Behind the Box: Tales of Fabricating a Child’s World

I guess I should have known this since I was in high school.  I’m a bit of a method actress.

In college, I took things to an extreme when I adopted a lifestyle with an impossible budget and scrounged for food in vacated classrooms for bags of chips and snacks left behind by students…all in the name of understanding “what it means” and writing about it in a paper.

It took me awhile to realize it, but Suzy is really just another extension of this strange “method” way I have of approaching art.  It wasn’t enough that Suzy wrote on “100% recycled materials,” I had to use my left hand to emulate a child’s script and dig up my own childhood toys.

This is meant to be a timeline of sorts of the “process” of Suzy’s Box and how life imitates art and art imitates life and all that garbage.

THE PLANNING STAGES

I actually did agonize over whether I would use my left or right hand to write out Suzy’s entries.  I didn’t want to use my left because it would be a pain and I didn’t want to be stuck FOREVER doing Suzy with my left hand.

But of course, authenticity won out and I decided on the left.  And now I’m irritated by a totally different reason:  I might be ambidextrous.  My left handwriting is “too good” and continues to improve and I have to keep reminding myself to constantly change the grip so I never become accustomed to the pen.

I wanted Suzy to be a good speller.  Not just for legibility, but because if there was a chance children were going to read it, I didn’t want them to learn to spell words incorrectly.  I was a pretty meticulous speller, so I don’t feel too guilty about it.

THE ART: I will have to post the character “designs” which I only did of four characters, the rest I made up on the spot when I realized I had to draw them.  Suzy’s art style is based on my own at that age.  Drawings are done with my right hand.

DECEMBER

Suzy’s first entry was so very time-consuming to write out.  I added grease stains from a baked chicken (which didn’t stick very well) and scrunched the paper myself.

The “fish out of water” crayon drawing has significance outside of the obvious symbolism, but that fish is also our unofficial family emblem.  The frog is a tribute to AzaleaPrime (the toddler Azalea is based on) because she is utterly obsessed with all things frog.

My favorite thing about Suzy using markers is that we really do have a box of crappy markers that are half dried up, so all the times Suzy has to change colors…it’s probably because the marker is about to die.

I had saved a fast-food napkin specifically for Suzy to draw on…but when the time came, it was GONE!  Tragically, she was forced to use a regular household napkin.

The cereal box – I have this strange thing where I don’t make the entries ahead of time.  I do them THE DAY OF and scan/resize images right before they go up.  I believe it keeps me spontaneous.  Before I sit down to “write,” I dig through the recycling for something interesting to write on.  That day, there was literally nothing in there except for a cereal box.  So I used that.

JANUARY

Although I have the text written beforehand, I don’t know what Suzy will decide to illustrate until she’s writing.  I panicked a bit when I realized she meant to draw her parents and I hadn’t even visualized them yet.  The original plan was for everybody to be in the same “rounded head” style Suzy and Markie are but the more I thought of how I could differentiate Papa Long from a child (a mustache?), I realized (or maybe Suzy did) that I was thinking too small.  The children are rounded.  Her parents are square.  The image of her parents that appears in the 4th of July entry is the first time I drew them.

I really love the juxtaposition of writing and drawing all over something that says “This page intentionally left blank.” I think Suzy does too.

Suzy’s older brother also had to be created on-the-spot.  His head is football-shaped because my nephew (Suzy’s predecessor’s older brother) was born with a football-shaped head when the nurses used a vacuum on him and literally “sucked” him out of the womb.

FEBRUARY

“Airplane” is a strangely artistic entry.  This was always the direction the story was going in, but I didn’t plan for it to happen yet.

I am disappointed, however, in the first page’s lack of a stain.  I flung cranberry juice onto the page and laid it out to dry by a heating vent, but was disappointed to find that it only left a mildly pink hue!  I wanted it to slash red like so much angry blood…

It’s a very “red” themed entry.  The ink is red.  The stain is pinkish.  It is photographed on a reddish-maroon backdrop.  I didn’t plan it that way, but I think my subconscious made these last-minute decisions on purpose.

“Airplane” is also the first entry where most of the art was “planned” — in little half-hearted doodles in my notebook…which is also unfortunate because Suzy on the swings looks so much more forlorn in my doodle.  I will post it soonish.  (The last image of Suzy and her brother was not planned, I needed something to finish off the page…and it turned out nicely.)

