Idea Machine

One of the many things I’m grateful for is the way my young son unknowingly shows me the value of iterating using a limited set of materials and parameters. He had a simple but challenging idea: to draw a unique napkin for his lunch each day. His ideas, my drawings, using a few colored markers, our imaginations, and napkins.

At first, when he kept coming up with more and more ideas, I thought eventually he’d get bored of the exercise pretty quickly.

Now, more than 4 years later, he’s still coming up with dope ideas almost every single day, and our idea machine (only I call it that) has become a prolific joy generator. I don’t always remember to take pictures of them but here are some favorites (out of literally hundreds):

A big, smokey explosion with stuff flying everywhere that says BOOM, drawn on a white napkin with a black marker.
“Daddy, today will you please draw an explosion for me? A smokey one with stuff flying everywhere that goes BOOM?”


A dandelion with seeds being blown into the wind, drawn on a white napkin with blue marker.
And, “Will you please draw a blue dandelion with some seeds blowing away in the wind, daddy?”


A rocketship drawn on a white napkin with fire coming out of the engine and you can see the Earth.
“Daddy, will you please draw a rocket ship for me? With fire coming out of the engine + you can see the Earth?”


“Daddy, how about a chicken dressed up like a pumpkin for Halloween?”


A giant squid drawn on a white napkin with a black marker.
“Daddy, today will you please draw a giant squid that’s white? Just by itself, daddy!”


A black bomb drawn on a white napkin with a red, yellow and orange lit wick.
“Daddy, would you please draw a bomb for me? Because I think you’re the bomb, daddy!”


Merry Christmas, daddy
“Daddy, it’s Christmas time! Will you please draw Rudolph for me?”


T Rex
“Daddy, how about today you draw a T-Rex!”


blue. smiling shark
“Will you please draw a friendly, blue shark, daddy? And he’s smiling at us!”


ice mountains with Moon and stars
“Daddy, today please draw some ice mountains and the Moon and stars are shining!”

And, I’m especially in love with the moments when he challenges me to draw things that are way outside my comfort zone with ideas from the imaginations of great artists who’ve inspired us all:

Charles Schulz' Woodstock. His yellow head and shoulders drawn on a white napkin.
“Daddy, will you please draw Woodstock for me today?”

“Daddy, how about you draw Hobbes?”

“Hey, dad! I know! Draw Beaker!”


“Daddy, can you draw Donald Duck, please? He’s kinda hard.”


“Just keep swimming! Draw Dory, daddy!”


“Okay, daddy, today please draw Wall-E.”

This is a long-winded way to reiterate it’s unexpected things (and my son, of course) that inspire me the most. Does it always lead to something innovative? Not always but it often enough does and the best part? He’s drawing along now (heart melts).