with Bruce Van Patter


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In the course of drawing in front of live audiences, I've occasionally drawn things that have really tickled my fancy. Since I never do a detailed sketch first, I'm never quite sure what's going to turn up on the paper. So I'm often as surprised as the audience to see the final product. These drawings below represent the ones that have pleased me the most.

See all my drawings from school visits:

2007

2010

2006

2009

2005

2008

2004

Dragons are a very popular creature in schools. It gets hard to find new ways to draw them. But in this story, which had a cat trying to escape the jungle up against a dragon, I had the idea of a dragon tree. I drew it first as a sketchy tree, then transformed it into a dragon at the end of my drawing. The centered design of this illustration is also very pleasing to me.
Drawing on my laptop and having it projected on the screen while I draw is a really tricky thing. I'm still learning how to overcome the awkwardness of drawing while standing. Oh -- and while watching the screen and not my hand!

This is the best one I've done that way. The details, like my other drawings, were added later.

My favorite thing in this drawing is the manic action of the monkey, frantically searching. I had fun listening to ideas from kids in the audience about what could be coming out of his desk.

You can watch this being drawn on my page of videos.

I enjoy this drawing because of the interplay of the two characters. As I drew this, I left the face of the crocodile for last, because it's his reaction that makes this drawing work for me.

I'm also happy about the sweeping curve of the sea monster which brings the viewer back to the happy face of the croc. And now that I look at it, the serpent looks a lot like a question mark, which also works well in the drawing.

Yeah, I am partial to magic in stories. I do enjoy drawing the effect -- the puff of transformation. Or in this case, the ZING! I also like the worried expression on the elephant's face.

This is another drawing where I was able to get a sweeping effect into the design.

This drawing is here because I am rarely happy with the way I draw women. When I was a boy, I only drew action guys -- superheroes, cowboys, secret agents. I only came to drawing girls and women when I started my career.

I wish more of my women looked as natural and pretty as this one!

Both of these drawings work for me. In the first, I like the mixture of textures: the bumpy scales of the alligator contrast nicely to the smoothness of the waterfall. And the title worked perfectly into the space that I left for it. In the second (from the same school), the poodle is trying to stop the wizard dog by pulling his ear with a hair brush. Wizard Dog's expression is fun.

Here are two more drawings that came out of a single school.

Another pirate. But what makes this drawing a favorite of mine is not only the pirate, but the Chinese princess. I actually was in a library as I finished this after school, so I looked a book with Chinese costumes in it. I also am hapy with the texture of the rice spilling out of the bowl.

I draw a lot of pirates. Actually, I draw one in every school as the younger kids come into their assembly. But every now and then, I really get one right. Yes, this guy's head is way too big for his body, but I love his expression, as well as the look on the dog's face. I wish I could do Sissycat over again, but hey, when you're drawing without sketching, not everything is going to come out perfectly. But this is pretty close, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I didn't spell "mangy" right, but it's surprising that I haven't make mistakes like that more often.

Perspective is tricky. Farther down on the page, you'll see some drawings that look down on a scene. This one looks up. I beefed up the outline on the girl duck help to make her seem closer than the fish and bird above her.

I don't know why I like this. Maybe it's the angry cow.

Sometimes, the story inspires me. In this story from Greenwood Elementary, there were some wonderful parts: a bragging faker of an archeologist, pyramids, and a mummy who would dissolve into dust and then swirl around back into her mummy shape. I'm really happy with the "far away" look in the mummy girl's eyes, and the braggish smile on the man's face.

This was another great story from Greenwood Elementary that gave me something really interesting to draw. This evil magician coming out of the broken mirror I think has just the right touch of scariness.

Drawings sometimes come out of an evening program, like this one, where we did my Wacky Headlines activity. I was drawing this as fast as I could draw. I just love both the faces and the gestures. Later, I realized that there was a full moon out!

Another drawing in which the expressions are just right. I knew I had the hugging pose right when the audience all said, "Ahhhh!" The faces of my characters are often decided by the doodles the kids do as we brainstorm. So, sometimes I'm forced to draw some odd looking people. That's why this guy doesn't have a neck. But here it works for the drawing.

