Groot holds out a broccoli floret in this Guardians of the Galaxy themed napkin

All photos courtesy of Nina Levy

Action-packed lunch

On his first day of nursery school, Nina Levy's son didn't just get a neatly packed lunch and a sweet note from mom. In place of a plain, square napkin, he got a carefully doodled drawing. Almost 10 years and more than 2,000 pieces of napkin art later, Levy has quite the portfolio.

Nina and her two sons, Archer (L) and Ansel (R)Levy, a sculptor and photographer in Brooklyn, creates these drawings for her two sons, Archer, 11, and Ansel, 7 (see adorable family photo at right). Their usual requests?

"My younger son prefers images that he thinks will look 'cool' to his classmates," Levy says, "recognizable characters that are powerful, doing something exciting." The result is a catalog of hundreds and hundreds of napkins featuring cartoon characters, comic book heroes, Internet memes — and the occasional class pet.

Levy says each napkin takes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours after the kids go to bed. She has it down to a science, since she's been using napkins as a canvas since 2006. What first started as a simple Sharpie outline has turned into intricate scenes with waterproof markers.

Though the kids take the napkins for granted, Levy says it's a way for them to connect.

"The napkins have certainly helped me to stay in touch with my kids' interests," she says. "Even if I can't stand a particular video game, TV show, or book that they are obsessing about, I have to look at it long enough to find something that I can draw, which usually makes me learn enough about it to appreciate it at least a little bit."

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Grumpy Cat and Rocket make a clever pairing in this piece of napkin art

"Grumpy Cat and Rocket Raccoon"
The Rocket-Grumpy Cat pairing makes total sense. "Sarcastic, merchandisable talking animals share a disapproving comment," Levy writes in the description of the napkin on her blog, Daily Napkins.

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A napkin doodle of Paddington holding the new Star Wars lightsaber

"Paddington Bear with Star Wars: The Force Awakens Light Saber"

If you've seen the new "Star Wars" movie trailer, you likely noticed the distinct light saber. In a chortle-inducing mash-up, Levy combines the light saber with the stuffed star of the upcoming movie, "Paddington."

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Stormtrooper penguins march along

"Penguin Troopers"

Another "Star Wars" trailer-inspired napkin, these stormtrooper penguins seem to have a hard time getting around in this humorous doodle.

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Doodle of Pikachu holding a portal gun

"Pikachu With Portal Gun"

A very specific request from her oldest son: the Pikachu from video game "Scribblenauts" holding the gun from the video game "Portal." "Pikachu became far more malevolent looking than I had intended," Levy says. But we think the beloved Pokémon character is still just as adorable as ever.

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Link Fierce Deity

"Fierce Deity Link Alternative Costume"
Not just inspired by "The Legend of Zelda" but by one of main-character Link's costumes in "Super Smash Brothers," this napkin was a request from Levy's son Ansel.

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A sea otter with Wolverine claws

"Wolverine Sea Otter"

What's better than a sea otter? A sea otter with Wolverine claws. A natural and impressive combination.

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Napkin doodle of hypnotoad


The Internet meme that originally appeared in "Futurama" has also appeared in Ansel's lunchbox. Levy says that compared to other characters on the show, Hypnotoad was the safest bet for a second-grader.

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Land Shark with a fish bowl on his head riding a scooter

"Land Shark"

Inspired by the "Saturday Night Live" skit, the series "Axe Cop" and the Fish Out of Water character from "Chicken Little," this hilarious depiction could very well inspire a web comic collaboration from the Levy family.

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Karate unicorn

"Karate Unicorn"
Another character for the family web comic, Levy says this unicorn was inspired by an entry in the book "101 Ways to Kill a Zombie."

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Cardboard friend escaping from backpack

"Cardboard Friend Arrives for Lunch"

The impossibly adorable cardboard robot Danbo is up to mischief in this precious napkin drawing. In her blog post about this napkin, Levy reminisces about the times when she carefully created cardboard toys for her oldest son.

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Thor looks a little annoyed that Olaf is hanging around his shoulder

"Thor with Olaf from 'Frozen'"

I don't know about you, but it seems Thor looks a little annoyed by his singing snowman companion.

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Spider-Man dangles a LEGO version of himself

"The Amazing Spider-Man with LEGO Spider-Man"

Though Levy said her kids were iffy on going to see the new "Spider-Man" movie that came out last year, she did mention that they are always enthusiastic about superheroes in LEGO form.

Levy says she will continue to make napkin creations until her younger son transitions from bringing lunch to eating from the cafeteria. "I hope to perhaps eventually use some of the skills I've acquired to draw something for an audience other than my kids," she says, "and maybe even on a surface other than absorbent paper products."

In the meantime, Levy is working on a project that, for the first time, allows a crossover between the napkins and her sculpture work. Check it out on her website, Daily Sculpture.

If you'd like to keep up with Levy's Daily Napkins, check out her blog or follow her on Instagram.

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Anna Norris is an associate editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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With mom's napkin doodles, there's no telling who's coming to lunch
Using a blank white napkin as a canvas, Nina Levy doodles creative mashups and whimsical scenes that are sure to make her kids smile.