Monday, August 22, 2005

Who You Callin' Stable?

This was written in response to Tad Lambert's question in last post's comments.

"Tell you what, Tad,
I'll do better than that.
I won't email you,
right here I'll tell ya.

(I rhymed "you" with "ya"
How gay is that?)

All kidding aside, I don't think you really want to read how I became a "stable" artist, simply because that never happened. I'm replying to you here, on my blog, because I do get this question asked a lot of times, if anyone else wishes to know, I don't have to type this shit again, so here's my entire true story of how I became a "drawer of nakid women".

I have always wanted to be a cartoonist of some sort but I didn't have the patience required to do things the american way, being a foreigner and all that, I did things in an unorthodox, ghetto fashion, more so because of ignorance than smarts, more on that later. Now, if you pardon the rampant sarcasm, bitterness and poor grammar, I will continue.

See, the american way is as follows, you draw a mean Wolverine, you receive praise from friends and family members, which in turn encourages you and fills you up with the necessary confidence needed to pursue your dream of becoming the next Rob Liefeld, Shag or similarly rich and famous hack...I mean stable artist; you then go to art school, you party hard with your friends and hardly part open a book, neglecting the basics, you don't want to learn from the masters and from cats who know how to draw, "that stuff is ol' school and stale", you want to learn from new, exciting and dynamic stuff, like comics, manga and other trendy and poorly conceived basura, you turn out mediocre (but stylish) pimpwork yourself which gets acclaimed, when confronted about the wonkiness and lack of foundation in your drawings you reply: "it's a Bruce Timm influenced thing", "a Humberto Ramos' thing" (or whoever the current trend setter is) "you wouldn't understand", the uninformed masses love you. Even more mediocre art teachers promote you along 'cause they don't give a fuck, you make connections in the industry; you then put a portfolio together and send it to the many different connections you've collected in the previous step, said portfolio gets trounced about, ridiculed and physically abused by art directors and other human refuse; eventually landing you an unpaid (or if you're lucky, a minimum wage, plus subway tokens) internship, you enter the workforce (insert John Williams' epic fanfare from any movie soundtrack here) and frame your first dollar bill earned as an artist.

But before you gain the insight to recognize that you suck as an artist and come to the stark and brutal realization that you must go back to learn the basics (which you can't at this point because you have too many bills to pay, so you keep pimping and whoring yourself for a quick buck and a pat in the back) you must suck ass, get lots of coffee and be treated as third world toilet scum by half-assed "professionals" in your field of expertise, who in turn, are willing to suck even more ass than you, lie, cheat, steal from you, trip you, back-stab, you and whoever else to climb the proverbial corporate ladder..... I think you know where this is going...soooo there!

I am not a stable artist, I've never been, I understand that's the perception some people have, maybe I give that impression, I don't say this for effect, it's a fact, I am quite possibly, the most inconsistent artist there is (this, I'm proud of). These days I do what I like and pick & choose the projects I want to work on because after years of struggle, life has afforded me such luxury.

Early on I did what I had to do to survive, that meant to work shitty jobs for crap pay and stupid hours, in order to get to do what I really like and learn what makes me happy. Not unlike many of you reading this crap, I worked as an interior demolition/construction guy, newspaper boy, delivery driver, NYC cabbie, busboy, -you name it- during the day, and as a minimum wage production artist for print, film, advertising, animation, newspaper, garment center/fashion etc., etc. all night, I did this from my teens all the way through my thirties, I was hungry for knowledge, I didn't care if the art jobs paid good money or none at all, my master plan was simple: Gorilla Warfare, infiltrate the business, learn the secrets and use them for my personal gain once I became independent.

This is the way I operated: ( I'm not embellishing either) I would get hired or volunteered as an apprentice or low wage production artist, I would stay there long enough to learn the "ins" and "outs" of the trade, I'd quit right after being promoted to staff artist and move on to the next thing, I've never held an art related in-house job for more than 3 months at a time, with the exception of my stay at "Freeze" -a garment design company- which lasted for 5 and one half months, I have worked for many companies for years but only as a freelancer, never in-house.

