Justin Canha cartooning workshop

Justin Canha cartooning workshop

Justin Canha’s artwork filled the gallery walls, the entire Starving Artist Cafe and hallway January 4 – Feb 4 with huge tropical oil pastel flowers and animals, captivating charcoal figures, big blowups of his miniature cartoon characters and his own cartoon creations! Justin is an artist who happens to be on the autistic spectrum. At 24 years old he is constantly creating, developing his style and working towards independence.

On January 24th with the CIP students, he shared another of his talents – teaching! In the midst of the gallery filled with his own art, Justin offered a workshop in cartooning to our art students. Justin drew on a white board step by step, how to create some very familiar cartoon characters. In minutes the students were following along. He was entertaining, engaging and encouraging – looking over one student’s shoulder he says, “Wow, you’re fast!”

Justin was not alone. His friend and mentor Melissa Wish assisted him as she does in the five schools where Justin teaches art.  Good friend Ben Stamper was also there filming the workshop as he is making a documentary on this young man’s journey to independence. His parents who have contributed greatly to Justin’s success attended in the background and the Berkshire Eagle  having interviewed Justin earlier, stayed on to see him in action.

The students had fun and learned how to draw some famous cartoon characters. Some were so into their drawing they did not want to leave even after the tables were taken away! It is inspiring to learn from one so skilled and impassioned. I got to tell Justin later in the day before his artist reception that he had made my dream come true. He asked, “How?” And I told him we always wanted have an artist teaching our students right in the gallery amid their work filling the walls, and he did. And he did it so well.

At the reception that night Justin said to me, “My paintings are a miracle.” I asked him “How?”
He paused and said, “My paintings are a miracle because they bring people joy.”

Currently on exhibit at the Good Purpose Gallery: The Art of Autism 2014, running through March 10 featuring Justin Canha and 11 other artists on the Autistic spectrum.

Dianne Steele, coordinator

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