November 27, 2021

Creating monsters

High school, elementary schools join forces to make art

Photos provided by Cortland High School teacher Jesse Bender

A picture by Cortland High School student Gavin Metcalf was based on a drawing done by first-grader Bailee Inman. The two students were part of a project where first-graders would draw a monster and then a student in the new media class at the high school would use Photoshop to bring the illustration to life.

Just outside the new media computer lab in Cortland Junior/Senior High School hung several pictures side by side. Each pair consisted of one monster drawing by a first-grader and the other a digital re-interpretation by a media student.

The pieces were part of the Monster Project, which tasked high school students with taking a drawing from a first-grader at Barry or Virgil elementary schools and their own inspiration to create a digital version of the piece.

“It’s the perfect project because you never know what you’re going to get with firstgraders,” said Jesse Bender, the new media teacher.

Bender said he based the project off the national Monster Project movement, where elementary school students can send in their artwork to be chosen by around 130 artists to be re-designed using the artist’s style.


Check out the pieces

• Today — 6:15 to 7 p.m. at Virgil Elementary cafeteria and hallway, 1208 Church St., Virgil
• Wednesday — 6 to 7 p.m. at Barry Elementary gym and hallway, 20 Raymond Ave., Cortland


“With a decreasing emphasis on arts in schools, many children don’t have the opportunity for creative exploration they deserve. That’s a monstrous trend we would like to destroy,” reads a statement on monsterproject.org. “As artists ourselves, we understand how important that initial creative exposure is and how it can truly alter the shape of a child’s future.”

This picture by first-grader Bailee Inman inspired the above illustration by Cortland High School student Gavin Metcalf.

Senior Amanda Parzynski, who’s in the class as part of an independent study, said the Monster Project was by far her favorite part of the class.

“I was really excited,” she said. “I had never done anything like that before.”

She worked with another student to re-make the 10 monsters one first-grader had drawn.

Parzynski said she won’t forget what she’s learned in the class and the project as she prepares to study graphic design at Ononadaga Community College in the fall. She hopes to use that insight when she works with companies on creating logos and designs one day.

“After doing this I’ll be able to put their (the companies’) drawings into my own perspective,” she said.

Freshman Boston Lockwood heard about the class from past students and checked it out for himself. Now he’s excited to take the class next year and do the Monster Project again.

“It’s one of the cooler projects,” he said. “It’s definitely using a lot of creativity.”

To come up with the drawings the students garnered inspiration from all types of places.

Lockwood had a drawing that reminded him of something he saw in a Marvel movie, so he used that to help draw his monster. One of the monsters Parzynski got had one eye, two legs and two arms — it reminded her of Mike Wazowski from the movie “Monsters Inc.”

For the first-graders, getting to draw the monsters and then see what the high school students made them into was “both exciting and overwhelming for the little ones. They almost didn’t know how to react,” said Nadia Bieber, the art teacher for both elementary schools.

Bieber said a plan for the students to meet each other is being worked on for June.