Aspiring cartoonist Spencer Villinski, 11, of Pittsfield, got a boost in this month's National Geographic Kids magazine, a special Halloween-themed issue.
Each month the magazine invites young people to submit a drawing based on a prompt for a chance at seeing their picture published in the magazine's "Art Zone" feature.
Villinski's drawing, "Crazy Labs Inc.," was featured in a gallery of eight drawings in the October 2013 edition of National Geographic Kids. Readers were asked to draw their interpretation of a scary scientist.
"I like art and I like science, so I knew I could draw something creative," Villinski told The Eagle.
He's been drawing "since he could hold a pencil," said Villinski's mother, Anahid Avsharian.
Now, as a sixth-grader at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, Villinski draws both in school and in his free time.
He said he's learned to practice making multiple drafts and editing his work, particularly if it's for a project.
"For National Geographic, I made each drawing and really looked at it and thought, "If it did get in the magazine, how would it look?' If I didn't like it, I would change it," Villinski said.
The student said he's encouraged by assignments, like the science poster he designed for teacher Richard Sanders' science class, and also having the opportunity to participate in Karen Romeo-Léger's after-school Art Club on Wednesdays.
"His teachers have been very responsive to his work," Avsharian said.
Villinski said he's also encouraged by his family and friends to draw.
In addition to drawing characters and mini-comics in his own free time, he designs plush monsters for his mother to sew. In recent years, Villinski has given his stuffed characters to friends and family members as gifts, and has also sold some at local craft fairs.
Avsharian said after her son submitted his drawing to National Geographic Kids, he would come home each day to check the mailbox. On the day last month that the magazine arrived, she and her husband, John Villinski, and Spencer's younger sister, Kate, all surprised Spencer after school, showing him his drawing in glossy, color print.
"I flipped out," the young artist said, with a big smile.
He said he plans to continue drawing. He's influenced by fantasy stories, like the Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson & The Olympians" series, as well as The Muppets, Uglydoll toys, characters from Cartoon Network's "Regular Show," and Marvel Comics.
The student's original characters include a orange-haired and mustached fellow named Doodle; a superhero named Bunny Man and a purple monster named Big Eye.
Ultimately, Villinski he'd like to get into claymation; he said he loves the British clay-animated series "Wallace & Gromit," created by Nick Park.
"Whatever I work on, I like to make it as good as it can be, and really colorful," he said.