Hail To The Rad Kids

Local teen on his way to be comic illustrator, video animator

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:30pm

ROCKLAND —  On a Friday afternoon, a lab full of students are quietly working away on animated and design projects at Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland.

They are all working on projects for MCST’s Design Tech program, which taps into teens’ natural media consumption and turns them into creators of it. The courses offered include Graphic Design, TV/Film Production, Interactive Media Design, and Animation.

“This is one of the most popular programs the MCST has,” said Design Tech instructor Brandon Soards. “We have to actually go through a process to determine which students get in.”

Currently, the program holds 30 students from all over the Midcoast with juniors and seniors getting priority.

“This program can funnel these kids into some good careers,” he elaborated. “For example, a lot of kids come in with the idea that they may want to design video games, but after two years of the program, they figure out that they might be better suited for the programming side or that they like the art side better. This gives them the advantage of fine tuning their interests and skills before they go to college or go into a job into this field. “

Sylvan Gamage, 18, goes to Camden Hills Regional High School, but spends part of his day in the computer lab working on a number of storytelling projects that he initially began at home when he was a sophomore. He has been working on a comic book for the three years called Journey of the Unfortunates and is in his second year in the program.

“There’s a lot narrative and literary work that goes into a project like this,” he said. “I had to redraw a lot of it after going down the character list and revise a lot of what they initially looked like.”

Before he can draw the characters, he has to think about how well they work as protagonists.

“I’m still figuring out how these characters work their personalities and their motivations,” he said. “The first incarnation of it is a fantasy story, but I wanted the main character not to be a typical hero. In most books, movies and comic books, the hero is on the good side. What if the hero was the lowest of the low creatures in this fantasy universe? What if they are on the side of evil, but they don’t want to be?”

While Sylvan works on his anti-heroes to tell the tale, he knows how he wants the pages of the comic to look—the trick of course— is learning the computer programs well enough to translate what’s in his vision to what comes out on the screen.

He drew the cover in pencil first and scanned it in, then used Corel Painter, digital art software to pump up the vividness of color and brushstrokes.

“I’d eventually like to submit this to a publisher but there’s a lot of work first that needs to be done to really get all of the final elements down on paper,” he said.

Sylvan not only works in still images, but has made 2-D and 3-D animations, using the MCST lab’s equipment and software.  He uses Adobe Animate and Corel Painter as well for this project. When he goes home, he has Corel Painter on a computer at home and an Adobe license, so ends up working on it in his spare time as well.

“Animation is something I never really got into until I came here,” he said. “I do have an affinity for it, I’ve been trying to learn a bunch of different techniques.” Sylvan said he was fortunate enough this past summer to attend a Massachusetts School of Art 12-day workshop.  

“I would like to get my associate’s degree in community college, then see where I stand on the job side of things after,” he said. “Maybe work in advertising.”

For now the characters in Journey of the Unfortunates need his attention. It will be interesting to see when the comic done, where they end up. And where Sylvan will end up, as well.

Hail To The Rad Kids is a feature that highlights teens with artistic or musical talent and to recognize the contributions that middle and high school teens are making in our community.

 Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com