Creating art and telling stories is “primal to who human beings are,” and the practice dates back to when we first drew horses on cave walls, says Comic Book Artist Alonso Nunez, founder of Little Fish Comic Book Studio.
Watch a mini-doc created shortly after Little Fish first opened, in which Alonso and his co-founder, Patrick Yurick, share insights into the importance of community in art. After that, enjoy Alonso’s Q&A with Barbarella Fokos, in which the artist and teacher divulges his latest adventures.
Credits: Executive Producer Barbarella Fokos; Director David Fokos; Segment Producers Jason Page & Thierry Denis,;Segment Director Thierry Denis – Helium Films USA; Cinematographer Thierry Denis; Editor Thierry Denis; Music La Madeline au Truffe by Basematic, See you Later by Pitx, Hidden Blues by Pitx
BF: When we filmed you, Little Fish Comic Book Studio was still in its first year. How have things developed since you opened the doors?
AN: It’s amazing, looking back on the Art Pulse TV segment, because in so many ways, it actually feels much longer than three years ago! That first year was really a period of experimentation, finding what worked and what didn’t, and embracing the new and unexpected. Since then, we have added more classes and more students, been able to partner with amazing organizations and give our students exciting and (hopefully) artistically rewarding experiences.
We are an annual Community Partner with KPBS for their “One Book One San Diego” program, we’ve developed curriculum and teach workshops at Monarch (a school whose mission has always been incredibly inspiring to me), and this past year alone we’ve had artistic collaborations with MTS (the students designed the Compass Card used during San Diego Comic Con), the San Diego Italian Film Festival (designing movie posters for the first Italian superhero movie in decades) and the San Diego Opera, where a group of students and myself are invited along with other local artists to sketch the productions during second dress rehearsal.
BF: I understand you just moved. Can you tell me more about that? Why the new space, and what about it excites you most?
AN: So, we packed up our beloved Ocean Beach location on October 15th and headed east, over by San Diego State University. I always knew that there would be a point where we’d outgrow our little, funky, very Ocean Beach space — in fact, it was a benchmark in my head, like, “Okay, we’re at such-and-such level and have so-and-so going on — but it was still a bittersweet goodbye. That said, we have substantially increased the size of our classroom and we now have a full open layout. Little Fish has always been a mix of comic classes, advocacy, and community outreach. The larger size enables us to do the advocacy and more community events in-house; I was so proud of how fun and welcoming we made our old space and I was disappointed that we couldn’t bring more events in, because of space. That’s no longer an issue, and I can’t wait to have an even more active and engaged space.
BF: What is your favorite thing about the new space?
AN: My favorite thing about the new space is easily the look on people’s faces when they see the new space for the first time. It’s bigger, more open and yet warmer, and students have easier access to the books and resources as they now ring the main studio space. That said, there is one piece I’d be remiss in not mentioning: Little Fish had grown pretty famous for its comics-wallpapered restroom and until we put new comics up, just last week, I didn’t realize how much we’d missed it!
BF: What are some of the most memorable projects of your own that you’ve worked on in the past 3 years? Basically, what have you been up to?
AN: Not to brag, but there’s been so many! I didn’t anticipate — AT ALL — the connections possible between us and other organizations and the enthusiasm from those groups for our little ragtag band of misfits! I mentioned MTS, the San Diego Opera and SDIFF. Additionally, we’ve created massive projects for Figment (an open-air art festival held every year in Chicano Park), held workshops with the San Diego Central Public Library, Barnes & Noble Grossmont and created a great collection of student work for San Diego Comic-Con this year (where we integrated long-forgotten and now public domain heroes and villains from the early days of comics)!
BF: That all sounds fantastic, so many opportunities for your students. Speaking of Little Fish students, who are some of the most memorable ones you’ve had?
AN: I don’t think we’ve had any NON-MEMORABLE students! Ha! So many of our students have come to the studio already full of ideas, vision and with a world view unique and singular, even to the wacky world of comics.
Serena Leitner started at Little Fish as a student shortly after we filmed our Art Pulse TV segment, and since then she has grown immensely as an artist. She has won awards at the San Diego County Fair, was one of our selected winners for the MTS Compass Card project and has, as of this month, even begun to teach her own class here at Little Fish! Serena graduated from San Diego School of Creative & Performing Arts and is currently taking a full load of classes at Mira Mesa Community College.
Blake has been with Little Fish just since the summer, but his passion, talent and desire to always be getting better is so inspiring. He will come in with work in hand, and obviously having done research, ask questions like “How Does John Romita, Jr. do that rain effect? Or is that the inker,” or “I was looking at some Jim Lee and I need help making the torso as dynamic.” It’s great working with him and he is definitely going far.
And I would of course be remiss if I did not mention Adrian Perez. Adrian has been with us since the first round of summer camps in 2013. Adrian is the most precocious, well-read (at least in terms of comics), and determined young artist I’ve ever met. He wants very much to be a writer, but knows that a strong art knowledge will help. Adrian knows more about DC Comics than nearly anyone else, adults included! Really though, why try to explain when there’s already ample press (no, really): Google ‘Grant Morrison superfan’ and you’ll get this amazing article and here’s one from this year as Adrian crashed the DC Panel with DC Comic’s publisher and vice-president and held court, answering questions and offering suggestions.
BF: Since we filmed you, is there anything of note that has changed in the world of comics? If so, what? And how might that affect classes/camps?
AN: The comics industry is constantly, constantly changing. From my viewpoint one of the greatest things is what hasn’t changed. At a time when print media and print in general is drying up, comics sales have seen consistent if modest growth, and for me that’s a great thing. As Little Fish began I was heartened by the diversity of our students, and this has only continued, both at the studio and in the industry, generally. As we speak, Thor is a woman right now, Iron Man is a teenage, African-American girl, and many top-selling books are by women and persons of color.
BF: I learned a while ago that Patrick had moved away to pursue something else. Why’d he go?
AN: I actually haven’t spoken to Patrick since he left at the end of our first year. It seemed like commitment of a magnitude he wasn’t quite prepared for and so we agreed to have the company buy out his share. There was some friction and things progressed — I imagine having to step back from a project you’ve really thrown yourself into isn’t easy — but things are amicable now. His wife still teaches at High Tech High and my students who also attend HTH have said they’ve seen him once and a while, when he stops in.
BF: What are you working on now that is most exciting to you?
AN: We are a Community Partner with KPBS for their “One Book One San Diego” program, and this is their tenth anniversary so plans are already underway for the workshops that we’ll be doing with two neighborhood schools, as well as coordinating the curriculum and planning the panel discussions with comic creators Gene Luen Yang (current MacArthur ‘Genius Award’ recipient) and Jimmy Gownley. This is always a highlight of the year for us, being able to access schools that don’t generally have funding for arts and help them create comics and hopefully develop a love of art and storytelling in general.
BF: What is on the horizon, or something you’re hoping to get going in the future?
AN: We have something BIG coming up but sadly I’m not yet at liberty to talk about it. It is a sizable partnership that will help expand our mandate to educate and create comics with kids all over San Diego, and help them develop a love for and awareness of the power of the comic storytelling medium.
BF: Can’t you give a little hint?
AN: Argghh! I wish I could talk about the BIG NEWS! The wheels are turning and things are progressing but I’m sadly not at liberty to talk about it yet. I can talk about awesome figure drawing series we’re relaunching, beginning in February! We have, in my humble opinion, the best figure drawing sessions in San Diego. We know some amazing, amazing cosplayers and they will be in full, head-to-toe, gloriously detailed costume! It’s gonna be the bee’s knees!