I was short on paper and the pencil drawing of the girl in the background of the second page is actually done by my niece (yes, THE niece!), so I thought it might be eerily meta…

I decided at the last minute to do a plane and a boat since this might be the first time Suzy’s expressed a need to “get away.”  It seemed appropriate.

Mina chooses a sheep backpack while Suzy would have chosen a wolf.  Fluffy was originally going to be a wolf named Wolfy, but was changed because Fluffy was MY childhood toy and that is actually Fluffy in the picture of Suzy’s Box (he’s quite old…).

I mean to do more with Suzy, but the children hinder my progress.  They have certain props in their possession and need to bring them back so I can do more crazy.  Sigh.

(UPDATE)  Sigh.  It’s unfortunate.  I’ve been searching and torn several rooms apart in search of my childhood squirrel puppet.  It’s nowhere to be found.  I brought it out of hiding for AzaleaPrime to play with and haven’t seen it since.  What I was PLANNING on doing was to make a video of Mr. Nibbles and Fluffy’s interaction as Suzy and Ms. Fellgood, so that the story would momentarily leave the 2D world and enter 3D.  At this rate, it’s not going to happen, however, I HAVE been keeping an eye out for a replacement squirrel (though it wouldn’t be the same since “Mr. Nibbles” is around 20 years old), but haven’t found a suitable one at a reasonable price.

MARCH

As a kid, I did not understand the difference between gorilla and guerilla.  Stories of guerilla warfare in the rainforest made sense in my head as “gorilla” because I figured they hid out in the jungle and fought fiercely…like gorillas.

Clint Eastwood is a great subject because he immediately puts an image in a person’s mind.  Iconic.  And a useful archetype. :3

Was there any feminine child that didn’t want an Easy Bake Oven, I ask you!

Regarding Suzy and the worms…hee hee.  Truly, a joy.  What makes it such a fantastic win is Markie’s realization that half-hearted pranks won’t get to Suzy and that any girl who has enough guts to dump a handful of worms on her head is not a girl to take lightly.  This idea is sort of based loosely on my niece and sister, who are generally pretty okay with catching bugs with their bare hands or trapping toads in their palms.

Suzy and her brother’s “color alphabet” car ride game was really fun to write.  I let myself play it and ended up coming up with non-color words and it was like, “what the heck, I’m a grown woman and I can’t even make a list of colors alphabetically! What chance do a couple of kids have?”  (Yes, halibut was one of the strange words I came up with.  When it came to “I,” I couldn’t remember the word indigo and instead kept saying Ingrid over and over and then wondered aloud if it was both a name AND a color, lol).

APRIL

Yes.  The Siouxsie and the Banshees reference is deliberate.  Something for the adults that the kids don’t need to know about. :)

I haven’t seriously played with watercolors since middle school.  It was really weird. I was also using the same paints from when I was IN middle school.  Lol.

I wrote a handful of kids’ jokes for my six year old nephew who was supposed to do a joke-telling segment in an elementary revue.  That never happened, so I have these jokes sitting around doing nothing.  It’s so nice to have Suzy as a dumping ground for random, useless things.  XD

MAY

When Suzy writes on the Burger King bag and uses it as a vase of sorts for a daffodil, I liked the idea of a kid revering fast food so much, she makes the bag look like a present.

Lea as the Puke Monster / Banshee is pretty much based on AzaleaPrime.  She is never boring.

When I was a child, I used to crawl into my older brother’s blanket all the time.  Whether I was freaked out, cold, or just wanted company while I watched him play video games.  I thought Suzy should have the same comforts. :)

The Suzy vs. Georgie saga was very amusing to me.  Up to that point, Suzy has had a lot of victories.  She’s the protagonist.  I liked the idea of her losing and through trial-and-error, discovering that the ideas that work the best may not always come from those who are older and wiser.

(Also, SgL and I had many adventures, some of which included me being delusional and feverish while poor mama hen flitted about worriedly.  That would be twice I’ve visited and twice managed not to be in good health.  But it was very fun and we even had a good cry together!)

AUGUST

The crabapple song came about because…I found a worm in a pickled crabapple.  LOL.

The entry concerning Lea’s potty training has a background that is painted in watercolor.  Just to make it more interesting.

“Papa Day” was an interesting entry. The paper is incredibly old.  I crumpled it, splashed paint on it, picked the bean and snapdragons from our garden.  However, the flower season has come to a close and the only snapdragons we had in bloom were white.  I painted the other snapdragon pink with watercolors so that there was a contrast in “puppets”…also, I knew the white would not photograph well.  I kind of wish I had painted the other one, too…

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