Children’s book illustrator provides creative outlet at IPS

By Elizabeth Sias

The next Claude Monet could be sitting in a classroom at Isanti Primary School.

Children’s book illustrator David Geister last week visited with kindergarten, first and second graders, demonstrating how to draw various objects and scenes.

Illustrator David Geister helps Brady draw legs on his bear. Geister visited Isanti Primary School for a week, teaching kindergartners, first and second graders about illustrating children’s books and helping them draw a scene with a loon and a bear. Photos by Elizabeth Sias

On Thursday morning, first grade students from Kari Peterson’s and Justie Vavra’s classes, with Geister’s help, drew a scene depicting a loon and a bear by a pond in the woods.

“One of my overarching themes more than anything else is trying to do something creative with your life,” Geister said.

With the absence of art classes from Isanti Primary School, the Parent-Teacher Organization sponsored Geister to visit the school and complete workshops with students in three-day classes.

On the first day, he discussed what it means to be a children’s book illustrator and the illustrating process. For days two and three, he helped students draw and color a scene step by step.

“I become concerned more and more when I realize there are some school districts that have been forced to take art out of the mix, because I can draw a definite line between key moments in art class from my childhood to where I am now,” Geister said. “I’m concerned that we may be looking at future generations that have been denied means to express themselves creatively.”

First he demonstrated on his big easel at the front of the classroom — how to sketch a round egg shape as the bear’s rough form, for instance, then where to place the first leg — and then took time between steps to walk among students and help where needed.

“I think it fosters children who have the love of drawing or creativity,” Peterson said. “It broadens their perspective on what they can do in the world.”

Pointing to Logan’s drawing of a bear, illustrator David Geister shows where to place the legs.

Geister has illustrated six children’s books for Michigan-based Sleeping Bear Press, with a seventh due out soon. Formerly, he painted historical scenes for the Minnesota Historical Society and the History Channel Magazine, but Geister said he feels a stronger connection with his work on picture books.

“There’s an element of storytelling involved,” he said. “My job is to try to tell the story, one, to somebody who maybe can’t even read, and two, to try to augment the author’s words.”

Once the books are finished, he said, it’s gratifying to talk to kids who have read and enjoyed the stories and his paintings. Geister said he also enjoys the workshops like the one at Isanti Primary School because it gives children a face to associate with the paintings.

He hopes his visit, while no substitute for long-term exposure, fulfill that need to provide a creative outlet to children.

“I hope this sparks an enthusiasm,” Geister said. “I really want them to be enthusiastic about the idea of creating.”

For more information on David Geister’s work, visit