Sunday, February 13, 2011


Signal #Fail
It is, for real! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still happy and can’t wait to go to class to learn new things, but the classes are getting harder; and not only that, also the weather seems to be getting colder. I know it’s no surprise in these months, but the weather has been horrible. A local friend of mine told me that it hasn’t been a snowstorm this strong since 96. Still, I’m adapting to the classes and to the weather.

What really puts me in a bad mood is the noise; after all, New York is one of the noisiest cities in the world with Nagasaki and Tokyo. I don’t mind a little noise here and there, but the problem is that is keeping me up all night. You see, when is NOT that cold, I have to open the window a little to get some breeze because I have no control of the heat in the building. The problem when that happens is that the horns of the taxis start to honk, the sirens of police cars start to sound, people start to yell or insult at each other, and on top of that it seems there is a construction of an east to west subway station right down the building. Let me clarify that I am in the fifteenth floor and I still hear all of it. Total mayhem! Without the proper shutdown, the next day I’m a zombie, and being creative is really really hard in that state! I knew this was the city that never sleeps! Now I know why!

I’m learning Italian as I ride in the subway. I take about 30 minutes to get to the school and 30 minutes to get back, so I bought the Italian Pimsleur method (highly recommended) with 30-minute lessons. The only problem is that I have to repeat out loud what they are teaching me, so I do, and people just think I’m just another crazy person riding the subway! Prego, grazie, molto, arrivederci!

Ok, I have a lot of pieces to show you so I’ll talk about my classes. In Drawing I’ve been very busy. Of course we always draw nude figures in class but the homework have been very interesting. There is a personal project that I have to present at the end of the semester in which I decided to draw 100 human figures using different papers and different materials. I’m spending about 1 hour each and I’m really enjoying this project, the only problem is that 100 drawings equal 100 hours and it is taking me a lot of time to keep up the pace. Still, I’ll do my best to finish them since by then I’ll have 100 more hours in my training hours. If you’re new to the blog I’m counting the hours I spend drawing or painting until I get to 10,000 hours; which are the hours a person must invest in order to master a skill, hence the name of the blog! (Clever huh!) I’m not going to show you all my drawings but just some of my favorites.

For homework I had to do my self-portrait. I really enjoyed drawing this since I wanted to prove to myself that I have gotten better since I got here. I’ll show you another portrait of myself I did last year around May. It is not a fair comparison since when I drew it I was looking at myself in a mirror, whereas in my recent portrait I used a grid on a photograph. The use of a grid helps you a lot to assure the correct proportions are done accurately. For instance, by observation you can draw an excellent portrait, but if you put the nose just a little bit up, or maybe one eye is just one quarter of an inch in the wrong spot, then it is a different person altogether. It is no cheating! ☺ Lot’s of artists use this method for accuracy. Still, it took me around 8 hours to achieve that level of realism. The first one, although I also like it, it has its problems on proportions and shading, making it very flat but the good thing is I got my essence back then.

Recent self-portrait using grids

Last year self-portrait by observation

It seems that this month has been very egocentric. In my Painting class I had to paint two self-portraits, but here is the catch. The first one I had to paint myself as a dog. I had to identify myself with a dog, considering its personality and physical attributes. I really didn’t want to choose a Bulldog and believe me when I tell you that I did a lot of research with no success. I drew the dog first with pencil and then I panted some of my facial features in order to get a resemblance. My friend Christian said very proudly, and I quote: “spot on!” ☺ I didn’t know if I should feel insulted or highly praised.

