By PENNY FLETCHER
CYPRESS CREEK — Leah Lopez has been playing with crayons and paint since she was two.
Now she teaches other children how to make pictures using simple shapes.
“She started drawing on the bedroom walls,” her mother Bobi said. “I always knew she had a special talent.”
Then, when Leah was 15, with her mom’s assistance, she began taking her art to parties at private homes and hosting events at libraries and recreation centers as a business.
“She was just a teenager when she started her cartooning business,” Bobi said. “She’s had as many as 144 kids at one time and they always seem to really enjoy it.”
Leah has had no formal art training. It just seems to come to her naturally, she said.
“I’ve always loved to draw and I have fun teaching children they can draw things too.”
Now 20, Leah has been teaching cartoon art as a business for more than five years and already has a large following around the county.
The Town n’ Country native recently held three Saturday morning classes at the South Shore Library, having been asked to teach as part of the holiday activities by the library’s coordinator of the John Crawford Art Studio, Laurie Burhop.
“I thought it was something area children would enjoy,” Laurie said. The library is always seeking out new and interesting programs to offer residents free of charge.
Leah’s mother, Bobi Lopez, acts as her assistant, driving her to her cartooning events and keeping track of the business details.
Leah’s smallest students had to be accompanied by a parent because they could participate as young as three. When they saw actual pictures developing out of their simple circles and lines their eyes lit up like Christmas trees.
“Oh, that’s so good,” Jamie Hall said as her two youngsters, Aaron and Reagan, sat beside her making gingerbread men that started simply with a large circle and took off from there.
Tara and Christopher Evans, across the room, also encouraged their daughter Sarah. “No, Mommy and Daddy are just here to watch,” Tara said at one point when Sarah wanted to share her colors. “You’re the one who’s going to make the picture.”
The second class of the day was for children six to nine years old, who were encouraged to use the theme “Florida as a Winter Wonderland.” This was followed by a time for children 10 and up to learn to draw manga characters, which is a basic lesson in drawing figures similar to Japanese animation comics, enjoyed by many teens and preteens.
Whether it’s zoo animals, marine life, comic characters or manga figures, Leah’s classes are geared for fun. She has held classes at schools around the county and been featured on Tampa Bay’s
Channel 10 segments “What’s Cool in School” and “Teacher of the Week.” She’s also performed at area recreation centers, including South County’s Bethune Park in Wimauma.
To find out more, visit Leah’s Cartooning Parties Inc. at www.cartooningparties.com; call (813) 885-7941; or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.