Ep.137: The art of storytelling with Mauricio Abril

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Apr 23, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Mauricio Abril, a Concept Artist who switched from Molecular Biology to art. He has worked with Disney, Universal Creative, Ubisoft, and Hasbro. Mauricio teaches at CGMA and LA Academy of Figurative Art.

Get in touch with Mauricio

Key Takeaways

“Be patient, it’s not a race, it’s not about how much time you spend, but about the focus!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Mauricio for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Mauricio Abril, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists and characterize our related videos. My name is Iva and my guest today is Mauricio Abril, and in this episode, you will learn about his transition from molecular biology to art, and how you can get a good feedback whether stories in your artworks work well,

Mauricio Abril  

if you’re trying to have a have a piece that has a lot of story in it, try to show it to somebody and and see if they if there’s more than just one thing that they can say about it in terms of subtext so that it’s not so because if it’s just one thing that they can pick out from it, and maybe there’s more you can add to it.

Iva Mikles  

After switching from molecular biology to art. Mauricio graduated from Art Center College of Design in entertainment design, and he has worked as a concept artist in animation video games theme park design and illustration for clients to Disney Interactive, Disney Imagineering, universal creative Ubisoft and Hasbro, Mauricio also teaches is CGMA and La Academy of figurative art. So please welcome Mauricio a real and let’s get to the interview. So welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Mauricio here. Hi,

Mauricio Abril  

everyone. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Iva Mikles  

I’m really my pleasure. And let’s just start right away with your background maybe. And you can tell us a bit more about like how you go to art and which were kind of biggest turning point, you know, where get you like now what you’re doing?

Mauricio Abril  

Sure. So he was referring to the fact that I first studied science, I went to college, and I graduated in molecular biology, with the hopes of going to graduate school and pursuing a PhD. It wasn’t until I finished college. And actually my last year that I realized that I didn’t want to do it. If anybody knows anything about a science, or any any field that requires a PhD, you shouldn’t be doing it unless your heart and your soul is absolutely in it. It’s very difficult. It requires a lot of sacrifice a lot of years. And I realized that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. I liked science, but I didn’t want to go down that that road. So what happened was, I just decided, okay, I’m just going to graduate finish my degree. And I had no plan. And so it wasn’t until I just got a job. That wasn’t very exciting. I was doing quality control in a laboratory. And I just started drawing again, I just, I used to draw as a kid, I never really studied or I never really took it seriously, but I always liked it. And so I started drawing again because I had the time. And then that’s slowly snowballed into maybe the idea that if I apply to art school, maybe I could try to go and do it professionally, like, like the full way. So that’s kind of how it happened. I researched articles at the time. And the thing is, this was back in the mid 2000s. So there were no resources available the way they are now with all of these online tutorials, podcasts, blogs, social media, none of that existed. So the only way I knew to be an artist was to go to art school. So I researched one that was nearby Los Angeles, which is where I was living, and it was called the Art Center College of Design. And I found that was very good school. So I, I spent a year and I took classes all around LA public classes, you know, figure drawing, figure painting, foundation classes, and I put together a portfolio I applied and that’s kind of how it all started. So it was through boredom essentially, that I became an artist.

Iva Mikles  

And so did someone help you in the sense like okay, maybe this school is good or that school or did you have someone you look up to like, okay, maybe I want to be career wise, like this person in future.

Mauricio Abril  

Oh, you know, I wish I could say I did. I have to admit. My no I didn’t I like I said I had no, I had no idea what to do about art, art school or even becoming an artist. So I just thankfully there was at least Google and So I just Googled art schools Los Angeles and I found Otis Otis College of Design. I found the artists toots, and I found Art Center. And and so when I Googled art center that I went to the Wikipedia of Art Center, I saw Oh, wow, like all of these, like famous artists that I kind of recognize. They went to art center. So like, okay, should be good. And I thought Pasadena is not that far. And, and so I, the more I researched it, the more I found out that it was a legitimately a good school. So I thought, okay, I, I’m probably Okay, going here. And then it wasn’t until I, I started that I realized, okay, this is definitely a proven institution. So, in a way, I kind of like I said, I did my research, but I lucked out that, that, that there were schools around me that I could go to, otherwise, I probably would have had to decide, okay, am I gonna move somewhere? Or am I gonna try to stay local?

Iva Mikles  

And so what kind of fascinated you about art? Was it more of the characters or Katelyn light or environment? Or was that you wanted to develop? Or was it the superheroes or kind of what was the direction or it kind of developed over time?

