From the time Newburyport resident Sean Bixby was a child, he filled notebooks with drawings of invented characters. In his sketchbooks, inspired by comic books, cartoons and his Merrimac backyard, a character he returned to repeatedly was dubbed Pancake Man. The evolution of Pancake Man, who today looks like a cross between the Hulk and something crying out for maple syrup, is illustrative of the principles of character development that Bixby hopes to inspire in children through his teaching.
Today as an art educator and award-winning children’s book illustrator, he hopes to bring his childhood love of drawing alive for children ages 8 to 14 in a series of illustration and comic book workshops at the Merrimac Library in February and March. His aim is to inspire children to draw from their imaginations and invent characters and worlds that they can return to time and again.
“Many kids will come to my workshops with characters that they draw all the time. I show them how easy it is to create characters. I ask them, ‘What is this character about, what is their back story?’” he said.
Bixby says he hopes to inspire other children to develop art as a positive outlet in their lives as it has been for him.
“Regardless of whether kids want to pursue art as a career, it is still something for positive self-development,” he said.
Bixby shows children the importance of developing a story arc, pacing and strong characters.
“I like to see pictures move the story as much as the text. Every page has to be a page turner with a children’s book. Each image is geared to get you to turn the page,” he said.
A graduate of Merrimac elementary and middle schools and Pentucket Regional High School, Bixby credits his local education with helping him see the possibilities of art as a career. When he was a student at the Donaghue School, he recalls an assembly where a professional illustrator showed the pictures he had created for a published story written by a student.