Well, is it? I honestly don't know anymore. Don't get me wrong; personally speaking, this is the happiest and most comfortable I've ever been in my life; professionally, it has been more challenging that I anticipated. Yes, I have my preferences on regard of what I want to draw and/or paint, but it is still art nonetheless. Sometimes I have to make ends meet and work on something I'm not that enthused, but it beats working 9 to 6 in a cubicle, not that there's anything wrong with that. I started this blog to showcase my work and also to tell you a tale of perseverance. Also, my goal was to log 10,000 hours in order to become a master in my craft. I have approximately 8863 hours, so I'd need to log 1337 hours more to officially end this self-appointed challenge. I've been away from writing these entries for two years now; needless to say I need to show you what I've been up to. In order to showcase my work I will divide each block on a type of activity. I've been focusing on comic illustrations, digital paintings, portraits, and caricatures. I've been also making some concept art, comics, and personal commissions that I won't be able to share here either because they are incomplete or I have, formally or informally, stated a non-disclosure agreement. I hope after discussing what I've been doing I can honestly answer if this journey has been worth it so far.
Let's start with a project I made out of love. The Flash, famous speedster from the DC Universe and member of the Justice League, turned 80 years in 2019; so I decided to draw a cover illustration commemorating the character in his birthday. I also love running marathons so I took inspiration on these events for the theme by including 80 speedsters. It took careful planning to sort this list out and I couldn't have done it without the help of my writer and friend, Marcelo Cury. The cover was very well liked and shared on social media, especially for Wally West fans (third Flash to honor the legacy) since I deservingly put him in front of the pack as the fastest speedster of them all. My idea for this piece was to get the attention of some art editors or at least get my work out there for future followers and fans.
|Flash # 1000 - 80th Anniversary Edition Cover|
Another highlight of 2019 was from my "Icons" collection. I had a profound Joker phase. Since my Icons digital paintings tend to be more realistic in nature I couldn't help to include Mark Hamill as the Joker. For those who do not know, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) did the voice for the Joker in the Batman Animated Series and other animations as well. Some people, including myself, have claimed that he is the best Joker of all. I took as reference a younger Mark Hamill playing the Trickster on the Flash TV series but painted him with the features of the Joker animated version. The end result was better than I anticipated but the highlight of this story was when Mark Hamill himself actually praised my work and thanked me on Twitter. Whenever someone mentions what a great idea would've been for him to play the clown prince of crime, he immediately posts my painting. To say that was one of the happiest days in my professional life so far would be an understatement. I mean, how many times you have the chance to interact with Luke Skywalker and by doing so getting a, and I quote, "Fantastic work Jose, much appreciated." It made my day, hell, it made my year!
Speaking of my "Icons" collection, I will show you my recent additions. 2020 was a slow year for these digital portrait paintings of pop icons but I managed to add a few I'm very proud of.
If I've improved substantially in something is portrait painting. One thing of being an artist is that you never stop learning, but for that you need to study, either by taking a class or by meticulously examination of other artists' work. In my case, I'm always looking for portrait artists to get inspired and whenever I have the chance I take classes to improve my style or at least to take me out of my comfort zone. My digital portraits market is mainly in Ecuador, and although I have struggled in making my audience understand my artistic approach, my pieces have become more known to my potential customers. I've been taking some commissions during these two years and I will be showcasing my favorite ones.
Now, one thing I'm pleasantly surprised is how much I've improved in my caricatures. If I'm being honest, I have loved to draw caricatures since I was 8 years old. Somehow it comes fairly easy to me to exaggerate features and still maintain the essence, or the likeness, of that person. Looking back at my early caricatures I understand how crude they were, nevertheless, they always made someone laugh when the person in the drawing was recognized. I would love to do more of these commissions not only because I enjoy them but also because I want to further improve on this technique. One of my strongest suits now is that throughout the years I learned to paint realistic portraits, so when you paint a caricature this way it makes the final product seem much more professional. Here are my favorite caricatures in these couple of years.
