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Award-winning cartoonist, illustrator to teach classes in Largo

Published Jul. 31, 2012

LARGO

Although he has made a living with pencils and paper, Peter Pachoumis expects that his future will include less lead and more gigabytes.

"Because of computers, a lot of things will change, and change is okay as long as I'm not growing a third arm or something,'' said Pachoumis, 37.

The freelance illustrator has a portfolio filled with work, including Star Trek and Terminator sketch cards for the Topps Co., Batman sketches for DC Comics and a series of comic books for Disney's Hercules.

Now he's preparing his lesson plans for cartooning classes.

The city recreation program planner, Christina Heubel, said that when she met the artist, she found it fascinating that he lived here.

"It's not that I don't think we have talent in this community. We do, but when I saw his portfolio and his capability, I just felt like he is a hidden gem in Largo,'' she said.

Although people are getting their entertainment less from the printed page and more from computers and TV screens, Pachoumis thinks there's still plenty of interest in hand-drawn art.

"When I look down the road, say 10 years from now, I will still be drawing. That won't go away, but instead of pencils and paper, I will probably be using a stylus on some sort of computer screen instead,'' he said.

Pachoumis, who grew up on Manhattan's Upper East Side, spent hours as a child combing the walls of New York City's museums.

"The Met was just a 10-minute walk from my house. I was very young when I was exposed to art,'' he said.

But when he picked up drawing as a hobby, it wasn't because of Picasso, Van Gogh or Vermeer.

"My main inspiration was comic books, in particular Jack Kirby's. When I looked at Jack Kirby's work, especially his early Fantastic Four stuff, it was like I could hear what he was drawing. Everything had movement. You could hear the punches.''

After receiving his high school diploma from the prestigious High School of Art and Design of New York City, Pachoumis soon had enough confidence to begin showing comic book publishers his work.

"I began cold-calling companies, and finally I got my foot in the door,'' he recalled. "I'd be hired to sketch, and usually someone else would ink it.''

The illustrator has had a hand in award-winning advertising campaigns in the past five years. In 2007, he received a gold Addy Award for work done for North Country Savings Bank in New England, and in 2008, he received a gold and silver Addy for his work on an Idaho Potato campaign.

"But even with my work in advertisements, actually in everything, I always incorporate my comic book style,'' he said. "It's kind of Roy Lichtenstein-esque, and it seems to work.''

Illustrators of all levels will benefit from his classes beginning in September, when he'll teach figure drawing, page design and storytelling. He'll also give a few career tips.

So how did the New York artist wind up here?

Ten years ago, he and wife Jennifer went through a snowstorm that left them without power for eight days.

"We decided that a change was needed,'' he said. "We originally came here for the weather.''

Eighteen months ago, the couple's daughter, Alexandria, was born.

"I plan on taking her to as many museums as I can, if that's what she's interested in, but who knows if she'll be interested in art?'' Pachoumis said. "Right now, we give her a crayon and she eats it.''

Piper Castillo is reachable at pcastillo@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4163.

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