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'Beautiful things': Artist mom collaborates with her 4-year-old

Sep. 5, 2013 at 6:18 PM ET

Let a child help you with an art project and you just might end up with a dinosaur-woman, space beavers and an unexpected lesson in patience and love.

When Mica Hendricks, an illustrator who lives in Fort Hood, Texas, recently bought a new sketchbook full of rich brown paper, it immediately caught the attention of her 4-year-old daughter, Myla.

girl drawing
Courtesy Mica Hendricks
4-year-old Myla Hendricks draws in her mom's special sketchbook.

“Can I draw in that too, mama?” the girl asked, eager to embellish a face Hendricks had already sketched, the mom recalled in her blog, The Busy Mockingbird. But the older artist was reluctant to turn over her special book to the child.

“I am a perfectionist to a fault. I can be quite rigid at times, so allowing her to add to my drawing was difficult for me,” Hendricks, 39, told TODAY Moms in an email. “When she takes a pen and boldly draws lines all across a face I've drawn, my inner artist gasps and gulps and freaks the heck out.”

But tempted by the beautiful new sketchbook, Myla insisted, employing a very convincing tactic.

“We might have to take it away if you can’t share,” she said in a huff, echoing words she had heard from her mom.

So Hendricks relented and was in for a surprise: She loved the result. Myla’s imagination added details she would have never thought of, like attaching a scaly creature's body to a woman’s face or turning a frowning man into a tiger.

drawing
Courtesy Mica Hendricks
"Shore"
drawing
Courtesy Mica Hendricks
"Easy Tiger"

Hendricks admired the combination of her style and her daughter’s, and she was excited that Myla loved being part of the process.

“Raising a strong, confident girl is my number one priority,” Hendricks said.

“I want her to be confident in the things she does, and not second-guess herself on everything. So it's an effort and an exercise in letting go of the expectations I had for a piece, and trusting that something better always comes of it.”

Dozens of collaborative sketches later, mom and Myla are still going strong.

The process works this way:

Hendricks starts by drawing a “vintage, retro head” and hands over the sketchbook to her daughter, who draws a body and sometimes additional characters. Hendricks then goes back and adds highlights and details in acrylic paint, colored ballpoint pen, and marker. She will sometimes ask Myla what color a detail should be or whether a body she has added should have feathers or scales.

Each whimsical drawing is titled and some are put up for sale. One of Hendricks’ favorite prints is "Outer Face" -- named after how her daughter once pronounced "outer space." The drawing features astronauts with beaver bodies.

drawing
Courtesy Mica Hendricks
"Outer Face"
drawing
Courtesy Mica Hendricks
"Foxy"

The collaboration has offered important lessons for both mom and child.

“I want her to be free to get dirty, to get messy, to make mistakes, and turn them into beautiful things,” Hendricks said.

“I make a point, despite my inner perfectionist, to get messy with her and loosen up with some of the things I am rigid about.”

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