In the Press

The Monster Engine is an eight year art project which has grown into an internet phenomenon. Released in June of 2005, The Monster Engine attracted 17 million hits in the first month and continues to get 1/2 million hits per month and is linked to over a 12,000 blogs worldwide-all on word of mouth with no advertising.

Three months after the site went live, its creator, Dave DeVries appeared on Nippon TV, a prime time national network in Japan, as well as being featured on G4 The Video Game Channel and many international magazines and newspapers. Here are a few.

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NJ Herald Photo

Comic artist stretches imaginations
By Marcie Tibbling
Herald staff writer

Inspiration struck a first grade class on Tuesday at the Marion Mckeown Elementary School when an award-winning painter visited their class and created a work of art with them.

Dave DeVries, 33, displayed seven original paintings of fantastical creatures, television personalities and comic book characters to teacher Gay Orfe's 26 pupils and led them from conceptualization to illustration of a fantasy creature right in the classroom.

"Anybody afraid of monsters?" DeVries asked the pupils, to which they all screamed “No!”

"Well, we're all going to make a silly monster." he said, asking the kids to describe what they wanted him to draw.

The end result was a bizarre character with a Mohawk haircut, eight eyes, two mouths and four arms wearing a diaper that the pupils dubbed " Tweety Pickles, the Super Diaper Man."

The Wayne based artist regularly visits classrooms to generate excitement and creativity among young kids and brings along a mini-gallery of his work.

An adjunct professor of illustration at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y., from where he graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration, DeVries recently sold a painting to George Lucas, the director of the famed Star Wars trilogy.

The painting of Princess Leia, portrayed by actress Carrie Fisher brandishing a mega weapon, now hangs in Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California. "It was requested by him. I was very flattered by the whole thing, it was very exciting," he said.

DeVries striking, elaborately detailed sci-fi paintings have been featured on trading cards, book and comic covers, CD covers, toy packages, T-shirts, posters, and in the interior pages of comic books.

"I think a lot of people want to escape the world, and I think one of the interesting way one can escape is to open a window into another world by creating a painting. At least you can gaze into that world even if you can enter It." he said.

While DeVries was drawing the imaginary character the kids dreamed up, the pupils were drawing monster of their own.

Michael Meehan, 7, was busy at work on his Hockey man monster but took a moment to point out his favorite of DeVries' paintings, a depiction of TV characters Xena Warrior Princess and her nemesis Callisto.

"I Think that's a good one because I like weapons, said Meehan

Their teacher was impressed with the way DeVries worked with the children. "The kids loved it. You can see the result, said Orfe, pointing to the stack of drawings her pupils had created. "They all felt really good about their project. It really raises their self esteem."

Rue Morgue

A Children's Horror Reader

In February 2006, The Monster Engine was reviewed by this great horror magazine under the banner "A Children's Horror Reader." This was a great accomplishment as TME was featured with such notables as Lemony Snicket and Clive Barker.

Click here to read the whole article.

Bergen Record Photo

The souls of children
By Elaine D'Aurizio
Bergen Record staff writer

Dave DeVries has become something of an expert on children and monsters. He's been working with both for six years.

It began when his niece Jessica, then 7, snatched his sketchbook at the beach and drew a flat, stick-like demon. DeVries, an artist, was so intrigued, he traced her drawing onto canvas and painted it in realistic, three-dimensional detail and color. Then he talked to Jessica about it.

It was the beginning of a project called "The Monster Engine," which involved young children and monsters of all varieties. That resulted in a book by the same name and now an exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York City through Friday. Each child's drawing will hang framed with DeVries' painted transformation of it.

DeVries, who was raised in Wayne and lives in West Orange, loves to explore children's art because "there is magic and healing in it."

"I love their drawings because they are so simple, uncensored and powerful," he said. "They're revealing a part of themselves, their souls."

He said drawing monsters is a way for kids to illustrate real fears, using a fantasy character, and to talk about it. "If a kid is going through a divorce, he's not going to draw pictures about divorce," DeVries said. "It's going to be something that might be a monster separating him from something he loves, a tearing kind of monster." Children drew all kinds of monsters.

For instance, there's "Old Scratch," a witch of a child's nightmares with no saving grace, drawn by Kimberly DeVries, another niece, when she was 7.

"She's scary," said Kimberly, now 13. "My dream was that she would come and get you and take you down to the underworld. Drawing her showed me that this can't really happen to you. Drawing makes me feel better."

But then there's The Happy Face monster that Alexandra DeLiberto of Clifton drew that throws hearts at people and they fall in love.

What's so scary about that? "It's scary because it comes out at night and is twice the size of people," Alexandra said.

A now-older Jessica DeVries of Roxbury Township talked about facing down her man-eating, dinosaur-like, "No. No. No. Monster," who is in the book and on exhibit - and was the original inspiration for the project.

"It shows that monsters are only in your imagination, in what you draw," said Jessica, now 13. "[From the project] children learn, 'I control my imagination. I control the monster.'" DeVries' passion about children's art and their imagination is contagious.

"Every time I saw David, I drew a lot of pictures and I'd be so excited," said Chelsea DeLiberto, 12, of Wayne. "It was cool when he changed my picture. It was amazing. You could tell a story with that picture."

