Daddy Daughter Digital Drawing Time: Kid Flash!
As a family our home life and nighttime rituals tend to fluctuate pretty often. For maybe a month straight we’ll all play UNO before kiddo goes to bed, then for no reason we’ll drop it entirely and play one of our dice games for a few weeks. Kiddo and I were doing Daddy Daughter Digital Drawing Time at least once a week for months, then out of nowhere we stopped. No idea why. It certainly wasn’t on purpose.
Last night she asked me, mere moments before bedtime (which has been moved up almost 2 hours earlier in anticipation of school starting next week) if she could “draw on my monitor.” DDDDT takes about 20 minutes if we rush it, so I told her “tomorrow night for sure.” Since I’m leaving for Canada tomorrow afternoon, I had to make sure that I remembered our drawing date and didn’t disappoint her.
Tonight she decided to go back to drawing through the catalog of Tiny Titans characters and picked Kid Flash as our subject. I decided to offer her a new challenge and asked her to “pencil” (albeit digitally) before she “inked.” As you can see from the images above, she did the pencils just fine, but when it came time to ink she started paying WAY TOO MUCH attention to perfectly tracing her pencil lines which lead to extremely slow and meticulous pen movements and jagged, wavering lines. I hadn’t thought about how much of a distraction inking over pencils might be for her. I eventually turned the pencil layer off and she allowed herself to ease up on the inking quite a bit. I’m trying to teach her the benefit of fast, confident pen strokes.
I was really impressed that she “turned” the subjects head to the bit and decided to draw the previously unseen earpiece. That shows she’s thinking about the thing she’s actually drawing as opposed to cloning what she sees in the reference image. She was pretty happy with the results and I was happy for the time we spent together making art.
Daddy/ Daughter Digital Drawing Time careens into the present at breakneck speeds! This time, Kiddo decided to draw Beast Boy. I was so used to his black and purple Teen Titans costume that I had to look up his Wiki article to find out what this red and white nonsense was all about. Turns out the black and purple was from his days with the Doom Patrol (which does NOT sound like a super HERO team), and the red and white is actually his customary ensemble. This has been your Beast Boy costume trivia moment of the day.
Tonight’s Daddy/Daughter Digital Drawing Time is brought to you by Cyborg of the Tiny Titans. Kiddo asked if he was really half robot, but realized halfway through her question that he wasn’t a real person and let me know “there aren’t really super heroes in the world.” This was her first experience with the concept of shading/highlighting. I don’t think she knew why we were adding extra blue to his sides other than to replicate the original drawing. I tried not to give her too much direction on the hands, hence their creative size and finger organization.
While she was drawing I realized that I was saying things like “along his heel” and “on top of his foot,” etc and that they weren’t registering. I think I’ve realized that after a certain point beyond the head and arms, she isn’t paying attention to what parts of the body she is actually drawing. She starts to try TOO hard to copy the exact lines without thinking of what the final result is supposed to actually represent. I think a good exercise for a future DDDDT would be to just practice drawing legs and feet and arms with no particular character in mind.
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.
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 fromAmazing 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.
This was our last Daddy Daughter Digital Drawing Time before I fly out to Chicago for C2E2. Our subject was Aqualad. I think his non-standard pose presented some challenges for the kiddo. She said the squiggles on his shirt were probably “because it was all wet.” She also told me the B in “By Lily” was a “Fancy B.” So Godspeed, you Fancy B’s.
Tonight’s Daddy/Daughter Digital Drawing Time is brought to you once again by the Tiny Titans. Our subject this evening was Starfire.
After kiddo finished the outline of the head I decided to switch my Wacom Cintiq 21UX stylus to control the brush diameter with pressure sensitivity. I turned this feature off a few DDDDT’s back when it seemed to be posing some confusion for the Kiddo. This time around I think she really started to get the hang of it, especially during coloring. She was seeing the pen respond to her touch and using it to allow herself to color larger areas and get fine detail without switching brush sizes.
She colored most of the character (on a layer beneath the inks) by hand. I showed her which button in the Cintiq i had set up to call the color picker. She was getting tired of me choosing the colors for her. She wants to do EVERYTHING herself.
For the hair I showed her how to using the magic wand (marching ants) to select inside the area to be colored, then execute a preprogrammed macro of mine that expands the area by 2 px and fills with the foreground color. She thought this was a cool trick.
About halfway through she told me, “Daddy, I’m pretty much an expert at drawing.” At this rate, Kiddo, I have no doubts whatsoever.
It’s Wonder Girl! Daddy/Daughter Digital Drawing Time brings us our 5th Tiny Titan. Kiddo said her favorite part was Wonder Girl’s magic jump rope.
Daddy Daughter Digital Drawing Time has yielded yet another Tiny Titan! This time the kiddo drew Robin.
[Photoshop CS5, Wacom Cintiq 21UX]
Daddy/Daughter Digital Drawing Time has yielded yet another Tiny Titan. This time it’s Batgirl.
My favorite part about this process is getting to share something I love with my daughter and seeing her enthusiasm grow for it each day. She takes instruction incredibly well, but I’m working hard not to “correct” every little thing she does. I’m not trying to clone myself. I want her to make her own art mistakes and develop her own style, but I LOVE sharing tips and tricks with her that took me years if not decades to learn. I talk her through the construction of the characters using basic shapes one day and the next day she is pointing out the shapes that make up our next subject. I am teaching her how to look at something and break it apart into replicable lines. I’ve always thought the main difference in being able to draw and being able to draw well (besides practice) was knowing how to look at things properly. When you can see a thing for it’s component parts, as well as for the whole you can break it down in your mind into easily drawable chunks.
Batgirl was a particular challenge compared to the previous DDDDT subjects since the reference image she chose has Batgirl in a non-standard pose. She struggled a bit with the arms since she is used to drawing them at the sides of the body, but I was very proud of how she thought through the lines and how the intersected and overlapped with each other. By the time this kid is 10 she’s going to be able to draw like I was when I was 20. Excited proud dad is pretty exited and proud.
I’ve always felt jilted that my parents didn’t have any particular skills or interests that they could pass down to me. Or rather that they WANTED to pass down to me. My father just wasn’t interested in me at all and my mother was preoccupied with all the things people get preoccupied with. I’ve always felt that people are truly defined by their hobbies and interests. What’s the one thing you would do if you never had to worry about money again? That’s you. That’s what you have to offer. As a parent I feel like it’s my obligation and privilege to share the things I love with my daughter.
I’m sure some day her interests will diverge completely from mine. I don’t expect her to be an artist or musician. I just want her to know what I think is important. I want her to see the way in which I enjoy the things I enjoy. I want her to know what it is to love an activity, a place, a group, a shared idea, so that when she starts trying to figure out who she wants to be she will have an easier time than I did. Though, if in the end she decides she wants to make comics… I can’t say that will bother me.