Text conversation between the girl (at her mom’s) and me (half in the bag at a distillers and brewers tasting event):
Simone: Hey Dad look I drew a thing! (Illustration of favorite anime character)
Eric: You sure did!
Simone: Do you like the thing I drew? I'm going to color it tomorrow.
Eric: I do. I like the confidence in your lines.
And the droopy eyes.
Simone: But Mepphy's eyes always look like that.
Simone: Thank you. They're always shakier in the sketch.
I really like this drawing too. I'm counting it in my best.
Eric: It's excellent, but not my favorite of all of your illustrations.
Simone: It's not my favorite either, I'm just really happy with it. Especially the hands. Hands are impossible sometimes.
Eric: The hands are exceptional. I'd just like to see more of your original characters.
Simone: None of my original characters have outfits that are that fun to draw...
Eric: But that's your choice.
Simone: I just don't have a character worthy of a fun outfit either, yet.
Eric: You will.
Simone: Eventually, I hope so!
Eric: You're absorbing styles and influences, but I have no doubt that you'll land in your own unique universe.
Simone: As if I wasn't there already...
Eric: No - you will create a storyworld of your own. With your aesthetic and characters and rules. It won't be derivative of what you've read — it will be your vision alone.
Simone: I meant in my head. I'd say that's a pretty unique world right there. But yes, I'm just waiting for that world to appear to me. It just hasn't made itself known yet.
Eric: Duh. Waiting for it to manifest itself in your art.
It will. I promise.
Simone: Someday, yeah... It's shy. It's behind the metaphorical couch and is too socially awkward to come out.
Eric: You're 13. You have time.
Simone: Yes, I know. Time can be so bothersome...
Eric: Ha. Don't rush it.
From a very early age, Simone has been an artist with a precocious eye for detail in her illustrations. Whether it was her first dinosaur drawings, sketches of animals, or her early attempts to re-create beloved cartoon characters, it was the details — the expressions in the eyes, the scales on a dragon, the correct number of claws on a microraptor — that set her drawings apart.
When she was very young, she drew many iterations of animals: prehistoric creatures, reptiles, and, occasionally, fluffy mammals. She drew everything freehand, a full commitment in every stroke of the crayon or marker, intent on getting her vision onto the blank page.
Pokémon characters were probably her first fan-girl illustrations, and she was meticulous in capturing their expressions and poses, refining and improving her methods until each one was a perfect representation.
Although she’s primarily a pencil and ink artist, I have seen her work wonders on a pixel-by-pixel basis. When
she was 10, she was creating animated GIFs of Pokémon characters. And, these days, she probably spends more time designing clothing and banners for her Animal Crossing charges than she does playing the actual game, adding and subtracting tiny pixels one at a time.
In fact, that near-Aspergian level of focus, along with her obsession with drawing the same character over and over and over again, used to worry me a bit. I watched her fill up entire sketchbooks with the iterations of the same video game character (or Frodo, or Dr. Hooves), each illustration just marginally different from the last. But, I figured, if Monet could paint dozens of versions of haystacks and bridges, maybe she was on the right track.
These days, she has moved deep into the anime and manga universe, taking on a style that fits her personality
and passions. Occasionally, she’ll create characters of her own, sketching out concept art of their expressions, clothing, poses, etc. Those are my favorite. But she truly loves illustrating characters from her favorite programs/books (or mashing them up). Though I gently encourage her to do some original work, her fan art is just so damn good.
But...you know... as the proud dad of a talented geek goddess daughter, my real job is to admire her work, encourage her to keep drawing, and provide her with countless sketch books and pencils.
I’ve learned so much from watching Simone hone her craft. One night a couple yearsour Lord of the Rings journey, I was reading her a description of the Nazgul — the flying dragon-like creatures that the ring wraiths ride through middle earth. She was in her pjs, under the covers, and I was laying on my back next to her, hefting the heavy tome above me. She was also on her back, but she had a small sketch pad and pencil in her hands. The reading light was just strong enough for both of us to see, but not so bright that Akiva the mighty black cat couldn’t snooze and snore, draped across my feet like furry, living socks. By the time we’d finished our nightly chapter, Simone had free-handed her interpretation of what the creature could have looked like. I still have that illustration saved on my phone; I’m still enthralled by the way she just drew this thing in a matter of minutes.
Last Saturday, Simone spent about five hours on a single illustration. She started drawing in bed right after she woke up, went back to it while I washed our breakfast dishes, took a short break to shower (but didn’t get dressed right away, because she was too intent on her art), and reluctantly took a walk with me around the neighborhood before getting back to it.
What had started out as a quick sketch of an anime character’s eye grew into a massive, detailed illustration of the character and his familiars. She was so proud of her work, and I know she’ll post it on one of her six, SIX, Instagram accounts, where other fans will like and comment on it.
companion to her media savvy.
The young artist is growing, along with her talent. I’m so excited to see the worlds she creates in the coming years.