I Collaborate With My 3-Year-Old And 7-Year-Old To Create Imaginative Illustrations
In 2015, the art series, “Collaborations with my Toddler,” went viral after my daughter Eve and I shared our collaborative paintings, she was just 2 years old when we began and since then her little brother, Theodore, has joined us on our adventures.
This collaborative adventure has changed my life and who I am as a mother by strengthening the bond of communication, trust and imaginative play between my children and I as well as pushing me to continually evolve as an artist simply from witnessing the unharnessed beauty of my children as they create without self-doubt.
I would love to share with you a few of our latest collaborations along with the time-lapse videos capturing the entire process of each illustration.
Theodore (3), Ruth and Eve (7).
Thank you for joining us on our journey!
We hope it inspires you to pursue and share your passions with the next generation and see for yourself just how incredible the experience can be for everyone involved.
Whether it is music, art, sports, engineering, science or whatever else makes your heart sing use it as a bridge to your child and show them the importance of holding tight to your passions no matter what your age may be!
Three guidelines that I try to stay true to while collaborating with my children are:
1. The child stays involved throughout the process and gets the final say before declaring it complete.
2. I try to use as many original lines and shapes as possible to maintain the integrity of the collaboration.
3. The direction of the collaboration is inspired either by the child’s original vision, their favorite things at that time or by their personality so that it reflects the journey they are on.
Prince of the Wild
The second guideline is definitely the trickiest rule since what I initially see might mean altering the piece quite a bit to make my vision fit, which is the opposite of the collaborative goal. Over the years this is the area I’ve had to work on and it’s forced me more than once out of my comfort zone and into my children’s’ endless imaginations causing me to grow closer to them and evolve as an artist. Each collaboration with Theodore and Eve is a glimpse into the beautiful, wild and joyful human beings they are.
It may be hard to let go of the artistic reins but that is the beauty in collaborating. It is going on a journey with someone else and taking turns holding the reins with no judgment or criticism, and simply being open to any and all possibilities. The impact this collaborative journey has had on my relationships with both my children is incredible.
The end result has never been the goal but rather the priceless conversations that take place as we create together, the stories exchanged and foundation of trust being built is something I wouldn’t trade the world for.
As we get older we tend to create this box that everything is supposed to fit neatly into, all of our ideas and goals in life are according to some sort of plan. As a child, there is no box. It is just endless freedom to explore any and every possible avenue of creativity and adventure.
Although children look up to us for guidance and instruction, it is equally as important that we take time off from our busy lives to just sit and listen to them, no matter how strange their ideas may seem.
By choosing to share what makes you passionate and collaborating with a child in your life you are not only sharing your wisdom but building up confidence in that child so they understand their thoughts and ideas have value.
That foundation of openness and trust will come in handy as they age and in return that magical sprinkle of childhood wonder is exactly what we adults need from time to time to remind us who we once were.
My Little Moonlight
Along with all of the priceless memories created from collaborating, there has been an invaluable amount of teaching and guidance, the majority coming from my children. They have taught me how to accept my “mistakes” as part of the artistic process, to see and use colors in ways I never thought possible and most of all patience and the importance of slowing down to simply experience the present.
Be Home for Dinner
One of my favorite aspects of collaborating is stepping into their shoes and imagining the adventure they would go on if they could. I have no doubt if Theo ever became friends with an extraterrestrial creature he would dream up ways to go travel with his new friend. I imagine him yelling, “I’ll be home for dinner” as he runs out the front door off to find a way to fly.
A Mother’s Embrace
It is so important not to overdo it when collaborating so that there is a proper balance of each artist’s work. Theo’s brush lines are always so lovely and speak for themselves so I kept the background of this piece very light with a snowy sledding hill in the distance covered in pine trees.
All of Theo’s sweeping paint strokes made it seem as if the wind was playing with their coats pulling at them to go play while their mother kept them warm from the biting cold.
Most of our collaborations inspire stories which end up being retold night after night at bedtime. What began as purely artistic collaborations soon morphed into literary ones as we took turns filling in the next details of the story with none of us knowing the final outcome until we had arrived.
(Some of these stories are posted on The Mischievous Mommy Blog in case you ever want to peek into our upside-down world of wonder )
Learn to Soar
While some of the stories are novels others are simply short and sweet.
“The little boy did not know how to swim but he did know how to fly.
So he struck a deal with the whale,
“Teach me how to swim and I’ll show you how to soar,” said the boy.
And so he did…”
Eve and I created a story as we painted “Sea Monster,” and it has become one of her favorite stories. Collaborating through stories is so simple yet amazing, you just begin a story and pause at the end of every sentence to let them incorporate a new aspect. Between the two of you, you direct the story through many different pathways to create something completely unique. It reminds me so much of the story games you play in camp when you are little.
Princess and the Pea
Eve painted the original watercolor and when she was all finished I continued to use watercolor paints and ink to create the picture above.
“Adrift” is the painting created by collaborating with my three-year-old, Eve. As each day passes her passion for painting only grows and she continues to teach me in ways I could never have imagined. The simple act of her allowing me to see through her eyes is the most priceless of gifts, I am incredibly grateful.
I had a sketch that I was going to paint using watercolor when Eve decided she wanted to join me. I let her choose the colors and I used a wet paintbrush to pick up what she put down and guide it to where I wanted. After a while, she decided to move on to something else and we left it to dry, later that day I went back to add the details. “Adrift” reminds me of the elusive daydream that teleports you to lands unknown, the moment your eyes just glaze over and you completely disappear from time.
