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Comic book artist and creative director: How I got my job and where I'm going

Born in Bronx, New York, the artist's passion for art was fueled by city life and popular culture. He pursued formal art education, blending traditional techniques with urban influences. Despite facing challenges, his diverse mentors at the University of Utah helped him explore opportunities. After a setback, he relocated, rebuilt his art career, and eventually pursued a Master's degree. He now aims to create a community hub for nurturing talent.

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Video transcript

I was born in Bronx, New York in 1984, wherein all my favorite cartoons came out: Ninja Turtles and Transformers, and Terminator and all that good stuff. Living in the city you just saw so much art everywhere. Y'know graffiti, and going to museums, and just seeing art in everything. That really just influxed into me. And so I always wanted to go to art school because of that. 'Cause I just wanted to kind of harness that. So I went into art school and I learned formal training and it was all traditional, traditional art history. So I was interested in... different kind of art as well so I wanted to bring that in too. So all my art I try to fuse traditional fundamentals but also with that urban feel and the art that I was influenced by which was like hip-hop, and comics, and graffiti and cartoons. So I brought that in narratives that reflected my experience and my family's experience because it wasn't shown, it wasn't represented. So I wanted to bring that in and that brought in a whole different set of struggles which was they weren't familiar with it. And I had to justify it and validate it in a lot of scenarios. So that's what led to a lot of my research in my own personal and also in my papers that I put out in validating that kind of artwork that isn't traditionally validated in the art world. I was at the University of Utah. My mentors...I had a good team of mentors and I was part of a program that was for Presidential Scholars sponsored by the president of the university. And they want they...handpicked us to bring diversity to the university. And with that came a league of mentors which were also professors of diverse backgrounds in the university as well. And in that, working with these mentors, I was able to gain opportunities that weren't traditionally available. So I got, I was able to work on an encyclopedia learning about black writers of the 20th century. And getting opportunities for different kind of scholarships where I was able to write and speak on certain issues. And also be a representative for black Latinos in the world. At University of Utah I got my Bachelor's in Fine Arts in art, and also studied...I got two minors: one in anthropology, and one in Afro-American studies/ethnic studies. So I took my title, I have five years experience at a credit union, and I went back to New York City, and I decided to start my art career there. And I started by doing internships. These all established institutions, and established artists with their own studios, and I learned how the art world works through working with them and under them. And then from there I created my own opportunities through networking and friends, to have my own art shows. And from creating those art shows I built up my career. Then in 2008, 2009, when the recession hit, it was like the rug got pulled under me. The day job that I had working with Zipcar cut hours severely and it cut into my income. And then I wasn't able to produce art at the capacity to have...put on shows. So also when, that's also when I fell in love with comics again as a child, from going to comic conventions and stuff. So I decided to, I wanted to make comics instead. Because I could do that anywhere and not have to live in New York. So I relocated to Salt Lake City, which ended up me working for JetBlue Airways and working from home and rebuilding my art practice there. And then from there I got scouted by SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, to see if I wanted to study there. And I was doing OK, I had...you know, I was living a pretty stable life, I was able to produce art, and sell, and also had my nice little cozy day job. I was happy where I was. But the opportunity to get a master's degree enticed me 'cause from the influence from my mentors, they kinda always pushed me like, you know, keep going and get your terminal degree, you know and be a professor, 'cause it will provide just other opportunities for you. Getting experience teaching, after I had... y'know finished my degree and went to New York, and so on and so forth, showed me that I also had a passion for teaching and sharing knowledge. So that really enticed me, so I applied, went to get my...came to Atlanta, got accepted and it was the only program in the world at the time that offered a Master's in Fine Arts in sequential art. Finished school, got through school, and I wanted to build up my own business. So I started it off as a sole proprietorship, just doing kind of commissions here and there. But building up my own characters and everything. It was...they were so original that I felt that they weren't going to apply to what was already out there. So I wanted to create my own hub, my own creative hub where I could work, hire other talent, and be an epicenter for launching talent. In the perfect world, where I'm gonna be 10 years from now, I would have at least one center where I could have studio space that's available not just to myself but to the community at large. It'll have a garden and a gym and a library and a gift shop and all that stuff in one place. So it'll be a community center, but also a creative launchpad, where talented people could get access to that and develop their skills, but also where they could get scouted as well from the industry. And it could be an art school, where people could get accreditation as well, so I want these skills to be credible, and transfer wherever they want to go to. But also it's tangible and applicable, and I think the way I feel about art, it's very imperative especially for the future for creative thinking skills, education purposes, these kind of skills even at the elementary level, if you learn how to write well, if you learn how to tell a story well, it applies for yourself as life skills. So that's why I feel it's elevation for society. So let's say you want to work with Marvel Comics, or DC Comics, or any kind of publisher. They have their websites where they put down what they're looking for. They have submissions: they'll say that they want you to put a pitch package together if it's an independent publisher, and it'll outline very clearly what they're looking for. Usually five pages, a synopsis, and who your audience is for this work. And it would definitely help if you build your own following and using the publishing for distribution purposes, opposed to just trying to land a job. Now, if you want to become a specific artist, or writer, or specific job within that comic field then you have to develop work, or have work, that reflects at a professional level work that they publish already. So your penciling work or your inking work, your writing, your scripts, your colorist's work. You have to demonstrate that you're able to have competitive work at a professional level. While still having a unique, original style.