North Texas Daily

Senior renders second graders’ monster drawings

Senior renders second graders’ monster drawings

March 29
09:43 2013

Trent Johnson

Senior Staff Writer

Monsters lurk in a nearby coffee shop and are being recreated with colorful pens and pencils complete with details so distinct, the ghoulish creatures jump off the page.

While college students may be responsible for the finished product, a child’s imagination kick-started these vicious creations that range from a pink octopus with a bright red eye to a large monster with yellow arms, red legs and an eerie smile.

These bright beasts and countless others are all part of the “Monsters Project” started by communication design senior Katie Johnson. With each drawing she aims to give second graders from Austin the chance to see their artistic inventions from a different angle.

Monsters and children

Starting in the fall of 2010, Johnson caught herself drawing a monster and instantly brainstormed ideas that would allow her to create more boogie men.

“I love the endless potential of monsters,” Johnson said. “Every time you create one it could be different. There are no limits.”

Johnson immediately thought up the framework for a project aimed to give children more opportunities to use their imaginations.

“I wanted to make sure kids were exposed to how amazing creativity is,” Johnson said. “I want their ideas to be recognized, too. I wanted them to be aware of their own potential.”

After conjuring up the idea to awaken more creativity through crawlers of the night, Johnson emailed her mother, a teacher at Faubion Elementary School. In a short period of time, the “Monsters Project” was born.

“My mom is such a go-getter that within a week she had mailed me all the monsters,” Johnson said. “So I had about 20 monsters to start out with, and I did the entire first batch myself.”

The project currently has three classes involved and more than 60 original monsters. This year’s project started in the fall, when the second grade classes were asked to draw an original monster. The drawings were then mailed to Johnson shortly after.

Johnson and a group of artists then set about recreating the monsters, adding finer details to the drawings while maintaining the originality of each piece.

After months of sketching, shading and coloring, the artists returned  the final pieces to Johnson, who plans on driving to Austin in late April to return both the original pieces and the adaptation, accompanied with a letter from the artist.

“For me, meeting the kids is so interesting,” Johnson said. “There was this one girl who was the carbon copy of the artist who re-drew her monster and she said ‘This is exactly what I thought it was going to be.’ The children’s reactions are the best part.”

Faubion teachers also enjoy the moments leading up to the finale, witnessing the children work hard on the pieces and be validated at the end, retired second grade teacher Jan Downs said.

“The project was beyond my expectation,” Downs said. “She took each piece and all the specific things she or the other artist liked. It’s just a win-win for everyone involved.”

The UNT students involved also get a kick out of the drawings, as they get to put their own touch on some already interesting inventions, communication design junior Daniel Murphy said. Sparing no time at all, Murphy started during Christmas break and took his time molding the perfect piece.

“I had a lot of fun working on the project,” Murphy said. “I really loved being involved in helping kids stay creative.”

An artistic beginning 

Growing up in Austin, Johnson was raised by parents who both had experience in the music world, so creativity was prevalent in her household. Coloring books also played a role, but just filling up space wasn’t enough, Johnson said.

“I was always trying to find new styles with coloring books,” Johnson said. “Me and my friend used to outline the lines of the characters and try shading. I don’t think we did it right but I was always into experimenting with art.”

In middle school, Johnson said she had a teacher who encouraged drawing because he thought it helped people pay attention.

While she questions whether this helped her grades, she took advantage of the opportunity to create a mini “series” about a man with full facial hair.

“I was the doodle person,” Johnson said. “In seventh grade, I created a whole comic series, essentially, following a guy with a beard. So I added like a new adventure almost every day.”

Even though she has been drawing since kindergarten, Johnson said she has never been bound by a specific style, choosing to let the creative juices flow.

“I’ve never considered myself a drawer,” Johnson said. “I’ve always just done it for fun, drawing characters from my imagination.”

From the sketch pad to the computer screen to UNT

In high school, Johnson had aspirations of going to UNT to be a performance major for vocal jazz, but instead design caught her attention and never let up.

“I didn’t discover design until my junior year of high school,” Johnson said. I’ve always had artistic interests floating from everywhere. Design kind of centered it for me because I could pull from music and fine art and a whole bunch of things.”

Even though she changed her area of study, Johnson wanted to go to UNT no matter what she was studying because of her visits to the campus for the vocal jazz camps from when she was a child.

Post-graduation and beyond 

With graduation fast approaching, Johnson plans on moving back to Austin in order to get a job close to home, which would allow her to continue her music career.

“I want to work on my music and design stuff simultaneously,” Johnson said. “I have an EP out and I work really well with a pianist out there because we have the same brain.”

The EP was recorded during her high school days when she began writing songs at the urge of her vocal teacher. Soon after, she recorded a song with her piano teacher and plans on reuniting to finish what they started.

“I have, like, 30 songs demoed out,” Johnson said. “We planned on making an LP, but I haven’t had the time, so that’s what I want to do when I get back.”

Whether her plans include an alternative hit record or award-winning advertising, monsters are definitely somewhere in the blueprints for Johnson’s future, especially if children’s smiles are the result.

“I definitely have plans of doing this again,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the more rewarding things I have ever done.”

For more information and to see the monster drawings, visit

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