I've been drawing since I was a little dude in a seaside town in Honduras, where I was known as the boy who wouldn’t talk. Because my brother was born deaf and couldn’t speak, I had decided to join him and not talk either. But my silence didn’t last and once I began talking I became the boy with a thousand questions. I moved to New York with my parents. They wanted a better life for my brother so they moved to the states and found a special school for kids like him.
Growing up in the Bronx in the 70’s and 80’s, when most of the buildings were burnt or burning down, was difficult. It was a time when corrupt landlords paid people to burn down apartment buildings for the insurance policy. These slumlords left a once proud borough looking like Europe after World War II. Crime rate went up, and my very over-protective parents did everything possible to keep my brother and I busy in our apartment and out of the streets. My brother and I collected comic books, graphic novels, built models and went to the movies. While watching the old TV shows like “The Adventures of Superman” and the Adam West “Batman and Robin,” I drew. Of course, school was very important, and before we got to do all these things, we had to have our schoolwork done.
As I grew older, my teachers at All Hallows High School often caught me sketching during class. Instead of becoming upset with me, they encouraged me to join the poster club where I could draw all I wanted. I did, and alongside another talented artist in the club, we became the official artists for the poster club. I never thought of art as a career. However, I couldn’t hide the fact that art always left me satisfied and somehow centered when I did it. When it was time to pick a career I talked to my advisers and realized that I didn’t want to live a nine to five life, sitting at a desk. There’s nothing wrong with sitting behind a desk, you just must want to do that and know you’re going to enjoy it. I knew that I wasn’t.
So, I chose art and enrolled at The School of Visual Arts in New York where I majored in Fine Arts and Film. I learned a lot at SVA, not just from the great teachers, but also from my fellow students. We sat at the SVA lounge and sketched away. We looked at each other’s work and shared drawing tips, which I still use today. I also met my beautiful wife at SVA; she studied writing. I always joke that I didn’t just come out of SVA with a diploma, I also left with a future wife. After graduating from SVA, I went to work for The Remco Toy Company. Simultaneously, I decided to study at The Arts Students League of New York. There, I majored on Anatomy drawing and painting.
During that time The Disney Studios came to recruit at SVA. A friend of mine at Remco, was also a SVA alumnus, told me about their talent search for their growing animation studio. At first I wasn’t interested, I wanted to be a painter and do book jackets, and I didn’t consider animation an art form, but he talked me into it. A few months later I found myself in Florida on a 3-month internship. An amazing twenty-four year career in the animation industry followed, most of them as part of the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Orlando Florida and Los Angeles, California.
My work was featured in eight studio's films, among them: "Lion King," " Pocahontas," "Mulan," "Hercules," "Tarzan," and "Treasure Planet My work can also be seen in the Warner Bros. film "Looney Tunes: Back in Action." Around that time, I also reconnected with my illustration roots as an Art Director and Character Designer for several independent animation studios and as Merchandise Designer for Disney and comic covers for DC comics.
After thirteen years in California, my wife and I decided it was time to come back home. We wanted our first born to grow up around our family. Now, I’m back at SVA teaching animation and anatomy. I am also illustrating and co-publishing picture books for my company, MoonBear, where I get to combine my formal drawing skills with the principles of acting and dynamic poses that are the hallmark of animation art. And I’m having a great time doing it. I’ve continued my work with major companies, working with studios like Warner Brothers again on “Tom and Jerry” films.
Since coming back to The Bronx, it’s been amazing to see how much it has changed since I was a kid. From a place with burned buildings and empty lots, to a beautiful town of growth, with new homes and businesses sprouting everywhere. I’m proud to be a Bronxite, where I can bring my experience and share it. I feel so fortunate to be part of a great organization like BxArts Factory. I can now give back to fellow Bronxites, the young and the seasoned, who also want to express themselves as artists.
*Edited by Rosemary Rivera and Natalie N. Caro
Bringing Art to Every Household.