URBANA — When Blessing Tshimankinda grows up, he wants to become the next Charles Schulz, of Peanuts fame.
But at 12, the budding artist in the Snoopy T-shirt has more modest goals, as well.
“For me,” he says, “it would be a dream come true to see my art in a newspaper.”
That’s the handiwork of Didier and Christine Tshimankinda’s seventh-grade son above. The Urbana Middle School student spends a good chunk of each day drawing cartoons, creating his own characters and giving them funny things to say and do.
“Peanuts is part of the reason why I draw comics,” he says. “That and another comic called Big Nate.”
Blessing has already created thousands of comic images in his nine notebooks, many of them featuring the characters of his two strips: Awesome Achilles and Rockin’ Robert.
“Achilles is a boy who is a little like me,” Blessing says. “He has a younger brother named Apollo and two friends, Orden and Jeffrey.
“And he has a crush on a girl named Cameron, but he is too shy to tell her. He is afraid it might make her mad.”
Blessing, who draws much of his inspiration from things he sees in school, goes to great lengths to give each character in his strip a unique look.
“For example, Orden has hair that makes it look like he is wearing a crown,” he says. “Over time, I modified Orden so the hair looked less like a crown. Finally, I changed his name to Robert and made him the star of my second strip, Rockin’ Robert.
“Robert is just like me, and he has a friend who lives next door. Robert doesn’t like to play football because he often gets hurt when he plays it.”
It takes him about 90 minutes to complete a four-panel strip after getting the inspiration for his message, characters and art.
“Each one is fun to draw,” he says. “I like it best when my characters get mad, so I can give them a lot of dialogue and fun facial expressions.”