Sunday, December 19, 2010

IT'S A WRAP!!!


It's a wrap... or maybe it's a burrito from Chipotle. I have eaten so much burrito that I know all the perfect combinations depending on my mood. Well, they usually involve steak, spice, sour cream, cheese, rice, pinto beans and A LOT of Guacamole... and that is my healthy meal. But I'm not going to delve on my eating habits, at least not on this entry. The reason it is a wrap is because the semester is over. Sure, I have to be back in 2 weeks in order to start the second semester, but the good thing is that now I can assess my efforts! The problem with art courses is that the teachers rarely give you a grade. It is much more complicated than that, and the reason is that they have to measure improvement, technique, ability to comprehend the material, attendance, and the infamous participation. I know by fact that participation is not my strongest suit, sometimes because I just don't feel like saying anything, other times because I don't feel comfortable making a critique about my classmates works. Still, I know that you need to participate to improve the dynamic of the class, but at my age I simply don't care, I just want to learn what I am paying for. Also, art students improve at their own pace and the teachers have to measure that! I've seen masterpieces from some classmates and horrible horrible artwork from others! Oh the HORROR!!! I'm glad to say that I am above average but my weaknesses are other man's (or woman's) strength! In any case, I would expect, based on my effort, that I get A in all my subjects, but that is what I don't know yet. Still, If I get a B I will now know that I have to put more effort in that class, but seriously, more??? I guess I could push it a little more but then I would have absolutely NO LIFE outside my drawing table or my easel!

Which painfully reminds me of an anecdote that happened to me in a social event. I was in a wedding and an acquaintance (if this wouldn't have happened maybe I would refer to him as "a friend") asked me the typical "fill in the uncomfortable silence" question: What are you up to? I have to admit that I always say that I am studying art (and just ART), and based on their response or attitude towards my answer I can expand it to illustration. If they're still getting the idea and want more I will proudly say that my major is cartooning. Still want more clarification? My final answer: "Comics". To tell you the truth, when someone do not understand they stop at my first answer, but sometimes curiosity is an extreme impulse and when they get to the comics part they just get lost in translation. I told this acquaintance of mine that my plan is to study 2 years for the Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA), 2 years for the Master in Fine Arts (MFA), and finally 1 more year as an Optional Practical Training (OPT) in which I can work in the United States. He thought he understood and replied with this: "Oh, so you are taking 5 years off!" Let me say upfront that this is an insulting remark and you should probably say it, in any situation, at your own risk! Still, I didn't succumb to my animalistic nature and like a passive aggressive yet sarcastic adult I let it go! I know most of the people don't understand what the hell I'm doing and believe me, if I would tell what I'm doing to myself from six years ago maybe I would say "you are crazy", but to endure what I'm going through to be rewarded with that comment it is just unfair. Like one good friend said to me "get used to this because this will happen from now on until the day you die". Ok, I'm going to change the subject because thinking about it just boils my blood up too much and although I can accept criticism very well I know I'm not mature enough to respond well to those derogatory comments.

New York is freezing, and it's supposed to get worse in the next couple of months. If anything is telling me to quit this challenge is that, but just for a second when I'm clenching my teeth on a windy corner waiting for the sign to change. I'm getting prepared because no matter what I will finish my career. Still, when I upgrade my wardrobe with a new fluffy jacket the temperature just happens to drop. It seems that I will always be cold or that I'm too stubborn to wear my heavy-duty jacket. My logic is that if I use that jacket now, then in February I should get what? An Eskimo suit? Now you see, my plan is to get acclimated to this horrendous weather! UNAGI (a state of total awareness in a highly disciplined form of Kah Rah Tehy, or Ross, who cares!) I have also perfected my skill of walking looking down due to the cold. My first instinct is to hide my face in the jacket just like a turtle. Because you're freezing you don't really care what you hit as long it's not a speeding car. You have absolutely no idea how many times I have played chicken with people walking, and sometimes they just DON'T GET OUT OF THE WAY either!!!

Ok, ready to see some artwork? I'd really like more PARTICIPATION from my readers!!! Anything you like to say will really help me a lot to improve. Also, if you can forward this blog it will be greatly appreciated. Damn! I'm falling again to marketing and advertising!!! No, this is about art and thou shall get ART! Beginner's art, but art nonetheless!

Let's start with my favorite class, that is, drawing! I have to admit that even I can see the progress in these 4 months. Sometimes it's very frustrating, because unlike any other class or activity in art, you can wake up one day and be shaky or tired and not being able to draw anything, at least compared to your own standards. When this started to happen I knew for a fact that something was messing up with my abilities. It could be anything actually and I did have very bad weeks but it is fair to say that as I write I have my superpowers back! Unless I had too much to drink the day before. Drawing with hangover is just way too hard, but I guess I even have to master that skill ;) I will begin showing 3 drawings that I made in-class. 1) The drunken clown. He was a model that I think is kind of bored with modeling because the second he laid down he put a red ball over his nose and said to us "imagine myself as a drunken clown" PERV! I think that is how he gets his kicks! 2) Teddy Bear Girl. This was a female model, obviously, which happened to bring a teddy bear! I have no idea why they are bringing these gadgets! This was made with ink, not happy with the result of inking my pencils. 3) Shy girl. I drew her from behind because I was too lazy to change my spot on the studio. Still, I really liked how this one turned out. Also we had a little bit more time with this one than usual.





For homework I had to copy a drawing or a painting from a famous painter. The teacher gave us a list and I chose Van Gogh out of those artists. Another homework was to draw the texture of a fruit, and I think I really nailed it this time. You can even see the texture of the rotten orange. Yes, I don't know why I buy fruit if I don't eat it, EVER!



Also I wanted to show you what I do on my spare time. This is an independent study because a fine arts class (like the foundation drawing I am taking) do NOT teach you any rules, you just have to learn from observation. I mean, it's fine, but I need more. I know now that in my second year I will be getting more rules on proportion, perspective, shading, etc. This is from a video tutorial I am taking at home and it's called "The Structure of Man". These are my notes on all the rules to make a skull! NERD!


In my painting class we had to learn to paint a human body. So we finally got our own model in the painting studio. This was done in oil on canvas and took us a lot of hours to finish. I did two paintings, one of her face and another one of her torso. The face was done first and if you look closely on the second painting, you can notice the improvement of the flesh tones. She is not as skinny as it looks!



