Tuesday, December 27, 2011


It is hard to start a new entry after being away for two months. Really, two months seems like a short time, but now that I have to summarize everything that I have learned and done in the past sixty days it seems overwhelming. In any case, I’ll do my best to describe what I’ve been through in these, busy but fascinating couple of months. Actually, it could be summarized in one sentence. I HAVE BEEN DRAWING… A LOT! I’m so relieved that this semester is over because now I can take a breather and simply do nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I miss drawing but I figured having a couple of weeks just clearing my mind and focusing on my procrastination will do tons of good for my next semester, which I know it will just get harder. I really feel I’m in a boot camp of sorts. I’m exhausted for doing 100 push ups and just when I finish my trainer tells me to drop down and give him a 100 more. I’m up for the challenge though; I just hope I don’t burn out anytime soon. I realized that taking everything to an extreme would prove futile to the cause. The truth is that I was so eager to become the artist I want to be that I stressed out not just my mind but also my body as a whole, hence, my hand suffered. The good news is that it is only Hand Tendonitis and not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as I suspected; and that according to my doctor I have no signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis or any other autoimmune disease. Now you can see me for what I am, a hypochondriac overachiever who aims at perfection. Now, I still work my ass off but applying more common sense, I guess. I try not to worry too much and live one day at a time meeting my immediate goals without ever losing track of my long-term goals. I really hope I’m making sense now since it’s too early in the morning to write such a complicated and meaningful statement.

So I’m halfway through to get my Bachelor in Fine Arts majoring in Cartooning, and 1/10th of the way to complete my journey and my commitment to you through this blog. In other words, I need to do three more semesters (a year and a half) in order to get my degree and probably around 9 more years (I hope sooner) to complete my 10,000 hours that I need to be the MASTER of the Universe, or at least MY universe. I’m up to 1072 hours so far and if you forgot or need to be reminded of my rules of engagement in this project, please feel free to read one of my first entries explaining my commitment to you, my loyal fan base, and myself, my most demanding critic of all. http://www.masterartskill.blogspot.com/2010_09_05_archive.html. I also got my grades back and let me give you a heads up; they are not as good as my previous semesters. I don’t mean to justify myself but because the purpose of this blog is to portray my journey, I feel I need to explain to you what I think it may have happened. Saying all this, my grades are not bad and I really believe that they do not represent my all out effort that I have given in this fall semester.

Grades for Fall Semester 2011

What could have happened? Should I blame the teachers for failing to see that I did my best? No, I don’t think so. Should I blame my hand tendonitis? Mmm… I guess I could, to some degree, since my injury hurt when I drew too much, which unmotivated me somehow. Still, I wouldn’t go as far as to blaming my grades entirely on my injury. Should I blame the fact that I’m taking hardcore classes from sophomore and junior year in order to get my degree in 3 years rather than the usual 4, and that because of that the workload is just a bit heavy to handle? Yes, I think I could assign most of the blame on that. You see, I’m doing the best I can, but the day has only 24 hours, and the week has only 7 days. The workload, especially in art, requires a lot of time, and sadly, this is something I have not much of nowadays. I had to prioritize and focus my best work in some of the classes that I felt were more important for my artistic development than others, and even in those cases I just simply ran out of time. For instance, in Principles of Cartooning (a sophomore class) the professor told us that I could present my homework assignments in pencil, but that if you presented them in ink (which obviously requires… MORE TIME) you could boost up your grade up to one letter grade. In other words, if you got a B but presented the piece in ink, you automatically got an A. The logic in this, which I agree, is that this shows a commitment to the assignment, the sad part is that I don’t lack any commitment, on the contrary, I can affirm without a doubt that is something I have tons of. What I really lack is time, so I had to do all my work just in pencil. It is hard for a teacher, especially in regard of grading improvement in art, to give an accurate grade of your commitment. It is not a multiple choice test that either you got it right or got it wrong, it is very subjective. And I’m pretty sure that my teacher, Klaus Janson, did not stop to think that I did not have ONE day off for the entire semester. I don’t blame him though, it is perfectly understandable, and as long as I know I did my best and still learned what I was taught (at my pace) I’m completely satisfied. I didn’t see that B- in drawing coming though >:[ More on that later.

