking out at the world, saying, "Man, I'm sure glad I never lived out all those dreams and wishes I had…"

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  21. My mom helped me gain an apprecation for cooking from the heart. She would follow a recipe once or twice, then continually tweak it based on whatever was available and whatever she was in the mood for. I've adopted that style of cooking.

    My dad taught me how to fish and golf.

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  22. I love the way Batgirl looks like she's just seen something adorable. Way to go, Lily!!

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    • I should point out that the poses are all taken from reference images.

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  23. D'awwwwwww indeed!
    I'm pretty sure that's better than I could do, though that's probably not saying much (which is to say I'm really bad at all forms of drawing).
    I would like to say Joel that I don't always agree with you, but I think the way you're raising your daughter is pretty much perfect. If all parents raised their kids more like you I think we'd live in a much better world.

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  24. Tiny Titans.., AWWW YEAH!!!

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  25. I can't draw at all. That gene skipped me and went straight to my brother. (It's ok – I can sing and act. :) ) My little girl turned 6 months old today, and the idea of this project, sharing what you love with her, just makes my heart melt.

    Great work, Lily! I love your Tiny Titans!

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  26. This is probably the coolest thing I have seen on any webcomic, ever. I am a new dad myself, Isaac is just two weeks old, and I have to thank you for giving me a really great idea on how to share one of my passions with him once he’s old enough to understand that pencils are for drawing, not for chewing. Love it.

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    • Just FYI, as soon as he's old enough to sit up and hold things, cut open a trash bag, lay it out on the kitchen floor and give him a big sheet a paper and some washable craft paints. Brushes or no brushes, but I promise art will be made and he will have a great time.

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  27. A-Freaking-Dorable! Also, congrats Joel on already having a successor to your craft :)

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    • It's true. He's ensuring that a Watson will be able to maintain the comic for at least 80 more years. And by then I'll be 112, and won't care about webcomics anymore. 😉

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  28. Wow, this really takes me back to when I was Lily's age (Oh god, that's a long time ago) – when I started drawing my first 2 or 4 panel comics on those notepads you get in a hotel. I remember my first "series" was called Stick Garage. My dad was probably quite surprised when his little girl started drawing comics about a stick-man auto mechanic and asking him questions like "what kind of tools should he have?" or "how do you fix this?"

    But man, Lily's art blows me away. I wish at that age someone had given me reference pictures and asked me those questions. Just concepts I notice are way beyond her years like the layering of objects (one leg blocks the other slightly or the hands on the hips), the proportion of limbs/body/facial features, the idea of 3/4 turned faces, and the fact that she must have had to mess around in the palette for some of those colours, but I imagine you helped there. These are things I had no idea of until I was maybe 8, 9 or older!

    Absolutely amazing, I just had to share. You have every right to be super proud.

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  29. My daughter's 21. I miss the days you're having now. Watching kids grow into their self is so cool. Got something in my eye; she's here tonight, think I'll go hug her and get it out.

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  30. I have to admit, this is the cutest thing I've heard in a long time. I don't have children, but I do want to expose my niece and nephew into a variety of hobbies and let them build a unique skill set. Personally, I don't think my parents really helped me build my own skill set or even direct my attention to anything in particular as a child. I flounder around a bit (even now), and I any particularly developed skill to help guide me.

    I might have to steal your idea for both my niece and my nephew, though…And really put a lot more thought into my own sketches. And get a Cintiq. That thing looks AMAZING.

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  31. Ok this is a little long, and not exactly what you asked for, but reading about that connection you and your daughter made choked me up and made me think on my own "DANG IT MY HEART IS MELTING FROM THIS" moment when my daughter (now 14) showed me that she had not only been listening to me, but had taken my guidance to heart. Around 2nd grade she was diagnosed as high functioning asperger's and with an acute anxiety disorder. Part of her anxieties and high sensitivities revolve around medications, so we had to go the only "coping strategies"/therapy route rather than assist with meds for the accute anxiety attacks. I even took training in, and ended up joining a local crisis hotline in order to learn how to help someone in the throes of an anxiety attack. cont…

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  32. continued from above (again sorry for the length)
    I put those skills they taught me to good use in my own home almost every night, I would sit up with her listening to her talk about her fears without scoffing or judging them to be "nonsense", talking to her, soothing her through an anxiety attack with modified guided meditation/imaginings, making a safe place for her called "HerNameLand". I set the stage and let her fill her safe place with all of her favorite things and metaphorically giving her the key telling her that she controled what came and went from her Land. It worked for a long time but as she got older and hit Jr. High she told me one night that she felt she was "too old" for her Land. cont…

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  33. So we moved on to other coping tools and I began to encourage her to try more on her own so she could gain confidence in herself. I still worried, a lot, as we were having a lot of trouble finding the right combo of tools to help her through the rougher times, until I found out from her school counselor that my baby girl had taken another girl under her wing. A girl with anxieties even more extreme than my daughter's, and nearly wept right there in the counselor's office as she told me how my daughter had sat her friend down one day and told her about a special place she could go to when she was feeling overwhelmed, a special place called "HerNameLand". Today she's in 8th grade and is still a mentor for her friend, and continues to grow in confidence each day. She'll actually tell people openly about her anxieties and (this chokes me up) how "My Mommy even joined a crisis hotline to learn how to help me!"