This watercolor collaboration began when Eve was two years old and was such an adventure for both of us! We were just beginning to explore how different colors mixing together create new ones when I decided to show Eve what can happen when you use a spray bottle. She was so enthralled at watching the colors spread and splatter that we took it another step. She began to blow the water around, first with her mouth then with a straw, to create different effects, leading to an explosive and colorful piece.
This led to the creation of two Ballerina sisters who are caught up in the energy and movement of dance. The younger sister is mesmerized by her sister and looks on with complete adoration and wonderment.
A Mother’s Love
When Eve was just two years old she loved to cover her feet in paint and jump around large sheets of watercolor paper, incredibly messy but so worth it.
The inspiration and story for this piece came when I noticed the size of her footprints and saw how fast she was growing. As much as I have loved watching her grow into the amazing person she is, it is still hard to let go of that ever fleeting baby stage.
I wanted to portray that intimate moment between mother and child, that desire to hold them tight and protect them from anything potentially harmful. To cover them with kisses as if they had the power to become an invisible shield, a mother’s love to make them invincible.
The Paperback Princess
As I’m sure you may have guessed from the title, Eve’s favorite book was the beloved classic, “Paper Bag Princess.” It includes two of Eve’s treasured characters, a Princess AND a Dragon, it doesn’t hurt that the princess is finally saving a prince and not the other way around.
As we painted side by side, I let Eve decide what colors to use (pink and indigo) and it just took off. Other than a basic portrait sketch I had drawn there really was no plan for this piece other than having fun, I find anytime I DO have a plan it is quickly derailed by Eve’s imagination. As I am still learning to embrace this wildly, unpredictable aspect to collaborating with my toddler, I have realized no plan equals less frustration and leaves me with an open mind.
Eventually, Eve decided to move on and return back to the painting she had been working on earlier that morning. She had discovered my bag of old, ripped book pages and was gluing them to her piece when she decided our collaborative painting was clearly missing some.
Within minutes, she had decided it was also missing two arms (the lines she drew on either side), a purse on the left arm, a necklace and of course a crown which she asked me to draw. She would later add her final touches using more pencil.
Into the Wild
“Into the Wild” started off with Eve and I playing around with some acrylic on a wooden panel and slowly morphed into a new collaboration. I had broken out a bunch of plastic utensils with the intent to show Eve how to create texture and patterns using tools other than a paintbrush. Although at first intrigued, she quickly explained she would rather just use a paintbrush and I had to leave it at that. As a parent you quickly learn that lessons are better learned when the desire is present, forcing knowledge is the quickest way to turn them off of something!
This led to me playing around with a plastic knife, mixing colors Eve had picked, to create the grass at the bottom. As with most of our collaborations, I had no idea where this one was headed but something seemed strikingly familiar about it! As the paint dried and the more I stared, I saw a similarity to “Under the Red Birch Tree,” and a forest grew before my very eyes. The inspiration for this piece had been so clearly laid out through Eve’s wonderful strokes of paint and the stories we have been creating together.
The addition of the young girl letting go of butterflies was inspired by a story Eve and I made up together where a princess, named Eve, saves an entire forest from certain doom.
The Siren’s Song
Eve has been helping me “color” in a sketch using watercolors. I love being able to paint side by side with her as opposed to taking turns, to me it really enhances our bonding experience. However, I have also discovered that the pieces we create this way end up being much darker than our other pieces. For example, the Moon Bear, is a bright, moonlit children’s illustration and the Red Boat is a simple landscape that holds the potential of a story.
The Siren’s Song and Red Lips both come across as much darker, intense art pieces, especially with their lips painted over, courtesy of Eve. The Siren’s Song, to me, represents a darker version of Eve’s happily ever after story… something more similar to a Grimm’s fairy tale. Instead of being rescued the mischievous mermaid uses her beautiful, siren-like voice to lure would be rescuers, into the octopus’ lair, to certain doom. Until one day a King falls into the trap and his brother, an artist, comes to his rescue. He finds a way to take away and sacrifice his hearing forever in order to get past the mermaid’s enchanting voice and avenge his brother. The artist captures the mermaid and uses his paint, doused with magic, to forever paint over her lips so she may never use her deadly voice again.
And that is how the name and story for this piece came to be.
When we were painting “Red Lips” I, ironically, had to keep mine zipped shut. (which is not an easy feat for me) When I saw her take the red paint and cover up the lips followed by using black (her favorite color) all over the face I felt myself cringe. As an artist you can have such a clear cut idea of what you want that it is easy to forget and ignore all of the other amazing possibilities, she is my constant reminder of what could be. I kept my mouth firmly shut and continued to paint at her side, reminding myself that she sees things in ways I never could or will.
I am so thankful I kept my big mouth shut. Although it was far from my original vision, the painting was miles beyond what I thought possible in all the best ways. Eve made this piece sing with color, energy and passion in ways I couldn’t, just by using her beautiful and creative mind.
The Wily Fox
“The Wily Fox” is one of the largest collaborations that Eve and I have created since we used acrylic on a 2 ft. x 4 ft. canvas. I had an incredible time watching Eve create this piece and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that 80% or more of this painting is all her doing.
Although I know I could have done more with this collaboration, I really wanted to leave as much of Eve’s work as possible. The colors, shapes and vibrancy that exudes from her work is so unique and special to me that all I allowed myself to do was carefully add in some facial features, bushiness to the tail and add a bit more shape to the ears and coat.
Once I showed her the final piece she was so excited to see the Fox’s eye and wouldn’t stop talking about how we both painted it, of course she loves to mention how the tail was made from her adorable fall.