Thursday, May 16, 2013


It’s been a while. Four months have passed since my last entry. What was I doing? Have I been drawing? Well, as you can see I’ve been adding hours to my challenge nearly completing 1/4th of my objective of reaching 10,000 hours at the moment of this entry. Still, the one thing I’ve been focusing more is in graduating with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts located in the art capital of the United States, New York. Let me get this straight, graduating with a BFA does not make you a master in arts, not even getting an MFA (Master in Fine Arts), so my challenge does NOT end here. What makes you a master (in Malcolm Gladwell’s perspective and now my own of course) is the accumulation of ten thousand hours. Still a long way to go, and my will to achieve them is still intact. Don’t get me wrong, I feel more confident than before and I have learned new skills and techniques that makes it easy for me to make a professional career now that I have to be in the real world of freelance illustration and cartooning.

Bachelor in Fine Arts
Now everyone says to me that the hard part is yet to come, and they may be partially right. You have to remember that I’ve been in this situation before, back in 2000 when I got my Bachelor in Business Administration. There was as much anxiety back then as there is now. The difference now is that I’m not afraid of working professionally since I did it for ten years before deciding to study again. What I’m concerned is that I don’t really know how this industry is going to welcome me. Is it going to be with open arms recognizing the talent or at least the potential in my work? Or is it going to be harder than I expect with lots of trials an errors and disappointments along the way? Realistically I think it would be a combination of the two. I heard that some professional artists when critiquing your portfolio they can be mean as hell. Their attitude comes from the belief that they have to trash your work and if you don’t let them break your spirit you deserve to be a comic book artist. They literally tell you that you stink and that you won’t ever make it in the industry (It hasn’t happened to me yet, probably because I haven’t showed my portfolio to anyone yet). Let them trash my work if they want, I have the will of a Green Lantern (geek reference) and it won’t be bent. My only fear is fear itself. No, really, let me paraphrase, my only fear is discouragement. I’m afraid that if things go too slow I will be making more business choices rather than art. I still have to earn an income, right. I made it this far and I’m not about to quit now, I just need focus and some incentive :) 

Since I haven’t been able to tell you about my classes for this semester, I will show you my grades first and then I’ll walk you through the work I’ve done for the aforementioned studies with their proper course descriptions. Now without further ado I will present my grades for this semester and also the cumulative GPA (Magna Cum Laude) for the whole curriculum at SVA.

Grades - Spring 2013 semester
Magna Cum Laude

As you can see, I took 5 classes in this semester. I was going to take 6 but I decided that since I didn’t need those extra credits I would go easier on myself this semester and focus more on the important classes. I will be discussing each class in the next paragraphs.

Cartooning Portfolio 2 is a critical class and by far the most important in this semester because I had to build, as you can guess, a great portfolio to show my work to professionals in the field. Remember than in art you don’t need to show your potential employer a résumé. They are not interested in how well you did in class or how many A+ you had, what they really need to see is your portfolio, and believe me they will know your strengths and your weaknesses from page one (considering that they are art directors or artists in general, of course). Your weaknesses just pop up and there’s no way you can embellish them if you have not yet learned those skills. Your portfolio is your life (or at least professionally) and you have to build it and constantly include better and more recent pieces in it so you can make it attractive for the people looking for a freelance artist. Also as important is the fact that I will be doing freelance work since the comic industry is not in the habit of employing artists. They make you agree to contracts for individual projects but you are still a freelance artist nonetheless, hoping that when you finish that job you have another one waiting for you.

The goal of this class was to create a strong portfolio so after graduation you can actually get work in the real world. I built a good portfolio, but I still think it needs more work, at least taking into account my artistic ambitions. My “perfect” portfolio will come in time, or perhaps never since I’m a perfectionist at heart and I will always feel a little apprehensive about my work. There has been a lot of improvement since my previous semester but I believe if I work hard for the rest of this year I will be able to make a great portfolio for next year’s comic conventions.

The main work throughout this semester was finishing my story “Turmoil”, an 18-page comic book that deals with Alzheimer and the turmoil this disease causes in one’s mind. By now I may have spoiled the story for you but although it is a twist just revealed in the second part (first part is shown in my previous entry of this blog), it does not affect the tale as a whole. I also decided to digitally paint the last four pages so I could add more color to my portfolio. I edited the cover you probably saw in my previous entry (if not you should read it now, or at least look at the funny pics) with a basic and yet powerful modification, which make it works better than before. You already know it is about Alzheimer, so by looking at the cover now it makes a lot more sense, I hope.

Turmoil p8
Turmoil p7

Turmoil p9
Turmoil p10
Turmoil p11
Turmoil p12
Turmoil p13
Turmoil p14

Turmoil p15

Turmoil p16

Turmoil p17

Turmoil p18

Turmoil edited cover

I don’t need to talk much about Professional Cartooning since it was a non-credit mandatory class that teaches young artists on how to make a living in illustration and cartooning after school. Based on what I’ve seen, I would dare to say that this class was essential for the majority of my classmates. I’d even say that SVA needs a more comprehensive business class for artists than this one. Even though there was some key information I learned from this class, it was kind of unnecessary. I liked the teacher just fine and it was a fun class, but having a degree in business made the subject a little redundant for me. The class teaches you how to make invoices for Christ’s sake. If I didn’t know that by now then I was living in a hole for ten years. I don’t mean to rant or be obnoxious about it since it was very productive for my classmates. I always have to remind myself that I’m the one who is misplaced studying to get a BFA at 35.