Mauricio Abril  

Probably superheroes. I’ll be honest, when I was a kid, I had a dream of being a comic book artist, just like a lot of kids have, you know, dreams, but so when I decided to look back into art school, I didn’t know anything about artists. I didn’t know what they did as a profession. I didn’t know what they did as a career. The only thing that I knew was okay, you could probably work for Disney drawing films, or you could probably, and not even visual development. I mean, literally animating. Or you could be a comic regardless. So that’s the thing. When I started art school, I knew that I wanted to do something creative visually, but I had no idea what what I would have done, you know, and I didn’t even know I’d be doing anything with computers. I thought I’d be learning. I’d be working completely in traditional media, pencils, inks, paint, paints.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Now your go to thing is Photoshop or do you also use different apps? Or like procreate with Apple Pencil? Or? Like I?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, go to Photoshop? I haven’t. I’ve only played around with procreate on a friend’s tablet before but yeah, pretty much I my default is Photoshop. And I’m sketching pencil every now and then.

Iva Mikles  

So what do you say it’s your specialty? Is it the character design, or the storytelling now? Because he also made the book or you also would have gotten movies? And so we’ll be or maybe we’ll be seated closest to your heart with a story?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, so definitely, I can say now, I, my, what I believe my passion and my strength is, is in visual storytelling. So creating images that tell a story or that tell an emotion with characters. So it’s not necessarily just character design, or just environment. It’s, it’s everything together. It’s I really love pieces where there’s multiple characters. And and you can read something in that illustration.

Iva Mikles  

And can you maybe give us some tips on like, maybe what is the best thing you learn about? visual storytelling? Or maybe what is something like, that’s not that great to do when you’re trying to, like, tell a story with one image?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, definitely. Let’s see. That’s a good question. What would well, the way the way I, I, I tend to think about it is, you know, if I have to think about one of my favorite visual storytellers, and that’s Norman Rockwell, it’s that he, there was a class I took thankfully, in school, it was an academic class. So it wasn’t anything about drawing or art. It was about, like art history. And, and it was that in his illustrations, especially the ones that are very story driven, not just maybe a simple vignette, but they’re every part, every detail of the composition is important. And, you know, even if it’s a person’s prop on their table, right, like if it’s, if it’s somebody, maybe maybe there’s a character you have, and they have, maybe a guitar or a horn or some musical instrument, right? It’s not just enough to draw that as, as you might look it up. It’s, you know, what type of musical instrument is it dirty or is it scratched is a brand new, because all of those things will be very important in communicating that. That deep the story and everything from the kind of wall in the room to the carpet to the bed, whatever it is you’re showing. So definitely the story is in the details and the As far as anything not to do, I mean, I guess that could be a big list of things. But But I

Iva Mikles  

would say something you used to do. And then you found out like, yeah, maybe that’s not the best. Or something like that.

Mauricio Abril  

Oh, I mean, there definitely is, I just probably have to look at some of my old student work and be like, oh, man, I know. But what I can definitely say, at least the thing is, what I what I try to tell my students in the classes I teach is, if you’re trying to have a piece that has a lot of story in it, try to show it to somebody and and see if they if there’s more than just one thing that they can say about it in terms of subtext so that it’s not so because if it’s just one thing that they can pick out from it, then maybe there’s more you can add to it.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because also, like, as you mentioned, the room and if we have a character room, and then there is I don’t know, science book on the table. So we might see, okay, maybe this character like science that can be a leader books for a kid, the kid doesn’t even have to be there. And then you can already start to thing, right.

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, definitely. Oh, yeah. Yeah, for me art is is as much about letting the viewer kind of have was it as much as me telling a specific story. So

Iva Mikles  

and the your book about the dogs and the storytelling there? Is it inspired maybe from your childhood? Or where did you get the main inspiration for this story?

Mauricio Abril  

Sure, yeah. So the children’s book, it was just an idea that I had, actually, I had it before even started art school, it was just an idea of, of having little dogs as a metaphor for, you know, other children’s stories, they’re about, you know, kids, or they’re about the idea that, you know, you want something to change in your life. And somehow, maybe you get it through magic, or you maybe you get it through some experiment gone wrong. But the thing of it, that is the thing that I loved looking about, that I loved about when I looked at docs, is that they come in such a variety of sizes, everything from a small as a chihuahua to a huge, you know, Labrador Doberman or anything bigger than that. And the thing is, those small dogs will never get will never grow to be big. And I thought, you know, with a lot of us, we have things that we want to change, we wish we could change, but will they’ll never change. And part of it is just being okay with that. And, and just being okay with the idea that, okay, I’m not going to be taller, I’m not going to be six feet, I’m not going to, you know, if you’re born with some other difference, you’re probably not until science advances have that, that that changed. So it was just kind of more the idea of that. So it, it was really more of an adult thought I it but but infused with the themes of kind of just kid friendliness and childhood and just fun. Because that’s what I’ve realized is found a lot is Is it a lot of my work. So that’s kind of where it came from.

Iva  

i So how well does your experience with creating a book? Was it done through Kickstarter, or someone did the funding? Or was it like, an order? Or how did you do that?