One

fantastic

day of

drawing

Every now and then, a single day will produce a number of favorite drawings for me. My day in Falling Spring Elem. was one of those days. These were very large poster boards; maybe that was a part of it. Or maybe the stories inspired me.

Here's another Wacky Headline story. I do a lot of characters with their arms outstretched and yelling. It's something I'd like to change, but so often, it's the kind of reaction I think the character ought to have. Anyway, I had no idea what the top of the Empire State Building looked like when I drew this. Trust me, it doesn't look like this!

Elvis, Elvis, Elvis. I'm so tired of doing Elvis. I actually have a no-Elvis rule in effect now in schools. But this one is just about a pig who gets cool hair. I'm really happy about the balance of the three animals with the farmer in the background. And I like the shaded eyes on the farmer.

I included this drawing, because I had never drawn a flamingo before. Birds are difficult characters to draw, since their wings are a bit tough to make into hands. (But they're way better than fish!) After school, when I was finishing this drawing, I looked up a flamingo and was surprised to see that they have black tips to their beaks, so I added that. I love the type here. I've been trying to do more things with type.

Behold! A fast drawing -- of a fast turtle! Some drawings I like because of the detail I'm able to add, this one just captures running. Sometimes the simple drawings are the hardest.

Now, this was a tough drawing! This wizard is sneezing and making a goblet disappear. Making things invisible is not easy with a black marker. I think I got it right here. And I enjoy the surprise on the face of the tall wizard.

This is one of my very favorite drawings. I like the weight of the carrot, crushing his hat. I think the funny face on the carrot is just right. This is a keeper.

And this one is special because the whole story is captured in the drawing -- a girl is trying to paint a wizard who keeps changing himself. I love the girl's face. Girls have never been easy for me to draw, and this one actually is close to pretty. She has a young Judy Garland overbite. Nice.

Every now and then, I change perspective. Looking down can be hard to draw, and this is best example of when it works. Usually, when I try to draw this kind of drastic view, kids are really confused by the drawing until it's nearly finished. Then I'll hear, "Ohhhhh, now I get it!"

Seldom do I get to draw an upright illustration in an assembly. Usually, I'm drawing on a blackboard, which is a horizontal space. But in this school, they didn't have a blackboard, only a big piece of cardboard taped to stand up. I love this drawing because of the setting -- a movie theater -- something that was quite different than any setting before that. And this was the first giraffe that I really felt I drew well. I like how the bend of the giraffe neck takes the viewer back toward the important point -- the popcorn.

I included this drawing not because I think it's one of my better drawings, but because I thought of a superhero ripping up a tree to get a cat down from the branches -- and I invented this long before it showed up in The Incredibles!

Not another Elvis! I like this because of the spookiness I was able to get with the cat sneaking up in the dark basement. It took a lot of marker lines to get this. And I love the name Birdvis. And his little angry face makes me laugh.

Without the story, this is an odd illustration, I know. But I love it. Again, it's an upright assembly drawing, so I didn't do my usual good guy on one side versus the bad guy on the other side. The only thing I wish I could have done is to get a bit more of the scarecrow pole showing through. And it is SO hard to draw people over their shoulders, let alone a grandmother -- another kind of person I don't draw well. So all that makes me really happy with this.

Action in this makes this special to me. I've done this zooming ski/snowboard thing a couple times, but this one works the best. Having the bunnies hanging on for dear life adds that extra zing!

This is another drastic "looking down" view. It's probably the highest view looking down I've ever tried.

Bigfoot and a cute little kitty? That combination makes this a winner for me. And I like that both the characters are facing the same way, keeping it from being my usual "I'm going to get you" kind of drawing.

I love to draw pirates. This one is not my best pirate, but I like the balance of the pirate on the left with the pile of treasure and a happy monkey on the right.

And speaking of monkeys on the right, here's one of the longer assembly drawings I've done. I like this because of how I was able to work in a strong sense of the setting: the Grand Canyon. I'm also really happy with the pose of the elephant and fox. Looks dangerous, doesn't it?

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Pick the ingredients to stories and click through to see how I've started them. Then you finish the story!

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