SHAMOKIN - Brandon Zalar is just 21, but his artwork has already been firmly established in the annals of Shamokin history.

He's the designer of the Anthracite Heritage Festival logo.

He drafted the logo nearly 10 years ago, when he was a student of Lisa Welch. His parents enrolled him in extracurricular art classes in elementary school because, from the time Zalar could hold a pen, he was constantly drawing.

"They've been supportive my entire life," said Zalar.

One afternoon when Brandon was two, he was especially quiet, causing his parents, who were in the next room, to wonder what the toddler was up to.

They found him alone in the kitchen, where scribbles in permanent marker covered the cabinets and appliances.

"I draw," the then toddler proudly told his father.

Zalar's parents gave him paper and repainted the kitchen.

On to cartoons

By six, Zalar had graduated from scribbles to cartoons, sketching with marker and colored pencils in drawing pads.

Cartoons quickly became his favorite. He could quickly create characters, complete with backstory and personality, in his head and would sketch them out in different poses.

Zalar said as a child he loved to read and watch cartoons. He was an avid follower of newspaper classics like Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, Hagar the Horrible and Peanuts and enjoyed animated movies like "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and the "Lion King." He also read Spiderman comics, which he acquired through his grandfather's subscription.

Zalar especially took note of the drawing styles, and liked ones that he described as, "stylized," whether it was a bubble rounded cartoon-style or a sketchy look.

By 14, Zalar had graduated to drawing comic strips. He began by sketching some of his high school friends as cartoon characters, often covering the backs of tests and assignments, to the chagrin of his instructors.

A teacher approached him one day and suggested he create a narrative of the characters, and so Zalar began filling the first of 23 notebooks with "The School of Hard Knocks."

And a web series

Recently, Zalar returned to these drawings, transforming them into a web series. He said the earliest drawings were the roughest, and many lacked a narrative arc, but he hope to eventually add the entire series, which he had a complete vision for, to his Tumblr page.

He began publishing the web comic series while attending the Art Institute of York, where he earned his bachelor's degree in media arts and animation.

While in school, he also had the opportunity to try his hand at 3-D animation, but decided to stick with 2-D drawings because he preferred the style. He's adopted using a digital tablet to create work electronically, but still prefers to sketch his ideas with pen and paper.

"I feel better about drawing it on paper first," said Zalar.

Draw every day

Now that he's returned home to Shamokin, Zalar said he prefers to work alone because he can easily "get in the zone" to draw, but he found the Internet extremely helpful in connecting with an audience.

"It gives, especially creative people, limitless freedom in getting yourself out there," said Zalar.

Currently, Zalar works nights at Sterman Masser Potato Farms, but he spends most of his free time - usually around four hours each day - working on his art.

"I make sure I do something every day," said Zalar.

Inspiration can strike at any time for Zalar, even when he's at work.

It was on a break at Sterman Masser that he came up with Kiki, a jungle tigress with large green eyes and swirling stripes. He said he frequently doodles on his breaks and on this night, he felt like drawing a tiger.

"I liked the design so I rolled with it," said Zalar.

Many of Zalar's drawings are imaginative: a female pirate with a long braid and foaming mug of ale; a blue and white striped sea creature; a girl climbing a rope up a steep cliff.

"I always lean toward something that's more on the creative side," said Zalar.

His imaginative drawings have caught the eye of local groups, like the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area authority, which commissioned him to create the promotional video featured on its website.

He hopes to continue with 2-D animation is currently working on a short film.

At this weekend's festival, Zalar will have a stand where he creates cartoon drawings of customers.