It’s a Monsterpiece!

Dave DeVries’s Monster Engine helps kids discover the power of their imaginations.

Summer, 2014 / No. 33
Illustration by Dave DeVries.
Dave DeVries

Dave DeVries loved superheroes and monsters as a kid. In fact, superhero comics are what made him want to grow up to be an artist. When he was old enough, Dave attended art college, where he learned to paint and draw all kinds of things—including comics! Today, Dave is a professional artist, having drawn superheroes for Marvel and DC, monsters for Universal Studios, and helped computer animators design video games. He also helps inspire kids who want to grow up to be an artist, just like he did.

In 1998, Dave started a project called the Monster Engine after his six-year-old niece, Jessica, drew a monster in his sketchbook. Dave looked at Jessica’s drawing and wondered what it would look like if it were painted in the same realistic way he painted his own monsters. So Dave projected Jessica’s monster onto a canvas, carefully tracing every line. He then added to her original drawing using the painting materials he uses as a professional illustrator. Both Dave and Jessica were amazed by the result, and since then Dave has used the Monster Engine as a tool to show kids just how powerful their imaginations can be. “There’s usually a jaw-dropping moment when I unveil one of my monster paintings, because if you do it right, you show the kid’s idea back to them,” says Dave.

In 2005, Dave published a book called The Monster Engine, collecting original drawings by kids, alongside Dave’s realistic interpretations. “The kids always know I can’t do my paintings without them,” he says. “I just love their work. A kid draws in such a powerful way. As you get older you forget—you try to draw things in a way you feel is ‘right.’”
Watching him bring their drawings to life has been a positive influence on many of the kids Dave has taught: some of them have grown up to be artists, including Jessica, who’s now a twenty-one-year-old fashion designer.

When he’s not drawing superheroes or teaching classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, near his home in Budd Lake, New Jersey, Dave still visits schools and uses the Monster Engine to help spark kids’ imaginations. He’s slowly added more entries to the Monster Engine since his book was published, and kindly offered to show a few newer, unpublished entries to Taddle Creek readers here.

Illustration of monster by Coco.
Illustration of monster by Coco and Dave DeVries.
Illustration of monster by Isla.
Illustration of monster by Isla and Dave DeVries.
Illustration of monster by Weston.
Illustration of monster by Weston and Dave DeVries.
Illustration of monster by Chase Proto.
Illustration of monster by Chase Proto and Dave DeVries.
Illustration of monster by Owen.
Illustration of monster by Owen and Dave DeVries.