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Children's author/illustrator Gary Harbo works with fifth-graders Wednesday in the midst of his week-long residency at Worthington Middle School.
Children's author/illustrator Gary Harbo works with fifth-graders Wednesday in the midst of his week-long residency at Worthington Middle School.

Traveling artist pays visit to Worthington Middle School

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Gary Harbo, a children's author and illustrator of 23 published books, is visiting Worthington Middle School fifth-graders this week to offer art instruction.

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"I've worked with almost 500 schools all across the country," Harbo said Wednesday. "They bring me in to do a special section on cartooning."

The students begin with cartoon characters, and then move on to human characters.

"So many times you look at a finished picture and say, 'Oh I could never do that,'" he said, adding that it can be done in a few simple steps.

The artist starts drawing the nose, and "pretty soon you have a whole drawing done.

"You don't want to be critical when you're creating, because that just shuts down the whole process," Harbo said. "It's not bad -- just have fun with it."

Usually Harbo only has time for one lesson, but this week he's been able to teach drawing and coloring.

"That's a big part of it -- to bring the picture to life," Harbo said. "I can take a good picture and make it phenomenal, or ruin it (by putting) the colors in the wrong spot."

Fifth-grade teacher Joe Krivarchka said his students enjoyed learning something new.

"Me, personally, as a teacher, I can't do the things he can do," Krivarchka said. "He's really good and makes it look easy."

Krivarchka said his students followed along well as Harbo drew six cartoons at once.

"They felt like real artists afterward," Krivarchka said. "Their pictures looked close to his, so it was simple for them."

The artist grew up near Marshall and now resides in Minneapolis. He started as a wildlife artist and transitioned into his current profession after creating characters for his own children.

"I always wanted to be a teacher, so it fit with what my interests were," Harbo said. "I loved cartoons as a kid and still do."

He writes many of his books in a rhyming format, which he attributes to his love of Dr. Seuss books.

"The kids like the humor, whimsical and rhyming format," Harbo said. "It helps with the learning process."

He said it's rewarding to see the students proudly hold up their finished drawings.

"I've had letters back from students saying this is the best picture (they have) drawn in (their) life," Harbo said.

He's currently working on several books, one of which is in the Dr. Seuss format with a surprise ending. It takes him about three to four months to finish one book.

The illustrations get done first, and then he writes and goes through the editing process.

"The editing is difficult for me," Harbo said. "My strong point is art and putting humor into a story."

His step-by-step drawing books are among the most popular.

"Kids love to draw," Harbo said. "They're just like adults; they want to be successful no matter what they do."

Harbo provides free art lessons every month at www.garyharbo.com.

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322

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