the boy problem2 April 29


The Art of Unprofessional Art by Kami Kinard

I almost started a business once called The Frustrated Artist, because that’s what I was. I had just enough talent to think of amazing ideas, but not enough talent to pull them off. My artistic visions were absolutely perfect – but only in my head. Being a frustrated artist held me back for a long time because I didn’t think I could do anything productive with my minimal talent.

But then I learned that instead of wishing for talent I didn’t have, I should embrace the talent I did have. So when I was writing my novels, THE BOY PROJECT (Scholastic 2012) and THE BOY PROBLEM (which releases today!), I decided to take some of those absolutely perfect images from my head and tried to put them onto paper. The results wouldn’t be perfect, but at least they might help an editor see my vision for potential art.

Here is a drawing from THE BOY PROBLEM where Tabbi, the main character, drops the cheese from a pizza and interprets it as a good sign.

©Kami Kinard 2014

©Kami Kinard 2014


Deciding to give my unprofessional art a chance was one of the best things I ever did, because my sketches did help communicate my vision! Many of my original sketches were included in THE BOY PROJECT, and almost all of the images in THE BOY PROBLEM are my sketches. They still aren’t perfect. But very few people are able to create perfect art, and those are the professionals! It worked to put my flawed drawings in these diary formatted novels with middle school aged narrators because they were not, after all, professionals. So today, the day THE BOY PROBLEM is released; I thought I’d share an unprofessional art lesson with those of you who are game.

I’m one of those people who believes that creativity and art are good for the human spirit, and I haven’t met a student yet who doesn’t enjoy drawing when given the chance. So I often include a little art lesson when I talk to students about character. I love this no-fail lesson because it is a way for students to feel like their creative efforts are successful. If you are a teacher, a book-lover, a writer, or you just want to feel successful about something, grab a pencil and paper and let’s get started.

Ready? Draw four circles on the page like the ones below.

image 1

Yay! You did it! Success!

Next, we are going to draw four kinds of faces in those circles. Faces like these:


image 2


Here are some formulas to help you draw them.

  1. Cute = wide set eyes + small U-shaped mouth
  2. Angry = small eyes + downward slanting eyebrows + downturned mouth
  3. Sad = closed eyes + wide open downturned mouth + tears
  4. Happy = round eyes + wide upturned mouth

You did it, didn’t you? And students can too! So now the truly creative part comes in. Think of each of these faces as a character. What can be added to them that would add interest to a story? Could one have a scar like Harry Potter? Will you give one thick glasses like the ones worn by legally blind Paul Fisher from Tangerine by Edward Bloor. Think about how the things you add might help develop a character’s story. Remember, Harry’s scar isn’t just there for looks, it causes him to experience pain when Voldermort is particularly emotional, which helps Harry combat Voldermort in the later books of the series. And Paul Fisher’s story is driven by his vision loss – coping with it and the cause of it.

Maybe you don’t want to give your character unusual looks. Consider a prop that might help him or her instead. Where would Katniss Everdeen be without her bow and quiver? Where would Dwight be without his Origami Yoda?

So add whatever you want to those faces. Create interesting characters. Like me, you can use this exercise as a writing prompt. Then, once you (or your students) have created characters, let the stories begin!

Thank you for helping me celebrate the release of THE BOY PROBLEM… and art!

head shot 1Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Project and The Boy Problem (which releases today!) both from Scholastic . Other than being a writer, she has been a camp counselor,  a bookseller, a preschool teacher, and a high school English teacher. She is known for making ridiculous analogies, an obscure talent that serves her well. You can learn more about Kami and her books at You can find her on her blog, on Twitter as @kamikinard and Facebook at


Click on the image above to read Mr. Sharp’s interview!

Click on the image above to read Mr. Sharp’s interview!


Click on the image above to visit Mr. Schu’s post – the book trailer + book giveaway!

Click on the image above to visit Mr. Schu’s post – the book trailer + book giveaway!