creative play | sketches with Calvin

by | May 14, 2021 | Art, Artistic Endeavors, Creative Play, sketches | 19 comments

Calvin has expressed an interest in art off and on for the past few years.  He’ll ask to paint with me or request that I buy him some art supplies or a sketchbook, but he hasn’t stayed motivated in that arena.  But, anytime he asks, I say yes.  I can see he has a natural inclination for it and I think his mind is well suited for creative work in some shape or form.  So, when he asked me if we could take an illustration class together, I pulled out my laptop and we started watching course trailers immediately.

We found a class on DomestikaThe Art of Sketching; Transforming Your Doodles into Art and it has been so much fun working on it together.  He took notes as the instructor was going over his influences and wanted to make sure we had all of the right tools to get started.  The first 30 minutes of our first session was spent fiddling with fountain pens and getting ink all over my hands because he was insistent on using one!

The first exercise in the class is to draw your supplies in pen & ink, which I enjoyed.  I love art supplies and drawing them was so satisfying!

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

Calvin was discouraged with his drawings at first.  I told him that even great artists sometimes hate their own work.  Just draw it again and then again and then again.  You’ll learn something each time.  He drew my vintage fountain pen about eight times until he was happy with the last two.  I could see in his face that he was so proud and he told me I could share it on Instagram and my blog, which is saying a lot!  If you wonder why you don’t see a bunch of pictures of my boys or hear stories about them, it’s because I always ask before I share something and I don’t ask very often.  Their rooms are their rooms.  Their work is their work.  Their story is their story.  If they want me to share it, I will.  If not, I respect that.

Anyway, he wanted these to be shared not only on the blog, but he ran upstairs to show Jeff and gave him a play-by-play of his discouragement and then victory.  He even told me to tell my readers that it took him several tries to draw a pen that good.  They shouldn’t give up after the first few.

Even though illustration isn’t my thing, I am learning a lot, too, and enjoying the exercises.  It’s showing me where I need to work on values and drafting and I’m learning a lot about sketching with a fountain pen.

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

The next evening, we drew utensils…

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

acrylic paint sketch | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

Calvin likes using acrylic paint pens to get more of a cartoon/video game look while I’ve stuck with pen & ink.  I was very impressed with his shadow and how he captured that the knife was leaning up on the edge of a basket and cast a heavy shadow.

The next exercise was right in Calvin’s wheelhouse but pushed me out of my comfort zone.  We had to draw our supplies from memory and get creative with them.  Calvin drew pencils with wings and jetpacks and created little utensil and pencil families.

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

I put one pair of wings on my fountain pen and then kept drawing supplies!  Since then, I have drawn little families of instruments and shoes, but Calvin’s were definitely more creative.  Imagine a Croc becoming a British Royal Guard’s hat.  The heel strap became the chin strap and the little holes on the top emulated the textured fur.  It was pretty clever!

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

We still need to finish the course, but the best part is it’s gotten us both sketching daily.  I’ve completed 2-3 pages a day in my sketchbook since we started.  I’ve continued to draw supplies, but I’ve also started sketching pictures I took while in France and Italy.

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

I took all of those pictures with the intention of doing a bunch of sketches and paintings and I’ve not followed through on that.  I’ve always been nervous about all of the details and angles and lines in the buildings in Paris, but now I’m just going for it and, I must say, I am surprising myself.  I’m far from being a great pen & ink artist, but I feel like I can sit and sketch out a building or city scene with a bit more confidence the next time I’m traveling.

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

I’m even adding people so the scenes don’t look like they were sketched during an apocalypse.

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

The best part is that I’m enjoying reliving the memories.  I took the pictures because they caught my eye and now I am taking the time to really study and appreciate them.  I can remember where I sitting or standing, why I stopped to snap the photo, what it smelled like, and sounded like.  I remembered poking through the narrow aisles at Shakespear & Co, determined to find a couple of books from the place Hemmingway frequented.  I bought a book on Paris Impressionists and a book on fabric and textile designs.  My mom and I had lunch at a cafe shortly afterward, so we could sit and rest from all of the walking, and I browsed through my books.

pen and ink sketches | domestika illustration class | miss mustard seed

It would’ve been easy for me to tell Calvin that illustration is not my thing and he was on his own.  But the class has been good for both of us and we’re already talking about what class we’ll take together next…

PS – I’ve created a bit of a monster in that Calvin is becoming an art supply snob like his mom and he’s even asking for his own “art room!”  I told him he could use mine any time.


