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McEver class learns connection between art and academia
Illustrator shares his skills with students
Children’s book illustrator Michael P. White shows Sally Loudermilk’s fourth-grade class how to draw creative characters. The artist came to McEver to help students understand how creativity and details apply to academic endeavors.

With furrowed brows and pencils grasped tightly over their blank sheets of paper, the students in Sally Loudermilk’s class prepared for art instruction from fine artist Michael P. White.

The first thing he said to the students: "Don’t worry about being perfect."

After that simple direction, the fourth-grade students at McEver Arts Academy in Gainesville relaxed and settled in to let their creative juices flow.

White is a children’s book illustrator. He provided the artwork for books like Carmen Agra Deedy’s "The Library Dragon" and Dawn Lesley Stewart’s "Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day."

He recently conducted several art workshops with McEver’s students.

"We learned how to draw a chicken. That was my favorite part," said Amy Garcia, a 9-year-old student in Loudermilk’s class.

White got his big break as a children’s book illustrator with his now famous "funky" chickens.

"I was at an art show with thousands of people, when (author) Carmen Agra Deedy lost her earring. Somehow it got kicked into my booth and she saw my work," White said.

"She took me to her publisher and the rest is history. I got my break all because a famous author saw my funky chickens."

He showed the students how to add texture and dimension to their pencil drawings and even how to "paint" their pictures with an airbrush.

"I’m not going to be there to read the books to every child and explain my drawings, so I have to make sure that they look like they’re supposed to," White explained.

"If it’s a bee, then it has to look like a bee."

He even gave the students the opportunity to be a little silly by throwing out suggestions for names of different characters he was sketched.

"I liked ‘Dog Tired,’" said Courtney Baker, an 8-year-old fourth-grader.

"It was funny."

Names like Justin "Bee-ber" and "Dog" Vader were also among the ideas thrown out during their brainstorming session.

Although the students were receiving an art lesson, their teacher pointed out to them how their artistic skills could help them academically.

"If you train your brain to put details in your artwork, then you’ll put detail in your writing and in your math and science," Loudermilk said. "If you are detail oriented, that means you pay attention and you will do well in other areas."

While details are important to any drawing, what isn’t important is having an eraser. In fact, White encouraged the students to throw out their erasers when they were sketching.

"Any one of you could be an illustrator," White told the students. "All you have to do is come up with an idea."