Pop culture portraits with a twist

Video by Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

After picking a photo of a pop culture character, Juan Duran, a senior at Canyon High School, got to work drawing.

Soon, Duran had sketched out his character in pencil and switched to markers.

“If I don’t trace my drawings, I feel like the drawings have no realism to them,” he said, as he began tracing the sketch.

It didn’t take long for Duran to begin coloring the character in, explaining that he typically uses markers and colored pencils for this task.

“Most of my drawings are done with the snap of a finger, as Thanos would say,” he said. “The first second I start, and the next second, I’m already coloring it in.”

In just a matter of minutes, Duran had completed his latest installment in a series he calls the “Lit” series — a portrait of Tony Stark made to look like Bret Lieberman, who just happens to be his favorite teacher.

“He knocks out two of these things a day,” said Lieberman, a special education teacher. “It all started with a picture of me for Teacher of the Year for a little campaign, and making another year ‘lit.’ All of the pictures are pop culture people mixed with myself.”

Each drawing has only two things in common: They encompass Lieberman and utilize the word “lit” in some way, such as his President Trump drawing that reads, “We don’t need it great, it already is. We just need the litness back.”

“All these pop culture characters are making it lit just because Mr. Lieberman is in it,” Duran said, adding that he adds a mullet to give Lieberman more personality and “the lit power.”

From his first drawing of Kanye West to Conor McGregor, Eminem, Judy Judy and even the school’s principal, the collection continued to grow throughout the year, and Lieberman decided to create space on the classroom wall to showcase the art.

“It made me feel great,” Duran said regarding the wall of his art. “It showed proof of how much Mr. Lieberman appreciates me.”

Lieberman loves being Duran’s muse, and said he enjoys getting lost looking at the wall of drawings, pointing out the details in Travis Barker’s tattoos and one of his favorites, Snoop Dogg.

“He’s so creative, I love it,” Lieberman said. “I’m the luckiest teacher alive.”

Duran has had a huge passion for drawing since he was 7 and began watching cartoons.

“That was the thing that built up my imagination and inspired me,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been creating my own characters.”

Juan Duran, a senior at Canyon High School, and his teacher Bret Lieberman , left to right, pose in front of the wall of portraits Juan created using the educator as his muse. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

Though Duran wishes there could be erasable markers for paper, most of his drawings turn out just right the first time, and each simply takes imagination, skill and creation, he said.

And with a number of drawings on the wall, it was hard for Duran to pick just one favorite.

“Thanos is one of my huge, hit drawings — one of my greatest hits,” he said, adding that people loved it. “Next, I’d have to say Gordon Ramsay or should I say, ‘Chef Lieberman,’ where instead of the lamb sauce, he asks, ‘Where is the Lieber-sauce?’”

Duran said he loves to draw and is extremely blessed to have this passion in his life. “It makes me happy, and makes me feel proud of myself.”

Drawing isn’t his only hobby, though, and he’s currently working on a movie he’s had in mind since 2015.

“I’m actually rewriting the script for a fourth time now, because when it comes to writing a movie, it takes time,” he said. “It’s worth being difficult It’s worth struggling in order to get it right.”

His dream is to become an animator and a filmmaker, which Lieberman hopes to help him accomplish with the help of Yes I Can Unity Through Music & Education, a program at College of the Canyons that provides career exploration and job shadowing for young adults on the autism spectrum.

For now, Duran is just going to keep drawing, and once he’s out of space on the wall, he simply plans to go to the hardware store and buy a huge piece of wood, because, he said, “This series perhaps shall never come to an end.”

Juan Duran explains the idea and inspiration for his portraits he creates using his teacher Mr. Lieberman mixed with pop culture personalities as his muse. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

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