Tiny Art Director: a 4-year-old critiques her father's art

Tiny Art Director is a site written by Bill Zeman, an artist whose daughter is four. The basic schtick is, she tells the Bill what to draw, he draws it, she critiques it (she's hard to please). It's hilarious and great -- and he's got a book-deal!.

The Brief: A dinosaur eating a R and an O and an S and a I and a E

The Critique: That's not what I want. That's a Brachiosaurus. I want a T Rex. He's supposed to have the other letters in his mouth too. See look! He's only eating that one. What letter is that?

Job Status: Rejected

Tiny Art Director (via Waxy!)


  1. The illustrations look awesome! And I can totally relate to the little dictator number. I’ll be singing “Are You Sleeping,” and Wolfie will roar… “SING IT IN FRENCH!”

  2. She sounds like a typical end-user of a system. They never specified “T-Rex” or “eating all the letters at once,” but they’re outraged that you didn’t somehow read their minds and do what they wanted without being told.

    Thanks to this post, I now know that the Harvard MBAs (and other presumptively-stupid people) who behave this way are literally behaving like four-year-olds.

  3. I thought it was adorable and funny.

    And truthfully, her commentary doesn’t sound all that different from the grown-up critics. Or at least that’s the story I get from my artist friends.

  4. If you have kids: She’s adorable!

    If you don’t have kids: What a brat…

    I’m trying to figure out how to get all five letters into a dinosaur’s mouth while keeping them recognizable.

  5. Worst. Child. Ever. Maybe his next project should be “little brat left by the side of the road.” Kidding. Kind of. Let’s just think of the psychology behind doing whatever your 4 year old says, then allowing her to scream at you if you don’t do it just right. Just think: somewhere out there there’s a poor kid who is going to be in an emotionally relationship with her. Way to go, dad.

  6. People. Kids are kids. They act bratty from time to time and you love them anyway and try to help them through it.

    Picture books, by the way, are a great way to help teach good manners, controlling temper, checking entitlement, all that good stuff. The artist/author Anna Dewbury does amazing work. “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” is a modern CLASSIC. Really carefully crafted picture books with a good heart for where kids are at.

    This dinosaur book by Bill Zeman looks really sweet and I can’t wait to read it.

  7. I’ve been doing this my two year old son (although I’m no artist).

    One recent creation was a baby with caterpillars and worms on him, with a vacuum, under a trampoline, in the moonlight.

    The key difference, however, is if he was that critical, he’d go to timeout.

  8. I know just what he’s going thru.
    Mom was out of town for a few days, so it was just me and Pete. We were joking about eating cheap crap:

    “At Uncle Crappy’s Chicken Shack,
    Drive right in- vomit out in back.”

    We made up a song and a menu that was mostly roadkill and gross crap. Then I drew Uncle Crappy, about to chop the head off a chicken. Sweaty, stained wife-beater (undershirt), scraggly hair, 5-day beard, dangling cigarette.
    “Dad, you drew the chef! Uncle Crappy doesn’t look like that!”

  9. …Went to site…Why?…so foolish…

    …Too sweet…for..blood…ky00tness…overdose



  10. This cracks me up. (Not recently, but in the distant past, I have had people who attempted to art direct me with about as much constructive input as this four year old offers.)

    As for whether she’s a brat, well, she’s four. First of all, the anecdotes are all selected by her dad. We have no way of knowing if he cherry picks them or not, but I imagine he does because sometimes kids get repetitive with phrases they like.

    I don’t even view her as screaming these. While I’m unmarried with no kids of my own, I babysat a tonne of kids, and had four younger siblings, so I’ve more or less got this matter-of-fact tone in my head that kids use when they try to explain the world to adults. “Daddy, you’re silly,” was a big phrase at our house. They don’t really have the breadth of experience or comparative toolset to make super in depth observations, but they are little creatures of ego and id, knowing that they’re the center of the universe and that they don’t like something. Eventually they develop manners and tact, but this isn’t horrendous or unnatural behaviour.

