The Monster Engine by Dave Devries

Take an incredibly talented artist and combine his ability to paint with the creative minds of children and this is what you get.  An awesome book filled with full color pieces of beautifully creative artwork.

Monsters, the primary fear of every child (especially at bedtime) is the theme, and these monsters are some of the most original I have ever set eyes upon.  Here’s some additional insight into the inspiration of this book from the author Dave Devries himself:

What is the Monster Engine?

The Monster Engine is a book, a demonstration, lecture and a gallery exhibition. The premise for all three came from one single question: What would a child’s drawing look like if it were painted realistically?

It began at the Jersey Shore in 1998, where my niece Jessica often filled my sketchbook with doodles. While I stared at them, I wondered if color, texture and shading could be applied for a 3D effect. As a painter, I made cartoons look three dimensional every day for the likes of Marvel and DC comics, 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.

The book is a 48-page collection of drawings, paintings, photos and interviews.  The book’s preface explains, in depth, the history, intentions and results of this seven-year project.

What’s inside the book?

One page shows a child’s a monster drawing.
One page shows my painting (based upon that drawing.)
Two pages contain an interview with the child about my painting. These interviews have three embedded photos of the child talking.
Because the interview pages separating pages one and four, there is a “cliff hanger” aspect that leaves the viewer in anticipation of the painted transformation. This never fails to get a great reaction. Once that has occurred, children and adults alike can read the interviews for the humor and insights about the art.

How’s it done?

The process is simple. I project a child’s drawing with an opaque projector, faithfully tracing each line. Applying a combination of logic and instinct, I then paint the image as realistically as I can.

My medium is mixed—primarily acrylic, airbrush, and colored pencil.

About the Author

Dave Devries PhotoI’ve loved art from the time I was a little kid– especially comic books. When I got older, I actually got a chance to draw my childhood heroes–and get paid to boot. It was a dream come true. I was asked to paint Spiderman swinging over New York and Wolverine slashing robots with his unbreakable claws. My job was to make these heroes real for all the people who loved them. It wasn’t easy but I learned to make them colorful, detailed and full of action. Comics, however, weren’t the only thing I painted–I also painted monsters for Universal Studios, but those monsters weren’t as cool as the ones I saw lurking in my niece’s sketches. It was then, at age 33, that I decided to take all the lessons about color, action and detail and apply them to little kid’s drawings. It made me remember my childhood and also realize that no matter how old I became I could always see things like a child.

Dave Devries, Author

 Source: Monster Engine website

Dave’s technique is truly unique and that comes through in his work.  He asks each child to draw a monster, then he interviews them (included in the book) about their monster.  Using this feedback, he takes the original drawing, and brings out colors, shading, and finally makes it 3-dimensional.  The end result are creepy, funny, incredible monsters the likes of which the world has never seen.

I have caught myself picking up this book plenty of times since Dave kindly sent it to NERD TREK.  This is sure to become a classic coffee table book and something my wife (who is a teacher), just may snag to share with her students.

Instead of continuing to ramble on about how much I love this idea and this book, why not check it out for yourself?  Here’s a few samples to whet your appetite.  If you like them you can pick up the book (which would make an excellent gift) here: The Monster Engine by Dave Devries.

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games /, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.