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From five-minute sketches to frightful creatures

High school students transform third-graders’ drawings into colorful, complex monster artwork

Godfrey-Lee — Sarah Casey’s third-graders at Godfrey Elementary were cutting out eyes, flippers and feet to make paper penguins when their art teacher, Rosanne Steffens, told them she had a surprise. 

“Are you all ready to see the surprise?” Steffens asked. Several “yes” responses came from across the room (along with one “I finished my penguin” announcement from one student very eager to finish their penguin). 

Steffens turned on the projection screen at the front of the classroom and hit “play” on a slideshow of drawings of terrifying monsters. As the slideshow progressed, the third-graders were surprised to see their own drawings transformed into colorful, more complex monsters. 

Earlier in the semester, Steffens had given her third-graders five minutes to draw a monster. Then, she instructed her high school Advanced Drawing students to choose a drawing, without knowing who drew it, and reimagine it. Using creative art styles, the high school artists elevated the simple drawings into fully formed, multidimensional creatures. 

This project was inspired by illustrator and comic book artist Dave Devries, who takes imaginative children’s drawings of monsters and transforms them into evil monsters.

“Many of my students struggle with wanting things to be perfect. They can spend more time on erasing than drawing,” Steffens said. “Working with a child’s drawing forced them to work with imperfections and take the stress off composition. A blank piece of paper can be a very overwhelming thing.”

Nolan Jackson sat closest to the front to watch the slideshow and repeated the words “Dang” and “Ooooh” as each drawing was displayed. 

“That looks like real teeth. I like that one,” he said. 

At her table, Pilar Gonzales saw her drawing and the high-schooler’s interpretation and thought it looked “really cool.” 

Two high school art students chose Nicolas Martinez’s drawing and each created their own version of his monster. One came with a warning label, as the artist worried it might be too “gruesome and scary” for third-graders. But Nicolas thought they were great. 

Third-grader Nicolas Martinez, right, and his classmate Taylor Carson ‘love all things scary’

“That is sick. I love everything scary,” he said.

At the end of the slideshow was a video from Lee High School sophomore Annette Gonzalez. She talked to the third-graders about what it was like to bring their monsters to life. 

“The drawing I chose reminded me of monsters from (the movie) ‘Monsters Inc.’ It was a really awesome drawing with lots of zig-zag lines to add color and textures,” Annette said about her third-grader’s sketch.

Steffens gave her high school students the option to work on shading, highlights and textures. They could also practice rendering shapes to make them look 3D or use multiple colored pencils to create new colors with shading techniques. 

After seeing all the photos, Steffens asked her students if they thought the high-schoolers did a good job with their drawings. The third-graders replied with a resounding “yes!”

Then, with two minutes left in class, third-grader Milly Martinez posed the question to anyone who was listening, “What if that monster came to earth every thousand years? That’d be scary.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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