Tyler Friesen discovers early what he loves to do

Tahoma Junior High student Tyler Friesen has figured out at 14 what a lot of us don’t figure out until we’re in our 20s.

Tyler Friesen attends Tahoma Junior High and lives in Ravensdale.

Tahoma Junior High student Tyler Friesen has figured out at 14 what a lot of us don’t figure out until we’re in our 20s.

Actually, he’s figured out two things: what he loves to do and what he’s good at.

And it happens to be the same thing — drawing comics.

There are a lot of things in life we were forced to do as children, like play a musical instrument, sing in music class or draw stick figures which our parents always treated like they were little Sistine Chapels, which we bought hook, sinker and lure.

“I thought I drew perfectly, like any five year old kid does,” Friesen said.

Friesen had been drawing, however, well before he ever attended preschool. In fact, he doesn’t remember at what point he didn’t enjoy drawing.

The real desire to draw first came from a book series called Captain Underpants, which concerns two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, who create their superhero after accidentally hypnotizing their principal Mr. Krupp. They also draw comics detailing the adventures.

“It sounds really stupid,” Friesen recalled. “But it was funny. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, that’s cool. I want to do that.’”

Like all artists, Friesen started out learning the basics. A life-long comic book fan, he created little makeshift comic books featuring his own superheroes. Sticking with a traditional form, all of his comics are drawn by hand. Even now he only uses computer software to crop the electronic files when uploading them online. Working on those comic books also allowed Friesen to develop his skills.

“It kind of came naturally,” he said. “It ranges from what I kind of want at the moment.”

Like any self-respecting comic book fan, he also has his favorite superhero, Spiderman.

“He’s different from all of the rest,” Friesen said. “His personal life affects him when he puts on the mask. Now, everyone has it, but I thought it was special at the time.”

The transition into comic strips came when he was a sixth grader in Ohio. Friesen admitted his style is very similar to Calvin and Hobbes, whose creator, Bill Watterson, is also a personal inspiration.

“He was the man,” Friesen said. “He was amazing.”

When it comes to the characters in his comics, however, he took a cue from Peanuts creator Charles Schultz.

“I was reading some story of Charles Schultz that said he based a lot of his cartoons off of real people,” he said. “So, I thought if it worked for him, it can work for me. It depends on what life gives you for material.”

Friesen’s comics very much reflect the world of a 14-year-old. In them, issues such as the irrationality of puppy love, the dislike of homework — except if the homework involves drawing — and subtle observances of people’s idiosyncrasies are presented in a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek manner.

“That is a major element of the strip,” Friesen said. “It makes everything a little more relatable, for me and the audience. It’s kind of got a vibe that says ‘This is what life is like.’”

At the same time, basing it off friends has placed limitations on Friesen, as he has trouble portraying any of them in a particularly poor light.

“I need to come up with a completely imaginary character so he can do all the bad things,” he said.

After he moved from Ohio to Ravensdale he continued creating more comics strips. They were merely a personal passion for him until a friend recommended that he post some of them on Facebook. Taking five strips from his sketchbook, he uploaded them onto the social networking site, where they were well-received by his friends and family.

“Everyone loved them,” he said.

Friesen plans to eventually make a comic book, but time constraints necessitate that he stick to the comic strip for the moment.

“I just can’t stay into it long enough,” he said. “It would take an entire day to come up with more pages. It takes more work.”

Meanwhile, he’s working on creating a more defined world for his comic strips, including character names and plots.

“I should work on making a point,” he said. “I keep meaning to mention their names more often.”

While Friesen hasn’t decided what he wants to do for a career, he has plenty of time on his side.

Meanwhile, he gets a small chance to play the hero when he’s in art class.

“If there’s ever an assignment when you have to draw a picture, people generally come up to me and say, ‘Tyler, can you help us out?’” he said.

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