I've had tons of homework involving human forms, but to simplify I will add just two of them. One was of a hand and its shadow. The shadow was supposed to be fantasy. The other project was to draw our self-portrait using our fingers, NO BRUSHES! This is a tedious work and I can just imagine how happy I would have been with the result if I'd used at least one brush.



In my storytelling class we had to draw a 6-page comic. I can't imagine how many times I have read comics in 15 minutes, which usually contains 22 pages, and never considered how long it takes to make each page. Of course I'm slow because I don't draw as a professional, but I can only guess that when I draw better I will be doing more complicated panels so the time will be practically the same, or even more. I spent 54 hours doing this 6-page comic from thumbnails to inking. To best clarify the process, it is divided in 4 parts: 

  1. Thumbnails. - Original layout of the panels done in a loose but somehow comprehensive way. I spent 10 hours doing this, but mainly because I had to corrected it and do it all over again, so I would assume that it takes around 5 hours to create the thumbnails of a 6-page comic. This does not contain the script. In this case, the script was written by me, but because it falls more on the writing domain I did not included it in this breakdown.
  2. Pencilling. - The most fan part of it all. This is when you actually draw with hard pencils (I use 3H). It could get very frustrating specially when you are drawing the details of the background, the perspective, and camera angles. I drew some pages drinking beer and they turned out much better. I spent 21 hours drawing. Not all of them in one sitting though.
  3. Lettering. - This is a very slow process and not very rewarding, but you have to do it. It took me about 7 hours to draw the word balloons and write in the dialogue.
  4. Inking. - This is when you have to apply indian ink to your pencils. It is a long process and you tend to mess up a lot! There is nothing more aggravating than watching a drop of ink stains your page. You can correct it but it will never be a virgin page anymore. It took me as long as 16 hours to finish the job. Also, Drinking & Inking, not a good idea!
To finish the process of creating comics you need to color it, and print it. It is fair to say that if you work for big companies like DC Comics or Marvel Comics you just have to do your thumbnails and your pencilling, because they have professional inkers (who could diminish or enhance your artwork), letterers, and colorists.

I will include 2 pages of my 6-page comic titled "Good Night Ops", and along with them I'm attaching the thumbnail version for you to get a clear idea of the process.





Finally, for my sculpture class, like always I have very little to say about it because it is just so damn weird. Still, I had an outside project that my brother did for me. He is, in many ways, more creative than I am, and I was really fed up with other projects. The project was to make something creative but in an incremental approach, in other words, adding more stuff to the artwork. The end result was "paper cuts", a narrative story of the people from Paper Town made exclusively with paper! (The background was made in Photoshop, obviously) An original artwork by Oswaldo Molestina. His drawing skills are kind of basic and that is what makes it so fun and great! Thanks Ovadi! :)


The last project was to build something in a box! Weird! and at the end it looked like a Voodoo totem or something like that. Still, it contains every little thing that I found on my apartment, but it is fair to say that a classmate named Kellsey gave 50% of her junk to me. Thanks!!! (I know! I'm slacking in this class!)



I know this has been a LONG entry, and I have to apologize for that. In the foreseeable future I will try to make them shorter. Specially since it seems that a good friend of mine doesn't have the time to read all of it, so if he ever gets to this part of the blog he just have to text me the phrase "Long live the Flash" and prove me wrong.

Remember that: "hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning", and also "forget insults and only remember compliments, but if you succeed in this... please tell me how!"

Happy holidays and godspeed,

José Luis



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

THIS IS NOT A BLOG!

I can't believe I have been in New York for three months by now. There is always an abrupt reminder each month that passes because I paralyze the humongous mechanism of the city by standing incredulous and ashamed at the same time in front of the entrance of the subway station because of insufficient fare. You see, I can only buy monthly passes for underground transportation and this was my fourth, but I guess you figured that out already. Since we are talking about my favorite way of transportation I have to say something that really "grinds my gears" (Family Guy people, try to keep up!). It is unavoidable to fathom why people cross the yellow line (as in DO NOT PASS) in order to watch the end of the tunnel to see IF the train is coming. Well, I guess it is an act of impatience, but why my God why??? Is not that they can do anything about it. I have to confess that when I'm running late I do that too, and that is why I hate that so much!!! I am a free thinker, at least that's what my Foundation Drawing teacher keeps telling me, so why am I SO predictable. On the other hand, is so nice to get to the subway station and the train is waiting for you. (Can't help thinking about Uma Thurman, Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction) Ok, moving on...

It is important to say that I am not eating right, so please, if you see me, I know I have gained some weight. Some people even had the nerve to assert "You are not running anymore, right?". It is just so difficult to eat healthy in this city, and believe me when I tell you that the occasional pimples in my head are due to the Lili and Loo Chinese restaurant two blocks from my apartment. At first I thought I was deaging somehow, as Benjamin Button, and had found the secret of immortality (although he dies an infant, horrible horrible movie), but then I realized my joints still hurt, particularly when I am at the floor trying to do some painting for homework and after a couple of hours it is just impossible to get back up. Still, I am managing and from time to time I eat almost healthy food. At least I am running again since my Achilles tendonitis seems to be cured by now.

Let's talk about my Foundation Drawing class, shall we? We have been doing a lot, and I mean A LOT of figure drawing. This means drawing a nude human model. We get men and we get women, and we have to draw them in detail. Some of you would say"drawing a nude man would be awkward" and yes, it is, but as time passes it is just another drawing with tonal values and shades. Still, I do not stay much time drawing certain areas if you know what I mean. On the other hand, drawing female nude models is more relaxed and fun since we only get Victoria Secret type models, such as this one:


And this one:


To tell you the truth, the "big momma" was actually very nice and a very good model. You know immediately that she's been doing this for a while (maybe since 100 pounds ago!!!) I tried another more artistic approach using another technique of pen and ink:


I have by now hundreds of these figure drawings but I am not going to bore you with those, instead, I am going to bore you to death with this abstract drawing made with charcoal:


But you may ask, "What does it mean?" The answer is "who the hell knows", and I was the artist!!! The only thing that I can tell you is that I drew this when I was listening to the song "Someone to talk to" by The Devlins. The curious thing about an abstract drawing, or painting for that matter, is that it seems so random, but you need to have an intention in order to be validated as art. What was my intention? Does this represent a message or a state of mind perhaps? You draw your own conclusions (No pun intended) but after that, be sure to send them to my e-mail because I am not sophisticated enough to decode my own abstraction! It's like the word "Composition" in a drawing or painting. We artists all know what it is, we can actually perceive it and even comment on it, but to actually comprehend it or define it is harder than it sounds. It's like the "bouquet" for the wine lovers. They know spot on not just what the bouquet is, but they are able to decipher the odors and even describe and classify them. Still, that word, especially when a teacher is criticizing my work, baffles me.

