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.
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.”