By Dominic Lazzini – 10th Grade, South Fayette High School
A happy pig cannot be an artist. A sleepy tiger cannot be a chef. However, these odd combinations of animals in the workplace can be created in a cartoon, such as one created by artist Juan Fernandez in the Comics Creation Workshop.
On August 18, Juan Fernandez, a local comic artist, hosted the Comics Creation Workshop at CLP-Allegheny for any teens interested in comics, design, and drawing. Fernandez has worked on various projects, including Dog City Press, an anthology of micro-comics whose 4th volume will be released soon, and Crinkled Comics, short comics and art which are published on the Crinkled Comics website.
Wearing a flannel shirt, brown jeans and a navy blue Goodyear cap, Fernandez made his way over to a gray table near the middle of the Teen section of the library. Some students came to the table knowing who he was, and others meandered over to the table out of curiosity. Fernandez opened a tiny faux-wood box displaying notes and comics he had made. The kids were impressed with these sketches, and they were eager to see what they would be creating themselves.
The workshop started off with Fernandez showing the kids some of the comics he has created. After the impressed youngsters were done looking, he passed around sticky-notes and instructed the students to write down the name of any animal they wanted. He then collected them and passed out more sticky-notes, but this time, the kids wrote down an emotion. He collected those notes and passed out a final round of sticky-notes, but instructed them to write down a profession. After collecting the sticky-notes, he handed the puzzled kids a piece of paper. Then Fernandez explained himself: the kids would randomly select an animal, emotion, and job, and then draw what ever combination they had picked. The kids picked out combinations such as “happy pig artist” and “sleeping tiger cook.”
They immediately got to work on their drawings, but the workshop was far from silent. Fernandez and the participants made conversation about musicians and cartoons they enjoy while he offered advice and guidance on their pieces. Fernandez talked with the kids about their favorite cartoons, such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe and allowed the kids to listen to music if they wanted.
After the first project was finished, Fernandez asked the participants to name their favorite song. The students’ tastes varied from Johnny Cash to The Weeknd, but each student was tasked with creating a comic using lyrics from the song they had chosen. The eager students started right away, and Fernandez gave help and pointers if they were stuck. He made sure to compliment each kid’s art, as they all did do a good job.
Fernandez believes that comics are important because they are not only entertaining, but they also promote working together and communicating ideas. In some regards, comics are better at engaging their audience than novels or poems.
I asked the teens about their thoughts on comics, and they responded that comics looked really cool and were fun to read. Juan also pointed out that comics are great way to express yourself and that they can be done through a variety of media (electronic, physical, painted, sketched, etc.) which allows the creator’s creativity to blossom.
Juan Fernandez was an encouraging mentor, and he helped the kids feel more comfortable with their work. Students at the Comics Creation Workshop exercised their artistic side by drawing and creating a story through comics, and they also learned about the interpersonal connections that comics provide.
Dominic Lazzini is a 10th grader at South Fayette Township High School. He resides in McDonald, PA and is part of the high school’s media club. He enjoys painting, playing lacrosse, history, and geography. In Dom’s freshman year, he was on the highest honor roll.