I also had to draw what I see from my window's apartment. What we got "NEW YORK, NEW YORK"


Now that you have seen that I can actually draw (at least a little bit) I'm going to show you some bad drawings from my Storytelling class. I was considering not uploading them but it would be unfair to you just to show the pretty stuff. At least in the future you are going to see some improvement (I'm already working on a 6-page comic which is turning so much better). This is a story about a man who gets trapped in a steam shower. It is based on a true story. I can validate that since it actually happened to me!!! :) It is only a 3-page comic (that took long hours to complete) so try to enjoy.

Now for my Painting class. A very important lesson, you don't use black to make shadows, you can either use blue, green, or brown, but never black! I had no idea and I almost screwed my painting when I tried to shade it. Anyway, I've been having so much fun in this class. We had to do a personal still life with 3 small objects that mean something to us. I chose a lead Flash figurine, my New York City Marathon medal, and an Ipod Nano new generation. I think the items are self-explanatory. This was the work IN CLASS so it took a lot of hours to complete. I could easily estimate between twelve to sixteen hours. Then, we had to do the same composition on a smaller painting but based on the style of a famous artist. I chose Van Gogh (he was a very disturbed person, but I felt a connection to him because he started to study art around his thirties... Wait a minute... does that mean I am disturbed? Maybe? Perhaps? Well, who cares! I am a FREE THINKER after all).



Also we had to do a homework based on another artist. For this project I chose Roy Lichtenstein. He was a famous pop artist from the sixties who based his paintings from comics, advertisements, and magazines. He loved the serial commercialism of these media. He once said: "Comic books are, to a large extent, a mechanical representation of a romantic situation. I think there's a lot of this in my work. It seems to be mechanical, therefore anti-art, because art is supposed to have feeling. But of course the passionless style is my passion". I would have to agree with Roy on that one "The passionless style is MY passion".


Finally, I have NO IDEA what I'm doing in my Sculpture class. The instructions given to me were simple: cut, bend, assemble, and paint pieces of wood. This is the result of nine hours of work:


Yes, I've been here for only three months and my life has changed drastically, bu somehow it feels right! It feels that I am right on track! I know I just throw a lot of information at you, but my blog is like a ride, or an accident, it happens very fast and has a lot of details and information, but at the end you just can't remember a thing! (I know some smart asses will say: "This was anything but FAST", well, my quip to that is: "maybe YOU are slow!". Yeah, I'm fun! :) So, inspired by Rene Magritte all I can say is "This is NOT a blog".

Godspeed,

José Luis










Sunday, October 24, 2010

LOTS OF ART!!!

I am on the road to becoming an artist, but… what exactly is an artist? One would say that an artist is a person with the ability to produce art, but then it becomes more ambiguous because really, what IS art??? Some would say that art is an expression of the artist in order to evoke a response from the viewer. In other words, art is subject to interpretation. I had to go to a lot of art exhibitions in the last couple of weeks; some were good and some were bad, some were hard to elaborate and others looked like children were playing around and the outcome was that particular painting. I am not going to post those pictures because there are a lot of them and you’d have to be involved in some kind of art making to somehow appreciate them. I am learning to do so but it is hard, to open my mind and really get a painting or a sculpture for that matter. For me it is as if I open a bottle of wine of Premier Cru Château Margaux. I know it is a great wine, but I don’t think I could elaborate on why this specific wine is that good. Well, art, as wine, is an acquired taste, but you have to be very sophisticated (which I am NOT) to create or critique on those pieces. I just see good, bad, or repulsive, in some cases.

Either way, art is good because it is an expression of someone, it could be beautiful or grotesque, but it always has a meaning, even if the author doesn’t know it. The main question here is what is art to you, or in this case, to me! I have done some pretty bad artwork (as you will see), but some seem to like them. There was this case when I did a project for my sculpture class and I created an object using tongue depressors. I spent around 5 hours gluing them together and at the end I knew it wasn’t a work of art and it was obviously very cheap (250 tongue depressors cost me around 4 dollars), but at the subway one girl came to me and smiled when she noticed the “sculpture”. (Maybe she was flirting with me but I am totally clueless on the subject ;)). This made me think that if this obsolete abstract piece of “art” (I can think of a better adjective for it) could make someone smile, then it is a good work of art and it should be exhibited. Well, I wanted to test this theory so coincidentally that day we went to 5 exhibits. One of the exhibitors specialized on creating a lot of random stuff using garbage, very similar to my homework; so I put my piece on the floor near some other sculptures to see what happened. This is for real, people went on and admired my sculpture, and I even heard one interpret why the author made this thing. Seriously, art is everywhere… and since then, I am finding art in the most unusual places.



Ok, so I want to be a comic artist. Is it still art? Hell, yeah! Next week I am going to post some comic artwork and you better like it or else… But honestly, I have seen original art from comic artists and they are so exquisite that I know by now how difficult and time-consuming they were.

Another thing to considerate is that when you create something, it is YOURS! It has a certain connection to you. For instance, I made another sculpture (This class is so fun but I really don’t want to keep doing this!!! I’d rather be drawing) that when I left it on the table around other pieces made by my classmates, I was really connected to mine. I protected it. It had no life but still I knew every detail of it, I knew how it was assembled and how it was painted. All the decisions for it to become what it is were mine. Somehow, and this could sound really creepy, when I turned around I felt its eyes on the back of my neck (No, I am not doing drugs, I am just expressing myself as an artist ;)). I think this is the only way to actually OWN something. Buying something does not make you an owner, anybody, with enough money, can do that, but to create something, even if it is crap, it is your creation, yours and nobody else’s.