Mauricio Abril  

So okay, so I first created the book, before, years ago before even Kickstarter was probably an idea in the in the, in the craters head. No, I just, I originally created the book because I was hoping to get it published by submitting it to publishers. And I found out that that’s not as easy as people think it might be. And so I created a book. And I tried submitting it through formal channels, sending out query letters to agents, and, and nothing really happened. And then a couple of years passed by I moved on I, I just you know, focused on other things, and, and then when eventually I thought about I said, You know what, like, I need to do something with this book. I spent all this time and it’s just sitting in my hard drives. Nobody and I printed a few dummy copies through like websites that print, you know, single single books, just so that I can show people. And so then I decided to do a Kickstarter. So that’s how it happened. So I, I again, I did my research I spent a year like studying, not not full time but you know, I spent a year since the time I decided to do a Kickstarter till the time I did it. And I studied up successful campaigns. I studied similar campaigns. I asked my friends who had done some Kickstarters and and then that’s how I got the funding. And so I had the book done, which I think helped because in my video i i stated the book is done. I showed a lot of samples. And I said this is just to help get it printed. And so then that’s how I just I’ve only raised enough money I need that I needed just to get it printed.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And so now, what do you mainly leave from Is it the money from the book? Or is the teaching? Or is the client work? Or how do you combine your income streams? Yeah,

Mauricio Abril  

I wish I could live just from the word no.

Iva Mikles  

million copies?

Mauricio Abril  

No, even with the book? No, I mean, if I, if I just looking at the financials from the book itself, I would probably still be in the red, I would still be, I would still, I probably still spent more money on the book than I, than I’ve made off of it know, what I live off of is my professional illustration work. So definitely clients and I mean, I consider teaching professional work to but it’s definitely not full time. It’s, and I’ve only been teaching part time in the sense I don’t teach every quarter and I don’t teach full time every quarter. So but yes, professionally, I’m a full time. Illustrator concept artist, by work right now. I work freelance. I work from home. And I and I can speak to that. But in the past, I did have studio jobs where I was working, you know, five days a week, 40 hours? Pretty much.

Iva Mikles  

And so how was the transition in kind of networking from one profession to another, right, because you were not in the artistic field before? And so was most of your networking through school? Or did you start like looking for agents after you were done with studying or someone approached you?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, so definitely, I would say school was the biggest kickoff. When I first my first day of school art school. Like, I knew nothing about art. I knew nobody in art had no idea like there was there weren’t there wasn’t any artists I could follow or know about. It was. So yes, definitely. So that is one of the benefits of going to at least any kind of school is the the the internal networking, just making friends. And then through friends, I realized that that’s what I learned a lot through is just the passive conversations you have with people just kind of talking during lunch, talking during dinner talking while you guys are working on homework, talking in between classes, just Oh, have you heard about this thing? Or like, Oh, do you know about this artist is really cool. And then that’s how I kind of learned a lot about kind of, oh, you know, how do you apply for internships or and then they also had a few resources, in terms of helping students to apply for things internships, once you graduate kind of what how you should approach the, how you should approach marketing yourself or just trying to solicit work. So for me that was through school and, and I tell a lot of my online students that, you know, if you don’t have the benefit of that, the best I guess, the the bed, the next best thing would be to try to be a very friendly, but not very, a very friendly social, social network or online with a lot of the websites that exist, but just just keep it to just just in a very, still very professional and in a non obtrusive way, you know, because, like, I get a lot of I’ve gotten a lot of young people, students all over the world who’ve written me asking me for advice or, or just things I don’t know, somehow they find me like, they’ve even referenced my change from science to art. And, and, and I write them all back with whatever they’re asking for, whether it’s like advice or, or something. And, as you know, there’s so far thankfully, you know, cross my fingers, nobody’s, I’ve never had anybody do it in a rude or kind of a very off putting away. So, like I told him, like, you know, nowadays with the internet and social media, you know, try to outreach to artists and try to just keep it short, keep it simple. Ask for you know, some advice, try to be very direct in your questions. Like, don’t leave it open ended, like how do I be an artist? You know, because that’s, it’s, that’s, it’s hard to answer that but, you know, but you know, you may not get a response every single time. People are busy, they may not see it, but if you send out enough you you will so that’s probably the next best thing to just try to get help and then those communities that exist like art station is a really good one that I would recommend where it’s kind of like social networking, but specifically for artists.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because I from my experience, what I saw around the art station is more for like, finished more poly species than Instagram is like, you can post also work in progress and other things. So what is your experience from different social media so that our station is kind of your favorite or you are also more on it? Instagram and because I mean,

