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McDougle Monsters Showcase Art Collaboration

In December, Erin Rasmussen, art teacher at McDougle Elementary School (MES) read “Jeremy Draws a Monster” to her kindergarten and first grade students. After children heard the story and viewed the illustrations, Rasmussen asked them to start thinking about how they would like to draw their own monsters. She gave the students black Sharpies and white paper and talked to them about variations in lines, as well as geometric and organic shapes. Then the children set to work, creating monsters.

MES MMS art collaboration A few hallways over, in McDougle Middle School (MMS), Kate Parrent began preparing her eighth grade art students for a new collaborative adventure. She had been teaching elements of dramatic light and shadows, a perfect elaboration for simple Sharpie drawings. She let them know they would soon receive a collection of monster drawings from their neighbor school, and their assignment was to re-create the monsters. Parrent said, “My eighth graders were randomly given a monster to re-create in color, embellishing with their new skills in shading and light sources. They tried to stay true to the original drawing while putting the monster in a new environment.”

Rasmussen and Parrent consider themselves very lucky to teach in adjoining schools, making it so easy to visit each other’s studios for inspiration, camaraderie and support. For some time, the two art teachers  discussed options for a true collaboration among their students and schools. Then they remembered “The Monster Engine,” a well-known book and website created by Marvel illustrator, Dave Devries.

According to The Monster Engine website, Devries was inspired by his young niece in 1998, saying she often filled his sketchbook with doodles. “While I stared at them,” he said, “I wondered if color, texture and shading could be applied for a 3-D effect. As a painter, I made cartoons look three dimensional every day, so why couldn't I apply those same techniques to a kid's drawing? That was it... no research, no years of toil, just the curiosity of seeing Jessica's drawings come to life.”

Rasmussen and Parrent held the same curiosity, and Parrent hoped her eighth grade students would embrace the same kind of inspiration and collaboration, too. They did. The older students tackled the challenge of transforming the simple monsters into 3-D images, and they loved the project.

Since early December, the McDougle Monsters were displayed outside the shared school library, in the median space between the elementary and middle schools. But the best part is the youngest artists weren’t even aware their drawings had been seen and re-visioned through eighth grade eyes. 

On January 9, and again on January 13, small groups of kindergarten and first grade students followed Rasmussen into the middle school to the display of drawings, and for the first time, they saw the new interpretations, paired alongside their own Sharpie drawings. Rasmussen and Parrent helped the older students connect with and introduce themselves to their young partners-in-art. 

MES MMS artists and art “It was a joy to see the eighth grade artists meet the younger artists who inspired their monster drawings!” Rasmussen said. “Those BIG smiles will make another collaboration happen in the near future. Working with Kate to plan and execute this lesson was a joy as well. We have such a unique opportunity to bring together these different age groups here at McDougle Elementary/Middle, and we hope to do it even more in the future. Smiles all around from students, staff and teachers!