The Monster Engine: An Artistic Journey Comes Full Circle

Four-year-old artist’s drawing comes alive in father’s painting and as a wearable ‘zine.

By , Columnist

Dave Devries has followed his muse throughout his life. From an early age, he knew that he wanted to be an artist, one who created just the kinds of comics that inspired his own love affair with visual storytelling. After years of hard work and long hours of practice, he achieved that heady goal, working on books featuring the very same comic characters published by DC Comics and Marvel that had fired his youthful imagination.

But as he got older, he came to realize that he wanted to do something different. He just wasn’t entirely sure at first what that next challenge, that new goal might be.

Then one day in 1998 while vacationing with family at the Jersey shore, Devries was looking at the doodles that his niece, Jessica, had drawn in his sketchbook. Fascinated, he began to wonder what would happen if he created his own painted interpretations of her sketches.

Thus, The Monster Engine was born, forever changing the course of Devries' life.

The Monster Engine was built upon the simple premise, “What would happen if an artist applied all of his painterly techniques to create a realistic rendering of a child’s doodle?” and has since seen life as a book, a lecture-demonstration, and a gallery show. Taking as its inspiration the drawings of a wide variety of the imaginary creatures peopling the imaginations of various children, the first volume of The Monster Engine was published in 2005. It quickly became an independent publishing phenomenon, in print and especially online.

After achieving 12 million hits in its first month, The Monster Engine now garners half of a million hits every month—all fueled by word-of-mouth. And Devries has received several prestigious awards, including a Certificate of Merit from The Society of Illustrators and a Spectrum Silver Award, for his work.

And now, in an utterly fitting turn of events, it seems that The Monster Engine has come full circle. That’s because Dave’s latest painting was inspired by a doodle created by Aiden Devries, his four-year-old son.

And in yet another seemingly outlandish twist of fate, this new image will be emblazoned on a shirt from the unique wearable magazine T-post—the same alternative magazine that published the very article detailing the effects of last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill that lead to Aiden’s original drawing.

The rather unique T-post operates like a typical subscription service, except that instead of a magazine or DVD, subscribers receive a new issue/T-shirt in the mail every five weeks. Printed on the inner back of the shirt is a news story; on the front, there’s an artist’s visual interpretation of that same story, ensuring that every issue of T-post is an informative and visually appealing piece of wearable journalism.

All of which leads one to wonder if this collaboration between father, son, and magazine will lead to still more wonder-filled art and ideas. Only time, The Monster Engine, and T-post will tell.

Grab your own copy of the latest issue of T-Post featuring art by Dave and Aiden Devries.

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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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