Mauricio Abril  

right? No, that’s That’s true. That’s a good question. And it’s something that I guess I’ve learned through trial and error. And I think, you know, I’m by no means a social media expert or anything. I mean, if anything I kind of because I’m a little older, like, at least I grew up with the internet, but not with social media. So it’s just to me social media is a lot of work. I just want to dry No, I just want to draw. And so but no, I enjoy it. Because obviously, it allows us to share our work with we see so much work that we’d never seen before. So, but to answer your question, I would say that, what I’ve, what my personal observations are, is that, you know, I have I have a Facebook page, and that, what I find is that Facebook is definitely a kind of mainstream catch all platform. It’s, it depends on also, I think, one of your future questions might be about brand and kind of how you market yourself. But it also depends on how you’re presenting yourself to the world. So I’ve presented I feel like I presented myself as art that people like, just in general, like little superheroes, and also a lot of families. So on Facebook, I have a lot of what I feel like I have a lot of fans who aren’t really artists. I mean, there are but the ones that I feel I engage with the most are just people who appreciate a nice image to look at in their feet. And so and so I get a lot of you know, family types, dads, moms talking about that stuff. And on Instagram, I feel like it’s a mix of young artists who like art as well as people, as well as family, just people who enjoy seeing the pretty pictures in their Instagram feed. Now in art station, that’s much more industry focused. So yes, you are correct. Like most people in our station post finished stuff, and they might post they might post in progress stuff, if it’s more about showing their process and looks like Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s not, oh, here’s a rough doodle I did you know, this morning, before my train or something like that. Instagram is definitely much more social, where it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, people are like, Oh, this is, you know, me at the museum or this is, you know, this is just a, I’m really enjoying watching Stranger Things on Netflix. And here’s a quick sketch of L, you know. So, it’s, and the one thing I’ve learned is that you have to, the way you present yourself will definitely affect how you use that platform. Because if you, if you kind of show yourself as as, as like, your stuff is mainly for artists, then then people will respond to your stuff as in that way. But if you’re just kind of showing, you know, fun stuff that everybody likes, then you might have a little bit of a trickier time trying to get one thing across. Does that make sense? Yeah, definitely. Because

Iva Mikles  

so how do you keep your art kind of consistent? Is it by you know, using the color palette or the same, you know, look and feel in digital techniques? Because, yeah, the stories can be like, communicated in different ways. And so how do you kind of keep your audience you know, like, focus on this is like, Okay, this is my art or like, they know right away, okay, this is from him. Yeah,

Mauricio Abril  

that’s, that’s a really funny question for me, because I, I love experimenting. And, and but you’re right, I’ve learned through the last couple of years that I can really post everything I do. And I don’t on every single social media platform, just because I know it won’t. It’ll, it’ll, it’ll Funny, funny that they use the word but it’ll be off brand, even though it’s me. Like, because in the past, I would try to, you know, I just really liked learning. I like trying new paintings. I try to I try to do different paintings or illustrations or drawings to practice as well. So I might try a different technique, or am I trying to fix a different subject matter? And I noticed, like I said, with the, with my personal social medias, a lot of them are built around a very family friendly approach to art. Like I have a lot of little kids superheroes in my work and a lot of subject matter that that’s just very heartwarming. A lot. A lot of my friends that have seen me at conventions tell me that my art just makes them happy. So if I’m trying to do some really, you know, dark and gritty, you know, piece of concept art, it doesn’t really blend well with colorful superheroes. So, so you, you are correct what What I kind of tend to do is I, whenever I try whenever I create a new piece, I asked myself, okay, am I going to post this on Facebook and Instagram? Or should I just leave this more for maybe Tumblr or art station? And or maybe this isn’t good art station because this is too casual. This is just for Facebook and Instagram. And so the way I keep it consistent is, I guess the thing is, I don’t feel like my art is visually consistent as much as it’s consistent in how I approached the tone of pieces. So even even if I do something a little dark, there’s there’s this certain level of thought and care that goes into the composition.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because yeah, that’s important. And when you when you finish the school, and did you do first internship, or was it more like you presented your portfolio to different studios? And because we didn’t talk about the transition? How was your in your first step in the industry?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah. Okay. So when I was in school, I got to do, I applied for one internship that the so that, thankfully, there was an office at the school that that accumulated open internships available, and then the student goes and gets that list. And then you can just apply directly. So I did do one internship while I was in school, but that I wouldn’t say necessarily helped me in terms of a job right after because that was a good experience. But then, after I graduated, I got funny enough, I, this is this was back in the early 2000s. And 10s, I, when I graduated, my first professional job came online, somehow they found me and back then the only website that I had was blogger, I didn’t even have I didn’t even have a professional website, I just had my blog. And it of course, I think I had a, I had a portfolio blog, in addition to my blog blog, the portfolio blog, being a blogger, that’s just got your portfolio pages on it not like your your doodles. And, and so I don’t necessarily know how those first people found me. But that, that first, my first professional job came from that, but I would say though, my, my, what really helped was at my school, like, I pretty much think all schools do this, when for the graduating classes, they try to have some kind of professional speed dating or around or kind of interview things so that these professional representatives can come and see the graduating students work. So that’s what I did. And that kind of at least, you know, it was kind of a huge room, you get like three minutes with every company. And you just move table by table, you say hi, like my name is so and so this is my work. And then it’s basically a chance for them to kind of get your card and see if you if they want to maybe follow up with you later. So that’s kind of how it happened. For me, but it was a mix of that as well as having my my blogger, my online presence up there somehow.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, yeah. Because they also want to see like, if they like your personality, not only the it, they will be able to work with you, like, you know,