                 
Besides sculpture I do other stuff too! I also paint and draw. I did four paintings and one big drawing! First I am going to talk about my painting experience. In class we had to paint a white still life and give the composition some values and tones. I spent around twelve hours doing this painting, and since it was my first oil painting I think I did OK. I noticed how in my first class I was messy and could not handle the brush well, but since it was an in-class project I got better by the end, which made me fixed some mistakes at the beginning, others were impossible to rectify. We used the mix of two composite colors and added white to make specific tints and some black to create shades. Let me remind you “this is NOT my BEST, this is my FIRST!” So if somebody want my first painting the bidding starts at $200 ;)



The next projects were homework and I spent like 4 hours on each one. I used acrylic on a board canvas. The Mondrian inspired project was intended to use as many colors I wanted the way I wanted them. It was an exercise on mixing colors. I got an A so I guess I did OK. The other I enjoyed more because it was more challenging. I painted my running shoes using just orange. Of course you can see more colors but only because I needed to use some whites and blacks in order to give some tonality. I really liked this one, specially since I am a runner.




 I also had to do a Sol LeWitt inspired painting on a 6 x 6 in. wood panel for my art history class. I just taped it and painted in black and white. I didn’t feel like doing more, above all because the teacher told the entire class that my last project was the least intellectual (the nerve on that guy!). I did NOT do my best effort with my latest job but he was enchanted, mesmerized, fascinated with this piece. He told the entire class that this was the best response to LeWitt since I extended the painting to the edges, so it focused more on the object rather than the illusion of painting. I nailed it with this and all of it came from within me, I just did not know it when I painted it :). Who knows, maybe there IS an artist inside of me!



Finally, my beloved drawing project, this is what I really enjoy the most. My assignment was to take three objects from home and draw them. Once I watched my fellow classmates turn in their works I knew I overworked for this one. Don’t get me wrong, there are some talented guys in the class, but even they did not spend so many hours with this project. Like I said in one of my tweets: “I am not the most talented, but I am for sure the one who works the hardest”.




Since I cannot finish my entry without mentioning anything pejorative about my classmates, I will only say this: I am learning a lot of slangs from them. For instance, when you say “two thumbs down” it means, as we all know, that it sucks, stinks, or it is just bad, but when you say “two thumbs away” it means that this is just not worth it, the absolute worst, so bad that it has crossed the point of no return. Also the term “rad”, which I will write down the definition from the Urban Dictionary below.

Rad.- An abbreviation of 'radical'--a term made popular by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Still primarily used by people on the West Coast who find words like 'cool', 'awesome', and 'tight' to be tired and overused; 'rad' is generally considered to be a much higher praise than the aforementioned superlatives. Also used as a general expression of awe.

So, these couple of weeks were RAD!!! ;) I know! it is totally lame that I am learning this shit, but really, I spent 24 hours a week with them, and it always comes from the same girl. Maybe she is lame and I am catching lame words. Was it a joke, a gag, some uncool word to say for a couple of laughs? I honestly can’t tell, and don’t care that much either! As WTF means “why the face” to Phil Dunphy from Modern Family, now RAD means “cool” to me. Have a RAD week you all!

Godspeed,

José Luis


Sunday, October 10, 2010

THIS IS MY DEATH STAR!

I was watching a silly movie… Fine, I admit that I watch a lot of silly movies. Ironically, I read a lot of mature, or to say the least, intellectual comics.  So this movie is named FANBOYS, and it is about a group of close friends who grew up in the 80s with the privilege of watching the Star Wars movies when they still seemed as MAGICAL and playing with their toys, now overflowing in the market in order to satiate Lucas need for growing his empire. I totally lost track of what I was saying due to this fanboy rant! Anyways, these friends want to go to Skywalker ranch to steal the pilot for episode I before its official opening debut. It is a highly stupid comedy, full of Star Wars references, but there was one thing that picked my interest.  One of the friends persistently told the other guy who was losing his faith in stealing this movie that this particular moment in his life was his “death star”. As I HOPE we all know, the Death Star was a huge empire base created by the empire to destroy entire planets (If you really don’t know what the hell I am talking about, please do yourself a favor and watch the original trilogy. It has special effects, some muppets and very incestuous connotations but it is a really fun and intelligent movie!!!) Luke Skywalker (if you don’t know who he is then I can’t do anything to help you!) was practically a nobody, but he had one achievement in his life that changed his course completely. He fired an impossible shot through a small hole from the base and blew up the entire Death Star. Nobody believed he could do it but he did it anyway! I know by now that I have lost some of my audience, but please be patient that I am getting to my point. I think life presents you with lots of opportunities to succeed; saying that, it also give you one life changing opportunity (maybe two if you are lucky) to be what you are supposed to be, to prove yourself what you need to do in order to triumph in life. This is the moment that you have to get some courage and shoot the Death Star.

I realize that I am not making much sense, but you see, I learned something today (South Park reference ALERT!!!), that you have to live YOUR life and nobody else’s. I was at the NEW YORK COMICCON, which is the second best comic convention next to San Diego Comicon. It was a lot of fun and I had a blast wandering the halls full with thousands of exhibitors, but where I spent almost all of my time was at the “Artist Alley”. My life is drawing, or at least that is what I want my life to be, either by mimesis or creation, but I want my art to express itself. I think my drawings express the essence of my life in its purity. And what shocked me most is that I could see hundred of artists that are maybe feeling the same thing. Why? Easy, I don’t think anybody will feel any social pressure to get into cartooning! It is ridiculous to even think about it. I cannot imagine any parent saying to his child “you MUST study cartooning because that is a honorable and decent career that will give you a lot of money and recognition”. No, I don’t think anybody will hear a “must” in that context. Maybe once you made up your mind about this career path, maybe they could say to you: “you MUST be better at what you do” but not before. I think an unhappy cartoonist is a hungry cartoonist, and I am sure there are lots of them. Still, I am hungry for that lifestyle… I don’t know, maybe I will not need to sell a $40 sketch to a fan to survive, but I definitely want to be able to do it. And in case I do need it, I’ll have my preparation and experience in other areas to back me up.