Acupuncture for Hand Tendonitis

I’m going to describe what I have learned in each class as I usually do, but this time in order of effort and commitment given to each class:

Pictorial Problems. This is my Junior Thesis, and that is why it has my undivided attention. Mainly because it is a comic book of around 18 pages, so this will be my first comic book made entirely by me that has a beginning and an end. The comic I’m drawing is “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. I’m doing a faithful adaptation of the book by Robert Louis Stevenson. By the way, when I was doing my presentation to the dean Mr. Thomas Woodruff of the pages I had done so far, he made fun of me because I pronounced the name of the doctor as Jeek-Al and not Jeck-Ell. I know my English is kind of shaky but I knew that I have heard that name pronounced that way before. I went on a massive research just to have the opportunity to some day prove him wrong and you know what? I was right! In the famous movie from 1931, which I saw recently, it is pronounced Geek-All. Coincidentally enough, I came upon a magazine named “Freaky Monsters” (Which I highly recommend to all Monster Lovers from yore) which also stated the same thing. Finally, I found over the Internet in a forum a statement by “bookworm1992” (I guess this nickname adds credibility to this statement) that said: “Although most people assume and use Jeck-Ell, and there is nothing wrong with this, Stevenson ALWAYS used Jeek-Al, so that Jeek rhymes with Seek. Hyde and Seek. It could even have meant Jeek-All, Seek all (as in seek everything)” I just found that very interesting and wanted to share it with you. Also because I guess it is the only way to fight back to he dean since I’m not going to go to his office to correct him. Mr. Woodruff if you’re reading this, I respect you and all but YOU WERE WRONG J To produce 7 pages (without counting the Splash pages I uploaded in my previous entry) is very time consuming. Remember that to produce one page in pencils equals one day, and if it is inked it means half a day more. It probably doesn’t sound as much but believe me, mixing it with assisting to other classes and doing their assignments it is a lot. I spend my weekends doing these pages. You can see the clear improvement between page 1 and page 7. My favorite is page 6. What have I improved? Character placement, composition, figures, attention to details, backgrounds. The most amazing thing is that once it is learned it gets imprinted in your subconscious and therefore comes naturally. It’s not that I make a conscious decision, well; sometimes I do, but not all the time. 

J & H page 1
J & H page 2
J & H page 3
J & H page 4
J & H page 5
J & H page 6
J & H page 7

     Principles of Cartooning. I can’t stress enough that this is my favorite class of all. I am learning all I need to learn for creating comics. Not only that but I really like my teacher and the way he handles the lectures. Also, he is involved in mainstream comics, which I can relate even more. Granted, he gave me a B, but I rather get that grade knowing that I’ve learned a lot rather than getting an easy A and not having learned anything. This class is also very challenging regarding homework, but in these couples of months there have been less assignments than the previous ones. I’m including a Gepetto 3-page story; I’d really like your feedback on how you interpret it. Also some exercises in perspective. One of them is my room. I’m really excited about the following semester since I have to take the second part of this class. Now we have to do what Klaus Janson calls a “sophomore thesis” and it consists on a 21-page comic book about practically anything we want. I’m going to do the Greek legend of Theseus against the Minotaur for several reasons; I think it will improve my action scenes and also I’m going to practice a lot of perspective designing the labyrinth (If you don’t know the story don’t fret, I have your back, you just have to wait 4 months). But who am I kidding? I want to do that story because the Minotaur kicks ass!!! I’m including some character sketches that I’m pretty sure will evolve as I draw page after page.