    Also just because a parent fulfills SOME requests for a child, doesn’t mean he is constantly setting them up for a demand-and-get mentality. My parents usually asked us what we wanted them to read aloud, and sometimes we had disagreements on how the stories went. It’s part of learning to negotiate the world.

  11. Aw man, that’s a great insight into what kids see in their own drawings, as opposed to what we see as adults.

  12. All kids are sometimes bratty, especially when they need a nap. But I can imagine how this might also quite plausibly go with a normal kid under happier conditions:

    The Brief: Draw Elmo, daddy.

    The Critique: Yay! Elmo!

    Job Status: Accepted.

    [Repeat ad infinitum.]

    This would be boring to everybody except the kid herself, who would love it. No book deal for dad that way. No, the author/dad/Svengali needs a bratty reaction for the sake of dramatic conflict, so he cultivates and nurtures it.

    Alternatively, maybe he just exaggerated and faked it a bit, cherrypicking the more reactions that might seem funnier to the target audience. Result: funny!

  13. That’s a great little photo of the Tiny Art Director on the side of the site, too. I love the stern look on her face.

    I think I need to do more drawings for my niece and nephew.

  14. Wolfiesma, not only that, but I can already see how even the grumpy moments will be sorely missed.

    I’ve worked for people like that too and somehow we always managed to get all the letters in the dinosaur’s mouth before the truck was scheduled for pickup.

  15. Oh, the grumpiness is so cute and funny. I mean, we are talking about a naked child in diaper stomping around the living room with his hands on hips shouting, “I AM DERRY ANGRY RIGHT NOW!” It is so hard not to laugh.

  16. This cracks me up… having worked as a multimedia and motion graphics artist for over 11 years I find the critique’s of a 4 year old frighteningly similar to the same input I receive from our corporate clients.

  17. Speaking as an Art Director, I believe that she is dead-on with the majority of her assessments and her direction.

    She knows that the talent can and will do better and that he’s fundamentally wasting her valuable time with this garbage.

    The artist doesn’t need hand-holding. He’s a talented adult who needs to be submitting best-of-class illustrations. Pandering to his vanity/ego will only result in diva-issues down the line.

    “What letter is that?”


    What’s in that dino’s mouth is not part of either the O or the S.

    Perhaps it’s another letter. Maybe it’s a Y. Whatever it is is vague and confusing.


  18. Yay! This is great. Truly a wonderful thing.

    In much of the world, and for most of history, it was a parent’s responsibility to crush their daughter’s spirit at an early age to ensure their marriageability and to get them ready for their rightful place in society.

    Be fierce, little girl!

  19. Here’s to truly critical criticism! We learn as adults not to be ‘too’ honest, and to deflect honest criticism. It’s too bad we learn these things, because the world would probably be a tighter, more well-designed and enjoyable place to live in the long run.

  20. Clever idea, the self-confidence is impressive, and her pickiness is funny the first few times. But this child seems overly negative, even a bit mean.

    I think the child needs to start learning a few adult lessons, such as, “It okay to give criticism if you’re asked, but also find something nice to say” and “Don’t be mean to people” and “Things can be good even if they aren’t something you like.” Otherwise, I’m afraid she’ll grow up to be the art director everyone hates.

    She really does have a sharp eye and an ability to articulate her ideas. With some good manners and empathy she could actually become the art director everyone loves.


    1. I think the child needs to start learning a few adult lessons, such as, “It okay to give criticism if you’re asked, but also find something nice to say” and “Don’t be mean to people” and “Things can be good even if they aren’t something you like.”

      My experience has been that those are valuable lessons, but not usually learned until adolescence. And in online forums, not until…..oh, never mind.

  21. Speaking as someone who has worked both as an artist and art director, I find this girl’s feedback refreshingly straightforward. She knows what she wants and she’s very clear about it, which is more than I can say about most of my clients.

