Ashland cartoonist Curt Evans wants kids to hang onto the spontaneity and fun they feel while drawing.
"I used to go to school and teach cartooning," he says. "I noticed as kids got older, they were more embarrassed by their artwork. I would encourage them not to be self-conscious of their drawing."
These days, Evans teaches cartooning during Saturday classes at the downtown Ashland Art Center.
He has plenty of tricks up his sleeve to get kids to overcome the familiar lament of, "I don't know what to draw."
In a game he calls Scribble Scrabble, Evans makes a scribbly line, then urges kids to use their imaginations to make something out of it.
In another exercise, kids make a list of people, such as cowboys, pirates, doctors and chefs.
Then they list random objects, such as a toaster, computer and cannonball. The third list covers backgrounds or settings, such as a jungle, city or classroom.
"Then we mix it all up. They choose one person, one thing and one setting and do a drawing. It might be a pirate with a briefcase in a jungle," he says.
The drawings cause kids to imagine plots to explain their creations.
"Cartooning is a lot like making a movie, but on a smaller scale. You're in charge," Evans says. "Kids are so into movies these days. It resonates with them."
When drawing cartoon panels, Evans encourages kids to show different views of a scene. One panel might depict two people talking from a distance, while the next is a closeup of one of the two talking.
For kids who think they can't draw, Evans has them draw with only circles and straight lines.
"There are so many faces you can do with those elements. Even adults who can't draw can do it. I show them how to do expressions," he says.
To flesh out story lines, sometimes it helps to turn the focus from drawing to the written word. Evans often has kids use only simple stick figures.
"They do sequences with stick men. It gets them in the writing mode so they don't focus on drawing characters," he says. "The focus is on storytelling."
Like poetry, writing for cartoons needs to be pared down.
"I think of how to distill the writing as much as the drawing. Cartooning is very minimal," he says.
Evans, who works fulltime as a graphic artist for the Sign Dude in Medford, is always reaching out to inspire kids.
Evans has been cartooning since he was a kid, often blending his love of drawing with his love for motocross, surfing and mountain biking.
One of his first paid endeavors was to draw a motocross racing cartoon, which was published in a motocross newspaper during his high school years. He went on to get a degree in art from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Evans continues to do cartooning on the side while working as a graphic artist.
Evans says cartooning is a natural fit for kids, since they tend to draw in that style, anyway. Just exaggerating certain features can turn a regular drawing into a funny cartoon.
"Cartoons don't have to be perfect. Just be creative," he says.
Kids Cartooning classes with Evans run from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays through June at the Ashland Art Center, 357 E. Main St. There will be no class on June 14. The drop-in classes cost $10 each.
Evans is also planning cartooning workshops on July 19 and Aug. 9 at the center, with times to be determined. Call the center at 541-482-2772 closer to those dates for more information about the workshops.
For more information about Evans and to view his cartoons, visit https://www.facebook.com/curtevanscartoons.