DMAC Student Blog: Wladimir Ortega on Becoming an Artist

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Hi! My name is Wladimir Ortega. I am a student at DMAC and I’ve been in the computer animation program for a little over a year now. I have a passion for digital illustration and character creation, it is what I’ve been doing with my free time for more than a decade. I’d like to share a couple of thoughts on what it is like to be an aspiring artist.

Since a relatively young age I became accustomed to juggling my studies with my passion for illustration.  It wasn’t always easy but it’s been so rewarding.

When I became interested in the subject, I didn’t really looked at it as practicing. I was just working on one cool new idea after another and I kept creating as they popped into my mind. Each one was just a little more demanding or required a little more problem solving than the last and, as a result, I ended up spending a lot of my time doing research, looking up tutorials, messing around with the options included in the software. I often would put my face really close to the screen as I analyzed the brush strokes on the work of someone that I admired.

I made each illustration, I traced every line, I measured every vector curve. And even if they were not that great, I was proud because I never stopped adding something new. Improvement was always exponential. Teachers would tell me that the exact things I was doing was what I needed to do to become an artist.

As soon as I got admitted to DMAC and became an actual art student I hoped I would meet someone who would show me a fast and hassle free way to the top. But I soon came to a simple realization, if you’re an artist you have probably heard this before: You are only as good as the work you put into it. Everyone has worked extremely hard to hone their skills and become who they are. Shortcuts are out of question.

The difference between artists in the industry and myself was always just so deep and wide that I would start to think that those people were just born blessed, that it just comes easy to them while it never does for me. It sounded out of reach.

But now, the more you practice and understand what you’re doing, the more the world changes.  You grow more confident and the glass ceiling begins to break.  They are human. Just like me.

Now in college, I hope to hone my skills to the point I can share a table with my friends, classmates, mentors and the artists that I admire and feel like we are all equal in our craft. Getting there might take a while but it is definitely not impossible to realize.

Sometimes I even get compliments from my classmates on my art work. I appreciate that with all my heart. I thrive for the day I can safely say that my work speaks for itself. Yet, there’s something in that kind of delivery that actually makes me sad, I would never want to make someone feel like their objectives are out of reach, like looking at great artists used to make me feel. Just as much as I would never want my years of continuous hard work to be simplified into an explanation that renders them irrelevant.

I’m the happiest when someone sees a piece done by me and actually likes it and is interested in the technical aspect of it, asks me about the steps I took and then we discuss a bit about both of our work, maybe even learn from one another in just a couple seconds. That is in my mind the image of someone who is right there fighting, making themselves better, the girl quietly doodling during break, the guy with a serious expression because he is planning in his mind how to make a rig work. The kind of people whose work speaks for them. Whose art doesn’t only show up when they have to do it for homework.

Just to be clear though, I definitely have an immense amount of improvement to do and experience to gain before I pretend to tell you guys what to do. You can be good at what you do and you can always be better but that never ever means you’re any less of a person. As long as you’re trying your best, you ARE the best and nobody will start to realize that until you do.

When I come across comments clearly meant to bring me down for no good reason since it’s so easy to judge a visual medium. I just remember that nobody beats a dead dog. I’m happy because I am alive and what I do moves people enough to cause reactions.

I just hope others can take something from this because you can be sure I am trying to make myself believe these things too, it was my reason for writing this. We are all human, there’s no reason why you would not be able to reach whatever it is you want in life.

I’m giving it time and determination.