All those artists in the artist alley saw me as a fan, a geek, whatever adjective you think is proper for us, but when you are in there, the only weirdo is you! Think about it, thousands of people discussing how Flash could help solve the energy crisis without collapsing the speed force, or for instance, how Darth Vader eats! It is crazy, and maybe trivial, but it is the way they have chosen to live. To say it better, they have chosen to expand their capacity to analyze characters, plots, continuity, stories and in doing so making the trivial not only important but vital to the common geek. VOILA! I think most of those artists are geeks themselves and sometimes they treat you with the respect you deserve. Some are nice, and some are way over their heads and think they are THE shit! For those stupid bastards I can only say this: beware! They do not see me as a competitor, because I am not, but I will be. This is not a discussion. I will be!!! (yes, an artist treated me bad and I am pissed!) In any case, I don’t like when people forget where they come from. They were geeks, and now they make fun of them. And to tell you the truth sometimes it is unavoidable. There are way too many extreme geeks out there. American pop culture is very weird; I do not even understand it well. Of course I like what they like, but they idolize, obsess and pay tribute to those idols. It is as if they have nothing else but the need to express themselves this way. It is weird but sometimes you cannot help feeling sorry for them.  But what I really like about them is that they really don’t care. They dress up as comic book characters and they are happy to pose for you, and I am the one who is taking his picture, so I guess the joke is on me!

I had a really good time at the convention, and although it is kind of frustrating to be the one asking for sketches when you want to be the one sitting drawing, it still is a cool place to be. This is where I heal my hurts, and by doing this I get fuel, an extra life if you want. It is as if I don’t need anything else at that point. I know that I need a lot of things, and I also know that when I get there I will need more to fill my unfulfilled life, but I try not to think as the goal oriented man that I am, but rather as a man who is enjoying the view more and more each time I see it.

I hope I did not bore you with my complicated, sometimes contradictory feelings, but it seems in this case they blossom in the fall!

Oh! I forgot to talk about my classes! I will only say this: Why kids sleep so much??? They finished early their work, they sleep, they see an instructional art movie, they sleep, sometimes they even sleep working! It is amazing and I cannot understand it, but oh hell yeah I can remember! Good ol’ times! Next blog lots of pics since this week is going to be deadly!

Godspeed,

José Luis

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CLASS DESCRIPTIONS AND MORE


So I have not written anything for a while. Hell, with me drawing all the time I don’t think I am capable of writing anymore, more like drawing words. And it is not that I have writer’s block either, I just DO NOT have the time. Ok, enough excuses! I have postponed writing this blog for too long, or until I got used to the new schedule in my life. But as you can see, not even in the face of Armageddon I will stop to communicate my feelings which are of utmost importance (This in reference to my fellow Ecuadorians who are in the midst of a civil unrest due to the fact that the police just felt like they weren’t being paid enough so they decided NOT to work! I think I will write my perspective of this issue in my other blog “La Espina” in Spanish, or maybe not, because like I said before I have NO time at all!!!).  Anyway, it has been more than two weeks since my last entry and to tell you the truth I was hoping you didn’t notice it. Perhaps you didn’t, but it is good to dream that somehow you miss my anecdotal yet funny journals!

What have I done in the past two weeks that I claim I had no time to write this blog? or paraphrasing a little bit, I had the nerve to neglect my audience? The main event was in the first weekend, which I went to Miami to spend time with my beautiful girlfriend and lovely family (Sadly it was not the whole clan). Actually my birthday was two days after the trip but I knew beforehand that I was going to be alone that day so we “pretended” that my birthday was on Saturday, in Miami, with my family.  I know you must be asking yourselves “How in the world Jose would be alone in his birthday? Has he not has any friends at all being the friendly and so easy going kind of guy?” I know, I don’t get it either (sarcastic spasm). To tell you the truth, I have made like two friends, but this is New York and logistically it is a nightmare to meet up with friends during regular weekdays. I had a great weekend in Miami and my family even got me a surprise gift. I was not aware that my brother was going to meet me in Miami. They got me there :)

Since that was just the weekend, the rest of the time I have spent it drawing, painting, reading, doing homework, starving or eating too much junk food, and of course, riding my bike. Yes, Scott Pilgrim and me are one and only (The brand of the bike is SCOTT, so I named it Pilgrim as an homage to Preacher* Comics, clever huh!).



Following I am going to give you a brief description of my feeling about each class and probably post some pictures of my works for the fans (thank you mom, I Love you!) who are supporting me one hundred percent. Following the infamous yet brilliant classes:

·      Painting. - Am I allowed to say that I hate it? It is not that I hate painting; I just loathe all the chaos it creates to make one piece of artwork. It is not entirely soothing because even though you start relaxed creating a nice painting on a white canvas, all the paint, the turpentine, the medium get in the way and it gets messy pretty fast. I am a really neat guy and I need most of all ORDER. So I have to deal with the fact that I need to learn how to paint and also understand color values and mixing. No easy task let me tell you. I am posting two works that I have done at home, they are supposed to be Mondrian rip-offs, one in values of black and white and the other is of tonal values of mixing two composite colors, both in acrylic. The actual painting that we are doing in class is a work in progress, but I can tell you that is a boring still life. I need to take two semesters for this class and then I don’t have to take it anymore. Of course I will paint, but I hope I will be painting digitally. In any case, the career I want to pursuit as a cartoonist does not require me to paint my own work (although it is most advisable to know how to color it) because the mayor publisher have colorists of their own. I just have to worry about understanding the script (if I am not the writer of course), thinking the composition of the pages, panels, etc., pencilling it, and maybe inking it (There are independent inkers too, and very good ones, and it is usually because of a time factor or a better finishing material). Anyhow, I am getting ahead of myself with this, but since we are talking comics, lets cover the next class, Storytelling.




·      Storytelling. - I love this class. This is a sophomore class that I am taking in my first year because I did not have to take Western Civilization (guess what: I took it fourteen years ago). This class is the only one related to cartooning and is amazing how much I enjoy this stuff. For some people it may even sound irrelevant, but for me is the learning of how to tell stories visually. The fun fact is that you don’t even have to know how to draw properly!!! You may even tell a story visually using lines and circles but comprehending composition, sequence and all the fun terms I am learning but won’t share with you to avoid sounding as a complete geek (Too late maybe). In any case, I am sure that my pals at Toys & Comics will appreciate my newfound terminology :) I am not posting any work from this class yet because all we have done are thumbnails (layouts), which means drafts of future works.

