HUDSON — It takes a teen to properly describe the angst of being a teenager.
From San Perlita, Texas, Western Reserve Academy senior Harley Fisher has captured this world of adolescence in both art and word.
Her book, “It Gets Worse,” has 21 original poems and graphic art. With its dark humor, the book takes its inspiration from Fisher’s life and the lives of other students at WRA, she said.
The title refers to the all too commonplace news of shootings, brutality and government shutdowns that can bombard both teens and adults.
“It seems to constantly be getting worse, but it does get better,” Fisher said. “A lot of my artwork is an extension of getting my feelings out. When I'm angry, I draw. It's a therapeutic way to deal with my feelings.”
Fisher says a person can be angry and in a situation where they might not be able to express it.
“You can't yell at the person in front of you, especially if they are trying to comfort you when you just want to be alone,” she said.
She says art allows her a different avenue of expression. Melting faces show anxiety and the psychedelic colors demonstrate anger. Her drawings are symbolic, like the panel with names falling off the name tags.
One of her shorter graphic stories is about a computer who gains consciousness and realizes he is a computer, she said. The drawings are about symbolic anxiety.
“Writing is a productive way to create stories and not put yourself in them but leave a part of yourself behind,” Fisher said.
Graphic novels were a destiny of sorts for Fisher. She is named for Harley Quinn, a psychiatrist-turned-villain in the Batman comic book series.
“She's one of my favorite comic characters,” she said.
Ten years ago, Fisher was in foster care and now she's a senior at WRA with college on the horizon. She has been accepted to Columbia University, CAL Arts and Savannah School of Design and is weighing funding and options.
“Constant change is living,” she said. “It doesn't matter how hard life is while you're going through it. It can't break you, and you can overcome it. We will get better. We just have to keep trying.”
Fisher has been working on her book in independent study, part of the Compass Program. Students are required to present a project idea and teachers decide whether the project is community-oriented and can be completed in a year. The program funds the publishing of the book and sales funnel back into the Compass Program.
“The idea is to create something that will help mankind,” Fisher said.
Fisher says inspiration for her work also came from her parents’ and grandparents' journeys from Mexico to America. Her great-grandmother lived on the Apache reservation but had to leave when she married a Mexican, Fisher's great-grandfather.
“If we tell stories it should be about something we experienced,” Fisher said. “Not all [stories and poems] are about high school, but I use the experience to create a story.”
She says her dream job is to work as an animator on the Cartoon Network or create her own comic book. She said she prefers a smaller company that cares about the artist and offers greater creative freedom than a big company interested in the bottom line.
The biggest challenge has been her busy schedule. She is president of three clubs, plays sports and participates in choir and school musicals. She played the witch in “Into the Woods.” She also submits her writing and artwork for Bufo, a journal of creative writing by WRA students. In addition, she created the cover with a frog the last two years.
Fisher created the graphic novel digitally with a program from Wacom Intuos Co. that allows the user to illustrate on a computer using a pad with dots and a special pen. The layers allow the drawing to begin as a line and add color and shading.
“You need a lot of eye-hand coordination but the more you do it, the easier it becomes,” Harley said.
“It Gets Worse” will be available at WRA during the Compass Expo on April 25 and at The Learned Owl Book Shop on April 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On May 8 she plans a book reading party on the WRA campus.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org