Winter Break Adventure Game Camp @ The Arts Center

Let’s make a new adventure together!

In this 4-day Winter Break Camp, students will work together to create a collaborative game map, including characters, objects, challenges and objectives. Using a multitude of art skills, materials, tools and abundant imagination, students will create all elements of a game as they play it.

Each day will be a new task and a new level in their game, with students making decisions for how to change things, what rules to follow… and what rules to break!

This multi-media and SEL-informed class will encourage community collaboration and creative thinking for students who are interested in making and playing games, character design and crafting. Learning practice includes social-emotional skills in self- and social-awareness, collaborative problem-solving, and decision-making.

Hosted at The Arts Center, this camp is 4 days. All materials included.

December 18 – 21, 2023
Register at The Arts Center
Registration: $180 per student
Scholarships are available!

Fall 2023 Art Club for Kids!

The Club Password is “Creative”

This fall, we’re getting into drawing, comics, sticker making, and polymer clay figures in the first ever JH Art Club for kids ages 8 – 12!

In this weekly club, kids will practice and learn skills in illustration and crafts with artist and community educator, Jen Hernandez! We’ll practice character design, making comics, creating creatures from inspiration and imagination, and making artwork to share with others. Art projects and lessons are designed with Social-Emotional Learning objectives and studio habits of mind for a fully immersive artistic experience. Kids can attend all 5 Fall dates or pick special dates to attend.

Check out our schedule of dates and themes:

  • October 16 – Creating Characters
  • October 23 – Quick Comics
  • October 30 – Mashed up Monsters
  • November 6 – Pocket Pals – small sculpture in polymer clay
  • November 13 – Collage Cards and Stickers

Art Club Details

DATE/ TIME: Mondays, October 16 – November 13, 4:00 – 5:30 pm
Conundrum House Saunders Room
460 SW Madison Ave, 2nd Floor, Corvallis, OR

Registration: $35 per child per session, one-time $15 materials fee for all Fall sessions.
Space is limited! Our small classes ensure we can be comfortable and focused in Art Club. Limited registration to 8 students per session.

This class has closed. Look for the next Art Club for Kids in January 2024!

I’m Teaching Comics and SEL

One of my favorite things about being a teaching artist is the opportunity to dig deeper into my art forms alongside the creative and curious minds of students. I get to learn so much about the art I’m most interested in, and by sharing that experience with students openly, I can hear their questions and I can be inspired by their ideas. 

Lately, the artform I’m most interested in has been comics. Illustration has long held an intrigue, and for me comics is the elevated form of illustration as hybrid storytelling combining not only words and pictures, but also time, movement and atmosphere. Teaching comics to kids has been enlightening on this artform. It’s both so immediately accessible to so many students, and holds depths of possibility that seem endless. 

This past summer, I got to teach comics camps through partnership with some local arts organizations and libraries: The Arts Center (Corvallis), Salem Art Center, Lane Arts Council and Coos Bay Public Library. It’s been a very rich summer of creating and I’m struck with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the experince. Actually, it was in a comics class with middle schoolers this summer that I developed a new character who seemed to leap out at me fully formed and I’ve been enamored with this character’s stories since. 

Comics and Social-Emotional Learning

What has been even more gratifying in these classes, is the opportunity for students’ as well as my own deeper holistic artistic experience through comics. Recently, I’ve been reworking many of my lesson plans to include aspects and goals of Social-Emotional Learning more intentionally. Comics has been a surprising (but then again, not surprising) perfect artform for supporting students in exploring emotional impulses and responses, cultural contexts, curiosity and questioning, hypothesizing and experimenting.

With comics as a medium, we can investigate materials, look for surprises in small moments and think of big possibilities. Students interpret emotional expressions of characters by observing the choices of the artist. Then, with theatre games inspired by Augusto Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed, students can embody experiences with play and performance. Meanwhile, their peers practice close observation and make artistic choices based on what they see and what they want to say. 