Gepetto page 1
Gepetto page 2
Gepetto page 3


My room


Drawing for Cartoonists. I have to admit that I am a little surprised with my grade. Sometimes I just don’t get what my teacher, Phil Jimenez, wants out of my drawings. I’m very good with proportions and observation, at least compared to most of my classmates. For some of them this is their first attempt to draw the figure and not just a cartoon of the figure. I’m more comfortable drawing from life but it seems this is the class I have had less room for improvement. So why does this stagnation happened? Probably because what I will improve regarding the human figure will come slowly with more experience and hours invested in them. I can see some of my classmates that really didn’t know how to draw at the beginning, but they have improved a lot and the teacher is happy with those improvements. Anyways, It’s not as important as it is frustrating, but I really have no idea what he expects from me. For instance, when I get the proportions almost perfect (at least I see them that way) he says that the drawing is uninteresting and I should really exaggerate certain areas to give the model more dynamism, but when I do that in other drawings, he tells me that the proportions are wrong. AAArrghhh!!! In any case, for next semester I’m not only taking this figure drawing class but also another drawing class by Nelson De Castro who I have heard deals more with rules of proportion and perspective. I’m pretty sure that in that class he will see a vast improvement. Our only homework for this class was a semester project in which we had to draw 10 feet and 10 hands, with a picture of the real thing right next to the drawing. I spent around 20 hours doing this project. I’m including some of my drawings, especially my brother’s infamous foot that Jimenez presented to the entire class and said, “This foot is really bizarre” I could not stop laughing because it is indeed an aberration of nature J. It is important to add that I do have fun in this class. For instance, once we had to be the models for the class (with clothes on, don’t be getting any funny ideas). Now I can really appreciate what figure models do. I spent only 10 minutes in a sitting pose and my neck and hands were killing me. Some of the models spent up to 40 minutes (with one break) in a single pose, and they tend to be more dynamic and energetic than my humble drunken pose. And for all sketch collector fanatics out there, I got two sketches of Phil Jimenez for free (tuition does not count) just for being a really good student and had the nerve to ask him.

Infamous Foot


Sketch # 1 that Jimenez did NOT LIKE
Sketch # 2
     Digital Coloring. The great thing about taking this class is that now I can really declare I can digitally paint. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be great, but I know the basic set of skills to make it happen and give a sense of completion to my work. I noticed that people (not necessarily comic book fans) see the pencils as incomplete. In a way they are right, but in most of the cases, the artist job (penciller) is to finish 20 or so pages in a month in pencils. This is called original art. After one page is penciled it is sent to the inker. In this step the process could be complete only if the intended final product is meant to be in black and white (for instance NOIR comics), but for the regular Joe this is still incomplete. But adding color to those pages gives a sense of completion and most of all, admiration that the artist can finish the process all by himself. At least for me is kind of liberating to know that if I wanted I could send to print my entire work and still give a sense of a finished product for the shelves. This is exactly what I did recently in this class since I had to color some of my personal work for my final project. I colored the first three pages of Jekyll and Hyde and another that you may remember from previous posts that consisted on a portrait of my cousin. In the latter case my teacher Andy Pearlman told me that I have used too much “Mexican colors”. I couldn’t help feeling a little offended but I understood what he meant. He knows more about color so I can only guess that Mexican comics use more intense colors. It is valid to say that I am not Mexican but Ecuadorian. Anyways, I found an interesting article written by my professor over the Internet regarding coloring comics using Photoshop that may prove useful to digital painters enthusiasts. http://knol.google.com/k/coloring-comics-with-photoshop# Also I’m including two pages that I needed to color that were scanned from old stories of X-men and Spiderman.

J & H page 1 RGB
J & H page 2 RGB
J & H page 3 RGB
Other color projects:

Daniel's portrait RGB
Spiderman RGB

       Gouache. I can only say that the problem with this class is that I didn’t have enough time (because I put other classes on top of this one) to make quality work. I spent around two hours on each assignment, which is not nearly enough of what you need to do a great painting. I really like the medium and I will probably come back to it for painting covers or illustrations, but the problem is that it is so much easier to paint with Photoshop (Also considering that there are great colorists that can enhance my work) than to master the Gouache technique. Still, I find it better than acrylic and watercolor. Oil would be my favorite technique if it weren’t for that damn smell and the fact that it takes days to dry. I totally deserve that B+. I’m thinking of taking a portrait painting class with the same teacher for next fall. I’m including one illustration I had to do consisting on SVA (School of Visual Arts) fashion and another one of expressions that does not have much to do with color but at least it was painted with Gouache.

Fashion Model

     Culture Survey. This is a literature class that I really enjoyed but I’m glad its over. Mainly because I want to focus my time on my art, and although I found the stories very appealing and the teacher very passionate on the subject, it just felt to me that I could have been spending more of my time drawing. Still, I don’t regret having taken it and maybe I will drop by for a couple of classes just to enjoy a good analysis from a great storyteller.