The other homework was of myself screaming! You can create your own narrative as to why I’m screaming in terror! When we were doing the reviews of the pieces, a classmate of mine said that it looked like something from the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), I couldn’t help to ponder that there has to be a lot of junk in that museum ;). I went to the MOMA the following week with my drawing class and although there are a lot of great masterpieces, there are also a lot of stuff that really looks like junk. One thing I learned in that museum when we were watching a horrible dancing presentation that consisted on a girl crying (she was actually crying for 20 minutes non-stop) and then dancing like monkeys and falling to the ground (the artists were professional ballet dancers) is that in order to criticize that “play” I should be aware of my “anxiety level”. I was really anxious so I guess it did its part. Reflecting on it, I guess my screaming in terror could be related to that play, although it happened before. I guess I could use my artistic license to change the dates. Mmm… ok, stop tripping! Back to the blog…

I’m having so much fun in my Storytelling class. I don’t know, I really like my teachers because it seems they really enjoy teaching. Also because this is going to be my career so what they preach I want to know! I can really see myself improving, not just in the sense of drawing, but also in telling the story properly. We had to do an experimental comic that they call the “foldie” comic. It takes this name because the reader has to unfold it in order to read the story. I was hoping to upload a video showing the unfolding of it, but I can’t seem to do it with Blogspot (There has to be a way though). Still, I think you’ll get the idea.

Front page
Back page

The other comic we had to do is a “portrait comic” that consists in describing a person by drawing his life in some panels. It is not a story per se, although I managed to create some kind of narrative in order to explain the routine and habits of my dear cousin Daniel. One thing I have to add is that when you ink a comic you really have to breathe in and hold your breath in order to finish a difficult line or stroke. I guess I should be studying competitive apnea in order to gain some competitive advantage among my fellow artists!

Dana's Portrait: On his way to Comic-Con!

I feel that in my Art History class I’m taking private lessons. I guess at 18 years old it’s not a really cool subject because they just sleep through the class. I’m so into it that sometimes I have to look indifferent in order to belong ☺. Seriously, we’re covering the renaissance and it is so fascinating, especially since I stayed in Florence for two months back in 2000. Anyways, it is hilarious that the teacher thinks that I’m the only “kid” (I’m 33 for those who don’t know) who finds his lecturing amazingly fun!

Finally, my only new class this semester is Visual Computing, as you may recall I had Sculpture last year, but it was just a one-semester class. In this class I’m learning about Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and InDesign. These are just the basic software for artists. I really like Photoshop because I will color my comics using this software. (By the way, there are 256 grays in Photoshop. I mention this because I didn’t know how many grays were in my prior post). It is a painfully long class but I need to learn since all my classmates (in this class they also sleep) were born with these softwares installed in their brains! I am the DOS and Basic generation of 96! The second she knew I was 33 she started explaining to the class what a Kilobyte, Megabyte, Gigabyte, and Terabyte were. I was a little ashamed because I knew this was for my benefit. I did a pack of cards for Illustrator and a fast painted sketch of myself in Photoshop.

I’m going to tell you something that happened to me. I was in the subway when I saw a woman knitting. It seemed so amazingly hard the way she moved her knitting needles in order to create patterns. I though to myself: “that is way too hard, I could never do that”. But then I realized that I have never even tried it (I don’t want to but I hope you get my point). So the main question is: Who said you can’t do anything? Maybe you did, maybe the people around you told you that, or maybe you feel as it is impossible and there is absolutely no way you may be able to do it. I’m here to tell you “You CAN do it”. Whatever the hell you’re thinking, you can and by God you SHOULD do it. The second your defense mechanism starts filling your brain with nonsense and lame excuses just think that you really CAN. For now just TRUST ME and DO IT! If you want to be a space cowboy… well, it may be hard, but there is no law against studying aerodynamics and while in outer space putting on a cowboy hat and yelling “yee-haw” while avoiding some asteroids. Life exists so you can take advantage of it all, the pursuit of happiness is just another way of saying live up to your dreams because they CAN and they WILL become possible if you really want them to. I’m telling you this by experience, not a year ago I was thinking that this path was impossible for me, and here I am, now, sometimes afraid, sometimes challenged, but living my own version of the “space cowboy” in me. I thought to end this entry with some positive attitude. I guess 10 years ago I would have loved that somebody told me this with utmost confidence.

See you in a couple of weeks!


José Luis

Pd.- I'm not the only artist in the family. Here I'm attaching a picture of a stop motion story about my grandfather done by my lovely cousin Cassandra! I know that in the future we'll have mutual projects! :)