It’s not every day you get to take a drawing class with the guy who animated some of your favorite childhood films, and yet there I was sitting in the Bronx Music Heritage Center with a sketch pad and charcoal pencil in hand.
Mario Menjivar, an already tall guy, stood before like some hero out of the animated films he’s worked on as he effortlessly turned two eggs into a skull before fourteen sets of eyes. It was like magic, when he pressed his kohl black pencil against the oversized sticky paper on the wall and made a torso that would connect to the skull he had already sketched out, using only some simple lines and an even bigger oval.
It makes sense on a metaphorical level that even animated life would begin with an egg, but it hadn’t been the way I was taught to see the world.
Menjivar, a current Bronx native, began his artistic career in the animation industry for twenty two years, most of them as part of the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio. His work is featured in eight of the studio's films, among them: "Lion King," " Pocahantas," "Mulan," "Hercules," "Tarzan," and "Treasure Planet. He has gone to direct art and character design for several independent animation studios as well as designing merchandise for Disney and comic covers for DC comics and has taught animation and anatomy at The School of Visual Arts.
Natalia Zamparini a self-described “Artist. Human,” is a muse out of “Hercules;” the whole thing frankly felt unreal as she peeled off layers of royal purple fabric to reveal her form. There was no way I was going to be able to draw her, I thought. I was especially nervous because Zamparini is also an amazing artist, whose work with henna is some of the most inspired and intricate I’ve seen firsthand. (BxArts Factory was fortunate enough to get her to share her gifts with us at our anniversary fundraiser.) Henna out of hand, Natalia became the art herself. She leaned forward and stretched her arms out, giving us several poses to work with.
Mario, perhaps feeling how nervous some of us were, made it a point to walk around the room and dedicate more one on one instruction with the super beginner students, like me. By the end of the class, many of us produced work we were genuinely proud of. In two hours, I learned more than I had ever imagined I would. By the third class, I suspect I’ll be drawing my own business cards. Watch out now. I urge anyone and anyone to attend. This was the real deal.
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Natalie N. Caro is an editor, writer, and professor. She graduated from Lehman College, Magna Cum Laude, with double major in English Literature and Philosophy. She earned a fellowship and an MFA from City College. In 2013, she was awarded the Bronx Recognizes Its Own Fellowship by the Bronx Council on the Arts for excellence in Poetry. She was nominated for The Pushcart Prize, one of the most honored literary projects in America, in 2015. Currently, she's a doctoral candidate in CIAS- Center for Inter-American Studies, Bielefeld, University, where she will pursue a degree in Philology. She keeps forties in her fridge, because it still ain't nothing but a G thing, baby.