Long ago, during the very brief period (about a year) during which I was a desperate housewife, I took a Photoshop class. Since then, it’s been my favorite toy; when I’m bored, I fire it up and try to make art. My best work is rather… personal… so I won’t share. It would be indecorous. (I did have it on an anonymous erotica blog for a while, but I took the blog down because it was associated with one of my gmail addresses and I was afraid one day they’d announce to all my professional contacts through some new “service” that it was mine.)

I have a 12-year-old niece who just discovered Photoshop a couple of months ago, when she was still 11. This niece also happens to have a huge crush on her geeky, artistic, Apple fan (not quite fanboy) uncle Vincent. Nothing odd about that; I had uncle crushes too. One turned out to be schizophrenic and the other would feel right at home at a Tea Party… Oh well. But the schizo one looked like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman combined, and the other one had a fabulous nose (always had a thing for noses) and was much less uptight back in the 70s, when he drank a lot of beer.

Anyway. So as soon as my little niece got the hang of Photoshop, which appears to have taken something like two days, she started sending her uncle gifts. These are some of my favorites:

Now, let me add that my niece’s parents are both stage actors, and her dad’s a playwright too. Her mom is a total technophobe. Her dad is not, but he’s no geek. He just got an iPhone the other day, and my niece e-mailed her uncle Vincent to commiserate with him because she’d spent the entire day showing her dad how to use it (she is a wiz with her iPod touch).

Until now, this is the kind of art project my niece has traditionally done (probably since birth) with her outdoorsy, Earth Mother mother:

They do a lot of this kind of stuff. (She’s one of those mothers who always make you feel inadequate because you don’t spend all your free time with your kids making dolls out of flowers and gingerbread houses and shit.) But there’s something to be said for that kind of dedication. It undoubtedly contributed to my niece’s creativity and aesthetic sensibility.

Not only is she a budding geekette, but she’s also a budding Apple fangirl:

Now, this work is truly impressive, but what inspired it is even more interesting.

Her uncle’s Apple love and her desire to please him certainly come into play. But more than that, it’s the products themselves.

They’re purty. Delicate. Sleek. Shiny. (These images say a lot about how this little girl perceives the products.) There’s a refinement to Apple products that jumps the gender gap (and creates a healthy aftermarket for butch iPhone cases for those who aren’t real comfy with their feminine side, or “How to make your Apple product look more like a Hummer”).

Getting the girls on board is no small feat for tech companies (laptop bag manufacturers haven’t figured it out yet). What GameBoy would have given to have girls go for GameGirls the way they have for Apple stuff!

In couples, women make most of the purchasing decisions. And for a long time now, single girls have been buying their own diamonds, if you get my drift. Apple, with its aesthetically delectible toys, has managed to achieve the Woman Acceptance Factor, starting very young, without alienating the boys.

Maybe the reason they haven’t come out with the red (or maybe pink, depending on my mood) iPhone I want yet is because they don’t want to scare the boys away… Or maybe it’s just a classiness thing. I guess wanting a pink iPhone makes me less classy, but I’m OK with that.

In past generations, we’d look at kids and think “they’re the future,” and buy them hula hoops to keep them occupied till they grew up and became a factor. But this generation is decidedly the present as well as the future. So watch closely. It’s fascinating.

In any case, Steve, I think you should look at my niece’s work. It might give you some ideas for your next ad campaign. Just e-mail me and I’ll tell you where to send the check.