In conclusion, this has been a very productive and busy semester. What I like the most about taking all these classes is that art is intertwined. What I mean by this, for example, is that by learning digital color I understood better shading and volume, by drawing poses I could better placed my figures in my comics, and by inking with a brush I could use more accordingly my brushes for Gouache. Each class is so different, yet they are all routes that take you to the same place, to become a better artist. I will also be uploading my work on Deviant Art (www.deviantart.com) if you are just interested in my art and not my prose. Just search the nickname bielero (in Spanish Ecuadorian slang means Beer Drinker J).

To wrap up this entry I will give you one rant, one art definition, and one motivational phrase.

- RANT: I had to go to my home country for Thanksgiving (not that we celebrate Thanksgiving back there but I had two important weddings to assist). When I got back to the United States I passed through immigration and the only thing the officer (Marcano was his last name) came up with by looking at my I-20 (document for International students) was: “Are you spending all this money on cartoons??? Why don’t you take those online courses that teach you the same thing?” I could not hide my discontent with his comment, but really, people think this is easy. It’s a shame that something so hard it is seen by some people as something effortless. In any case, I wasn’t expecting any royalties because of officer Marcano buying any future book of mine.

- ART DEFINITION: Exposition. - It is the fiction-writing mode for conveying information. According to Robert Kernen, "Exposition can be one of the most effective ways of creating and increasing the drama in your story. It can also be the quickest way to kill a plot's momentum and get your story bogged down in detail. Too much exposition, or too much at one time, can seriously derail a story and be frustrating to the reader or viewer eager for a story to either get moving or move on”. In regards to comics, too much exposition is wrong most of the time. It is better to show it rather than explaining it.

- MOTIVATIONAL PHRASE: To get on the dean’s good side, I quote an inspirational phrase Mr. Thomas Woodruff told us in our presentation “Inspiration never visits a lazy household”.

That’s all for now folks. I hope you enjoyed my entry and I wish you happy holidays and a happy new year. See you in 2012.


José Luis

Friday, November 4, 2011


This has to be the cleverest title I have come up so far since I started this blog. Primarily because it covers the three main topics I will go through in this entry.  I don’t mean to treat this as an essay but since I’m in college there’s a risk to be read that way because I have written tons of them recently. Lucky for you I know how to be subtle. Ok, so the Thesis Statement is… Ok, no thesis statement so far so who cares. Let’s keep on going.

“Dark, Dark were the tunnels” is an apocalyptic short story by George R.R. Martin (If you don’t know who he is and you like fantasy stories you are at a disadvantage since he is the famous American writer that created “A Song of Ice and Fire”, most commonly known for the title of his first chapter, now a famous TV series, “Game of Thrones”. I won’t go into the details of the story since it is not at all relevant, what is important is that it deals with a post-apocalyptic world, genetic mutations and monsters. The only thing that is missing is demons and robots. Well, certainly in these days you must have at least one vampire or maybe a zombie, but anyways, the reason I bring this up is because I have noticed that all my male classmates just want to create comics based on those themes. I find it absolutely amazing how your interest in stories may shift radically in fourteen years. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my share of vampires, apocalyptic Armageddon, and zombies, but really, this is all they want to do. Now the girls in my class are more mature (at least in their comics’ choices) since they tend to create more sophisticated comics like adaptation from old novels or nonfiction biographies. It is bad to make a generalization; I just saw a pattern and wanted to comment on it.

