It's now a partly cloudy Monday here in Berkeley, CA. Five days ago, I've successfully moved out of my previous living situation in Emeryville SOMEWHAT unscathed! After a year and five months of moving back to the Bay Area from NY, I'd say the transition was not only inevitable; it was necessary.
The day I turned 27 back in late February, -still alive, thank ya!- I drew this piece out a few hours before my Wednesday Cartooning class started. For at least two months prior, a picture of myself and my quasi- official mascot Squishy the Sugar Glider kept burning in the back of my head. "What better day to draw this," I figured, "but my day of birth?!"
That day struck a cord with me for numerous reasons. Outside of binging out to the Super Smash Bros. for 3DS & Wii U soundtrack all morning, being told by an after school director how popular your Cartooning class has been for two past semesters, and being treated out by your first Bay Area roommate, I was something that I've been trying to achieve for the past three years.
And something even more important: Hopeful.
By the middle of spring, my two Cartooning classes proved to end more successfully than I originally thought they would. Rumor had it that my classes would see the end of day if the company- sponsored Engineering classes would take on higher registration in the fall semester. I'm happy to report that it doesn't seem to be the case!
To make matters better, my two Cartooning proteges Alice and Jenna were finally done with their first graphic novel-
And, of course, they and their families joined me for a few hours at my booth at the Bay Area Book Festival this past Sunday! The two b.f.f.'s showed up between 10:30 and 11 am. By 11:30, I was already out of breath from drawing and clowning around with them and our books. Needless to say, foot traffic doubled around my booth thanks to our shenanigans!
It also helped that The Muji Story was showcased just inches away from my SolForce and Strawberry Dough graphic novels. Total strangers, families and librarians were impressed by the sight of two future fifth graders promoting their first project wackily alongside some ice cool, latte chugging, theatrical cartoonist. As a true surprise, all books on my table sold out within those two days! Here's the evidence-
This photo was taken simply 30 minutes before the festival's close. Any time I get to showcase my graphic novel projects whether in schools or book festivals, I like to keep a close eye on what catches the audiences eye. I made sure flow the table with a wave of postcards, stickers and props -Footloose the Mannequin returns!- to lure them into the characters and watercolor-on-ink art style I've sported for three years.
And now, it's time for a demographic study! I've done two book events between October 2015 and June 2016 and taught classes since October 2014. Have a look at the pictures below. My books, characters, and classes garner an audience of-
Impressionable elementary school students!
Kids of color. -which is WAY too vital, as I've explained before in Drawing While Black-
Oh... and girls.
Even before 2016 hit with Alice and Jenna being my first two students to create a book-
Many young female readers and aspiring artists were intrigued by my characters, art style and classes. Could it be the watercolor rendering style? The character descriptions and depictions themselves?! Or is it simply because much like the kids of color-
They see themselves more in my few characters than the thousands of rinsed and rehashed character types they're bombarded with by pop culture since birth?
Fellow bloggers and artists, this is why I do what I do. Sure, it's too risky to turn up unexpected into areas you don't fully fit into simply because your name doesn't hold weight as a cartooning teacher, -let alone an independent cartoonist!- or someone will think that you're too intelligible, easygoing or dark to be viewed as acceptable, but this past weekend at the festival proved to me how the price of independence in life is high, but slowly rewarding.
And as a shock to many, it's a price I'm willing to pay for.
Let's face it: if some slim- fit introverted nerd who draws cartoons for a living isn't able to have some sort of influence on brightening the future for today's more self- aware and sophisticated next generation...