Mauricio Abril  

at least at least at first, they definitely probably would want to talk to you for for an interview for at a later date for longer just to make sure but yeah, definitely it helps to put a face to the, to the artists and see how he,

Iva Mikles  

yeah, because if some person is like total jerk or like, you know, behaving nicely or professionally, they will be like, even if the art is amazing. They might be like, Oh, maybe no.

Mauricio Abril  

You know, I would say if anything, the one thing I think that I could, hopefully that might be helpful to others is, you know, it’s rare that I’ve seen too many people come off as jerks in those little quick moments. Because for one of my older from one of my companies that I used to work for, I went and did interviews on the other side of the table. It’s it’s what’s what’s more common is artists, inability to present themselves well and to communicate their work clearly, you know, a lot of them a lot of a lot of the people that, you know, they might have some really nice work, but then they’re just really quiet. They don’t really know how to sell their work or to how to how to just kind of say talk me through their process. And you know, it’s just unfortunate I don’t know if it’s if it if that is just part of what the personality type that a lot of artists have because I consider myself an introvert for sure. I think I think as an artist, I like the fact that I think my personality is suited to wanting to work on one task. for hours on end, you know, not everybody has that. But at the same time I, I learned early on in school that I mean, actually more. So in science when I was in science, I had to do presentations and and science is half communicating what you’ve discovered and convincing to other scientific experts in the world that you are, right?

Iva Mikles  

Do you know what you’re talking about?

Mauricio Abril  

Exactly. So actually, I have to credit that when I was at UCLA, that’s where I went, I was part of a science program for undergraduates, that forced us to do one presentation every quarter. And we would get up in front of our peers, and sometimes faculty, and we would maybe take a research paper that was current, and we would have to read it, understand it, and then present that paper to everybody else. And we’d have to get up in front of a, you know, an audience and talk and be clear and professional sounding. And that, unfortunately, a lot of artists don’t have and that can mean this, that can mean the difference between impressing somebody, or just kind of being like, Oh, well, you know, I liked that person’s work, but we don’t really, like, we don’t know if like, there’ll be too, you know, it’s not, it’s not that anybody will think bad of it. But when they meet somebody else who has a similar work, and then they come off, you know, just more confident and more clear, it’ll be easier to pick them over, over the, unfortunately.

Iva Mikles  

So it’s more about like, okay, explaining why you made choices about the artworks, what was your thinking behind it? And why is it like that?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, definitely. And just just coming off very, I guess, social in the in, in how you’re doing it, too. It’s, but you’re, you’re absolutely right, it is about at least communicating your SOP process clearly. Because if if you ask somebody Oh, how did you you know, what, you know, what were you looking at that, that led you to design this this way? And they can’t really say then, then it doesn’t help when you’re trying to maybe work with somebody who has to do a lot of independent research?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Because I mean, when you’re working for a company, or basically for whoever, then you are given some task, and then you have to have some thinking process, some research, and then you have to apply it somehow. So it has to have some like sense or reasoning, right? Definitely. And so if we go maybe back to your like the carrier, is there something you wish you knew before you started the whole? Like, which? And the IP? Yeah,

