Professional artists re-created children's monster doodles. They're hideously cool.

Artist and designer Katie Johnson has a thing for monsters.

Not those of the morbid variety, but the cutesy, kid-friendly kind.


GIF from "Monsters, Inc."

She's always loved the wide-open creative process of dreaming up a new monster and putting it on paper. "It's a fun creative dump," she said. "You can make a monster out of anything. So when I was younger, that was my go-to when I felt like drawing."

Katie Johnson (right) ponders her next monster. Photo used with permission.

Little did she know, monsters would come to dominate her free time as a young adult, too. After college, Johnson started working as a designer with an advertising firm in Austin, Texas. But as a creative at heart, she also wanted to pursue her own projects.

An idea came to her after seeing a photo series called "Wonderland" by artist Yeondoo Jung, who re-created children's drawings as staged, dream-like photographs.

Johnson combined her love of monsters with Jung's idea of building on children's creativity to launch The Monster Project.

Through The Monster Project, Johnson invites elementary students to draw their own monsters. Then professional artists bring their monsters to life.

Getting started wasn't easy because she was the only artist on call. "I did 20 drawings by myself," Johnson said. "It was way too much."

She also wasn't meeting one of her most important objectives: "It was missing multiple artistic perspectives. I wanted the kids to see different ways to be creative."

Image from The Monster Project/Greatest Common Factory/Vimeo.

So Johnson grew a small army of artists to help students discover their own inner artists and see the potential of their ideas. And though they're all volunteers, they definitely get something out of it.

"We have to admit, this isn't just for the kids," says their website. "What a refreshing opportunity it is to be offered a glimpse into someone else's head — especially the fantastically bizarre, unobstructed thoughts of a child. It’s an amazing opportunity."

Here's a sampling from the project's more than 100 re-created drawings:

Re-created by Gianluca Maruotti.

Re-created by Marija Tiurina.

Re-created by Muti.


Re-created by Milan Vasek.

Re-created by Marie Bergeron.

Re-created by JeanPierre Le Roux.

Re-created by Jake Armstrong.

Re-created by Jenya Tkach.

Re-created by Muti.

Re-created by Cream.

Re-created by Charles Santoso.

Re-created by Teodoru Badiu.

Re-created by Eric Orange.

Re-created by Aaron Zenz.


Re-created by Patrick Evrard.

Re-created by Yema Yema.


Re-created by AJ Jefferies.

The project isn't just about drawing monsters. It's about painting a picture of how vital arts are to a good education.

The website explains: "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."


Image from The Monster Project/Greatest Common Factory/Vimeo.

The National Federation of State High School Associations notes that when state budget cuts are imposed on public K-12 education, "fine arts programs are often an easy victim," especially at the elementary level, when exposure to arts can have the greatest impact on students. That seems pretty counterintuitive when you look at the research.

Image from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

A 2011 report by a committee appointed by President Obama explained that a high-quality arts education can enhance a child's performance across subject areas, boost their self-confidence and motivate them to take on greater intellectual challenges, and even help them develop other important competencies in problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, and teamwork.

Johnson wants to make sure it's not just the well-funded schools that have access to her program.

That's why they're working to make The Monster Project a sustainable organization that won't be a cost burden to families or schools, which is especially important since they're targeting schools in lower-income areas that have had to eliminate arts programs to preserve those subjects on standardized tests, like math and science.

In order to fund the project, they're accepting donations and opening an online store, where they'll sell prints and the soon-to-come Monster Project children's activity book. They hope to raise enough money to expand to more schools and launch after-school arts workshops in communities that really need them.

Monsters. Who'd have thought they could be such a force for good?

Watch an introduction The Monster Project:

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.