Wednesday, September 5, 2012

(100) DAYS OF SUMMER


You could have asked me at the end of my last entry what was going to happen in the following months and I would have never guessed my summer would be so exciting. I went back to Ecuador (my home country), proposed to my girlfriend, asked her parents for her hand in marriage (yes, we are still in the fifties back home, although is more a formality rather than an actual asking for permission), had a bachelor party, moved to a new apartment, got married, gave a lecture on comic books, went for my honeymoon to Rosario (where Eduardo Risso, the artist from 100 Bullets and dear friend of mine, was conveniently holding a comic book convention) and later on to Buenos Aires, finally me and my brother went to Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando. Let’s not forget that I also cut my hair In order to be presentable for my wedding (sorry, our wedding!!! Now it seems that for some reason I need to change all my first person pronouns to third person ones – Behold the assassination of independent Jose).

So what exactly have I been doing artistically in the last four months? Well, it shames me to tell you, not much. I’ve been so preoccupied with all of these turns of events and social gatherings that I lost track of time. Believe me, my initial plan was to study and draw the whole summer and do pretty much nothing else. I would have been a great artist by now with all the hours I would have put into my work. Instead, I decided to take a long break and make probably one of the most important decisions of my life. You have to understand that I have always been a free bird, a free spirit if you will and it was tough for me to finally make up my mind and commit to a relationship even though it made sense. Yeah, you could say I got my wings clipped, but I would rather walk the rest of my life with my wife rather than fly alone. As Wally West (The Flash, who is erased from existence but not forgotten) would say about the love of his life, Linda: “She’s my lighting rod and that’s why I always come back to her”, and that is exactly how I feel. It’s not that I am planning to leave her and then return, just try to understand the metaphor from a Flash fan perspective. She is the love of my life and I regret not marrying her a lot sooner. Then again, there is a time for everything, and probably if I would have done it much sooner I wouldn’t be writing to you guys, and that would be awful. You are the center of my universe ;) (I expect extra points from my readership, or at least some Twitter and Facebook sharing! Spread the love!).

Needless to say, I have not been putting too many hours drawing in the summer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything at all. As a matter of fact, I did a piece that is probably the most ambitious piece I’ve done so far. This is going to turn a little corny but bear with me please. I drew and painted my proposal to my girlfriend (whom you can meet in the picture below).  But first I must clarify something in order for you to understand. Coming from a third world country, Ecuador, where there is a limited comic book market and does NOT even offer an illustration career opportunity, not to mention a degree in cartooning, Ecuadorians do not exactly understand the nature of comics, and who could blame them! It is just not within our culture. Comics have been stereotyped as superhero magazines exclusively for kids. I’m not ashamed of a good superhero comic book, in fact, I would kill for the opportunity to draw, and possibly write, The Flash, but there is more to it, of course. I always explain to my acquaintances that comics are a respectable medium not unlike films. The ninth art (yes, comics, and yes, it IS art!) borrows a lot from the film industry and vice versa.  Nowadays the introduction of comic book superhero movies have helped a bit to make adults enjoy a good superhero flick, up to a point that now being a geek is practically cool! (Big Bang Theory anyone? San Diego ComicCon sold out two years in a row?). Still, it is totally unfair to categorize comics as a superhero medium entirely for kids, because, well, it’s NOT! It has as many genres as film does. For more than half a century there have been many genres such as horror, romance, detective, action, noir, caricature, crime, political, editorial, non-fiction, manga, science fiction, underground (comix), war, western, biographic, and the well-known superhero. Don’t take my word for it, if you don’t believe me just google it. So this prejudice against comics has been very damaging to the industry, limiting the number of potential adult fans. It feels as I’m rambling on and on, but I had to clarify this because people in Ecuador are so distant from the medium that they just don’t understand it. Even worse, they actually think you can make a comic book with relative ease. Newsflash, this is harder than working in finance and management. I have the right to tell you this because I’ve done both of those jobs and making comics is certainly harder than working in a grown-up, sterile, and regular job. Yes, it is harder, and you gain less money, but hey, don’t get discouraged if you want to be a comic book artist or feel sorry for me, because this job is amazing, fun and self-fulfilling :) 

My wife Morole

Going back to the proposal! I wanted to propose to my girlfriend in an original and unique way and like Frank Sinatra said: “I did it my way”. Yes, I drew a single panel in which I depicted myself on my knees asking her to marry me. But just showing her the finished piece wouldn’t have been enough. So I decided to record not only my whole artistic process from digital pencil to final colors and special effects but also myself drawing in a smaller window. It was challenging but I did it in around fifteen hours more or less. Then I edited it and included three songs: The first one is from the future husband of my sister in law, who happens to be very talented, so do not hesitate to promote him through the web. His name is Hector Crisantes and his song is “Live And Let It Go”. You can find it here Live And Let It Go by Crisantes. The second song is “our song” (how romantic!) “Better Together” from Jack Johnson, and the last one is a song I found out by watching and amazing animation by Ryan Woodward. Go check it out; I’ll be here when you finish watching it! The link is: Thought of You by Ryan Woodward. The song is called “The World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies. Of course I could not shave shown fifteen hours or so in a video so I sped it up by 50% (5000 times faster than real life). This is why in the video it seems that I’m having an epileptic attack. I picked up my girlfriend, turned off the light of the living room in my apartment, turned on the speakers, projected the video through a projector on a wall and then asked her to watch the video, which supposedly was for a summer homework from school. Then, as it was starting, I excused myself because I had conveniently left my iphone in the car. Of course, I came inside from the back door and heard anxiously the songs until I knew it was over. Got out from hiding, gave her the ring, and proposed in real life. Once she said yes we proceeded to celebrate with our family and friends, drinking a lot of champagne and a lot of whisky. The following day, with a huge hangover, I decided to upload the video on Youtube and Facebook. It was incredible the kind of response I had. So you see, I killed two birds with one stone, first I made the proposal unique by doing it my way, and also I showed everybody in Ecuador what my artistic process is. You can see the video in Youtube by clicking the following link Comic Book Style Proposal. If you like it please spread it :) I will also post it here if I can figure out how to do it in Blogspot.