Mauricio Abril  

I was looking at that question that you had sent me as some as part of some of the possible topics. And I was like, Oh, that’s a good one. Because I, I actually had to think about this. And so I actually wrote it down. A lot of the other topics, I’ve said, oh, yeah, I can say I know what I what my answer might be. But for that one, I would probably have to say that, I wish I knew that the time spent developing your foundation is the most important time as an artist, and you can’t really get that back. Because then you’re going to be spending a lot of time playing catch up. So what I mean by that is, you know, a lot of artists, and I think, unfortunately, nowadays, because this is the bad side of the internet, or not the bad side, but I guess one of the different aspects of it is we can we’re, we’re aware of a lot, right, we see there’s a lot of art of books that show the process of design, and a lot of artists blogs, and YouTube channels and Patreon and, and I think I know that if I was learning art, now, it would probably be very hard for me to be patient with my progress progress. And I might want to skip ahead to being like, I want to like start drawing characters or want to start, you know, doing these like entertainment pieces, or I might want to start, you know, like one of my favorite artists draws these really cool characters with like, interesting shapes. And, you know, these big eyes and I want to, I want to learn that and, and they kind of maybe skip or don’t really do their foundation as intensely as they should. So if, and this is just me, I’m sure every artist has their own opinion. And none of us are entirely white. I think all of us have some logic. But if I had younger me now as a mentee, I would force my younger self to just spend like two years if they can, I mean financially and just you know, but if I mean, yeah, if my younger self had a job doing something, and I’d say spend two years just learning to draw and paint traditionally, just don’t worry about entertainment. Don’t worry about comics, don’t worry about concept or do Just learn how to draw, learn how to paint and learn just the fundamentals so that your hand and your eye and your, your intuition is really good. Because then you take that foundation and you apply it to entertainment, you apply to visual development, you apply it to an environment design, then you’ll just be so much ahead of the curve. But what happens is, I think, too many people try to do all of that at once they try to take a basic drawing class, but then they’re also taking an environment class. And then, and so every, everybody’s getting better. But it’s, it’s not as efficient as it could be. And so that’s what I wish I would know that I would. And the thing is, when I was in school, it’s not so much that I, my problem wasn’t that I spent too much time focusing on entertainment stuff, it’s just that I didn’t really take my foundation time as, as in as intense as I would have liked, like, I would have, because what happens is in art school, it moves very fast. You know, the first, the first year is just, at least when I went, it was just traditional stuff. And it started to include some digital stuff. And then right after, it’s like we’re done with the traditional drawings. If and I saw some of my friends, they didn’t really spend a lot of time practicing their figure drawing, like, you know, just in a room with a naked model with their charcoal pencils on a big pad of paper. And then when it came time to join, like, and then it’s like, Okay, now we’ll sit and we’re in classes where the assignments are, draw, you know, come up with a, with a visual development piece with these characters. And all of a sudden, we’re trying to design characters, but you don’t really have the figure drawing background to do it well. And then you’re just kind of struggling on both ends. So what I wish I would have done, what I wish somebody would have told me is said, Hey, you only after your first year, you’re not going to have time to really practice drawing, because you’re going to have so much other homework. So really just get that just spend all your time drawing in your first year. And then and then. And I would have, I would have enjoyed that. And so that’s kind of my kind of general advice is don’t rush kind of be patient. Everybody, we all learn at different rates, we you know, some people, some, if you’re an artist, that young artists and your friend is, you know, getting really good at something, you just might, it might just take you a little longer and that’s okay, but don’t. It’ll, it’ll hurt you later. If you kind of skip ahead. Or if you think I’m good, I think I should move on.

Iva Mikles  

It’s like, Oh, it’s fine. Yeah. And have you ever felt like a lost or kind of okay, what is the next step or something like, struggles? You know, where like, okay, am I doing the right choice? Or? Yeah, have you ever had something like this?

Mauricio Abril  

Are you are you talking about like the artifact? Yeah. Okay. I’ve Well, you know, it’s, I would have to say that, when I was in school, I had a lot of, I never really had any serious doubts. But, and that might have been more so because I tend to have a lot of I’m an optimist. So I kind of realized okay, as, and in a way where it’s, you know, there’s that classic line and in Star Wars where Han Solo says, you know, never tell me the odds. It’s kind of like, I in a way, it’s that ignorance is bliss. Like, when I was in school, I really, like I probably should have been more worried, I probably should have been more scared. You know, because it’s, it was that it’s the idea that, okay, you know, I’m going to this really expensive school, because nowadays and back then, but not just art center, a lot of these, these, these higher these, these art schools are really expensive. And it’s the idea that, well, I’m taking all of these loans to, to pursue a career, there’s not, you know, there’s no, there’s no guarantee. But of course, with any degree, there’s almost like no guarantee that you’ll be successful. It’s that, you know, I should have been a little bit more afraid. But I just, I guess I kind of just blocked that voice out of my head. And I thought, well, it’ll somehow work out like, as long as you as long as I’m on. As long as I’m keeping on track of my progress, as long as I do the work, something will happen. So I would probably, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was any, any anything more, more than that. But I think sometimes a little blind, you know, blind faith helps when it comes to your own success. Like it’s like, okay, things will work out, you know, just I don’t know how but things will somehow

Iva Mikles  

that’s really good approach because like a lot Have people are worrying about lots of things. And, yeah, so if you think about it, like how positive it will be, or you can imagine, actually the positive outcome, it might help, you know, to pursue your mind.

