|Jayson and son at a signing event.|
PANAMA CITY — I grabbed a coffee with JaysonKretzer, graphic artist and founder of Panama City Creative Con, last week to catch up on his efforts to finalize the event.
I’ve known Jayson for a while. I know he likes superhero stories with at least a hint of sunshine in them. Heroes who want to be heroes, who fight for a better world and believe that’s an achievable goal.
Turns out, that’s kind of what he’s all about. He started CreativeCon to give youngsters an opportunity he missed as a child — to be exposed to creative career paths and meet potential mentors, while celebrating the imagination.
“From the time I was a pre-teen and received my first comic book, I was intrigued by art,” Jayson said in a letter to art teachers that he circulated to promote the event. “That’s also when I figured out I was a visual learner.”
But he had no idea how to pursue art as a career. Growing up in the Northwest Florida Panhandle, he never had the opportunity to meet artists in his chosen field or even learn about educational opportunities to enter creative fields.
Finally, at age 25, he attended a comic convention, where he met many industry professionals face-to-face who helped put him on the right track. Now, for more than 15 years, Jayson has worked from home doing freelance illustration, graphic arts and website design. His work also includes sketch cards created for Marvel- and Cartoon Network-licensed products and two self-published books. In addition, he teaches drawing classes in schools and other venues.
Twenty years after he graduated from high school, comic book movies dominate the big screen while graphic novels are moving into classrooms as a learning tool. Between those very visible media, plus the growing popularity of web comics and cinematic video games, Jayson has seen “a renewed interest in sequential art.”
Seeing all that developing on the horizon, Jayson wanted to give children and teens the chance he didn’t have until adulthood; he wanted to establish a convention that would inspire them to be lifelong creators.
“The goal of Creative Con is three-fold,” Kretzer said. “One: To give young people in our area access to mentors in the field they are interested in. Two: To show K-12 students educational opportunities in our area that will help them fulfill their dreams. And three: To provide children with the tools they need to succeed — staying right here.”
Even here in the Panhandle, where it seems like the 21st century is still just getting a foothold, you can make a go of it in creative fields. And you can help others follow their dreams as well.