I remember sitting in the back of my third grade math class doodling funny drawings, attracting attention from nearby classmates and immediately getting in trouble for said doodles and being disruptive in class. This was almost a daily occurrence all the way up through my school years and even into college.
It’s good to see my own kids carrying on the tradition of doodling cartoons in class in the margins of test papers and homework. His teacher seems to be more accepting of it than mine were.
I loved to draw ever since I could remember.
My mom now jokes that what I used to get in trouble for doing in a class, people now gladly pay me for. Funny how that works.
Growing up, I always wanted to be either a comic book artist or an animator. In ninth grade, I started collecting comic books, mostly of characters and titles that captured my imagination (Conan, Spider-man, Batman, Tarzan, Warlord, to name a few), and artists whose styles I admired. I still have boxes of all of those comics stored away in protective comic book cases. I cherish these old comics because those were my foundation for learning to draw. I would sit drawing for hours at a time, copying, imitating, studying every ink line, every fold, every facial expression, every hand gesture. I was completely captivated by how these incredibly talented artists could make those images jump off the page and come to life by simply drawing lines on paper.
While in high school, I started drawing for my school newspaper and yearbook, designed class T-shirts, posters and editorial illustrations. I was introduced to the world of commercial art by my 10th grade art teacher and I immediately decided on that as my career choice.
I was never really interested in comic strips until I was in college and discovered Bloom County, Doonesbury, Shoe and Calvin and Hobbes. It was through these strips that I started to develop a deeper appreciation for the art form. While in college, I played around with my own strip ideas, but never really pursued it seriously. I started working as a professional freelance illustrator while I was still in college for local South Florida design firms and ad agencies.
After a few false starts, I was finally able to make a full-time go of it. My illustration career has allowed me to work from home and allows me the flexibility to spend time with my family. If I want to play hooky with my boys and take them fishing, I can.
Now days I split my time working on the Baldo strips, some freelance illustration projects, teaching workshops, speaking and coaching/consulting other artists on how to build a successful freelance career doing what they love.
I had never seriously considered doing a comic strip until Hector Cantu pitched the idea to me back in 1998. Hector and I met when he, a magazine editor at the time, saw my illustration work in an artist directory. Hector contacted me about doing freelance illustrations for the magazine. Over the next two years, we struck up a friendship through numerous phone calls until Hector suggested creating a comic strip together about a Latino family. It was 1998 and I had just had my firstborn son and I wanted to start creating work that was more personal in nature, something that was own. Something I could leave behind as a notable legacy for my kids to remember me by. Sappy, I know, but happy – your very first child will do that to you.
Over the next year or so, we created a month's worth of comics and were surprised at the positive response from syndicate companies.
Baldo launched in April of 2000 to nearly 100 newspaper clients. The rest is, shall we say, history. In the 15 years we’ve worked together, we’ve met face-to-face only about seven or eight times. We mostly communicate on the phone and e-mail.
Working on the strip together is great! There are lots of scenarios, themes and family issues to explore. In a way, it’s like therapy and keeps me sane (when we’re meeting our deadlines, anyway).
A pinch-me moment
In 1977, as part of my weekly ritual, I walked into my local comic book store to pick up my comics, and a magazine caught my eye that I had never seen before. It was called Cartoonist Profiles. It had interviews with dozens of the best-known cartoonists and illustrators and offered a peek into each artists’ work life, creative methodology and process. I immediately fell in love with that magazine and continued to collect it for many years. I still have that very first copy that I purchased.
Fifteen years later, in the June 2002 issue of Cartoonist Profiles, we were among the interviewed cartoonists, and Baldo made the cover.
Wow!! I was stoked!
It’s been a great ride so far. Looking forward to many more years of creative growth, story-telling and connecting with our audience.
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