This is me by the way
The other reason, and maybe the most significant, that I came up with that title is that I recently suffered an injury in my right hand named Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  Just to let you know how devastating this injury can be to an artist, I once read from an art student that this injury was so terrifying that came close second to blindness. Now, by all means I know this is a huge exaggeration but to read that when you are suffering from hand pain (and doing this challenge) freaked me out. Granted, it may or may not be Carpal Tunnel. My doctor didn’t discard that it could be CTS, but he was more inclined that it could be hand tendonitis in his diagnosis. I was kind of relieved but then he told me that both of them had the same symptoms I went back to square one. I’m still waiting for my blood test results, but even if it is CTS or Tendonitis I have to say that it hurts like hell. The pinched nerves are by far the most painful, which feels like shots of pain throughout the arm. It’s been almost a month and I’m not fully recovered. The best advice to cure this type of injury, rest! How can I rest my hand if I have so much homework? Well, I still do my assignments but I make sure to put some ice over my hand for 20 minutes. On top of that I’m following some self-therapy involving ice and heat every night. I know it’s dumb to keep on drawing with the injury, but is not in my nature to just stop for a couple of months and throw all my plans out the window. In any case, I’m feeling much better but it still hurts sometimes. I don’t know how to properly deal with this, but what I do know is that all things taken to the extreme are bad. I was just drawing, and drawing, and drawing, and even though is a great quality to succeed in this industry, at the end it ended up damaging my wrist and hand. So now I just took it down a notch and I’m trying not get stressed so much with my studies. An advice to avoid this injury can be found on the book Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Matt madden and Jessica Abel. You can find it on their website www.dw-wp.com There are some useful stretches for when you take breaks between your drawing sessions. I know it sounds crazy, but this is serious stuff!

So basically the tunnel is very dark, and I really hope to find the light at the end of it. What I mean is that I’m making this huge sacrifice by combining my hardcore classes from sophomore and junior year in order to be able to graduate in three years. I’m far away from my family and friends, I have almost no time for myself, and definitively I have no weekends off since I have to do most of my homework on my “free” days”, and now I had this injury which my body told me in an excruciating painful way to take it easy. I am afraid. I’m afraid to get lost or to break down halfway through the tunnel. I know I can do it but I’m starting to doubt myself from time to time. Am I good enough? Do I have talent? Do I even know how to draw? I guess this blog will become more interesting with this honest sense of drama. Saying that, I’ve learned a lot and I’m happy to do what I’m doing, but this year is going to be very hard. I guess feeling frustrated is also part of the challenge. And then walking down the street I saw this poster by my school and my strength somehow came back to me.

To lighten up the mood I’m going to cover my classes. Let’s start with the one class that I enjoy the most but it’s the most challenging, principles of Cartooning with Klaus Janson. I don’t know how to feel at my age (I consider myself an adult) when the teacher calls me “sparky”, but I guess it’s the whole college experience. Nevertheless, I find this class very useful and I like that we talk more about mainstream comics. In cartooning there are a lot of tendencies, for instance mainstream comics (DC and Marvel), Independent comics (Indies), Minicomics, graphic novels, and manga to name a few. Not all of them are the same and it depends in which sub-industry the professor works. Methods, materials and formats vary between these categories. Basically I have a three-page homework each week, and this takes me around 4 days to finish. I hate that I don’t have the time (now is even worse because of the injury) to finish with the extreme details that I would like to include, and that I cannot ink my work due to my time constraint. The teacher accepts pages by pencils, but you get extra credit for inking it. Damn it! I don’t have the time to do it so it seems as a missed chance to better my grade or as an opportunity cost (Business terminology is coming back to me).  My highest grade in the assignments was a B+ and my most recent one was a C+. The last time I received a C was in my sophomore year at the University of Miami in my accounting class (Yuck!) thirteen years ago! I’m kind of pissed off about this! The three assignments have been very challenging and deal with height proportions and use of space and angles. No words, no dialogue.

Jack and the Magic Beanstalk p1
Jack and the Magic Beanstalk p2
Jack and the Magic Beanstalk p3

Legend of the Pumpkinheads p1
Legend of the Pumpkinheads p2
Legend of the Pumpkinheads p3
Roof Scene p1
Roof Scene p2
Roof Scene p3
My pictorial problems class has been… interesting. I understand that some of my Blaudience (Actual term that means… Audience of a blog. Really!!! I looked it up!) is composed of aspiring artists. Have you noticed that fellow classmates seldom say that the art is good or cool, but they just state how interesting it is? It’s kind of annoying actually. If you don’t like it say it, don’t sugarcoat your opinion to me! You cannot hurt me because I have no ego (or so I say). Anyhow, in this class we do mostly critiques and the instructor is very nice and serene. The only problem is related to what I mentioned above. He is, probably, a manga or independent comic book artist, so when he mentions examples of comics I have no idea what he is talking about. I believe he has mentioned Tezuka a bazillion times. I know he is a legend and was a very famous manga artist who created Astro Boy, but really, I haven’t read a single issue of his comics. Must remedy that I guess. In any case, my thesis (15-page comic book) is about “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” I’ve made three scenes for my splash pages (basically these scenes are the turning points of the adaptation of this story, which is almost accurately close to the original). These were the cause of my injury. There are evident mistakes in perspective, but really, whose fault is that? I’m studying cartooning and not a single class has taught me perspective!!! I get it that for some artists perspective comes natural to them, but not for me, and if I want to achieve the level of realism in my comics I need to not only understand perspective (which I do!) but to master it! I finished with my script and now comes the fun part, to draw the actual pages. To get a clear idea of my workload, I have to finish 2 pages in pencils and 2 pages in ink every two weeks. This takes me about 4 days to finish. If you add the other 4 days that it takes me to finish the other 3 pages from thumbnails to finished pencils every two weeks, we have the total of 8 days every two weeks. This does not count classes, and homework for other classes.