video

Prior to my wedding I was asked to offer a comic book lecture to 15 year-old girls. Although most of them have the span of attention of a fly and have no interest in comic books, they were extremely polite and showed a lot of respect and interest on the material I was presenting. It seems it was a requirement for them. The good news, heck, the great news is that I enjoyed teaching a lot. I’ve always wanted to teach something I was passionate about. Of Course I got questions such as: “Can I go to the bathroom?” or “Is this lecture for credits?” but hey, who can blame them. Still, I tried to make the lecture as fun as I could, so at the end I showed my marriage proposal video. They loved it, and a couple of them had already seen it J I will teach again, that’s for sure!

Giving a lecture on comics

The contents of the bachelor party I cannot divulge here, mainly because I’m well behaved, proper and a serious man. I can only say that there was a lady Flash and a slave Leia involved, among others ;)

Then I got married, and it was lovely and amazing and totally unrelated to this blog, so I won’t talk about it. I could probably upload a couple of pictures though.

At the altar

Working the crowd

Let me tell you about the city of Rosario, Crack Bang Boom and Eduardo Risso. As you may already know, or not, Rosario is a city from Argentina. It’s not one of the most popular cities in the country, but it is beautiful. I had prearranged this trip for over a year, even before I knew I was going to get married. It was kind of a cheap shot to have gone to a comic convention in our honeymoon and she felt a little cheated at first but we had a great time there, especially due to our hosts, Eduardo Risso and his lovely wife Marupe. The convention turned out to be a great success and introduced me to a lot of Argentinean material and artists. There is one story that I cannot understand it hasn’t been translated to English and sold in every comic book store and every Barnes and Noble. If you speak Spanish, please get it. It is by far one of the most intelligent comics I have read in the previous decade. Carlos Trillo and Domingo Mandrafina made this graphic novel in 1987. I don’t want to spoil you the story since it is perfect, but if you lose hope on getting it or you do not speak Spanish (and are not interested in learning) read the following article which describes the importance and nature of this story: Peter Kampf lo sabía (you can always translate the page into English with Google)

Peter Kamps lo sabía

Me and Eduardo Risso in his studio

During the convention I had the chance to meet and talk to Dave Johnson. He is a very talented cover artist who did all the covers for 100 Bullets and Punishermax. Risso introduced me to him and told him I was studying cartooning at the School of Visual Arts. The first thing he said to me was among these lines: “Why would you pay thousands of dollars for something you could do at home”. I really didn’t care for that comment but understood where he was coming from. Some people have great talent but more importantly, they are clear of what they want from life in early stages. Yes, you could spend every day drawing (without an actual degree, which I fairly assume he does not have due to his comment), and you will eventually get it. If you have the drive and the time to do it, you could definitely pull it off. On the other hand, some people do not have the cultural advantage of being born in a country where there is an industry in comics and being a comic book artist is a respectably career, or they probably because of that made the mistake of choosing another career and spent 10 years working in a job they don’t particularly love, or maybe they just need the structure of a well though out curriculum in order to get the advantages of people with more knowledge than them. Perhaps you need the degree in order to teach. Or most likely, the degree of a bachelor in fine arts is more complete than a simple book that superstar comic book artists feel proud they have used. Two well-respected comic book artists have told me that you could draw amazingly and still not know the secrets and advantages of a good storytelling. Finally, if it is the student’s choice, who can say he or she should not invest their time and money the way he or she wants to by pursuing an academic career? I guess it is easy to criticize other people who want to do things differently, or simply put, to not do it their way is the wrong way. Granted, at the end you can have a degree and still suck, and that is on you, but the same goes if you make it, doesn’t it? Yup, I didn’t care for that comment at all, but once I explained him my point of view and told him a little bit of my background story he kind of understood and respected my drive to do this now. Up to this point, I didn’t need his acceptance and that is the advantage of being a little older than most students who could get their feelings crushed by some guy who thinks the only way to gain success is his. Well, I got it out of my system. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the guy and I think he draws and paints covers wonderfully, but his point of view is not mine, so don’t get discouraged if you follow your own path, just make sure the path lead you to your goal one way or the other.

I’m starting my final year at the School of Visual Arts on Tuesday September 4. I can’t believe I’m a senior and God willingly I will be graduating on May 2013 at the age of 35. Don’t you worry; I will keep writing my entries until I reach my 10,000 hours goal so you can see for yourself my artistic evolution and hopefully get inspired by it. With a bit of luck I’ll be working and have a successful career in the industry by then. If not, at least I will be happy to continue making an effort.

Godspeed,

José Luis