School Memories by Sharean Morishita gracefully demonstrates the damage that a “harmless” prank can cause. This short webcomic packs in enough emotion and memorable moments to leave a lasting impact. Sharean shares her process and tips on improving your art.
Colton pulls pranks on his classmates. As long as they laugh, Colton feels like he fits in. Of course, there’s such a thing as taking it too far, but he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He doesn’t appreciate new student Echo making things worse and wonders why she’s so sensitive. When their teacher assigns them to do hair prep for school picture day, Colton decides to perform another one of his tricks, only to truly step out of line this time.
Back in February, I reviewed Sharean Morishita’s webcomic Love! Love! Fighting!, which I highly recommend for its well nuanced themes of antiblackness and self-worth. School Memories has compelled me from the first episode. Colton reads like every other class clown or prankster back in my elementary and middle school years. Most adults say “kids will be kids,” but teasing and joking around can cause harm. The class clown becomes the bully. A joke leads to trauma.
In School Memories, Colton intends to teach Echo how to lighten up during their class assignment. After that practical joke goes wrong, Colton talks to her about it. Echo mentions that she gets picked on at every new school she’s attended (her mother’s job demands frequent relocation), so his intentions come off as inconsiderate. He doesn’t know about her past experiences and what she’s been through.
School Memories does not drive down the route of a cheesy after school special. Sharean provides a wonderful and much needed message for her audience. The story doesn’t rely on exaggerated drama. Echo’s trauma isn’t exploited or downplayed. This is a gorgeous all ages webcomic about the importance of communication and compassion.
I’ve had the pleasure of reaching out to and giving Sharean the space to talk about the process and inspiration behind School Memories.
The Geekiary: I’m so excited to have you here! Let’s start by introducing yourself!
Sharean: Hi, my name is Sharean! I like to make comics to help me express myself and connect with others since I struggle a lot with verbal communication. I did attend an art institute for a brief period of time until I dropped out. I share my process and steps to making and publishing webtoon comics on my YouTube channel as a resource for others that might be struggling. I’ve been pursuing my goal of creating, publishing, and sharing my comics to anyone who might connect with them.
TG: Your work is phenomenal! School Memories has moved me from the first read. It’s the kind of story that stays with you. How has this gorgeous story come about? What’s your creative process?
Sharean: I’m so happy you liked my story! I always end up second guessing myself and my work whenever I finish and post it, so this really makes me so happy!
I first thought of this story because of what had happened during my sophomore year of high school. I had just moved to a new town in the middle of the semester, so I stuck out like a sore thumb and had to deal with being the target of unwanted attention from different classmates.
The story did change a little from what I initially intended it to be. I wanted to tell the story through Echo’s eyes, but when I write my stories, I tend to go with my gut feelings and it ended up being a story told through Colton’s perspective.
My creative process usually starts with me writing or typing out all of the lines of dialogue the characters will have with each other. Usually, I do that with the notes app on my phone or text editor on my computer.
After that, I start drawing my thumbnails on a sheet of paper or if I don’t feel like doing that I’ll start drawing the comic directly in Clip Studio Paint. (A few free program alternatives that I like to use that have similar comic features found within Clip Studio Paint would be Krita, Medibang Paint, Jump Paint, and ibisPaint).
I draw my whole comic digitally, so after I finish the rough draft, inking, text, and tones, I export them as a high resolution PNG. That way, I can get the files ready to be put into a PDF and uploaded on self-publishing platforms like Amazon KDP or Ingramspark.
I will also post my comic on my website for free for everyone to read, and that’s usually the final stage of my full creative process.
TG: You provide valuable resources and tutorials for webtoon artists. Do you have advice for creators wanting to improve their work?
Sharean: My perspective on art improvement tends to lead in the general direction of, “As long as you’re drawing, whether it’s a doodle here or there, you’re always improving.” What is good or bad, or what’s considered improving or not can be objective depending on the person looking at it.
So, I guess the advice that I would give to my younger self about wanting to improve, I’d say to keep moving forward no matter what obstacles are in the way. Each step, no matter how little it counts. Also, be kind to yourself. If you can allow yourself to take breaks because resent tends to subconsciously build up if I ignore the signs that my body and mind is telling me to stop drawing for a bit and then art block hits.
I’ve gone months and years of not drawing and have enjoyed the rest, and then I’d have years where I’d have fun drawing almost every day.
I’d also tell myself to remember that I’m human and that all of my efforts will never be wasted if I take a break — the goal is sustainability. Enjoying the process helps so much with sticking to something consistently and the way I enjoy something is by allowing myself to go at whatever pace I am feeling that day.
I don’t know if that really helps to answer the question, but I believe anyone can improve in anything no matter the pace they are going to reach that goal. But again that’s just part of my perspective on that.
TG: What are your favorite movies, TV shows, books, etc.? Anything that inspired your work?
I think the comedy and good feeling you get after watching shows, or reading books like those, inspired me the most to also try to do the same.
TG: Are there plans for a new project (or more) in the future?
Sharean: Right now my current project I’m working on is a 5 chapter short story called Whisper of Cinnamon, which is about a girl who is self-conscious about her voice. I plan to post that on my website as well as WebToon canvas and hopefully someday start working on another otome game!
The Kickstarter for the print copies of School Memories is live now (ends July 22)! The digital version is available to read for free on Sharean’s website and on Tapas. You can support Sharean on her Patreon.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives! You can find more about Black creators and their work on The Geekiary here.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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