Mr. Hyde attacks Sir Danvers Carew
Dr. Lanyon discovers the truth
Dr. Jekyll commits suicide

My digital coloring class is awesome but time consuming. I really like to paint with digital colors using Photoshop, and the more I do it the more comfortable I feel with the techniques. Flats are easy, combining colors is not as simple but if it seems wrong it takes a click of a button to change it, and shadows and highlights are really hard. The worst thing about this class is the homework, but not because it is demanding but because it takes a lot of time. I don’t have classes on Wednesdays, but because my digital class in on Thursday, it takes me the entire day to finish a proper colored page (around 8 hours). I’m glad that there is an evident improvement though.

I received a comment a month ago that even though I have no finished pieces for my drawing class I should upload them anyways. I decided that it is a good idea but readers must understand that this drawing class is basically for gesture and figure drawing. Drawing sessions are between 20 to 30 minutes, which is not long enough to do a complete and accurate rendering of the human body. Still, I decided to upload two of my favorite figure drawings so far.

My Gouache class is very laid back and relaxing, but sometimes homework gets in the way. Mostly we start to paint in-class and then finish it at home. The problem is in the schedule. Because my class is on a Tuesday and I have Principles of Cartooning and Drawing on Monday, and Pictorial Problems before that class, basically I spend my whole weekend covering those assignments for those classes that are more important. The end result of my Gouache pieces is kind of rushed. I do them in a couple of hours on Monday night after a hard day’s work. It is not hard but you can see a great variety of students at very different levels in painting. Surprisingly enough there are just a couple of male students, and around fourteen girls. I took the class because Alex Ross (probably the most famous artist in the media) paints his cover illustrations using Gouache, but this is more an illustration class than a cartooning one. The teacher is really good and I like him very much. The way I see it I’m learning more about color rather than the particular medium of Gouache (it is a lot like watercolor but more matte). Here are some examples of my work. I also missed one assignment of a mosaic painting of Obama, but I really liked my sketch so here it is.

Because this is an art blog I’m not going to cover my culture survey (literature) class, but I will quote the teacher on a phrase he told us in class, and I’m pretty sure he was quoting someone else whom I can’t remember: “When I want to have an intelligent conversation I talk to myself”, I guess I kind of do that, but if you happen to read these words, then that means I’m not as crazy as I thought I was. You ARE reading this… right?

I leave you now with one advice from Jason Armstrong (popular inker in the comic industry) for aspiring cartoonists: “Sacrifice! Unplug the Playstation, turn the TV off, don’t see every crappy movie that comes out, and tell your friends (and that cute girl who likes you) that you’re busy this weekend! Repeat. Easy as that. You wanna see your name in print? Get busy!” Kind of harsh but it is a wake up call for aspiring artists in this industry, and I’m following this advice to the letter. Well, the part about the TV not so much. And for the people who really wanted to be inspired by this blog and are feeling somehow cheated, please watch the Stanford Commencement speech by the recently deceased Mac founder Steve Jobs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc. You had me at connecting the dots Steve! L

Thanks for the team “Comic-con” to have agreed to change the tradition to go to San Diego Comic-con each year and  go to New York Comic-con this year. Kudos for that decision since we had a great time!

Team Comic-con

Here I am signing books to my fans (I wish)


José Luis

Long Live Wally!