FOR THE KIDS CARTOON CLASS : Character Flow : Children learn how to draw on their own creativity by sketching their animated heroes.

Larry Scott's first- and second-grade classroom at Saticoy Elementary School has the usual signs of learning--the alphabet scrawled across the wall and stacks of books.

But what's this? Smiling down at the children from above the alphabet is Mickey Mouse. Next to him is the venerable duck elder Uncle Scrooge and the three duck nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, perusing a book.

That's not all. More cartoon posters fill the walls--Peter Pan, Bugs Bunny, Mighty Mouse, Donald Duck, the Little Mermaid. It's a cartoon Hall of Fame.

Scott is a man who probably looks forward to Saturday morning cartoons more than his two young kids. He teaches children--his students and others--how to draw the cartoon characters that so entrance them.

For years, he has taught cartooning to children 8 to 12 years old through the Ventura Department of Parks and Recreation. His class this past summer was packed, and children had to be turned away.

Because of the cartooning craze, he is teaching two classes this fall for the department. Both on Mondays at the Barranca Vista Recreation Center, one will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. and the other from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Classes start Oct. 1 and run through Nov. 5.

"I make it as simple as possible for the kids," Scott said. Using an overhead projector, he draws each character slowly adding one line at a time until the character is done. Usually he can get through four different characters in an hour.

He takes requests from the kids. He knows what's hot and what's not.

"Right now, it's the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," Scott said. "The Simpsons are popular with a certain segment. Roger Rabbit has faded."

He shows the children how to change the emotions of the character they have drawn by changing a few lines, and sometimes he can change the whole character with the stroke of a pencil. He took his pencil to a happy bird and seconds later had turned it into an angry dog.

"One time, I did a happy Ninja Turtle," he said, by changing the eyes and mouth of the often serious creatures.

When the children are done with each character, Scott has them sign their names just as a professional artist would. Some take them home and practice the drawing so they can do it without Scott's guidance.

It may all sound like frivolous fun, but it's not to Scott.

"If they are ever going to draw, this is one step away from that," he said.

But more important, the children learn how to concentrate.

"A lot of behavior is habit, and this is a good way to develop concentration," he said. Also, kids learn to print letters better, and they may be less likely to reverse letters.

Scott is foremost a teacher, not an artist. He's never had any art training.

"I was the kid in high school who liked to draw in the back of the room," he said.

When he was a student teacher 17 years ago, he sketched a cartoon bird for a second-grader to accompany the story the child was writing. Scott's supervising teacher was impressed and asked if he could draw the character again on the overhead projector. He's been doing it in the classroom ever since.

He pulled open the drawer of his filing cabinet to reveal pictures he has drawn of cartoon characters filed alphabetically from Archie to Wonder Woman. He hands them out at the end of the day to well-behaved students. He also has a stack of old comic books he lets his students read.

He makes it clear his cartoon instruction is very elementary--simply copying a drawing by using a progression of strokes. For more advanced instruction for talented beginners, he recommends a course taught at Ventura College by commercial artist Chris Martinez.

Martinez's eight-week fall class is already under way, but he will be teaching another beginning in February. The class meets for two hours once a week.

Martinez, a former Disney animator, teaches caricatures and gag cartooning to adults and kids over 12.

They use each other as models to do the caricatures. Martinez pushes them to exaggerate features and get downright nasty in their drawing.

"They love it," he said. "It's the most fun."


Larry Scott's cartoon class runs from Oct. 1 through Nov. 5, on Mondays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. or 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Barranca Vista Recreation Center. The cost is $29. Call Ventura Department of Parks and Recreation, 658-4726, to register, or for more information. For information about Chris Martinez's cartoon class, call Ventura College, 654-6459.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World