‘The Monster Project’ Education and Remixing Kids’ Art

Since its beginnings as a university project 5 years ago, The Monster Project has evolved enormously, with more and more illustrators lending their talents to ignite kids’ imaginations.

Katie Johnson talks to us about how her project is reaching out to the next generation and connecting professional artists to the classroom.

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© Julian Glander, 2015

Most of us will have fond memories of art class in our early years, the excitement of seeing those brightly coloured paint pots set out, knowing we would have the chance to make a beautiful mess. And for anyone working in the creative industry, it likely gave us that first inkling of where we might end up in later life.

So it is unsurprising that artists would jump at the chance to pass on the baton, and recreate that same sense of joy for someone else.

In The Monster Project, children’s drawings are given to professional illustrators who then recreate their designs in their own style. The final illustrations are then presented back to the children, teaching them about the potential of creativity and the many roads it can offer them.

Katie talks to us about how the project started and how you can get involved and help it grow.

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My name is Katie Johnson— I’m a graphic designer and an art director. I began the project while I was a student at the University of North Texas studying communication design.

At first, I created the project as an excuse to draw more monsters, but it grew into so much more!

The first year, I asked my mom (an elementary school music teacher) to connect me with a second grade teacher. Her students created 20 monsters and I recreated them all on my own (which was a MUCH bigger undertaking than expected!)

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© Patrick Evrard, 2015

It was so fun and I got a lot of support, but the project was missing something— more perspectives and artistic styles! I wanted to teach kids that there are many ways to see the world around us and show them that their all unique, valid, and important. So I opened up the project to my peers at UNT the next year and it was a hit! The third year we added more classes.

And finally, in the forth year of the MP and my first year as a college grad, I enlisted the help of 3 friends that had attended UNT with me— Mercy Lomelin (now an animator/illustrator at Dress Code NYC), Molly Hensley (also living in NYC as a designer), and Lance Trachier (a designer in Dallas).

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We reached out via email to artists we admired from all over the world and, to our surprise, many were willing and even excited to join our project! With the help of their followers and reach, the project grew ten fold that year.

This year is the fifth year of the project. I decided this would be the year to really perfect how the project works, increase our followers and outreach, and pick the best team of illustrators we could.

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© Down The Street Designs, 2015

We reached out to artists we thought were crazy long shots and, amazingly, many of them signed on! We actually had about 50% of all the artists we asked say yes this year, which floored me in the best way. We don’t offer any money— we believe that the monster recreations mean much more if they’re offered as a gift. So it’s pretty phenomenal that so many artists believed in our project so much that they were willing to give their time and talents for free. 

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My favorite part of the Monster Project is getting to deliver the monsters to the kids in person. We project the monsters so the whole class can see, and every time we display a new monster, they erupt in cheers and laughter and smiles. They are full of joy and it’s really infectious.

We give them a folder to keep, including their original monster, their new monster, and a letter from their artist. They cling to their letters and ask me to read them again and again.

Finally, we create a group monster to show them how powerful creative collaboration can be! The experience is always amazing and reminds me exactly why I do this.

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© Muti, 2015

We are in the homestretch of our Kickstarter campaign and still need to raise 9.5K in under 10 days to meet our goal. We’re doing everything in our power to reach that goal, but can use all the help we can get!

With the funding, we’ll be able to expand to more schools, produce professional prints for the kids, cover our operational costs, start an online merch store, and create a monster activity book. This book will be given for free to each participating kid and will include monsters to color, drawing prompts, and other adventures designed to keep their creative spark growing! 

For more information on The Monster Project and their Kickstarter campaign, head over to their website.

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© Riccardo Zema, 2015

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© Gianluca Maruotti, 2015

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© The Monster Project, 2015

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