·      Drawing. – Fantastic but also very challenging. We just go to the class and draw. Sometimes we draw a nude, or a still life, and most of the time we end up drawing some things that I would have never chosen to draw. That means that I am learning new things. For instance, yesterday we drew a shell. Let me tell you something that you may already know, it is BORING, but also very very hard! This is the class I enjoy the most. Here is a picture of a homework that took me around nine hours to finish. It is incomplete though, perhaps in its 75%. Needs more shading and maybe some background but in any case I am really proud of it. I am also putting the original still life for you to compare and be critics! (My friend Konanz is always giving me a hard time with proportions).




·      Art History. - I have so many things to say about this teacher. He is the most theatrical person I have ever encountered. A lecture from him is like assisting to an underground play performed by Greek actors from the classical period at the Epidauros theatre. I think it is fair to say that I am learning a lot from this guy even though sometimes you cannot even imagine there are people so sophisticated and eccentric as this man.  He is a character all by himself. His teaching style is slow and sometimes very infantile, but everything is now stocked in my head so I am sure that his method is effective. Also I must declare that he has a talent to see art EVERYWHERE. Some classmates have turned in some pieces of “artwork” that I am pretty sure they have done it in fifteen minutes and with a quasi permanent hangover, nonetheless, he has claimed that those pieces are glamorous, brilliant, and exceptional… all this for a napkin full of geometrical figures (not measured, no straight lines). My homework was the least intellectual. I didn’t care for that comment but afterwards I answered correctly and he made all of my classmates to applause my genius response.  I was on stage and shining!

·      Sculpture. – I am sure I said it before, this feels like daycare, but it is getting more fun and weirder by the minute. I do not have many anecdotes since all we have done is make a lot of plaster forms in order to do a sculpture. I am posting a picture of the finished elastic paddle that I talked about in the previous post.



This is it, as Michael Jackson would have said it. The hours are adding up and I am closer to my goal, at least closer than the week before. It is just uphill from now on ;) I hope I did not bored you to death and that more awkward things will keep happening to me to keep you, my loyal fans, entertained!

Godspeed,

José Luis 

* You may not know who the preacher is, but rest assured that when HBO airs it I will have to tell you that it was first a comic book (not a “graphic novel”), like I have made so many times by now. I feel like Hollywood is stealing from my underground collection!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

SURVIVING FRESHMAN YEAR

First of all let me tell you that this is not going to be a big entry. I am so tired that I could really use some sleep. Actually, what I really want to do in what is left of my Sunday is not to think anymore. Maybe watch some mindless funny cartoon like Family Guy or watch an uncomplicated TV series. Even if it was hard to understand, I would not make an effort to do so. Why do I emphasize in this? Because even though I have not drawn the weekly hours I would have liked, the effort I have put in paying attention to class, doing homework and assignments and expanding my artistic sensibility, has been out of this world. I am not used to thinking like a crazy person, and now I have to do it as homework. Let me elaborate this thought with an example: one of my assignments is to transform an object. How can I do this you ask? It is not as complex as it sounds; I just need some random material, a lot of glue, an arbitrary object, and some creativity. I would prefer to dig up a hole and bury myself rather than glue rice to a paddle, at least I would know what the teacher expect. But I won’t get ahead of myself.

Since Monday was Labor Day I did not have any classes. I spent the last day of my common life doing nothing. It was as resting the night before a big race… yes, a race against time itself, it seems.  On Tuesday I attended my Storytelling class. Let me tell you, it was exactly what I expected, awesome. It is my dream class because it doesn’t focus on drawing (which eventually I will get better), but mainly it teaches how to visually tell a story. Here I can learn about all the terminology that a comic writer, penciller or inker needs. This is a sophomore class so my classmates were around nineteen or twenty. As if one or two years will make a big difference. The class is very practical and hands on, it is fun but I noticed that one of the teachers (the class is given by a married couple) is stricter than the other. I will not reveal it though; I do not want an F in this class after all. The class lasts around three hours a week, which is kind of manageable. Homework: draw a nine-panel comic, a phoenix comic based on jam comic! (You would know the terms if you have had come to class, but I am the one who is paying this tuition;)).

My second class was on Wednesday and up until now is the most fun of all. Foundation Drawing is hard work (six hours a week) but is much enjoyable. I just have to draw, draw, and draw some more. That day we had a nude model. For all who are giggling right now the model was female, none that it matters anyways, after drawing for three hours you just see shades, forms, and areas. Anyway, I really like this class and I think it will help me the most of all my classes. Homework: Create a drawing that describes your real or imagined ancestry, which is unique to your experience such as your ancestral heritage, family history, culture, and mythology. Say what??? This is what explained before; it is not an objective assignment. It frustrates me because I do not know exactly what the teacher is expecting. How can she grade me? If I lack creativity would I get a lower grade? Is it my fault that I have not yet expanded my artistic side? Well, I gave it some thought and ended up with a drawing that I am kind of proud at this early stage of my studies. I drew Rumiñahui (Ecuadorian ancestor) sitting on a throne and surrounded by bananas. I actually spent four hours doing this assignment over the weekend and I think I have not yet finished it, so I hope she grades me for my effort :).



I have Thursdays off, so I stayed home and took advantage of all the free time to do some homework. I know, total nerd, but like I said before, I am paying my tuition, so I at least should get better out of the investment. Besides, I do not mind because I love what I am studying; everything is new for me.

On Friday I went to my sculpture class. I was very enthusiastic because I really like statues, so I was hoping in the first day I was going to mold a face or something. That is exactly what happened, sadly not the way I imagined. We played with plaster like kindergarten children. We were given a huge block of plaster and we had to dig and crate an inverse human head inside. Afterwards we would have to put some clay in order to cast the face. Mine looked like an alien from outer space. Also considering the fact that the kid next to me said: “I was sitting next to an old dude” when I told him my age, I was not feeling very enthusiastic anymore. I did not dislike it but taking into account my time, I guess I think this class is the one that I will need less in the future, like that Philosophy class I took in high school. Homework: Object transformation (explained in the first paragraph) and gather “forms” to cast, aka trash!

In conclusion, the classes are good, some are better than others and I still have not gone to the painting and art history classes, which are on Mondays. I feel that the most difficult part is the inability to relate to my classmates. I feel like a fish out of water due to my age and my non-artistic background. I hope I will feel better regard this in the future.  Like my brother Oswaldo told me: I have to survive freshmen year, for a second time and care less about the questions such as: “Are you a student or a teacher?” I have fourteen hours up to this week so nine thousand nine hundred eighty six hours to go.

