TRACY — Somewhere Leonardo da Vinci must have been smiling.Using the tricks of the trade from the great master himself, writer, cartoonist, television host and general Renaissance-man Mike Artell led Kelly School students through a tour de force of artistic education on Thursday.

On loan from New Orleans, the cajun cartoonist, who has authored and illustrated more than 40 books, seemed determined to get the students to change their perspective on the world around them.

“I want these kids thinking, writing and drawing more creatively,” Artell said, noting that the challenge was not as difficult as it may appear. “It is not a hard sale to get a kid to draw, especially cartoons.”

Artell said the key is blending plenty of humor with his message.

“Especially when you are working with reluctant writers and artists,” he said. “So I show them how humor can be a lever to get interested, and often you can see a light going on in their heads. I would like to think that I am opening some eyes.”

That certainly seemed to be the case for the majority of Kelly students on Thursday afternoon, as each demonstration brought a symphony of “ahhhhhs'” from the audience.

“That guy was awesome,” said Jason Riley, 12. “I am not really that good atdrawing, but he showed us a lot of cool tricks to use.

For 12-year-old Tyler Trigo, the presentation

was a possible glimpse into his future.

I really like to draw, and my grandmother is an artist, he said. I would like to be an artist someday, and after today I feel like I am going to be a lot better.

Kelly Principal Denise Laven said Artells message was exactly what her students needed to hear.

It gives them a look at what is out there in the real world in terms of art, she said. They see that there are opportunities and they can do it was well as anyone else. That is the great thing about him, he makes it so easy it gives them inspiration.

Artell said the feeling was mutual.

I present to more than 14,000 students a year, he said. And the kids here at Kelly have been some of the best.

For more information about Artell, visit his web site at

Aaron Swarts can be reached at (209) 832-6139 or