Photo courtesy of Jennifer Thiele

Sitting with his legs crossed, the young boy stared nervously at his sketchbook as comic book artist Ryan Claytor continued to carefully draw a sketch for him. Claytor’s meticulous hand slowly crafted the sketch, his eyes glaring into the book. It was as if he was on another planet.

“You might as well take a hike around the store if you’re going to wait for Claytor, kid,” another artist said, bellowing in friendly laughter with the other unoccupied artists lined up beside him at the signing.

Claytor finally raised his head and summoned the boy whose eyes lit up immediately at the sight of the sketch. The boy shyly thanked him and hurried away. Claytor sat back, smiled and remembered once again why he loves to draw.

For some comic book artists, drawing is their life. For local artist Ryan Claytor, his comics are literally his life. Since 2004, Claytor has been producing small, velvet-covered comic books called “And Then One Day.” Each book is a graphical journal of events in his life, all of which are far more entertaining to read about than they should be. As each day passes and the pages continue to turn, the life of a comic book geek trying to pursue a career in teaching develops to the point where readers envision themselves at his interviews, cheering him on. Claytor’s ability to transform his everyday life into an emotional and exciting experience for all audiences separates his comics from any other rising artist.

Born and raised in Santa Ynez, Claytor became addicted to comics in 2001, inspired by the work of his favorite artist, Sergio Aragones. Comics became more than simply a hobby around the time he was finishing up his undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara. When not consumed by comics or studying at UCSB, Claytor remembers when he would come up to Cal Poly to “whomp on the pingpong” tables with friends at Tenaya and shake his “money maker” at The Graduate. Once he had a degree under his belt, Claytor wasted little time in continuing his passion for comics.

After an internship at Marvel Comics in New York, Claytor returned to California and created the first issue of “And Then One Day.” Since then, he has helped organize and also participated in two “24 Hour Comics Day” events where artists must make a 24-page comic book in a mere 24 hours. Claytor described the experience as “if for one day your head is turned into a giant tube of toothpaste, the contents are your creative juices and for 24 hours straight you have someone jumping up and down on your head spraying the contents all over these pages in front of you. It’s an uncanny, trying and very rewarding experience.”

Every year, Claytor attends several geek-swamped comic book conventions such as ApeCon, ComicCon and WonderCon where he meets with comic fans of all shapes and sizes. When not “geeking out” with fellow comic book fans, Claytor enjoys meeting with the younger crowd.

“I’ll get kids who come up to me, showing me their portfolio or sketchbooks and I love giving them encouragement and little helpful tips that I’ve received walking around doing the same exact thing that they’re doing,” Claytor said. “That’s love, baby.”

In September 2005, Claytor decided to pursue his dream of teaching and entered San Diego State University in hopes of attaining a master’s of fine arts. Prior to his return to school, Claytor had been teaching at Santa Barbara Community College in their multimedia arts and technologies department. In his comics, readers follow him along his quest to become a teacher as he encounters multiple emotional and exciting obstacles. After graduate school, Claytor hopes to one day teach a comic book studio class, a blend of multimedia and fine arts.

“I think there’s a lot more interaction that can take place in community colleges between multimedia programs and fine art departments,” Claytor said, “and I would like to facilitate communication between the two worlds.”

With school consuming most of his time, Claytor has been taking a bit of a break from comics. He hasn’t stopped drawing, however, and will soon be releasing a 90-page sketchbook in the same diary style as his popular “And Then One Day” series.

He has also been involved in an ongoing online collaborative comic strip, in which he and another artist switch off drawing panels.

Claytor said that he and his partner in the strip, Shana Manion, “were both so excited about it, that for a time in the beginning we were hammering out one, sometimes two panels a day. It was amazing to see this really thoughtful story unfolding, and even more exciting not knowing where it was going to go.”

Claytor has a few ideas about future non-autobiographical comics, including a 19 panel sequential art quilt depicting his close relationship with his grandmother, but for now it’s all about finishing graduate school. As his father used to tell him, “It’s like eating an elephant.

You do it one bite at a time and before you know it, you’re done.” Claytor even named his comic publishing company, Elephant Eater Comics, after his father’s sagacious advice. In the many years ahead, Claytor is sure to please the comic world one bite and one comic at a time.

For more information on Claytor and his comics, visit

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