My fleeting nature was such, that a popular industry head hunter wrote the word "jumper" next to my name. My last known day job -and the position I held for the longest time (3 years) was at Kids Headquarters in NYC where I worked as a (I shit you not) "Macintosh Systems Supervisor", (that would be "computer guy" to you and head of Mac IT to my fellow nerds) my job was to research, purchase, install/deploy, implement and troubleshoot computer equipment and train designers/artists in the use of design technology ei. Computers, Servers, high-end volume printers, Photoshop, Illustrator, Mac software, etc. I did that during the day and freelanced mainly for DC Comics, Lucent Technologies, Nickelodeon and whatever came my way, I never slept, made tons of money and made myself sick (in that particular order).

In retrospect, this all sounds very poetic and adventurous, and for me it was those things and more because I experienced a great deal of personal satisfaction in doing things my way but the sad reality of my dismal financial situation during my "hungry/struggle years" and the virtual hell I put my family through, during my "good fortune years" (I hardly saw my kids and nearly worked myself to death, no joke!) mostly because of my inability to hold a steady job, was anything but romantic. I merely substituted one evil for another.

I hope that answers your questions, I know, I know, a simple "yes or no" would have sufficed, but you know me, I love babbling incoherently for hours on end, you're probably sorry you asked, but don't be.



Tony Austin said...

That is so fucking true! He nails it! I have four kids, a wife, sole income, zero time, and I am burnin' midnight oil to learn what I missed; namely anatomy, technical drawing, and a superb command of 3 point perspective. Then there is the animation and the motion graphics. His comments regarding basics; (you know what they are), can save you 10 years of grief.

Byagi said...

This is great. Thanks for the info. I like seeing someone that doesn't go about things the "traditional" way.

Tad Lambert said...

HA!! I rock, i got a whole JOURNAL entry because of my question. HA!!

Nah, thanks bro.

Though a very roudn about way, i appreaciate you not giving me a yes or no. i mean, if you said yes or no, i would be like..."um...what do you mean?" heh heh,

Any way thanks alot. Hope to see you again man at another con. Keep in touch man.


Process Junkie said...

Tony: believe it or not the garment center here in NYC is packed with talented and not so talented individuals who hate their jobs and wish they'd be doing what they truly love, most of them feel as if they are trapped by this very condition, now with families of their own and mortgages to pay, it's both an excuse and a reason to not go back to basics. I also feel I wasted, what I see now as precious time dealing with the bullshit end of the art business, time that would have been better spent on honing my skillls and learning how to draw for real. Thanks for chiming in.

B, thank you for the comments, to be fair I must say that I was in Tad's situation, I didn't have a clue as to what the "traditional" procedure was, my lack of schooling left me no choice.

Tad I wish you the best of luck, man.


sedyas said...

Alberto, acabo de descubrir que tienes un blog! Me encanta tu trabajo, y veo que aquí hay muchísimo de todo. En cuanto tenga un rato te añado a mis links.

emceeONE said...

Ah the basics. I was both lucky and unfortunate to start learning them a few years ago. I wish I learned them while I was still in high school, but I doubt I would have been as persistent or focused on my goals if I did.

Still, learning them is something I'm glad I did. Thanks for sharing,


Process Junkie said...

sedyas: Muchas Gracias!

MC1: it's never too late to never stop learning. :)

emceeONE said...

it's never too late to never stop learning.

ha! 'fraid I'm too addicted now.

Allan L. said...

MC1: it's never too late to never stop learning. :)
No doubt. I've finally finished school, and I feel that there's still more to learn. Right now, I'm on "vacation" and drawing for fun, which is something I've missed out on for a long time. I figure it's the only way I'm gonna get better.

Great post, man!

Scott Neely said...

Hey Alberto,
You do all your drawings on vellum. Why is that your drawing preference? Easier to edit the work and fix it or does it leave a slicker line?

I used to have to work on it all the time myself (as well as tracing paper) then some art director would throw another piece of tracing paper over it and blue line corrections for it. Working for the man keeps you down. But then it makes it easier to see through and to help you refine the drawing without the use of a light table.

Process Junkie said...

Thanks Allan!

Scott: I use it for all those reasons and more, it also scans beautifully and it smudges nicely (if you use col-erase or any wax based pencil) recently I've been drawing on those cheap korean sketchbooks, they're pretty good.


bonojerry said...

Whoah....thank you for your is so nice to hear that I am not alone. I have a genetic inability to do something the way I have been told and have been dealing with that by trying to survive as an artist and designer for years now....