Sunday, September 5, 2010


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.


José Luis