Mauricio Abril  

For sure, and one thing to add to that is, you know, it wasn’t just blind, you know, optimism, it was, you, it’s, it’s kind of like you have to meet it halfway, you have to make sure that you’re doing the things that you feel are on the right track. So it’s not just, it’s not just, you know, a lot of, and this is, I think, for any education, any any degree, it’s, a lot of students think that, you know, schools are designed to give them everything, and they’re not there. I mean, in a way to be honest, schools are kind of designed to run as financial institutions to operate at least to keep existing. So if you just go to a school, and you just take the classes that they tell you to take, and you expect, after graduation, somehow somebody’s gonna give you a job, or some kind of work. That’s very, very, it’s just unrealistic. And so regardless of the school, you know, because like, in my experience at Art Center, it was, you know, I not only just went to classes, but I didn’t just take the classes that they made me take I, I looked at the curriculum, and I thought, Okay, well, I spoke to other students who were older than me, and who said, Oh, you should take this class, you if you take this class, you can replace it with this class. And or you can, you know, take it instead of this class, or don’t take that teacher, that teacher is not, you know, as good as this teacher. So then, I was very proactive with my education. And then I was very proactive with, Okay, well, let me go talk to faculty, and maybe ask what advice they might have for putting together my portfolio or to apply somewhere. So you kind of definitely have to have, I definitely think you should have that blind optimism but also meet it halfway and, and do do a lot of the legwork yourself, because you kind of have to the schools aren’t going to do it for

Iva Mikles  

you. Yeah, definitely. Because yeah, you need to do the work and then be open for opportunities, right? Yeah, for sure. And if you can share maybe some of your current project or something, maybe which is not confidential. And maybe what would be your dream scenario in five to 10 years? What are your projects you would like to work on?

Mauricio Abril  

Let’s see. Professional projects. Let’s see, I’ve done I know that I can at least say that I’ve done some things for Disney Imagineering. Disney Imagineering is the division of Disney that does a design for all their parks and kind of experience, like cruise lines and anything like that. So I’ve done some designs for imagining areas that are kind of very cool, futuristic kind of things. I can’t say too much more than that. But if you are a fan of Disney, and you go to one of the parks, eventually, there’s a good chance that there’ll be a lot of the kind of next generation things that you’ll be seen. I might have one or two that might have been I might have worked on. And then let’s see. I’ve, again, I’m not quite, I just recently finished a cover illustration for a publisher that does fantasy, kind of fantasy novels. It’s a it’s a popular series. I don’t again, I don’t know if I should

Iva Mikles  

keep there, then let’s go to the future project.

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, so Well, I mean, five to 10 years. I, that’s a good question. I you know, I would just love to continue being a freelancer and working on, on on, on just cool, interesting projects. For me, what I love about freelance is the variety that I get, it reminds me a lot about being in school where, you know, you have different classes every quarter and, and each class is very different. And they require a different final or a different midterm. And, but as far as, I guess, personal, I guess, personal aspirations is, I’d love to continue. I have. I have so many more story ideas. I just, it’s hard to find the time to fully write them and then illustrate them. So I’d love to at least let’s say in five years, I’d love to at least have two more books out for myself. Just even self published. I don’t care. And so yeah, that would probably be that probably be that

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Or maybe make an animation from your story as well or have a card game board game, all of that.

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, whatever happens I’d be I’d be open to any of that.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect and then you will You might be also teaching maybe more online or where people can reach you even more.

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, for sure I, I’ll be teaching again next term for CGMA, which is an online school, that, that has concept classes and traditional classes. It’s all online. So what I love about that is I get to interact with students from all over the world. So it’s, it’s a cool experience. So yeah, I’d love to keep doing that. Oh, perfect.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, so we can put also the link so our audience can find you, when they are a fan of your art, so they can just go directly to your classes? Oh, sure. Thank you. And what about like, really far future? And like, 100 years or more? What would you like to be remembered for? You know, the epic question.

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, that’s, that’s a good question. Yes, after? I would probably Yeah, you know, it’s, it has to be the books like, I would love to, you know, even the thing is, I’ve learned that, you know, you have as artists, I think we all have big dreams and aspirations. And, and, and there’s only so much we can control about that, right? You can, you can create a graphic novel, you can maybe make a little animatic, you can create a children’s book, you can self publish it, you can go to convention, sell copies. But it may not go any, any more any further than that. And you have to be okay with that. So, I would say, you know, what, to me? Ideally, yeah, I’d love it if I created a story. And somehow, some big studio wanted to buy it and say, we want to turn this into a TV show or something. Sure, that’d be great. Like, you know, I’ve met a lot of people who, who that’s happened to, and it’s actually been more of a nightmare than a dream come true. Because the end, I’ve read a lot of interviews with show creators who feel like their show is not their vision anymore. So of course, I’d love to, like have a, you know, a show based on a book, whether or not that’s, you know, a Be careful what you wish for scenario, I don’t know. But, but what I would love is to is that even if I can publish a book, and it at least gets published as that, you know, whether it becomes a movie or a TV show, that doesn’t matter. But if it if it at least exists the way I envisioned it to exist. That would be that would probably be cool. So then if somebody ever Googled me introducer now, that book would come up, like, that would be pretty cool.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, yeah, that sounds very good. You know, like, it just pops up. And then like, there are a lot of stories and stuff related to

Mauricio Abril  

it. Yeah. Or is it? Yeah. Even if it’s just available to buy, you know, I mean, yeah, it would be great if I created a subculture. But if that that’s probably I’m trying to think of like realistic, realistic goals. Like, yeah, if you could just like, right. Yeah, for sure. No, definitely. But yeah, if I could just have a book that somebody can buy that I published, that that exists, you know, that would be, that would be probably enough for me.