Godspeed,

José Luis

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

RULES OF THE CHALLENGE

Because there are no specific rules for my challenge written down anywhere, I have to make up all of them. Most of them are common sense and others are self-made decisions I had to take. I would like to have some feedback from my loyal readers so I can add or subtract some of them.  What I do not want to be doing is changing them at the middle of the road. After all, I am calculating that this challenge may take from 4 to 8 years. Because this challenge is kind of ambiguous I want to do a guideline in order to keep me focused on what will count as an hour of drawing.  Also, in the list I will put some frequently asked questions in order to clarify important facts to my faithful readers. This definitively will make my life a little easier and this challenge a little bit more interesting. The rules and FAQ I have come up to this point are the following:

1.     What count as an art hour? Basically, everything that is drawn, either by learning simultaneously a lecture or by repetition of a specific lesson or craft. The only requirements are that I have to be holding up an art tool, such as a pencil, and that I must be drawing or painting.
2.     What constitutes as an art tool? Pencil, brush, digital pen. Anything that I use for drawing or painting. It could be a charcoal for all that matters, but I must be holding it up.
3.     Why include painting? The way I see it, drawing is painting in a scale of grey, from black to white, dark to light. So, although painting is more complex due to the fact that you need to get acquainted with color theory, you still need to observe, assess the image, and add volume and light with colors.
4.     An hour is an hour, unless it is 50 minutes. What I mean fundamentally is that I am not going to steal any minutes. Although it is a very subjective matter because I will not be counting each second of the time I spend drawing, I will keep track of the time I start and finish a specific drawing session. So what happens when I log 50 minutes give or take? I will count it as 45 minutes. What happens if I log 55 minutes? I will count it as an hour. In other words, unless it is five minutes to an hour, everything less than that falls to the prior quarter. For example, if I draw for 33 minutes (or 39 for that matter), this will be considered as 30 minutes, but if I log 56 minutes, it will be considered as an hour. I think this gives me a certain degree of freedom to keep it relatively simple.  I am not going to cheat myself in counting the hours to my advantage to finish faster. It just does not make any sense to do that. With this method I will end up having less time but not more, because that would be deceitful to myself and to you guys also.
5.     Are layouts, borders, sketches considered as drawing? Hell yes!
6.     Weekly summary. I will add the hours to the counter at least once a week, with a proper entry on how I spent most of the hours, what I have learned, what I have experienced from these lessons and practices. Also, I will add at least one drawing weekly. It could be anything that I have spent doing during the week. Don’t get your hopes high during the first year though, there could be a lot of crappy artwork and not so many masterpieces ;). I will specify how much time I spent doing something in particular or using a specific tool.
7.     The “Counter” just shows hours. The same principle as guide # 4 applies. For instance, if I have logged 7 hours and 45 minutes, it will be counted as eight hours, but if I have logged 7 hours and 30 minutes, it will be counted as 7 hours. Anything less than 45 minutes should be taken down to the earlier hour. This can be done at the end of the week or when I decide to write an entry, but don’t worry that I won’t be doing any two hours and forty-five minutes daily to steal two hours a week.
8.     Attending and listening to class does not add up to the counter. Unless I am, at the moment, drawing simultaneously.
9.     Sculpting is NOT considered in this challenge.
10. Photoshop counts only if I use a digital pen. So I better hurry and buy an LCD monitor or a tablet.

I have put a lot of thought on this guideline, so if you have any recommendations at all, I will be happy to read them. Even though there is no auditor for this (it would be impossible to do this, unless I am doing a reality show with a major network financing some dude with a camera to film my progress) I hope you know that it is in my best interest to log as many hours efficiently and with a lot of effort. It will make me a better artist at the end of the run.

I am used to having a training diary to keep a record of my marathon training workouts. This will be something like that. Will I improve my record keeping? I am sure it will, in due time. Still, this experience is so overwhelming and surreal that you should not expect to see 40 hours logged in the first week. I will treat it as a marathon training, slowly adding some hours to the weekly training because by rushing carelessly you could get injured or burned out. The latter is more likely to happen if I start too strong committing myself only to drawing. I will try to do my best but also considering the fact that I want to savor this journey in its entirety.

Godspeed,

José Luis

Sunday, September 5, 2010

GOT MYSELF ORIENTED

I had to go to orientation week at my art school. When I entered the room I had a flashback when I was a kid going for the first time to college, fourteen years ago. Do I need orientation at this point? The answer is yes, but not the way you would think. I knew already all they got to say because I came prepared. I read every e-mail and pamphlet they sent. Still, it is fair to say that when I got to the Cartooning departmental reunion I was very disoriented.  There I was entering a room full of talented kids with an attitude that says: “who cares”, as Hansel, who is so hot right now, or right back then (for all of you who did not catch this reference please go watch Zoolander). I was dressed with blue Jeans, brown casual shoes, brown belt, a Lacoste shirt and a Nike cap. The minute I walked in it was clear that I did not fit in at all. Everybody was in shorts, t-shirts and strange hats. Some of them had tattoos and wore earrings all over their body. Since all of them were freshman I am guessing everybody was around eighteen to nineteen years old. There were around forty people in the room with a fifty percent ratio between men and women. I remember watching a girl on her knees talking to a couple of guys who were seated on their respective chairs and wondered how could she do that? She must have been on that pose for around fifteen minutes. I am on my knees for a couple of minutes and my joints aches like there is no tomorrow.

After waiting for twenty minutes we went into a room where the Chairman of Cartooning was waiting for us to give us the proper welcome and orientation.  I could not believe this guy was the Chairman. He seemed like a really cool guy, and to my point of view, also young. Did I mention that he had tattoos all over his body? I am not against that, but it really shocked me considering how formal was the faculty at the Business School in University of Miami. He started his approach to us “kids” telling one guy that he should not ride a skateboard, then the smartass told him that he is very good at it and asked him if he has ever ridden a skateboard, to which he answered, and I quote: “I am not that stupid”, referring to the fact that if you fell off the skate you could break your hand. He was not worried about his head, which as I can tell it was pretty hollow, but the hand; and it totally made sense. I will have to start taking care of my right hand being into extreme sports and all (Sarcastic comment).