Anatomy was just another figure drawing class, but you know what, I enjoyed it a lot. I was expecting more focus on the muscles and bones and their proper mechanics and what I got was more of the same as prior figure drawing classes. We had to draw a nude model in different poses every week. The pros about this class is that the teacher was really sweet and although she had a fine arts approach on teaching, she really knew what she was talking about. What I found most interesting was the final project. We had to create a new creature based on skeletons on different animals. Then we had to create its skin and its environment. It’s harder than it seems because you have to really research about it and concentrate on why some limbs are the way they are according to its environment, why the skin has its texture, probably for camouflage or for defense against predators. I decided to go for a strong predator. I mixed a sabertooth with a bear and a dinosaur. My research was more complex than just combining the three creatures and my imagination ran wild but you get the idea. Here is the final project along with a sketch I made of Ganesh (Hindu deity and remover of obstacles) at the museum.

Creature in habitat
Creature skeleton


Multiepisodes was a writing class and it taught me how to write a script. I already knew the basics and I learned some new techniques. The final assignment was a full script for a 22-page story, but we have also sketched out the whole story arc, which my teacher thought it was very original story and that made me a happy panda ;). I cannot talk much about this project though, since I will be starting to draw this issue anytime soon and I will be posting those pages in future entries. I also needed a humanities class so History of Religion fitted the bill. It was a fun and interesting class and it broadens your perspective on faith and religion. In any case, this is not a philosophy blog so I will skip this class altogether.

It is important to add that I had my first two commissions as an artist and that is a HUGE deal for me. My very first one was a portrait painting of a very close friend commissioned by her husband who is also a dear friend of mine. He had seen my work through this blog and I suspect he had more confidence in me that I had in myself. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I could do it and I really hope they liked the final piece, but I will always treasure that blind vote of confidence. He didn’t even questioned the cost of the piece and as an artist that is always appreciated it. I think I had come a long way in portraits and I really enjoy making them. Still, I will be a comic book artist first and a portrait artist second. I decided to do something different for her. I wanted to create a triptych consisting on three different approaches and styles. The first approach was a pencil drawing, which was her favorite and the one that comes more natural to me; the second one was a digital painting made in Photoshop. This was my first painting in Photoshop so it was very challenging but at the end I got the results I wanted; and finally, I chose to make a portrait based on comic book line art with some basic grey tones. I really liked the final piece; the only thing is that I won’t be doing triptychs anymore. I don’t know, the fact that the three pieces compete with each other in one piece doesn’t sit well with me. Regardless of that I think it was a successful job.

Susana - commissioned by Mauricio Martinez

The second commission and first sketch comic-con style commission was for my brother. He is pondering the idea of making a custom costume for cosplaying at his next comic convention. I also think it would be great as a mannequin for exhibition. He had this bizarre and great idea of mixing the Star Wars saga with The Game of Thrones. He wanted to mix a Snowtrooper with the bastard John Snow. Hence, the character John Snowtrooper is born. I made some research on the costumes and decided to ink it. I will be painting it soon so hopefully a future entry will show the final piece. By the way, if you desire a sketch, or a portrait for that matter, I’m willing to do them, just contact me through Facebook (Jose Molestina), Twitter (@bielero), Instagram (@bielero), Deviantart (bielero) Tumblr (bielero), e-mail ( and through this website. Believe you me; if you really want it you will get a hold of me. What say you? :)

John Snowtrooper
Commissioned by Oswaldo Molestina

Finally, I made one illustration based on Wally West, the missing Flash, in Photoshop with a campaign design based on a previous campaign to promote Mark Waid's own comic book to ask DC Comics to bring the character back since it has been MIA since the New 52 (the geek alarm went off), and another sketch with my new Copic markers of Green Lantern. The latter was done very fast on my sketchbook so I wasn’t looking for a professional look but rather experimentation with markers. They are not as hard to master as I’d thought but I still need a lot more practice, and probably a lot more colors along the way.

Wally West aka The Flash

Green Lantern sketch - markers

By the way, here are two pics, one from C2E2 (comic convention in Chicago) and the other from the commencement graduation. The first photo was when I met my favorite artist, Alex Ross. You have no idea how significant was to meet this talented and extremely successful artist two days after I finished my classes at the School of Visual Arts. The other one is when I got my diploma at the commencement in Radio City Hall with my wife and family. This could not have happened without your support and faith in me. Thank you so much, I love you, and I dedicate this achievement to you.

Alex Ross and me at C2E2


The final question remains, do I think that studying at SVA was the right call? To spend all that money in tuition when I could have by self-discipline study on my own and spend much less. Well, it is done, so it is kind of a moot point, isn’t it? Still, I will provide the best possible answer. I could have studied on my own and possibly draw even better by now, which I find doubtful, but in any case, drawing is not everything in this career. I’m pretty sure I took for granted some lessons learned and some I don’t even remember but are ingrained in my brain. It’s easy to look back and say: I would have done this differently, but the fact remains that I did not. My decision was one of the hardest decisions of my life, and it cost me much more than just money. Now, I did it and I can call myself a comic book artist, because I’ve learned the tools, the skills, and the secrets of the trade.  For that I am truly grateful at my wife, parents, family, friends, teachers, and all of the people who supported me in my journey at SVA. I don’t feel like I have already mastered the fine arts just yet, but you know what, that will come in time, probably in finishing those 8000 hours left. I might have been late for the party, but I will definitively be the one who is going to make the most noise. It’s been a hell of a ride!

I came, I saw, I conquered.


Jose Luis

Ps- I will keep updating this blog until I reach 10,000 hours. Although I reached a major goal in my life, the challenge is not yet completed.