We had the good fortune of connecting with Christopher Peña and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Christopher, why did you pursue a creative career?
The reason why I decided to pursue an artistic career was because I knew it would be the right choice for me. One of my earliest memories was picking up a pencil and drawing on any piece of paper I could find, as well as memorizing how to draw my favorite cartoon characters from TV and film. My love of drawing eventually led me to attend an art college to better hone in on, and improve, my artistic skills. Attending art school ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. It also set up the trajectory on the kind of art career I really want to work in. Even though my “dream job” hasn’t happened yet, the current COVID situation hasn’t put the brakes on my dreams and aspirations. If anything, I am more determined and resilient than ever before and I know I am on my way to my next adventure.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
During my time at Ringling, I experimented with different aspects of art, from the traditional to more modern techniques such as drawing tablets and cintiqs. One of my proudest projects was my first book, “Toddzilla”, which was my college thesis project. I developed the story, the characters, illustrations, and a message of family and being yourself. In the end, I had a completed thesis that turned out to be a pretty great book, yet to be published. The project pushed me to construct something new, and helped me to realize what I was capable of. I worked countless hours to finish the project, making sure it was cohesive in the end, and the artwork illustrated the message. I then used what I learned from that experience, and put it into all future children’s books I create for clients. There are a lot of factors that go into creating a fun children’s book, from time management, creating a focused story, relatable characters, and a message that anyone can understand. Looking back, it wasn’t an easy experience, but it was very rewarding, as it made me come out of my comfort zone, which resulted in a finished product that I still can’t believe is real I hope that this experience will showcase to readers that I am a multifaceted artist, with great passion and dedication and the drive to bring any type of project into reality.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
During our journey through the city, we’ll start out with a place that taught me a lot about my artist experience. We first will visit Howard W. Blake High School in Tampa, FL. This school is very important place to visit because it was my first experience exhibiting my work. It is a place of learning and helped in realizing what kind of artist I wanted to be. Continuing on, we will go down the street to the Tampa Museum of Art, as well as the Salvador Dalí Museum. Museums are where I learned about the great artists, which are the foundations of what I, and other art students strive to be. The Dalí Museum was where I also got to showcase my artwork as part of an exhibition with Howard W. Blake High School. When it’s time to eat, the smaller restaurants are the way to go out for a bite. From Colombian cuisine, Brazilian dishes, seafood, and more, you’ll get a taste of different flavors and ingredients from around the world all in Ybor City, a small part of Tampa filled with culture. On the last moments of the trip, we then drive down the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We’ll look up while we drive, truly being in awe of the elegance of the bridge as we drive above the waters of the Gulf.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to mention my first book, “Toddzilla”. The book was my college thesis project, and was intended to test out my skills as an artist and storyteller. The story was about a boy who called himself Toddzilla and wore a dinosaur costume as a way of expressing himself. I wanted to create a character who wasn’t afraid to be himself, no matter what other people thought. I’m very proud of the project, and I even had the honor of reading my book to students at Warren Hope Dawson Elementary in Riverview, FL. The children I read to, really seemed to enjoy the story, which was further validation that the project was worth undertaking. It even inspired some future storytellers. I also want to give a shoutout to the organization I was a part of during my time at Ringling College of Art and Design alongside my other fellow classmates, Ringling Royals. This was a non-profit organization, dedicated to bringing joy and smiles to local children in Sarasota community schools and hospitals through the magic of Disney. It was my opportunity to portray some of my favorite Disney characters, and we interacted with the children by reading books, playing fun games, and telling them about our “stories”. It was truly an experience I’ll never forget.

Website: https://www.artstation.com/chris_penart

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chris_penart/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-pe%C3%B1a-b4b258174/

Image Credits
I am the sole creator of the images provided and displayed in this article. Some of the artwork included are either original illustrations, are based on photos and art prompts, and are based on intellectual properties.

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