Creating Our Own Adventures in Art Camp

For Spring Break 2023, I joined up with a troupe of young artists to explore and create our own Adventures!

Adventure Characters Camp at The Arts Center was 3 days of drawing, sculpting, exploring and playing our own original role playing games. This camp experience has been years in the making! Adventure Characters Camp included lessons designed around core learning standards, handmade workbooks, and integrated math (probability/ statistics) writing (story, game design) and visual arts (illustration, small figure sculpting) education for kids 8 -12. 

Students learned about role playing games and how they’re different from other games. We also learned about probability through dice rolling for outcomes.

We created original characters. Students designed characters using a character chart that included aspects of story: what are the character’s unique characteristics, what makes them stronger, and what challenges them? With the opportunity to dive deep into a story-driven narrative, students could become their characters. They could make choices, interact with others, and explore their world, while seeing through the eyes of their characters.

Students also created special items for their characters, and practiced balance in their game crafting. We used the logic that if something is extremely powerful, it should bear a cost that balances its use to make the game play fun and challenging.

On the first day, students tried out their characters and items by exploring a haunted house map created specially for the camp. They took turns moving through the map, exploring items and spaces, and making choices by dice-rolling. They helped each other along with strategy and advice, building trust and friendship among their group.

On day 2, students upgraded their character stats by considering what they needed to be successful in different situations. They also sculpted character pieces in polymer clay and practiced clay building techniques.

Students also started working on their own game maps, choosing to collaborate with each other or work individually. Students developed their own guidelines and goals for playing their maps, and even worked to link their different maps together into one large play space. On the final day of camp, students played their maps, guiding each other through choices and experiences in the worlds they created.

This camp was an incredible opportunity to watch students work together on problem-solving, focus on goals and iterate on writing and visual art to craft entire worlds that others could also experience. This is a camp/ class that will naturally need to change and evolve with each new group – guild! – of students. As we push the boundaries of our imaginations more, we’ll have new worlds to create, share and explore!

Check out the next Adventure Character classes, camps and clubs:

Residency: Comics and Story Making

In February and March 2023, I visited the Kindergarten through 5th grades at the Chinese Immersion School in Eugene for a Comics-making residency! This residency was organized by Lane Arts Council as part of their ArtSpark in-school residency program. Lane Arts Council is an incredible organization with amazing people, check out their website for more information about their programs and events for arts in Lane County, Oregon!

Comics-making is a really special practice for me. When I get to visit a new school and work with students on these projects, I also get to practice and learn more about making comics.

In this residency, we focused on learning about what makes comics different from other ways of telling stories with images and words. We practiced linework for illustration including figure drawing and using line of action. We also made 4-panel comics on bristol board with liner pens. 

Since this was a school-wide residency, I created lesson plans for each grade, built around the Oregon State Standards for Visual Arts. Using the state standards helped me create themes for the residency and focus on goals for specific activities and discussions. Scroll down to the end of the post for links to the residency outline for each grade.

In kindergarten and first grade, we focused on shapes, color blocking, and drawing expressions. Students also had practice in using the artist pens, making plans and sharing materials.

Second and third grade students focused on the structure of comics.We talked about how if we see Calvin 4 separate times on the same page, it’s just one Calvin doing 4 different things. 

All of our classes got to look at images of comics and compare them to other artistic images that are not comics.

Grades 3 and up made their own sketchbooks, using the basic pamphlet stitch method. It’s still my favorite way to begin a class, with lots of choice and gaining a new skill. It’s also a really great opportunity for students with different skills to help each other and ask for help. 

In the older grades, we also practiced figure drawing using Image Theatre from Theatre of the Oppressed. First, students created a list of ideas, based on a prompt. In some cases the prompt was “Where’s somewhere you’d like to visit?” and follow up with “What’s something you’d like to do there?” Student responses generated a list of action-oriented words that we could then use in our Image Theatre game.

In Image Theatre, we act out actions or stories silently, repeating the same action sequence over and over again, like an animatronic in a theme park. We start out standing in a circle so the whole class can see each other, and all together act out the same action like “eating pastries in Paris.” As we act out our actions, we look around and see how each of us interprets the same action the same or differently. I also ask us to freeze in mid-movement so we can see what the action looks like from a still moment.

After a couple of whole-class rounds of Image Theatre, I split the class into two groups. One group will remain actors for the next part, and the other will be the artists, who will use their sketchbooks and drawing materials to draw the actions they see their classmates acting out. I ask them to focus on drawing quickly, and suggest they try to draw their classmates as stick figures, introducing the concept of line of action in this way. The actors act out a couple more action prompts, freezing partway through so the artists can draw them. Then, the groups switch and the actors become artists and the artists become actors. 

This small game is just a quick practice to introduce line of action and action-oriented poses, and I think in the future I’d like to incorporate it into a longer residency focused on observation drawing. 

From an anti-oppression education motivation, this Image Theatre/ Figure Drawing game is at the heart of this residency: it begins with student responses, which become the action prompts, and allows students to approach art with their whole bodies. Students are also grouped with each other, to avoid making one student feel specifically targeted or left out. 