  22. FAIL. I know some kids whose parents kow-towed to every request their kids ever made and they are monsters now.

    The site where the guy crits kids’ artwork and tears it to pieces is a thousand times better, and it teaches humility.

  23. Super cute, and she was right: what the hell letter is that in the dinosaur’s mouth? It looks like half an “O”, but most of the “O” is intact! Sheesh, some people…(heh)

  24. I live with a total emo diva artiste. You move one paint, suggest one thing, god forbid demonstrate some technique in his vicinity and the paper gets ripped in half and he bawls about how “ITS RUINED!” It is sort of like living with a monster now that you mention it.

  25. The curving of the dinosaur’s mouth makes the “I” look like another letter; really, though, the dinosaur is just biting the middle of the I. It is a good pickup by the child, even if she managed to be hypercritical about things she neglected to ask for.

  26. I made my son a life-size cardboard cutout of Bender. It was great! He stuck it in his closet.

  27. love it! Great idea and reminds me of when my daughter was that age. She would ask that we play “imaginary games” and designate me a character.
    Inevitably, I would always play the character wrong…..

  28. You’d think an artist would have more qualms about raising his daughter to be an art critic.

    I bet this is more fun for us than it is for him. The things people do to get name-recognition in the market…

  29. I’m looking forward to her taking Daddy aside and saying -Father, your art is acceptable enough. But you really need to know that ‘critique’ is a noun; I think what you maybe meant to say was ‘a 4-year-old criticises her father’s art’


  30. Better this than the supposed child prodigies who are supposed to be brilliant artists, but can’t actually paint while a camera is running, and always have parents who are unsuccessful artists…

  31. I used to play this game with a (much younger) sibling. The difference was, after she commissioned something, we would BOTH draw it, not letting the other see until it was all done. Afterward, compare. Good experience in seeing how identical instructions could result in different outcomes. Let us examine the disjunct between internal representations and what gets communicated.

  32. To Antinous/Moderator:

    Well, in my experience, adolescence is pretty late to start learning the kind of lessons I mentioned, and three and four have not been too early for kids to start learning them. Of course, kids need a lot of leeway and the right kind of reminders. As I said, the child (as portrayed in the site’s selection of comments) really does come across as being overly hard to please and not very nice to her Dad.

    With your second sentence were you implying that I need to learn those lessons, or were you directing that at some of the other commenters, who called her a “brat”, “worst child ever,” and the like? Not me, I hope, because I think I steered clear of snarkiness and also made sure to compliment the child. But I do think I should have led off with the compliments. And come to think of it, I’m not sure anyone has any business criticizing another person’s kid. Or advising them how to train the kid, even when they’ve opened the door for criticism by putting their kid on a website.

    Yeah, I take it all back. Truly a cute little girl with a lively mind and a talent for knowing what she likes, and verbalizing it.

    My criticism instead is that as a protagonist (of sorts) in the book he has in mind, I think it would help if we also saw a bit of the child’s adorable, sweet side. More pictures that she liked would be fun, and this woud also give her even more credibility as an art director. The cool thing about her is that she really does have a lot of sound opinions. If she is almost completely negative about pictures that are, after all, pretty charming and interesting, it makes her criticism seem like crankiness. I did wonder if she wasn’t very into this thing and just wanted her Dad to leave her alone with his pictures.

  33. BTW, sorry to post anonymously. Login not working for some reason, even though I’ve reset the password three times.

    My first comment included my signature “xtomx” and my second was a reply to “ANTINOUS/MODERATOR”

    1. Can you e-mail me (click my name to find the address) and give me your user name and e-mail address? I’ll see if I can figure it out.

  34. Thanks. I figured it out. I was using the full email address as username instead of just “tomboing”

  35. ha. ‘It’s funny, but the girl sounds like a spoiled brat.’ It’s funny,but the girl sounds precocious ^^ maybe a little spoiled,but what parents don’t want to spoil there little princess? :) I think this kid could do great things in the future,she sounds very creative,and stubborn (all great minds are stubborn XD)

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