DeVries, an illustrator who has done posters, calendars, and trading cards of Captain Marvel, Batman and Superman, thought back the other day to the horror of 9/11. He wondered how a superhero of his childhood fantasies would handle it. "It's how your mind tries to comprehend something that is overwhelming," he said. "I think kids do the same thing. I understand them."

Michelle Oram, director of Stage Struck Performing Arts Center in New Providence and Short Hills - where DeVries gives workshops - said the illustrator has a special connection with kids. "He gets off on their energy and they from his. ... It's wonderful the way they derive from each other," she said.

A former professor at Syracuse University, where DeVries earned a degree in illustration, agrees. Murray Tinkelman called his former student "outrageously talented" and his project "a stroke of genius."

"An important part of this project is his profound respect for the youngsters," said Tinkelman. "It speaks of David's outgoing nature how he encompasses people and art, how he makes them inclusive rather than exclusive."

Tinkelman said an illustrator initiating his own work, rather than being assigned work, is entrepreneurial and the wave of the future for artists.

"I previewed the exhibition in a crowded room of professors of art and they praised this project highly," he said.

The artist is elated that others see the originality of the idea. "It's important that it's unique and helps people," he said.

DeVries has also taught courses in "Build a Monster" at elementary schools in Oradell, Basking Ridge and Newton.

His deep regard and passion for what children have to say in drawings is rooted in his own childhood, when he says people viewed children's art as something cute to hang on the refrigerator door.

"I genuinely think what they are doing is important when they draw," he said. "So when I tell them how much I love a drawing and want to hear what they have to say, it is genuine and makes them feel important. Teachers have told me it raises their self-esteem."

DeVries does not pretend to be a psychologist: "I don't have a degree for that." But when he first started interviewing children, he noticed a boy who drew a two-headed monster, one head with a beard.

"I could see that he and one of the other kids were in pain and there really was no way for them to express it," he said. "Another kid I could tell wasn't listened to by the people around him. He brightened up because someone wanted to hear him."

The entire experience has stirred DeVries' own childhood perceptions. "The thing I remember about childhood is the sense of awe, the magic," he said. "If you look at kids, they are just absurd. There's no logic there. You have to be willing to be absurd if you want to reconnect with that childhood sense of wonder. You have to be willing to embarrass yourself."

DeVries would like to do "Monster Engine II," a sequel.

"Then I'd like to change the subject matter, do a hero engine," he said. "It could be the circus engine, the dinosaur engine. ... You can plug into any subject a child can draw. At this point it's an experiment in children's art I don't know where it's going to lead but the point is to continue exploring children's art more."

He remembers one little boy who came for a session angry and withdrawn. He didn't want to be there, and when DeVries asked him to do a drawing the boy sneered and walked away. By the end of the night, he walked up to DeVries and handed him a drawing.

"That proved to me that kids want to express themselves and they want somebody to listen, no matter how dark their thoughts are," he said.

The Sun Cover

Artist helps tots face their fears with pictures

I'm not too sure why I was picked for this tabloid but I can assure you that my predictions for 2005 were more sound than the dead saint's.

Seriously, my Bergen Record article was spotted by a "Sun Spotter" in November '04. I was really happy to be part of this magazine and am grateful to the person who spotted the NJ article.


Sun Gazette Photo

More than comics
By Sandra Huff
Sun Gazette staff writer

A young boy proudly pulled out a piece of white paper featuring the "Ice Master" a sketch of a monster he had drawn, and showed it Dave DeVries with hopes that the internationally known illustrator may use it in his next book.

While some may think it's absurd that an established artist like DeVries would even consider using 10-year-old Williamsport resident Caleb Kiess' drawing as a reference, that is exactly what he does.

DeVries' new book, "The Monster Engine," is a collection of illustrations the West Orange, N.J., artist created from children's drawings of monsters, and was one his featured works at a book signing Sunday at America's Most Wanted Collectibles in Newberry.

"It's a real marriage of little kids' art and professional techniques," DeVries said of his illustrations.

By simply adding texture, light, shadow, smoke, a weather situation and color, DeVries brings children's simple drawings to life.

Just minutes after he had seen Kiess' drawing, which he may consider using for his next book, DeVries said he could see putting the monster in an ice age background.

"I never know what the painting is going to look like, which is the most exciting aspect," DeVries said. "It's a complete experiment."

After he traces a child's drawing onto canvas, DeVries said the first thing he considers is where the light source is going to come from. Then he said he looks for recognizable shapes. This step can be very challenging, he said, especially if the drawing was made by a child under the age of three because their drawings, for the most part, are scribbles.

For example, when he drew Justine Schnitzler's "Silly Willy Doodle Doodle" monster, he turned the 3-year-old's simple arch surrounding the monster into a mouth.

After DeVries completes a painting, he interviews the kids about their artwork. It is then that he finds out why, for example, 7-year-old Brendon Miller's "Big Blok" has pointy shoes” to carve furniture, of course.

“It has a life that I could never give it because they don't censor themselves," he said of his finished products. The biggest word that you can give kids is absurdity. As soon as you accept it and ride with it you ride with the fun kids have. I think pound-for-pound they have more fun than we do."

Inspiration for DeVries' unique technique started when his niece, Jessica, got hold of his sketch book one day and drew an array of creatures in it. At first, he said he was kind of annoyed, but after looking at the drawing, DeVries realized he could do something with them.

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