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    • Your daughter rocks! Out of curiosity (and because I know people with anxiety who have been hugely helped by this, including one child) has anyone ever discussed the possibility of your daughter getting a therapy dog? I'm not normally one to offer medical advice over the internet, but I don't think this is a tool that's widely known about, so I do like to let people know they're out there. Therapy dogs can offer assistance by anticipating anxiety attacks and offering behaviors that help with them. Some dogs nudge their owners into a chair, or put a paw in their hand, or rest their head on their knee. It's pretty cool and can be a big help especially for kids who mainly have their attacks away from home, where Mom can't help.

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      • :-) We've actually got 3 dogs right now and 5 cats. :-) None are actual therapy animals but they do in their own way help her immensely. But I have thought of that very thing in the past. If our house weren't too small and we didn't have as many 4-legged family members as we already did…LOL, every night she goes to bed with 2 of our cats and the smallest of the 3 dogs a long haired Chihuahua. I've seen reports on the effectiveness of pets on anxieties and stress and have to agree with them 100 and 10%. It is amazing how much they help her when she's anxious, as a matter of fact, Bella (our 2 yr old grey kitty we'd rescued from the street as a few week old kitten) will come running when she hears Gabby crying or otherwise upset. She'll climb right up to her and let her know she's there, staying with her until she's calmer. What makes it extra special is that Bella is one of those rare kitties that normally doesn't seek out affection, she's an anti-cuddler all around but not when Gabby's hurting. And I am SO thankful for that.

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  34. Pictures too cute…can't concentrate…brains overheating… HEADSPLODE!!!
    [grows new head]
    Seriously Joel, these are great and your kid has some major talent. Tell her to keep at it.

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  35. That's a mixed bag for me. My dad is an orthopedic technician, so try as he might, I couldn't stomach as he showed me PBS videos on knee replacement or spinal surgery. That sealed the deal I wasn't going to be a doctor early on. He's also a part time caterer (yes, with a different set of blades, I assure you) but he wasn't the best teacher either. Just about every time he tried showing me to debone chicken, or proper ways to slice pork tenderloins, he ended up grabbing the knife from my hand and impatiently telling me how I was doing it wrong.

    He DID however teach me everything about work ethic, discipline, sports and music. To this day, I acknowledge him as my coach as well as my father, and I make sure to pass those lessons onto my daughter and son. As the patriarch of the clan, he's the main reason his grand kids are growing up Flyers fans even here in the Pacific NW. I also believe its that fear that I'm not exposing my children to enough while they're young that keeps me looking for little leagues, tae kwon do classes, and now boy scouts and sporting clubs to keep them learning. While I made my own way in the world completely at odds with my family (they're almost all in the medical field, I'm the lone engineer EVER) I attribute a lot of my decisions from my folks influence.

    I must admit I am a bit jealous at you Joel. Not only do you have something you to can do together, you have the ability to share it with all your readers. I'm willing to bet your daughter beams knowing she can show off her skills at her age (and getting so much parental attention), so way to go!

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  36. ohgodsoooooadorable.

    My parents have been an amazing influence on me (just don't tell them I said that). They are world class nerds themselves- they do science stuff- and they introduced me to the world of geekness as a baby with a skeleton halloween costume. as a little kid, I would stay up to watch star trek with them, and learned at 2 that monty python is way better than thomas malory.
    I credit them for my love of learning (and cooking), and my love of reading. They must have 5000+ books in their house. When my mom read The Phantom Tollbooth and The Hobbit to me at age seven, I turned into the kid that reads under the covers. I think they expected that, as they had been that kid too.

    My dad taught me to cook, continually beats me at scrabble, and listens to me geek out about the latest chemistry news (I also think he's planning on steeling my marshmallow shooter from college). My mom taught me that the easiest way to avoid having to deal with boring stuff is to just finish that shit and then go do something more interesting, that when dogs eat chocolate it's the theobromine that can kill, and that I can have a career in something I love to do AND have hobbies on the side (I have no idea how the hell she managed to be a vet, raise 2 crazy kids, and still have time for hobbies).

    most importantly, they taught me that I could laugh at the craziest stuff and not be sent to a psychiatrist. I think that's why I love webcomics in general (and especially HE) so much.

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  37. My mom started teaching me to program computers when I was about 7, and despite a brief period in my teens when I wanted to be a poet, I am now a software developer.

    Can't wait to see Lily's first standalone webcomic! From the looks of this one it could be any day now!

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  38. I think there might be something in my eyes too.

    I came here expecting a funny strip as usual and instead got my tear ducts assaulted by a heartwarming story, i did not leave disappointed.

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  39. My mom didn't specifically teach me anything, but when she was younger she was a painter, and we had all these paintings around the house that she did( she let me take one when i moved out), and I always thought "i want to be an artist like mom" even though artistry was never her career. I still don't know how to paint, and I never took an art class in school, but i finally feel like I'm progressing my art skills enough to think that maybe I will be an artist like mom… even though I'm now 25. I feel like i'm not doing enough to introduce my kids to art (maybe I'll change that today :-) … and maybe I'll ask mom to teach me to paint)

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  40. One could say that she will get her artistic gene from you, i believe that there has to be something said about the talent being passed down and pushing the kidlets to become better. My grandfather and my mother (on my mother's biological side) were both artists, and my grandfather (on my biolgocial father's side) built racing engines for Porsche, so i kind of ended up with the best of two worlds. The artistic gene and the gearhead gene. To this day when the time comes to install a new part on my car, if it's a small project i go at it myself, otherwise I get other gearheads to help. Every now and then i combine them for photography projects, like finding pieces of blown tire on the side of the road and shooting it with a Macro lens.

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  41. Before the decade’s out, this girl’s going to replace you, Joel.

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