In camps and classes this summer, I’ve worked with students in exploring feelings both physical and emotional. We ask what might instigate those feelings and what options we have for response. We’ve practiced linework to explore how small gestures can become stories in their own right. Our fine felt tip pens slope down in thin, feeble lines that melt into exhaustion or sadness. We use the soft flexible tips of brush pens to create bold, spiked zags transformed into blasts of power and energy. With students, I’ve made scores of zines, revolutionizing what a book can be, who can make one and what can be in it. I’ve seen in students how the chance to make something to share freely and openly becomes itself a point of inspiration. 

Comics have inspired discussions about the kind of art we make, the kinds of jokes we tell, and why and how it affects others. Comics as a practice creates the opportunity for student expertise. They know how their characters should look, and students can lead the rest of the class, including the educators, in a drawing tutorial of their own designs. The comics practice of examining sequences while also anticipating different layers and perspectives of stories, as well as the practice of making art among and with each other, have cultural impacts for the comics class or camp.

In a comics camp this summer, a class of a dozen students and I debriefed after a playground brawl, focusing on the stories each person told themselves and believed about others. A camp culture of listening to each other and following each other’s guidance at different times allowed us to have conflict and to also move the story forward to what comes next.

Planning and Teaching with Values

As I prepare each residency and lesson plan about comics, I hold these 5 values in mind:

  • Close attention to the tools we use and small elements will reveal big inspiration.
  • Each story is part of a larger context: What happened before? What can happen next?
  • There are so many ways to make a book or tell a story.
  • Feeling something in our own bodies helps us know it with more intelligence.
  • Observing others with empathy helps us know ourselves and each other with more intelligence.

Comics are an incredibly rich educational resource. Through researching resources on comics, I stubled upon this panel discussion about education through comics featuring Malaka Gharib, Scott McCloud, Whit Taylor, and Kriota Willberg, and Robert Sikoryak. (Check out that resonance with Gharib about teaching people to make zines!) And this page from the UCLA Library is a treasure trove of resources, videos and links.

In my next posts about comics, I’ll share some of my lesson plans and teaching tools I use in my camps. There’s an entire pedagogy of comics that I am thrilled to explore and share with students, educators and folks who are interested in comics and arts experiences.

Adventure Game 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, April 6 – 27 (4 weeks)
Register at MAXtivity
Registration: $79 per student

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

Colored Pencils at LBCC Fall 2022

Explore the vibrant world of colored pencils in this class for all levels of artistic skill. Learn about techniques for blending colors, using solvents, and creating compositions based on references.

Practice skills that you can use to create landscapes, portraits, still life and more in this versatile medium, plus get practice in drawing skills with graphite pencil. Each week, live demonstrations will cover drawing exercises to warm up with, and then studio practice with real-time guidance and feedback.

No previous drawing experience necessary, this basics class will give you the starting ground to take off with your imagination..

See the class syllabus here

Class schedule:

September 27 – December 6
Tuesdays, 11:00 am – 12:20 pm
Virtual on Zoom (join from anywhere!)

Register at Linn-Benton Community College


Suggested supplies:   If you do not have some of these supplies at home, and it is difficult to get them you can get by with the materials you do have.

  • Wax-based (recommended) colored pencils (instructor will primarily use Prismacolor and Faber-Castell; Crayola/ Rose Art, other brands are welcome)
  • Colors: Prismacolor Premier 24 set 3597T plus, Cream (PC914), Cool Grey (PC1061), French Grey (PC1074)
  • Water-soluble colored pencils, any brand (instructor will use Crayola watercolor pencils, Derwent Graphitint, and Derwent Inktense)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Tortillons
  • Drawing pencil (any of 2B, 4H, 6H)
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Mineral spirits (Gamsol)
  • Small watercolor brush
  • X-Acto Knife
  • Inexpensive watercolor paper pad (9×12 or 11 x 14) (such as Strathmore or Canson)
  • Black and/or toned paper
  • Optional: tissue, cotton swab, paper towel (can substitute for tortillon)
  • Optional: Carbon transfer paper and tracing paper

Ink Illustrations at LBCC Fall 2022

Create illustrations for books, comics, cards and fine arts with inking techniques to express drama. Practice sketching, linework, stippling, shading and scumbling with one or more pens to create effects of depth and movement. This class is perfect for beginners who want to develop illustration skills or combine ink illustrations with other media like watercolor for journals.