We spent about the last day or day and a half working on final comics, which were 4-panel comics on bristol board. I gave students the option to make their comics about anything they wanted, and we had spent the week leading up to the final comic working on prompts based on observations from life, imagining scenarios and places we’d like to visit.

The older students in this residency got into a discussion about what kind of jokes or art are appropriate to make, what it means to make art that is “offensive” or what happens when art causes harm. This was a really important moment for me to learn from, and moving forward, I’ll include a discussion of being intentional about what subjects to include in art making and the consequences from making those choices. 

We ended the week at Chinese Immersion School with gallery displays in the classes of the artwork made, which is always a really fun moment. I love to see students look at each other’s artwork and make joyful reactions. Check out our art from the Story Makers and Comics at Chinese Immersion School in Eugene:

Special thanks again to Lane Arts Council for organizing this residency! Lane Arts Council serves all of Lane County in Oregon, with in-school programs, community arts and First Friday Art Walk. They’re a truly amazing group of folks that are essential to what makes this a thriving creative community. Check them out here and learn about getting involved and events and programs coming up!

Links & Downloads

Here are the quick outlines for each of the grades, with Oregon State Standards for Visual Arts included:

This is the slide show of artwork I showed students, using Visual Thinking Strategies to support student discussion and learning:

Comics and Story Makers Lesson Plan k-5 by Jen Hernandez Art LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Comics Drawing for Teens @ Lebanon Public Library

Comics drawing practice for Spring Break

In this class, we’ll create comic characters, make 4-panel comics, practice illustration techniques for character design, figure drawing, expression and story-telling. Students can come with ideas for a comic they want to create, characters they’ve been working on, or start fresh with character and story prompts provided in class! All materials provided, attend any one day or all 4 days.

Day 1: Creating Characters
Design characters with backstories, using character reference charts

Day 2: Quick Comics
Make a quick 4-panel comic based on step-by-step prompts

Day 3: Details and Expressions
Use line in illustration and angles in comics to create drama, tension and expression

Day 4: Using the Senses to Create Comics
How to make a visual comic that a reader can “hear” “smell” “taste” or “touch”

This class is perfect for students interested in comics, webcomics, graphic novels, character design and story writing.

Hosted at Lebanon Public Library, this class is 4 days. Each day can be attended individually.

March 27-30, 2023
More information at Lebanon Public Library Events

Spring Break Camp: Adventure Characters @ The Arts Center

Class for young artists on character design and illustration

In this 3-day Spring Break Camp, students will create their own characters for a class role-playing adventure game!

Design and draw characters using illustration techniques and tools, create a backstory including strengths, weaknesses, motivations and conflicts. Then, launch your character into an adventure RPG to collect tools, develop experiences and interact with other characters!

This class is perfect for students interested in storytelling, role-playing games, comics, fantasy and adventure. Students will leave with a sketchbook of character details, polymer clay figurines of their character, tools, and sidekicks, plus stickers of illustrations and images.

Hosted at The Arts Center, this class is 3 days. All materials included: clay, drawing tools, collage, and a handmade sketchbook for creating your own adventure!

March 28-30, 2023
Register at The Arts Center
Registration: $50 per student

Design Mentees Meet a Professional Artist

Lane Arts Design Mentees in my Digital Storytelling group got to hangout with Corvallis-based illustration artist Janique Crenshaw this month for a Ask An Artist session!

This group is the 4th generation of my Digital Storytelling class with Lane Arts Council Art and Design Mentorship program. In this class, students learn story writing, character design, planning, illustration and coding a website for visitor interactivity. Their stories are published on my student website, where anyone can read their stories, click through illustrations, and even choose their own adventures.

Since the beginning of winter term in mid-January, this group of students have been working on creating stories, making comics, and designing characters, as well as navigating doc-sharing platforms, uploading to the class website and building community within our group. Since this class is generally focused on digital art (although not exclusively, students have the option to work with traditional media as well), for our mid-term class session, I decided to switch it up and brought in some gouache (my favorite!) painting.

Students worked on a character chart for the characters the’ire currently imagining, and then practiced painting those characters in gouache.

Also for this class, we had Janique Crenshaw, a fellow Corvallis-based artist join us virtually to talk about her artwork, what inspires her and answer student questions.

Janique’s work is colorful, inspired by popular media in movies, music, and shows, and she explores identity in her traditional and digitial illustrations. She was perfect to talk to this group of students who are creating in their own voices, inspired by media in books, movies and games.

Before meeting Janique, students came up with a list of questions to ask her, including:

  • Do you ever really feel satisfied with art that you make? (They started out with the big questions.)
  • What’s the first artwork you made that wasn’t scribbles?
  • How to do you get into conventions?
  • What’s your favorite/ least favorite work of art that you made?
  • Is bread the best food? (This is both an actual question and actually my favorite question my students asked. Janique’s answer was correct, by the way: it depends on the bread and she likes garlic bread.)

