Art teacher uses social media to spark kids’ creativity during COVID-19 uncertainty

“Drawing Cartoons with Bryan Kilgore” instructional YouTube series gains following with Valley students, families


COVID-19 may have closed his classroom, but thanks to social media, class is still in session for Avondale art teacher Bryan Kilgore.

“Art is fun and necessary,” and “provides a positive outlet for youth to express themselves,” Mr. Kilgore wrote March 16 on his “Drawing Cartoons with Bryan Kilgore” channel on YouTube, where he’s posting daily instructional videos to keep his students and others engaged in learning at home as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds worldwide.

The Arizona native and Grand Canyon University graduate has been teaching art for 19 years, most recently at Sun Canyon Elementary School in Phoenix. He also serves on the Avondale City Council.

“TP,” Mr. Kilgore’s first video related to COVID-19, was posted March 16 and introduces one of several cartoon characters students will follow through the series. Yes, “TP” stands for toilet paper. Inspiration for the character came from news reports that supermarket shelves across the country have been emptied of that most critical of paper products in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Mr. Kilgore said in a telephone interview March 17.

“Toilet paper just became famous all of a sudden,” he said. Mr. Kilgore talked with his wife and their three children about TP and the instructional series, and they all agreed it would be a good way to keep in touch with and inspire his students while they’re at home.

In “TP,” Mr. Kilgore walks viewers through the process of drawing a simple roll of toilet paper, then adds eyes, shading and other features. By the end of the video, TP looks a little worried about what lies ahead.

In Mr. Kilgore’s second video, posted March 17, TP meets Baby Yoda, and Mr. Kilgore shares some advice to help his students as they cope with the changes in their lives caused by the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus.

“I’m glad you guys are safe,” he says he prepares to draw Baby Yoda. “Make sure you’re washing your hands and make sure you’re helping out around the house. Parents love that.”

TP won’t appear in every video, but he will pop up here and there throughout the series, Mr. Kilgore said.

As part of the video process, Mr. Kilgore makes a list of potential characters and chooses five that he wants to draw, then records himself drawing each one. Afterward, he colors each character, scans the image, incorporates it at the end of the video and encourages viewers to color their images, too. He tries to keep the videos to 8 minutes or less, he said.

Initially, Mr. Kilgore only shared the link to “TP,”, with educators in his district, but he soon was hearing from teachers and parents in other districts around the Valley.

“They have been writing to me and sending me pictures,” he said of viewers.

One of those parents is Andrea Dale, a fellow Sun Canyon teacher who shared the videos with her students via Google Classroom.

“It’s really neat,” she said via telephone March 17. “My class loves art. They like their academics but they like their art, too.”

Ms. Dale also is mom to two daughters. Her sixth-grader, Danyka, is a former student of Mr. Kilgore’s, and her fourth-grader, Rachel, is a current student, Ms. Dale said.

“(Rachel) especially liked the one he posted today of Baby Yoda,” Ms. Dale said, noting the family watched the video over lunch with her brother, who is visiting from Colorado. “We will attempt to draw him together tonight.”

Draw they did, and Ms. Dale shared a photo of their colorful drawings with Independent Newsmedia.

Mr. Kilgore was excited about the reaction he’s received, and said creating a YouTube series is a longtime dream.

“I always loved Bob Ross,” he said, referring to the late host of “The Joy of Painting,” an instructional program that taught many a budding artist when it aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994.

“I always wanted to do a cartoon version,” Mr. Kilgore said. “I love drawing cartoons. I love teaching.”

Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at or 760-963-1697.