Giving Your Right Brain a Regular Workout

Featured Artist: The Busy Mockingbird on Collaborating with Her 4-Year-Old Daughter and Her New Series

Once in a while, we come across art that has the ability to breach the world of where whimsy meets reality and all creatures are possible. We found this in the dynamic team of Mica and Myla Hendricks; a mother and her 4-year-old daughter who create irresistible collaborations.

In Mica’s words, “These are collaborative paintings by my 4-year-old daughter and me. I start by quietly drawing a vintage, retro head (which I love doing). Next step: My daughter (who LOVES to draw) hastily snatches my sketchbook from me and draws a body and sometimes additional characters. Later, I go back and add highlights and details in acrylic paint, colored ballpoint pen, and marker. Together, they create a beautiful collaboration…as well as an exercise in patience (on both our parts).”

Mica and Myla have now moved on to a new series of works (available on Redbubble) involving adorable animals. From fierce to fluffy, these two take you through an enchanting view of the alphabet and beyond.

"Honey Bear" in progress by busymockingbird

Jen Wahl: Tell me about your new collaborative series with your daughter.

Mica Hendricks: My daughter and I had a lot of fun drawing the face collaborations together. We still do them quite a bit. But at some point, she asked me “can we do an animal face?” and of COURSE we can! She always has fun ideas. So we tried out some animals.

JW: Who chooses which animals are used?

MH: It started out as something just to break away from the same old things we were doing, so I started simply, and tried to give us a little focus. “Let’s do an animal for each letter of the alphabet,” I said, and she had such a fun time deciding which animal to choose. Some (like the hedgehog) she already knew right away what she wanted to do. Some that were a little tougher, I’d look up online. I’d do a search for “animals that begin with V,” and then tell her about each one. From there, she’d pick which one she wanted us to draw. Some (like the viper) are a little strange, but it was fun for me to try to “make it work” with the animal she would choose. I sort of took her lead on them.

"V is for Viper" by busymockingbird

JW: What’s the process like?

MH:  Initially, when we did the animals, I chose the ABCs as a way to sort of allow my daughter to focus on a goal and an end piece: doing an animal for each letter. But I found they’d be really cool in rooms to spell out a kid’s name, or initials in a baby’s room. She asked what her name would look like in “animal letters” and I showed her. So it turned into something sort of fun and versatile!

M.Y.L.A. is for Myla

"E is for Elephant in progress by busymockingbird

JW: Where do you collaborate and create? How often?

MH: Well, we do a lot of non-artsy things, too. She’s an only child, so I spend a lot of time with her. We play outside, she has playdates, she does gymnastics, and regular kid stuff. My husband’s deployed right now, but when he’s here, he helps make sure she’s pretty well-rounded. But in the evenings after school, sometimes when we’re just wanting a little down time, I’ll get out my sketchbook and we’ll draw together, either on the couch, or we’ll lay down on the floor and doodle together.

JW: What is the biggest challenge having a 4 year old as a partner?

MH: The funny thing about working with a 4 year old is that we’re still working on sharing. She’s got some of my same “perfectionist” qualities, and she very much enjoys adding to my work. But we’ve tried to do it where I add to hers, and she always gets frustrated by it! Also, when we work on something together, she will sometimes add something to the drawing that comes DIRECTLY from her surroundings. She’s very into “Lego Batman & Robin,” so sometimes they’ll show up in the painting, and it’s pretty funny. Or, thanks to Halloween displays in the grocery store, for awhile she was drawing the animals eating zombie feet with bones sticking out. Eew. Thanks for that, Halloween.

Sometimes, the things she draws take a bit to “translate” into “grownup” imagery. It’s a fun challenge for me, to make some of her weirder doodles make sense.

Myla working on her latest masterpiece.

JW: I know from your blog that your daughter has, on at least one occasion, had to remind you to share your art supplies… how has that affected your working relationship?

MH: Sharing my art supplies! Most of the time I don’t mind…I remember being a kid, and my mom teaching me the right way to clean a paintbrush, and how to take care of them. So if she’s going to use my art supplies, I want her to use them the right way. Usually she’s pretty good about it. The one thing that’s off limits, though, is my giant set of Prismacolor brush-tip markers. Mainly, because to use them, she has to be very gentle and I have to supervise. So she’d rather just draw with a regular Crayola marker or use the couple of chisel-tips I have for her, and not have me hounding her!

A collaborative piece by busymockingbird

JW: Any advice for artists who are looking to use mini-mes as partners in creating art?

MH: Since the first collaboration post aired, I’ve seen a LOT of examples of artistic parents letting their kids work with them, and I think it’s awesome! I think whatever is your passion—if it’s art, or cooking, or music, or whatever—you can share that with your kid by letting them be a part of it in any small way. I think they just want to be a part of what you love. My advice, though, is that it’s okay to have a goal, but you have to let go of any preconceived ideas of what the end result will be. Don’t make yourself miserable by getting frustrated and not just enjoying the time you’re sharing with your kid. If you’re a meticulous person, then PLAN a mess. Lay out a table cloth and just let the kid get messy fingerprinting a cardboard box, and have towels on stand-by. Let your kid help with some small task in something, control the chaos a little. But let them get in there and be a part of what you’re passionate about! You both will grow from it.

JW: Where do you find your inspiration for the vintage, retro faces in your designs?

MH: I love love love old black & white movie stills! I love the old hollywood black & white photos, I could just draw them all day. I have books on Katherine Hepburn, Hedy Lamar, Bogart, Dean. Books on movies from the 1950s. I love how they’re sort of otherworldly and already so dreamlike and unrealistic. I mean, no one really makes those faces anymore! But there’s something about the black & white movie shots I just adore. I would love to find some more books on them; I’ve practically exhausted my own personal collection and the city library’s resources. :)

JW: What are each of your favorite art supplies?

MH: My favorite art supplies of all time have to be plain ol’ BIC ballpoint pens. I start all my sketches in ballpoint pen, as goofy as that sounds. I used to be a little embarrassed by that fact, since it wasn’t super fancy or artistic or “fine art.” Now I’m older, and I just go with it—that’s what works for me, and I’m sticking with it. Next are my fancy Prismacolor brush-tip markers, which I dreamt about for around 15 years, and FINALLY was able to get. They are heavenly. My daughter prefers markers over anything else, and since she’s a kid (and just as messy as me), she uses Crayola markers. She’s got tons of them, since she goes through them so quickly. She’s never been that into crayons or colored pencils.

JW: Myla, what do you like best about making art with your mom?

Myla Hendricks: I like drawing with mommy because we’re both artists.

JW: What’s next?

Mica Hendricks: I’m hoping to make the animals into a little book of stories. I’m working on it now, and if I can find a way to publish them, That would we great. If not, I’m going to just print & sell them myself, I think. For now, we’re having fun, we’re enjoying our time together, and we encourage everyone out there, whatever your passion, to do the same!

"Lizapillar" by busymockingbird

Be sure to check out The Busy Mockingbird’s Redbubble profile and support her and Myla by picking up some great art. Also, follow her Facebook and at her blog.

[Header image: “B is for Beaver” by busymockingbird]

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