For the next 6 weeks, these students will work on refining their story ideas, illustrating their work and uploading to the student website, where they’ll add the interactive elements that makes these stories unique. They’ll be celebrated at the April First Friday Art Walk in Eugene at Spark on 7th, where folks can come by and try out their interactive stories in-person!

Check out some of the past student stories from Lane Arts Design Mentorship Digital Storytelling at

Find out more about the Lane Arts Design Mentorship program at

We Made Art Polymer Clay Jewelry at The Arts Center

What’s more romantic than hanging out in the studio, hot cocoa in my thermos and paint on my hands?

For this Valentine’s day, I teamed up with The Arts Center in Corvallis to spend the evening expressing my love of crafting in a special workshop making jewelry with polymer clay!

Although it’s not my main artform, I love crafting with polymer clay. I like the feeling of being able to make something I can hold in my hand, with relatively accessible materials and equipment. For this class, we used Sculpey Premo polymer clay in various colors, acrylic paint, bakeable clay adhesive, gold foil. We also used various clay tools including rollers, styluses, and ball tools. This class was designed to be beginner-friendly, with step-by-step instruction and the goal of a completed project in 2 hours.

We started out the evening working on faux quartz charms for earrings, broaches, and necklace pendants. The process includes cutting transparent clay down and mixing it with a small amount of acrylic paint. Then we used bakeable adhesive and gold or silver foil to replicate the veins in quartz stone. We then rolled out slabs to cut or shape into desired pieces. Through the process, we got hands on with conditioning clay and using tools. The end products were really lovely!

The second half of the workshop focused on making jewelry from clay slabs, which included selecting contrasting colors, shaping pieces and then layering to create cool designs. In this process, folks got to experiment with representational pieces that evoked memories of classic jewelry elements, as well as abstract pieces that embraced the vibrant colors and textures of the clay.

This was a super fun way to spend Valentine’s evening with a group of cool folks just making stuff! Thanks so much to The Arts Center for hosting our workshop!

Want to know about other classes like this one? Follow this blog for updates!

See what’s happening at The Arts Center by following their Instagram and checking out their website and newsletter!

Ghibli-Inspired Gouache @ Greenhouse Coffee + Plants

This workshop is sold out, but there’s another one coming soon on April 28!

Paint your favorite characters from Hayao Miyazaki’s classic animated films

Sink into a warm drink, surrounded by gorgeous plants, and dip your brush into luscious gouache as you settle in to paint some of your favorite characters and scenes from Studio Ghibli’s classic films like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, How’s Moving Castle, and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

In this workshop, beginner and experienced painters will have all they need to create small masterpieces celebrating some of the most iconic images from Miyazaki’s films. Learn the basics of layering and painting with gouache, enjoy delicious plant-based tea and coffee drinks and take your project home along with extra paints for more cozy painting nights to come.

One night workshop
Friday, March 17
6:00 – 8:00 pm

Register at Greenhouse Coffee+ Plants (coming soon)

Polymer Clay Jewelry @ The Arts Center

Create beautiful statement pieces or subtle accents in this clay jewelry class

Practice techniques in making faux quartz and decorated slab pieces for earrings, pendants and rings. In this class, students will learn basics in hand building and shaping; we’ll bake our pieces in-studio so that at the end, you’ll have jewelry ready to wear or give as a gift!

Perfect for pairs and groups looking to spend a romantic night of crafting with tea and treats available at The Arts Center.

One night workshop
Tuesday, February 14
5:30 – 7:30 pm
$40 per student
Register at The Arts Center

Bespoke Bookbinding @ Maxtivity

Create a unique sketchbook or journal to take on travels or give as a gift

Using artist-grade materials and equipment, bookbinders will explore one bookbinding method in each of the 4-part series workshops, and leave with a new book each time. Learn decorative stitches, how to convert an old hardcover into a journal, how to add small touches of personality and flair to any bookbinding project, plus learn the history of bookbinding techniques.

Students will receive live instruction, printed handouts and access to video tutorials to keep practicing at home.

Series of 4 separate classes:
February 9, February 16, March 7, March 14
5:30 – 7:30 pm
$39 per class + $10-$12 materials fees
Register MAXtivity Creative Space

Adventure Characters @ Maxtivity Creative Space

Class for young artists on character design and illustration

In this 4 week class, students will create their own characters for a class role-playing adventure game!

Design and draw characters using illustration techniques and tools, create a backstory including strengths, weaknesses, motivations and conflicts. Then, launch your character into an adventure RPG to collect tools, develop experiences and interact with other characters!

This class is perfect for students interested in storytelling, role-playing games, comics, fantasy and adventure. Students will leave with a sketchbook of character details, polymer clay figurines of their character, tools, and sidekicks, plus stickers of illustrations and images.

Hosted at MAXtivity Arts & Crafts Creative Space, this class is a series of 4 sessions.

Thursdays, February 23 – March 16
Register at MAXtivity
Registration: $79 per student