September 27 – November 15, 2022 (8 weeks)

Register at Linn-Benton Community College

Already registered? Click here to access the student page (password protected)

Upcycled Planters & Propagation Tubs

This activity was developed for The Arts Center’s 2022 Spring Break Art Carnival. In this one project, we combine art, crafting, scientific observation, and dialogue about social and personal responsibility for waste and care of natural resources.

Using non-biodegradeable materials that would normally be thrown away, we create propagation tubs and planters for small plants, starts or seeds. Through the acticvity, we talk about what we know about plants and waste materials, what we are curious about, and what we observe about plants, the planet and single use plastic products.

To celebrate this project, spring, and the wonder of plants, I created a poetry zine about my indoor garden that’s free to download here!


The materials for this project are very accessible, especially if you’re like me and save every single plastic tub you’ve ever seen in your life. If you are having a hard time finding plastic food tubs, ask friends and family members to save theirs, or check out a nearby materials exchange organization. Here in the Willamette Valley, we have MECCA (Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts) which is legitimately one of my top 3 favorite art resorces in the world.

Planter Materials:

  • Plastic tubs (yogurt tubs, cottage cheese, butter, etc.) – I found an adorable tiny tub for green chiles!
  • Yarn, collage materials
  • Adhesive (white glue, mod podge, hot glue)
  • Awl or screwdriver for making drainage holes
  • basic potting soil with perlite
  • plant starts, seeds or ground cover/ moss
  • dechlorinated water (see notes below for how to do this)

Drawing Materials

  • Sketch paper
  • Pencils
  • clipboards

Learning outcomes

Through this activity, participants will be able to:

  •  identify non-recyclable materials (plastic tubs) and alternative uses for those materials
  • to construct a planter with drain holes and understand what a plant needs to thrive (water, air, light, soil)
  • practice observational skills using different senses for drawing plants and observing conditions of soil
  • describe their observations verbally
  • know when to change the circumstances of a plant’s environment (more water, more light, etc.)
  • use different weights and types of line to depict plants
  • identify and label different parts of a plant
  • understand and recall the different stages of growth of a plant

Process & Notes

To create the planter:

  1. Select a plastic tub to use for this project (one with a lid is best).
  2. Clean the tub well with soap and water, and dry thoroughly.
  3. Pierce the bottom of the tub with several holes using the awl or screwdriver. These will be drainage holes for the planter.
    • Drainage holes help keep the soil the right moistness. Without them, when we water our plants, the water will collect in the bottom of the tub and could rot the plant’s roots, which can kill the plant. The drainage holes also help keep the soil areated and not compacted so the plant’s roots can grow freely.
  4. Decorate your tub! Use collage paper, yarn, paint, anything you’d like to decorate the outside of the tub. Don’t add decoration to the inside of the tub, those materials can leech into the soil and make the plant sick.
  5. Allow your decorations to dry while you mix your soil with perlite (3:2, soil:perlite)
    • The perlite is a natural material that helps keel the soil airy and helps balance the water in the soil, to keep it from getting too wet and to release water when the soil is dry.
    • As you mix the soil and the perlite, observe the material:
      • with the soil in your hands, notice what it feels like: dry, damp
      • hold the material to your face and look closely, what do you see?
      • smell the material, what does it smell like?
      • as you mix the soil and the perlite, what does it sound like?
      • DO NOT taste the soil or the perlite
  6. Place your soil and perlite into the planter when it’s dry. If you need more drying time, use the time to look at the plant starts, and make observations using your senses. You could even start drawing the plants.
  7. When your soil and perlite are in the tub, you can add your seeds, plant starts or ground cover.
    • Gently place the plant or ground cover onto the top of the soil. If the start has long roots, carefully dig into the soil and place the roots gently into the soil, and then cover.
    • For seeds, use your finger to poke holes to the depth of about your first knuckle and place seeds into the hole. Cover with soil.
  8. Water the soil with fresh, dechlorinated water (see notes below); use observations about the soil and the planter to know how much water to use.
    • when you water the soil, listen to the water run into the soil. what does it sound like?

