It's a daily routine for many fathers: dragging the little ones out of bed, helping them get ready for school or packing their lunch.
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Derek Benson takes it to a whole new level, combining his passion for art and all things nerdy with his kids' daily meals. Every day, the father of three decorates his children's lunch bags with a new illustration, taking inspiration from shows or books he shares with the family.
Since 2008, Benson has been spending his lunch breaks with Sharpies and oil pastels in hand. Each drawing takes no more than 30 minutes, with something different for each child. His eldest daughter Dana, now 12, isn't too keen on the idea of still taking Daddy's drawings to school, but Benson is illustrating her first novel. Sons Dylan and Liam on the other hand, still get the attention of teachers and classmates with their brown paper bags.
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He started out by writing their names, then it got more elaborate, Benson tells Mashable.
"It's a conversation piece and something a little more fun for them to take to class," he says. "It's something to do to keep my skills up and it keeps the kids involved, making them feel like everybody's on the same team here."
The lunch bags feature characters ranging from Super Mario to My Neighbor Totoro. He started chronicling his illustrations on his Tumblr, and posts trivia lunch bags for followers to answer. Check out the gallery, above, for more of Benson's drawings.
Much of his inspiration comes from "a lot of nerd stuff" and literary characters. On top of being a painter, Benson is also a video game developer and says he enjoys bonding over illustrations of obscure characters with viewers that recognize them.
When he first started posting pictures of the bags, he received some criticism from other parents online, who thought a mother with help was behind the drawings.
"It was really strange at first. I didn't say anything about myself when posting so people assumed I was the mom and were saying things like, 'It must be nice to have a maid,'" Benson says. "Then they find out I'm the dad and -- hold on -- it's praise because I'm so involved. It's really not that big a deal."
Benson's wife, Heather, prepares the kids' lunches while he creates the drawings sometimes days in advance. He works on them in his spare time, sometimes while waiting at the doctor's office.
But what happens when lunch is over? Some bags get thrown away, others are given to classmates, hung up on classroom walls or reused as gift bags. His son even takes requests from girls which, we'd wager, probably doesn't hurt his popularity.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Tumblr, Lunch Bag Art
This story originally published on Mashable here.