March 5, 2014 at 3:42 PM ET
Nathan Ripperger, 30, does graphic design and video production work in his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa. He’s also the father of four boys — Noah, 9; Owen, 6; Micah, 4; and Liam, 3.
The boys are a great source of inspiration to their creative dad. As he watches them get into their usual high jinks, Ripperger takes note of the craziest things he’s been forced to say to them and turns those hilarious statements into beautiful, whimsical illustrations.
Originally posted online in 2010, Ripperger’s “Things I’ve Said to My Children” collection recently went viral, racking up more than 785,000 views on Flickr and generating yet more sales of the posters from his Etsy shop.
“It seems like I am constantly telling my children not to lick things. Or touch things,” Ripperger told TODAY.com. “When going to the grocery store, I am telling my boys to stop touching the pickles, the mayonnaise, (to) stop dancing with the bread.
"When you're a parent, after a while the absurdity just washes over you. That's the hardest part about parenting for me — to not let yourself be so caught up with your day-to-day business of life and really just enjoy the time with your children.”
As for the recent attention his work is getting, Ripperger said his favorite part is the audience he’s reaching. “The thing that's great about getting these illustrations out there is hearing from all the other parents,” he said. “It amazes me that there are people with the same experiences as me, from the arm licking, to the not wearing underwear. Parenting can have such universal experiences, but sometimes it can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. It's just great knowing that there are people who are going through the same things you are.”
What can having kids teach an already creative guy about being an artist? “They will always surprise you,” Ripperger said. “They will do the most unexpected things or say the most bizarre things without a second thought. Their minds are constantly working and exploring, and if you join them and let go, it can be some of the best memories you can make with you kids.”
Stay tuned for more creative absurdity from the Ripperger household: The dad of four is planning to spend the summer writing a humorous book of parenting essays. In the meantime, check out some of his funniest illustrations below!