Observation and drawing:

  1. Hold your planter with your plant or seeds in your hands. Use your senses to observe the plant or seeds, and use words to descibe what you observe
    • What does the plant, soil, planter look like?
    • What does the plant, soil, planter smell like?
    • Gently feel the soil or the plant leaves, what do they feel like?
    • Does the plant/ seed/ soil/ or planter make a sound as you hold it?
    • DO NOT taste the plants, seeds, or planter
  2. Use your pencil and paper to sketch what you’ve obsereved (using all the physical external senses, not just sight).
    • What kind of marks or lines do you use to depict what you have observed.
    • What do you notice when you look/ smell/ feel/ touch/ listen more?
    • What different ways can you approach your planter or the plant to observe it differently? From above, from below, from a different side, etc.
  3. Make predictions: what do you think will happen to the plant next?
  4. Use your plant diary in the zine to make notes. Include the date and time and write about what you notice.

Project Tips

How to dechlorinate water

The water in most taps will be treated with chlorine, in amounts that’s typically safe to drink, but can be harmful to plants. Spring water is best for plants, as it contains natural occuring nutrients that can support plant health. Distilled water is not advised for plants as it can damage plants. If tap water is your best option, you can dechlorinate water by filling a large bowl with water and allowing it to sit at room temperature for 24 – 48 hours. Since chlorine is a volitile chemical, it will dissipate from the water over those hours. I give the water a stir every few hours to make sure I can bring some water up to the surface where the chlorine can dissipate.

What plants to use

For the project at The Arts Center, I brought clippings from my own houseplants: spiderettes and persian shields, which I prepped the night before by dipping their stems into rooting hormone and placing in a holding container with some potting soil and perlite. I also brought baby’s tears, an easy-to-grow ground cover from a local nursery, and some packets of wildflower seeds.

This was a super fun activity, and my first time doing a community event like this with actually 100’s of folks over a few hours in such a long time! Some of the participants came up with clever ways to turn their planters into hanging planters, and different ways of collaging and decorating the plastic tubs. I also brought extra handbound journals to give away since I always have a bunch of those lying around, and special Plant Love stickers I designed and printed for the event!

Thanks so much to The Arts Center for inviting me to be a part of this event!

Drawing Practice: Linework Exercise

This is my go-to drawing practice when I’m wanting to improve my linework skills, warm up before working on a project, or want to get back into drawing after a break. This practice helps develop control and consistency by focusing on drawing circles and lines in patterns.

I picked up this exercise when I was looking for ways to improve my drawing skills after being frustrated that I hadn’t improved after drawing for a while. One thing I noticed about my illustrations was that my lines didn’t flow the way I wanted them too. I was also discouraged because I didn’t know what to draw and was getting tired of looking for a subject to study without feeling inspired.

This practice helped by giving me something to draw without the expectations that it would have to look like a specific subject, while also allowing me to practice building my linework skills.

I usually recommend this exercise to all my students when they’re wanting to improve their drawing skills. I like to think of this as a stretch or gentle job before a big run, it’s something to warm up the hand and mind without the pressure of full-performance. One of the ways I notice myself and others struggle with drawing and illustration is when we expect to have a finished “perfect” drawing immediately. When something doesn’t look like what we’re expecting to see, that discouragement can make us put down the pencils and not want to pick them up again.

This exercise creates a respite from that expectation, so we can be present with the practice and appreciate what we can do rather than what we struggle to achieve.

This isn’t a magic exercise, though. To become skilled at drawing and illustration, you’ll still need to practice drawing different subjects from references and your imagination. This exercise is a way to prepare for that work.