HomeBooks by SubjectActivity BooksLearn to Draw with Jess Smart Smiley, Creator of Let’s Make Comics

Learn to Draw with Jess Smart Smiley, Creator of Let’s Make Comics

The Children’s Book Review | February 11, 2019

In our sixth installment of the “Learn to Draw on TCBR” series, Jess Smart Smiley, author-illustrator of Let’s Make Comics, teaches us how to make a comic.

Grab a pencil and a sketch book and let’s learn to draw together!

We hope you’ll share your drawings with us on Instagram by using #learntodrawonTCBR and tagging us: #LetsMakeComics, @thechildrensbookreview, @jess.smart.smiley, and @tenspeedpress!

Introducing Jess Smart Smiley

Jess Smart Smiley

Jess Smart Smiley

Hi! My name is Jess Smart Smiley and I like to make family-friendly comics for all ages.

I have enjoyed helping more than 2,000 children, teens, and adults around the world in making their first comics. I have been invited to teach comics at schools, libraries, bookstores, book festivals, comic conventions, and museums.

Through teaching, I came up with a series of activity pages to help students in making comics. When students don’t have to worry about “messing up” a blank sheet of paper, it relieves the pressure of making things perfect, and allows students to focus on continuing what already exists on the page, while also allowing the student the freedom to use their choice of drawing tools, drawing styles, and creative sensibilities/preferences.


Let's Make Comics!- An Activity Book to Create, Write, and Draw Your Own CartoonsLet’s Make Comics is a comics activity book, where each page features a new incomplete comic for readers to complete through writing and drawing. It’s a fun way to make comics (while simultaneously teaching the function of words and pictures in telling a story).

Parents, librarians, and educators have celebrated the book’s unique promotion of literacy, and professional creators have voiced their jealousy of children who learn through the book practical writing, drawing, and storytelling techniques.

Enough preamble—let’s make comics!

Find something to write/draw with. Pencils, ballpoint pens, colored pencils, and markers are all great options.

We’re going to do the “Friendly Time Travel” activity on page 6.

The directions are simple: “Send a friend through time by drawing them as they might look in each of the time periods listed below”.


The example comic has been drawn by a turtle named Peanut about his friend, a bear named Bramble. (Peanut and Bramble are our guides through the book. They show up on each page to walk the reader through the activities.) The bottom comic is incomplete, and includes four different time periods: five years ago, now, in five years, and in fifty years.

Just as Peanut drew Bramble in each of the time periods, our job is to draw a character in each of the time periods. The character you draw is up to you. It can be a character you made up, a character from your favorite comic or movie, or it can be someone you know.

I’ve never traveled through time before, so I’m going to draw myself into the comic.


Five years ago I was wearing striped shirts, drawing at the library and bookstore, and had a pompadour hairstyle.

Now I draw in bed, while doctors and specialists work to find out why I’m in so much pain.


In five years, I’ll have made tons of money from my comics and will run out of space to keep all my thousand-dollar bills.


In fifty years, I’ll be almost 90 years old. I’ll wear pajamas and slippers, and I’ll still be making comics.


I did it! I made a comic!

Even though this comic is only four panels long, it tells a story—the story of me aging. The written time periods help the reader know the time difference between each panel, and the drawings show the effect of that time on the character. The words and pictures both give important information that helps the reader understand the comic.

Now it’s your turn! Pick up Let’s Make Comics and send a friend, character, or even yourself through time by filling in the blank panels with your own drawings. (The activity pages are all 8.5 x 11”, so they’re easy to make copies for friends, students, or for making different comics with the same activity.)

Be sure to upload your comics using #LetsMakeComics.

Let's Make Comics!- An Activity Book to Create, Write, and Draw Your Own CartoonsLet’s Make Comics!: An Activity Book to Create, Write, and Draw Your Own Cartoons

Written and Illustrated by Jess Smart Smiley

Publisher’s Synopsis: A light-hearted interactive guide to comics and cartoon-making that uses an activity book format and creatively stimulating prompts to teach the fundamentals of cartooning in a fun and easy-to-follow fashion.

From a working cartoonist and comic book making instructor, this all-ages activity book uses humorous and informative one-page comics and exercise prompts to guide young readers (and readers who are young at heart) through easy-to-master lessons on the skills needed to make comics. The activities cover a range of essential comics-making tasks from creating expressions for characters to filling in blank panels to creating original characters and placing them in adventures of their own. Each exercise can stand on its own or work together with others in the book to stimulate creativity via the comics medium. In the end, readers who complete the activities inside the book itself will have created several comics of their own, and will have generated many ideas for more sequential art creations.

Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Watson-Guptill | June 5, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0399580727

Available Here

About the Author-Illustrator

Jess Smart Smiley is a joke. Seriously. He makes rad pictures with his bare hands and loves creating stories for all ages. Jess lives in Utah, where he can be found drawing in his sketchbook, hosting a comic jam, or enjoying time with his family.

Discover more books like ‘Let’s Make Comics!,’ written and illustrated by Jess Smart Smiley, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with Be sure to follow along with our  series, too!

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