2017-07-21 / Neighbors

Full of character

Artist releases how-to book on cartoon drawing
By Melissa Simon


SKETCHY—Professional cartoonist Stephen Silver sketches at his studio on McCoy Place in Simi Valley. The 45-year-old Simi Valley resident recently published a how-to book on cartoon drawing called “The Silver Way: Techniques, Tips, and Tutorials for Effective Character Design,” pictured below. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers SKETCHY—Professional cartoonist Stephen Silver sketches at his studio on McCoy Place in Simi Valley. The 45-year-old Simi Valley resident recently published a how-to book on cartoon drawing called “The Silver Way: Techniques, Tips, and Tutorials for Effective Character Design,” pictured below. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers As a child in England, Stephen Silver one day stumbled upon a sketchbook that mysteriously showed up in his backyard.

It was 1978 and the 6-year-old had no idea where the book came from, whom it belonged to or what it was for.

“I began flipping through this sketchbook and there were a bunch of portraits and landscapes that were just magical,” said Silver, now 44 and a Simi Valley resident. “As a kid, I watched ‘Tom and Jerry,’ ‘Hong Kong Phooey’ and all those Hanna Barbera cartoons that were on in the ’70s. And after finding that sketchbook, I began trying to copy those (images) too.

“That’s when I really fell in love with drawing and told my parents that I was going to be an artist.”

Now, after more than 20 years in the professional animation industry, the artist has published “The Silver Way: Techniques, Tips, and Tutorials for

Effective Character Design,” a how-to book on drawing cartoons.

The book, which was released in April and is now sold on Amazon and the author’s website, www.silvertoons.com, features step-by-step instructions on illustrating characters and has more art than text.

“I’ve self-published seven other books, but never a how-to book like this,” he said. “Every artist has that one thing that’s their masterpiece, and for me, this book is that masterpiece.”

Animated career

Silver and his family moved from England to San Diego in 1982, when he was 10. Over the years, his passion for art grew. As a high schooler, he decided he wanted to become a professional artist—a dream that did not sit too well with his parents, he said.

“I remember when I finished high school, I told them I wasn’t going to college, and they told me if I wanted to be an artist I had to move out and fully support myself, so I did,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t really know what being an artist meant, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Silver’s career in cartooning started in 1992 when he got a job drawing caricatures at Sea- World. From there, he began doing private events, weddings and parties. At Christmastime, he would man a booth at the mall to draw shoppers.

“Those jobs for me were great because that’s where I really learned and got to hone my skills. I didn’t go to art school, so for me, this was practicing in the moment,” he said.

When Disney’s “The Lion King” came out in 1994, the film created an “animation boom,” Silver said. At that point he contacted a friend who worked at Warner Bros. to see if any jobs were available.

Three years later, he was hired as a character designer at Warner Bros. Animation.

Over the course of a decade, Silver “bounced around” between Warner Bros., Disney, Sony Animation and Nickelodeon working on various TV shows, including “Kevin Smith’s Clerks: The Animated Series,” “Kim Possible,” “Danny Phantom,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and “Cloudy with a Chance Of Meatballs.”

“Being a character designer isn’t really a forever thing, unless you happen to be working on a show like ‘The Simpsons’ that’s been on for nearly 30 years,” he said. “So in 2007, I became a freelancer so I could watch my kids grow up, work on my own ideas and teach others to draw, which I’d been doing since 2000.”

Silver and his wife, Heidi, have lived in Simi Valley since 2008. The couple have two children, 15-year-old Caiden and 13-year-old Macey.

Teaching art

Silver began teaching art classes online in 2006 and opened his first brick-and-mortar school a year later in Sun Valley, Calif.

Last year, with no cartooning classes being offered in Simi Valley, Silver decided to set up shop at the American Martial Arts Academy at 15 McCoy Place at the urging of academy co-owner and friend Connie Kwak, whom he’d met while working at Nickelodeon years ago.

He now offers two programs: cartooning for kids 6 to 17 years old and live-art drawing for those 11 years and older.

Since 2015, he’s also been offering private classes to small groups at his home for those 18 and older.

“My goal is to help people find something they enjoy doing. If you want to draw a crocodile with 10 legs and 12 eyes, then do it because there’s no right or wrong,” Silver said.

“Unfortunately, social media has created this instant judgment on kids if others don’t like something they’ve done, which is a dangerous thing,” he said.

“With art, you don’t have to show anyone, because it can be just for you. Don’t worry about the rules or what others say, because you never know where (drawing) will take you.”

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