The Chairman, who by the way was very cool, did I say that already? I guess I am worried he could eventually read this blog J. Still, he taught us four important lessons:

1.     - To build our own bower. I know it is a strange thing to say but the lesson actually came after a story about the bowerbirds’ mating behavior in New Guinea. It seems the male birds use a bower (A large nest made of grass and bright objects) to attract their mates. In this metaphor he was telling us that we needed to build our own bower from experience and focus especially on the things we want to focus or want to get known for. In other words, he was telling us to get our own style but to work hard on it. I have no idea if this is an art term or just a term used by him because he liked the story, still, I think I understood clearly what he was preaching and this can be the first lesson I learned from the School of Visual Arts, fun huh?

2.     We were no longer in high school. That he was going to treat all of us like adults. For real! Great advice for the other thirty-nine kids. Maybe the advice to me should be: “try and look a little bit younger so you do not get alienated by your peers”.

3.     To make friend with a good graphic designer. It seems that good graphic designers get work first, and probably make more money than a cartoonist. This is NOT a very motivational way to start your cartooning career, but overall the advice is good and most of all, practical. He told us by his experience that he was hired from a good friend who happened to be his classmate in foundation drawing and a good graphic designer as well.  Not planning on working for a graphic designer, but then again, I did not plan to study cartooning at thirty-two years old.

4.     Finally, NO FLYING UNDER THE RADAR. I kind of liked not to get noticed in class, I don’t know, it is just in my nature, but after hearing this recommendation I thought to myself that I was going to change that the next time I had the chance. This happened in my next orientation meeting for international students, which by the way were ninety five percent Asian. It is just an observation, but it shocked me how many they were. Anyway, the orientation staff asked a question (they were also giving free t-shirts for a correct answer). I felt inclined to answer one question but when I answered “six” I totally forgot if the answer was six credits, six hours, or six weeks. People laughed at me, but got myself a free t-shirt so I don’t regret making an ass out of myself ;).

              
Basically I understood that although I was out of my element, I could still do it, and that got me motivated. Afterwards I met with the cool Chairman of Cartooning and he proved me he was actually really nice. He helped me in getting some sophomore classes in my schedule so I can finish my studies in four years (I was planning to get a Bachelor in three years) but to aim for a Masters degree in Fine Arts. This is a no brainer and I think I will focus on achieving this goal; after all, I will get my own “master title” for completing my ten thousand hours. I hope I will get them before the master’s degree, but who knows. Time will tell.

Godspeed,

José Luis

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

THE END OF AN ERA

I have not been a student for quite some time. I got my Bachelor in Business Administration ten years ago at the University of Miami. Since then I have had many jobs and businesses. I’ve been a dairy farm manager for almost seven years and also I have owned a liquor store, an Italian restaurant, two Italian fast food chain restaurants and an alternative advertising company. So my main focus was entrepreneurship in general. Some of those businesses were good and some bad. None of them made me feel satisfied; not even the great ones. I decided to sell everything. Right now I have a Facebook application for a multiplayer card game and it seems is going to be a good business. Nonetheless, my true passion is drawing comics. So I had to close my kiosk (metaphorically speaking of course) and venture overseas to reach my “American dream” in the United States.

This did not come as easy as you might think. When you get older you gain four main things in life: 1) Experience, 2) Responsibilities, 3) Stuff, and 4) Weight.  My experience made me wiser so it helped me to realize what I was missing in life. The weight is inevitable but I think I managed in that particular area.  To start my journey I needed to get rid of most of my responsibilities concerning my job at the time, and leave behind a lot of stuff I had accumulated over the years. Most of it is trash by the way, but it is not in my character to throw it away. This process was extenuating and it took probably seven months since I decided to study fine arts. I sold my house, I moved my belongings to my father’s apartment and I am in the process of quitting my job (and the stability of a monthly paycheck) and selling the farm (because it is a family business I have the flexibility to do so while studying). Anyway, I had to tie loose ends. Not to forget the school admission and the United States government requirements. All had to be in order and finally I almost did it all. Still pending a few tasks but I am here now in New York to walk my path.

Family and true friends, on the other hand, decrease as you get older, while your affection for them increases. Its like you have an x amount of love to give and when you reduce the people you are willing to share that love with, they get more of it, although I highly recommend to make more friends :). Saying goodbye to all of them was the hardest part but I keep telling myself that this decision is not only for me, but serves as homage to them. They will be proud of me eventually.

My first goodbye was to my sister Mariella and my mother María Elena. They were the ones leaving first because my sister was going to study at the University of Miami (like his brother did!) and my mom went with her. This actually did not felt as goodbye because I did not realized at the time it was going to be the last time I saw them for a while. I miss them already. Later on I sold my house and left what had been my home for around six years.  Because of this I had to give away my dog “Pedro” to Dilia (who helped my parents in raising me). I really love that misbehaved dog that used to pee all over the house and got pissed off when we threw him out of the room.  I will miss him dearly. Saying goodbye to my nephews was the hardest thing of all. The younger one, Alejandro, did not understand that I was leaving for a long time because he is just two years old, but the older one, Oswaldo José, who is now five, knew very well the situation even before I mentioned it to him. The minute I hugged him to say goodbye neither of us wanted to let go. I would really like to tell you that I controlled myself so he could not sense the difficulty of letting him go, but I failed miserably. Both of us ended up crying and to accept that with no shame shows how much I love those kids. Finally, I had to say the last goodbyes at my father’s department to my closest friends: Gigi, Konanz, Andrea, Xavier, Gio, Daniel, etc. Xavico and Alberto were not there but I met with them two days before. Leaving my brother Oswaldo was really hard, mainly because I wanted to take him with me. We are very close and I hope I have been as much as supportive as he has been with me. I foresee my main achievements happening alongside him. We still have that pending goal to receive an Oscar together (We have not idea what is the nomination) and say a joke we have rehearsed way back since we were young. My father, whose name is also Oswaldo, took me to the airport and I hugged him very strong as farewell. Morole, my girlfriend, came along with me to New York. She is helping me a lot with this venture, and I know for a fact that saying goodbye to her will break up my heart. Sacrifices, I keep telling myself. As Steve Jobs once said: “If you follow your dreams it just gets better and better”.

I hope I did not bore you to death with my farewells, but you have to understand how difficult was for me to leave all behind. I know I will not regret it because we have to embrace life and live the way we feel like. We need to do what we love and if we have to make some sacrifices to get there, so be it. You cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs :(.

Godspeed,

José Luis