The author visits the students of FD | News, Sports, Jobs

– Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs

Author and illustrator Mike Artell teaches students at Feelhaver Elementary different drawing styles. “I always hear kids say they can’t draw, but you can if you try,” Artell told students.

It was one of the first things author and illustrator Mike Artell said to students at Feelhaver Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon. Artell, a New Orleans native, has visited schools in Fort Dodge before, but last year he had to speak with students practically because of COVID.

“It’s so much fun now to be back in person at schools,” he said. “The last two years I’ve been on a lot of Zoom calls and it’s fun, but there’s nothing like in person. Like today, while we were drawing, one of the little girls, I was watching, and she drew it and then her jaw dropped. She couldn’t believe she had done it. It’s such a special thing.

Artell began his career drawing cartoons for magazines and card companies.

“One of the greeting card companies had a children’s book division and they asked me if I wanted to illustrate a book,” he said. “It was fun. Then I told them I had some ideas and asked them to take a look and they liked what I came up with, so they published three of my books, then they published three more of my books, and three more, so that was really great.”

– Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs

Fourth graders Robert Ruby, left, and Brody Evans, right, practice drawing faces after author Mike Artell showed students how to make a character look like they are looking in different directions.

Artell has published around 50 books with a wide range of topics from simple biology to how to draw and classic stories with a Louisiana twist.

“Over the years, I would talk to aspiring authors and they would write from their own inspiration, which is fine, but my inspiration was paying for my daughter’s school fees,” Artlell said. “So instead of just writing from my own inspiration, I was talking to teachers and librarians about the kinds of books they needed. They said they needed simple biographies or something and so I wrote a simple biography and then my books sold. I always wanted to write great books, but I wanted to write great books that would sell.

Artell said that after a few years an editor approached him to speak at their conferences.

“Of course the lectures are full of teachers and they would ask me to come to their school,” he said.

Artell still publishes books from time to time, but he says he really enjoys doing school tours.

– Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs

Third, fourth and fifth graders at Feelhaver Elementary focus on their own drawings while author Mike Artell demonstrates how to easily draw characters. “If you can draw dots and lines, you can draw a person,” Artell told the students.

“The last books came out in 2020,” he said. “But at this point in my career, I have a lot of books and I’m just enjoying school visits.”

Last week, Artell visited the Early Years Center, as well as Butler, Cooper and Feelhaver Elementary Schools. Today he will visit Duncombe Primary School.

Artell begins his visit by introducing himself to the students and sharing some of his books, including pictures from his science books, jokes and tongue twisters, and an excerpt from “Little Red” read with his authentic Cajun accent. Finally, it features step-by-step cartooning instructions to show kids that they can draw if they try.

Typically at this time of year, the Fort Dodge Community School District brings a children’s author or illustrator to elementary schools to visit with students. The Fort Dodge Senior High School Alumni Association pays for the tours.

Sondra Homstrom of the Alumni Association said: “The author program was started by a librarian, Carol Porter, of the Fort Dodge school system. After his passing, she requested that memorial funds and funds from family and friends be used to continue bringing authors to Fort Dodge students. When that money ran out, the Fort Dodge Alumni Association continued the program by paying author fees as well as purchasing copies of their books so students would know about the author when he visits schools.

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Lola R. McClure