California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Designing illustrations for ‘Pony the Snail’

    Moorpark native and junior at California Lutheran University, Ryan Cohen, doodles all day with aspirations to become a professional story artist for Disney or Pixar.

    Cohen has done art his entire life and is now studying art in school. Although a predominantly self-taught artist, Cohen said he has definitely seen an improvement since coming to Cal Lutheran.

    In 2014, Cohen began illustrating for a soon-to-be published children’s book, leading the creative design and crafting each illustration.

    “Pony the Snail” is a book that depicts the journey of a young boy befriending a snail he affectionately named Pony.

    Mother and author of “Pony the Snail,” Crystal Swanson, teamed up with Cohen after previous illustrators fell through and Cohen’s mother connected the two.

    Swanson found inspiration in her youngest son Dylan Swanson who was afraid of snails for a short time. She wanted him to not be afraid of them since they are always in their yard.

    “Finding an illustrator is difficult. Not only do you have to find a person who can illustrate exactly how you envision your story, but you want to find someone that shares both your vision and passion,” Swanson said.

    Cohen applies his four years of Photoshop education with his previous art experience and uses sketches and a digital tablet for his illustrations.

    “For the book, I sketch it out on paper and then import the photo into Photoshop and draw over it, or sometimes I’ll sketch it right on the computer. I like it because you can refine it over and over until it’s perfect,” Cohen said.

    The process of sketching, importing, and reworking takes time and shows Cohen the difficulty of becoming an illustrator.

    “I didn’t realize how much work this one was going to be [especially] while being a student and working,” Cohen said.

    Swanson said how writing the short story may have been the simplest part.

    “I had an idea, I ran with it, and words easily poured out,” Swanson said.

    The illustrations take more time because there are rough sketches, final sketches, image placement and medium preferences, all the while working to bring a vision to life, according to Swanson.

    “The stories I create mean a lot to me. They are my ideas coming to life and it’s a job for only the right illustrator,” Swanson said.

    According to Madison Taylor, senior at Cal Lutheran and a Behavioral Interventionist at Holdsambeck and Associates in Ventura County, said “Pony the Snail” can be read both in the classroom and at home, but it’s useful to have out of the box techniques to help teach different skills, especially for kids with learning differences.

    “We use social stories a lot to teach different types of behaviors, and a lot of kids have irrational fears,” like Dylan Swanson and his fear of snails, Taylor said.

    “Pony the Snail” discovers overcoming fears and follows the story of an unusual and wondrous friendship.

    “It’s very cute, I think people of all ages will like it. We’re hoping that eventually the schools will buy it up,” Cohen said.

    Cohen has worked to embody the eager spirit of a child in his illustrations and found a quote from Disney Pixar that continues to provide inspiration.

    “We always have a friend, no matter how small or unlikely, or different. Friendships like these can last forever, but they all begin in a single moment.”

    Through ups and downs, Swanson and Cohen continue to share a vision and hope for publication in the near future.

    “I felt really disappointed because I thought I was letting her down because of how time consumed I was,” Cohen said.

    Despite Cohen’s challenges, Swanson said how she has had a remarkable experience.

    “It’s amazing. It’s been an amazing journey so far. Seeing my ideas come to life just leaves me speechless,” Swanson said.

    Cohen’s commitment and collaboration with Swanson has produced community support, including a Facebook page for “Pony the Snail” that readers can ‘like’ and follow for updates.

    Dedication, patience and trust have proven results for this dynamic duo.

    “Success isn’t achieved easily. It’s a lot of ups and down and then you get there,” Cohen said.

    Visit “Pony the Snails” Facebook for release information, contests and illustration updates.

    Laurel Skinner
    Staff Writer
    Published November 4th, 2015