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 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 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!