I happened to assist to two conventions during this time, Florida Supercon in 2019 and C2E2 in Chicago in 2020, right before the pandemic started. I always have a good time in these cons, although I can fairly assess that the enthusiasm for these types of events have wound down. In any case, it is a great place to meet colleagues, fans, and heroes. C2E2 may be my third most favorite comic-con, but due to the increasing threat of the Covid-19 virus in late February, when it was held, attendance diminished substantially. It is hard to imagine these packed events happening anytime soon now.
|Me at Florida Supercon 2019|
|My wife at C2E2 2020|
One fun project I was commissioned to do was of a Felix the Cat pop art acrylic painting. I always like to challenge myself with new ideas and this one I really enjoyed. I though it would look cool to print vintage comic strips and covers of Felix The Cat on a canvas of 30 x 40". Take into consideration that I had to arrange all those in Photoshop to obtain the desired composition. After that, I painted a huge Felix the Cat in acrylics and it turned out very cool. Like I've said many times before, I'm not much into Pop Art. My main critique is that they tend up to be just decorative pieces without a strong message. Whatever Pop Art's message of mass consumption was, it was done more effectively in the fifties and sixties when it was more relevant. They look really cool though and I have to admit that I enjoyed making this and wouldn't mind making more if the opportunity presents itself.
|Felix The Cat|
One of the perks of this job is that during your breaks you can come up with work for YOURSELF. In order to understand this one you have to be a Flash comics fan. You see, a life objective of mine is to be able to draw one published comic for the Flash, or at least a cover. During one issue there was a missed opportunity to include my favorite Flash, Wally West, possibly due to editorial meddling and conflicts. I decided to draw, ink, and color the character and paste it onto this published page of the Flash issue # 761. It was a fun drawing that let me vented all of my frustration of DC Comics choices regarding this character.
|Flash # 761 - The Return of Wally West|
Another cover I have to mention is a commission I got for a brave kid that is battling ATRT, which is a primary central nervous system tumor. Jonathan is constantly battling this disease and despite everything he has endured, he has such a great attitude towards this. He is a big fan of the Hulk, so his uncle asked me to include him right next to Hulk in a custom comic cover. Once I knew about this disease I immediately donated what I got for the commission to this noble cause. I realized that making him smile is compensation enough. I put my heart and soul into this piece and to my understanding he really liked it. If you want more information to help him, his Instagram account is @jonathansjourney2020
|Hulk and Jonathan|
And one last painting for the masses. At the end of this crappy year we were all excited for The Mandalorian second season, and let me tell you that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni didn't disappoint. They brought my love for Star Wars back. Here is a painting of Din Djarin and Boba Fett for his immaculate return to the Star Wars universe.
|Boba & Mando|
Last but not least, let's talk about the pink elephant in the room. The Covid-19 virus was something the world did NOT expect. We weren't ready for it and some people suffered a lot for it. When the pandemic broke out mid march and the quarantine started, it was really tough to overcome the fear, anxiety, helplessness, boredom, and plain uncertainty. I always draw and paint at my studio and realized soon enough, after a couple of weeks of spending time with my family and trying to solve primary logistics tasks, that I could work from home without a problem. Some people didn't get that opportunity. So I started drawing and running (on a treadmill) whenever I could. Both activities were therapeutic. Instead of watching the news, fake or real, all day I decided to spend most of my time doing these activities and while spending time with my wife and children. They were a tough couple of months but I am grateful I personally didn't suffer immediate loses and that we could be together as a family to overcome such a hard time. I started my quarantine project, not thinking on sales but to somehow entertain my fans and myself as well. My "comic confessions" started as a small challenges but it grew to become an ongoing project. Basically is one panel (using a format established in the infamous comic Heroes in Crisis), in which the character either confesses or makes a statement in front of a camera. The words, courtesy of my associate Marcelo Cury, turned out to be more ambitious that I had foreseen. I have drawn 90 characters or 10 pages so far, so I would expect to at least do 10 pages more for next year. I hope I have provided some distraction to people around the world who have been less fortunate than myself. Here I have made a big file containing the 90 characters.
So, is art worth it? Hell yeah it is! Maybe it is not as glamorous or meritorious as I would have imagined. Maybe it takes a little bit more time than anticipated to get your work out or to get your big break. Maybe I live in a country were my skills are not yet appreciated or understood correctly. And maybe, just maybe, I'm trying so hard to draw and paint what I enjoy more than what the market is asking me to deliver. Yes, maybe it is hard, but tell me of something worth doing that it is not. In the direst of times I understood now that if you are an artist by heart, becoming one is just unavoidable, or at least it should be. If you fight against it, you will end up repressed and unhappy. So for me it's not actually a choice. I'm an artist and I have to make it work, for me, for my family, for the people to happen to like my work, and for those who don't really care one way or the other, but for a glimpse of a second they find solace by looking into one of my pieces. Did you notice that when the world stopped, art did NOT! And why do you think that is? Art is expression; art is a form of communication. Some of my work may seem banal in nature, but I have received joy, happiness, admiration, and inspiration through comments regarding my work. So art won't stop even if the grinds that makes the world "turn" does. So why would I bother to stop it in my life? I will continue to work hard to achieve my goals but if that doesn't happen, I can now testify that art IS indeed worth the journey.