  1. Babs

    What lovely memories you are creating together.

  2. LuAnn

    That is awesome! I love that he is showing interest in creativity and the arts. Make sure to encourage and to be cautious in critique and comparisons. Kids have tender feelings and can quickly give up when they feel their work is less than that of who inspired them.

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, of course! We have so many conversations about the inner critic and allowing yourself to learn and grow and mistakes and creating art you don’t like along the way are a part of that.

  3. Sharon Pires

    You know that you are creating precious memories in your family and are also sparking thoughts in others for creating them in theirs. Brava!

  4. Terry

    You are the best Mom ever.

  5. Tracy

    I need to learn from Calvin’s experience. I am a beginner too and I get discouraged after one bad drawing. Now I will keep drawing over and over. How cool that you can do this together!

  6. Nancy

    Maybe he is lonely and wants to send more time with his lovely mom. My son did the same thing many years ago. He recently admitted to me that he just liked hanging out with me.

  7. Sandy

    Calvin definitely has talent and innate creativity. Way to go, Calvin! … You’re on the right path and you’re right about practice. I can’t wait to see more of your sketches whenever you let your mom share them! 🙂

  8. Dana Wall

    This is precious and I love your sketches!!!

  9. Kay

    My daughter recently told me that she had learned from me the positive influence it had on her to be exposed to all sorts of activities so she could decide who she was. She has done the same thing for her son and I can see that this has helped him grow. I am a proud mother and you should be too for not just exposing Calvin to artistry, but sitting with him and encouraging him to continue. Good for you!!

  10. Cynthia Johnson

    Hi Calvin,

    WoW.. you have taken a huge leap into what could be a scary thing! I can see that you have natural talent and I encourage you to keep sketching and doodling away. I’m new to watercolor and gosh oh gosh sometimes it goes very well and sometimes not but it’s relaxing, and I really like having all the supplies I need. I thought the knife was your Mom’s!! You did an amazing job..I’m going to try a few things now. Thank you for the inspiration!

    I moved from Minnesota to Colorado fours years ago and that was scary. Your family did the same and it looks like you have all adjusted well…that’s what family is all about 🙂

    Have fun with art!!!

  11. SueA

    I love it that you are open to learning from your child.

  12. Susan

    … all that you are and a truly wonderful Mother to your lucky boys! Your story brought a tear to my eyes.

  13. Cassandra E

    How clever of him to draw wings and such! Thank him for sharing not only the inspiration of persistence, but also a glimpse into creativity. I was delighted as I scrolled onto his drawings.

  14. Addie

    Well….ya know what they say…”the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.
    Calvin, I love your art!!!! It does take practice. Just look how far your mom has come. I am rooting for you to get your own art room!!!….well, maybe for a little while, it could still be your bedroom. Keep at it!!!

  15. Marlene Stephenson

    He’s doing a great job. Keep up the great work your doing Calvin, your getting very good. The time you spend together is so precious.

  16. Jeannie Kubatska

    How wonderful to read this. You make my heart sing. I love this story and appreciate your creativity with your family. You are an inspiration, bringing out the spark in your child’s desired interest. Beautiful on every level. Confidence building, appreciating the act of perserverance and finding inner talent.

  17. Angela

    This might be the best blog post of yours that I’ve ever read. Amazing to be able to cultivate his obviously innate talent while sharing yours. Beautiful!!

  18. Zanetta

    This is one of the sweetest posts I’ve read. It speaks to my Homeschooling Mom Heart. I believe in finding the gifts and talents of your children and helping them fine tune their gifting. These are the things that will feed their heart as they grow and mature. Precious moments.
    You’re also inspiring me in my picture taking to be intentional in capturing elements that hold my attention. I’m going to attempt sketching them. Haven’t sketched in years.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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