The artist in the library: Napa graduate creates caricatures, cartoons and films

August 31, 2016
Napa Valley Register

New Technology High School

For the last few months, Paola Delgado could be found sitting on one of the couches in the Napa County Library, discreetly drawing in her sketchbook. But 18-year-old Delgado isn’t just doodling; she is studying and drawing people in order to fine-tune her craft.

Delgado is a cartoonist, a filmmaker and even the author and illustrator of her own children’s book. Her short films have been screened in a Bay Area film festival and her most recent film is being shown at a film festival in New York City’s Times Square this October.


“I’ve been drawing since I was really young,” she said. “My friends and I would make little flip-books from sticky note pads and they grew out of it, but I thought it was cool how you could make pictures move.”

When her father noticed her interest, he encouraged her.

“My dad told me, ‘You know, people actually draw things for cartoons, right? That’s what their job is.’ And I was like ‘Wow’ and that’s how I got into it.”

Delgado draws inspiration from old Disney films like Steamboat Willie, which debuted in 1928. The characters’ simple shapes and the rhythmic movement is mesmerizing, Delgado said. “You can tell that there was so much thought put into it.”

Traditional 2-D animation is almost a “dying” form of animation, Delgado said, but she prefers it to 3-D animation. The hand-drawn animation takes a lot of time, but produces beautiful images, she said.

Delgado draws her designs using an animation disc and scans them into her computer. In addition to drawing by hand, Delgado also tries to create all her own sounds using instruments and objects.

She made her first short film when she was in middle school.

Her third film, called “Playmate,” won second place overall and first place in 2-D animation in the Bay Area Teen Animation Festival at The Walt Disney Family Museum. The film, which features a fox trying to get an alligator to play ball with him, is short and is set to The Fontane Sisters’ 1955 song “Playmates.”

“My Bird Arm,” her fourth short film, was shown at the Bay Area Teen Animation Festival in May and will be screened at the All American High School Film Festival the weekend of Oct. 7-9 at the AMC Empire Theaters in Times Square. The festival received more than 1,850 submissions from 48 states and more than 40 countries.

“My Bird Arm” is about when Delgado broke her arm playing on the arm of the sofa when she was 4. The cartoon shows her flapping her arms like a bird, then tumbling over and breaking her arm. Her arm is put in a cast, but when the cast is removed, her arm hasn’t healed correctly and is bent like the wing of a bird. When she gets into elementary school, Delgado is teased about her arm, but in the end, realizes that it isn’t something she should be insecure about.

 “You have to love yourself no matter what you look like,” she said. Delgado hopes the film will show others that it’s OK to be different and to even be proud of your uniqueness.

Although she isn’t able to attend the festival due to the expense, Delgado has plenty to look forward to. She just graduated from high school this past spring, is currently attending Napa Valley College and is transferring to Laguna College of Art and Design for animation next semester.

Delgado is also working on building her portfolio. One of the ways she does that is by drawing people in the library. It’s been helping her with her cartooning, she said.

“I wanted to get better at observational drawing,” Delgado said. People are always moving, though, so her drawings typically take only a minute or two to create.

In the last few months alone, Delgado has been approached to do commissioned art and is collaborating on projects with different community organizations. She may even teach an art lesson at the library’s How-to-festival in October. Delgado’s first community project was designing the poster for the First Annual Napa Valley Latino Heritage Month when she was only a freshman at New Tech High School. She has designed posters for Latino Heritage Month each year since 2012.

She is even working to get a children’s book published.

Delgado authored and illustrated a children’s book, “Willamina Krupp Wants to Grow Up,” for her senior project last year. The book took about six months to make and tells the story of a little girl who doesn’t want to listen to her parents and, instead, wants to be an adult.

Her parents let her leave and the girl, accompanied by a pet bird and wearing a princess crown and a tutu, tries to find a job and a house on her own, but it isn’t what she expects. Houses are expensive and instead of selling corn-on-the-cob, Willamina is answering phones. In the end she finds that “the best thing in life is being a kid.”

Delgado plans use the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to get the book published.

If the book is successfully published, Delgado could see Willamina Krupp getting into more adventures, but her ultimate goal is to create independent films using different types of animation.

“People don’t think art is as important as other things,” Delgado said. If it weren’t for her family supporting her, she may not have pursued her passion for animation as much as she has. It’s important for people to understand that there is an artist or designer behind everything, she said, even a park bench.

“Everything we see around us, there’s an artist behind it.”