Iva Mikles  

And do you have maybe some favorite books, you can recommend? Like maybe you would give as a gift to someone?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah. Are you talking about like, story books or art books?

Iva Mikles  

Doesn’t matter? What is your like, favorite book? Maybe when she’s like, Okay, you have to read this changed my life?

Mauricio Abril  

Oh, wow. Well, I would probably say one of my I was, I was thinking about that. One of one of my nonfiction favorite books is a book called, How to get ideas. And I’m forgetting, I’m forgetting the name of the author. And I really apologize to the author. It’s on my shelf somewhere. But it’s called How to get ideas. And it’s just, it’s, it’s so it’s written so well, and so fun, that you can read it like that. And it just helps. I feel like it would help anybody with like creative blocks, or just who have it, like seeds of ideas, but don’t really maybe necessarily know how to develop them further. And as far as far as other books, I know, I’m probably coming off, like, super embarrassed. I can’t think of any right now off the top of my head. I know, I know. I have plenty. Probably Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m a huge kind of a golden age of illustration fans. So the NC Wyeth illustrations kind of helped me with that. But I also enjoy kind of pirates and that kind of history. So but yeah, probably. I probably have to say I’ll probably have to leave it at that.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, so if you remember anything later on, we can always put in the show notes afterwards. Yeah, that’d be fine. And yet before we say goodbye, and like finish the interview Maybe you can share the last piece of advice or key takeaway, and then we will, like, slowly finish.

Mauricio Abril  

Sure, let’s see. I guess that’s a good one, I would like I was thinking about this as well, because you had mentioned that in, in the in regards to career, and I’d probably have to say that it’s important for people for students to, well, I’d probably have to reiterate the idea of, of definitely for anybody out there who’s young, or who are maybe even if they’re not so young, but they want to kind of transition to art or just develop their art for themselves. Even if it’s just a hobby, definitely be patient. But it’s, it’s, it’s not a race, it’s an the way you learn as much about how much time you spend, and how efficient that time is, just because you spent 10 hours on Saturday drawing isn’t as good if you spent two hours, but you really focus and you really analyze what you’re doing. But the other big thing is, I would say never make a big life decision that if somebody else tells you that it’s the right thing for the career, because that’s kind of that kind of happened was with me, and one of my first jobs is, you know, people were telling me, Oh, if you want to be a creative director, you need to do this, and you need to do that. And, and I thought, okay, cool. And they were right. If I wanted to become a creative director, I needed to do those things. But then I realized that all the things that they were telling me, I just didn’t like they weren’t interesting to me. They weren’t. It was, you know, it was it was they were asking me to basically make career moves that would lead me towards being a creative director. But I didn’t realize that. I could say no, because that’s not what I wanted. And I didn’t necessarily know that I didn’t want that until I kind of was in the middle of it. So I would say, definitely do do your research as much as possible for anything, whether it’s going to a school, or whether it’s, you’re going to take some classes, you know, or you want to possibly apply somewhere, as much research as you can and ask, Oh, should I, you know, should I take this opportunity? Should I take this class? Should I, you know, go to this school, so as much as much. And if you have a gut instinct, if you have a gut feeling about it, that it’s maybe not right, then I would probably probably trust it. If you if you did your research.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Like what is happening in the world and see, like, what do you might like, or at least like, step by step, see what you don’t like?

Mauricio Abril  

Yeah, I mean, and half of that will be developed by experience. So in a way, there’s, you know, don’t beat yourself too, too much. If you take a you know, if you do something, you’re like, oh, I should have signed up for this, or I shouldn’t have, I should have taken that job over this job. Or, you know, but you know, so don’t be too hard on yourself, either.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. I totally agree. And thank you so much again, for joining us here.

Mauricio Abril  

Sure. No, thank you for having me. I hopeful I hope, you know, your, your audience has has enjoyed it and gotten something out of it, too. So I really do.

Iva Mikles  

I’m sure I’m sure they they enjoy it then. Yeah. Thanks again. And thanks, everyone who joined then. See you in the next episode. All right. Hey, guys, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a couple of free artists resources ready for you on the website as well. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher so I can reach and inspire more artists like you. If you want to watch the interviews head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Continue to inspire each other and I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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