Off the Page: Bobby Merino

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Here’s your chance to get behind the scenes with fanartists who bring your favorite young adult books to life.

Bobby “Niko” Merino is a student studying film at Columbia College in Chicago.

“I love creating stories so you’ll usually catch me doodling in a sketch book, typing on my laptop or filming with some friends,” said Merino. “One of my favorite YA books is Saenz’s He Forgot to say Goodbye. I remember reading it during a really stressful time in my life and it just became a part of me. Definitely at the very top of my list. [Another] of my favorites includes the Raven Cycle [series]by Maggie Stiefvater.”

  • Aristotle and Dante from Benjamin Alire Saenz' ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE.
What is it about Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s writing that inspired your art?
I really love his characters. There’s something so real about them. As I finished the last pages of  “Aristotle and Dante” I felt like I had just lived through every one of their experiences with them. It’s like they became friends instead of characters. So when I sat down to work on a drawing, I tried to keep that realness with me. I wanted to be able to paint a picture that conveyed similar emotions to that of Saenz’s writing.
Are there any other influences you included in your art?
Music is my top influence. I never sit down to draw unless there’s been a song dancing in my head. When drawing Ari and Dante, a lot of the artists that I’ve had playing in the background went hand in hand with what I thought was music the boys would listen to. Sometimes it was music that helped me visualize their relationship, or who they were as individuals.
What was the best reaction you’ve received?
Someone once sent me a message anonymously on tumblr that I just had to screenshot and still have tucked in somewhere in my folders on my laptop. They told me that my art really helped boost their mood whenever they felt down or were going through a rough time. They told me my art made them happy and to me, I feel like that’s the best reaction any artist can get from a viewer. It’s nice to see your art can affect someone in a very positive way.
What’s your process?
I really wish I had a process. I’m  a messy worker. I lay in bed, cook, walk around the house with millions of ideas running through my head and songs blasting one right after another through my headphones. Then I sit down and start scribbling on my tablet until something coherent pops up on the screen. And that’s just one of the countless ways I begin working.
Do you have any tools you like to work with?
Photoshop + Paint Tool Sai + my Wacom tablet are my golden trio. That’s what I mostly work with when making my art. I do have a couple of sketchbooks lying around that I take with me everywhere for warm up doodles.
What encouraged you to share your fanart?
I saw other people’s fanart on sites like DeviantArt and Tumblr of things that I liked and I caught myself saying things like “I really hope this artist draws this character or that character” until one day I asked myself, well, why don’t I just draw it? And the rest is history.
What piece are you most proud of?
Lately, the piece I’m most proud of is one I called “Con Los Pajaritos”, which means “with the little birds” in Spanish. It’s an Ari and Dante piece that I drew after a long stressful day. I started working on it during the night and finished it without any breaks. I was exhausted and I knew it certainly wasn’t my best piece since I didn’t feel like I focused well enough on it. But the reason I’m so proud of it is because I put more emotion than work into it. It’s difficult to explain. It was more of a therapeutic exercise for me. I feel like that is one of the few pieces that I can connect so well with. It’s a drawing that I poured a lot of myself into.
Do you have anything fun that you’re working on or would like to do someday?
I’m currently working on an original story called Carnaval de Cuentos. It’s still in its first developing stages but I hope to release it as a Web Comic by the end of this year or early next year. Carnaval de Cuentos revolves around a girl who stumbles across a mysterious traveling carnival. There she meets a dynamic set of twins, some ghosts, and supernatural fun time ensues!
As for the future, I aim to make a film based on a story I’m working on now called “Little Red Sheep”. I hope to be able to make it my first feature film once I graduated from Columbia.
What kind of advice or insight would you give to other artists?
Make goals but don’t s?et a destination. I used to think that once my art improved at a certain level, I had reached my maximum potential and that was as good of an artist as I would ever get. I could not have been more wrong! It’s nice reaching goals and becoming comfortable with where you are in terms of skills but trust me, it is so much more rewarding when you step out of that comfort zone. Don’t set a destination, keep growing as an artist. You’ll be amazed at the things you learn and how much you can grow along the way.
For more on Bobby Merino, visit him on Tumblr, deviantArt or his Society6 shop.
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About Author

Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.

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