Success Story: José Luis López Martos

How do you become a successful artist?  Do you follow any road map? In reality, each successful artist has followed a variety of paths to achieve their goals. Artists have incredible success stories that describe how they went from beginner to practiced artists. Here is another success story of how an artist becomes successful.

JOSE, ARTIST DISCOVERS His TRUE NATURE THROUGH THE JOY of drawing and bringing life to fill them with a pencil.

José Luis a young artist.

My name is José Luis López Martos and I’m a 25 years old boy from Martos, a small town in Jaén (Spain). I’ve been drawing during my entire life since I was a child because, for me, it was a way to relax, reflect on life issues, and temporarily evade my problems. By making art I could give life to the fantasy situations that lied in my imagination. As time went by, I discovered I was good at what I did and the people around me enjoyed it, so I decided to build my future around that. After spending some years beating around the bush and making some wrong educational choices I resolve to properly study something related to art that I loved and which could bring me a reasonably good working future. Therefore, I made up my mind and studied an Illustration course.

Tell me about your work experience?

I’m still young and my work experience in the illustration field isn’t very long. My first jobs or art commissions were small and local ones. I illustrated the cover of the literature section for the 39th issue of Aldaba, Martos’ cultural magazine, in 2016. I also designed and illustrated the breakfast chalkboard for a bar in my town along with some other commissions during 2017 and 2018. More recently, I’ve been working as a children’s book illustrator for the publishing house Madara Editoras since 2019 until now.

At what age did you start doing work and developed love for digital artwork?

Drawing has been present during all my life but I didn’t consider my artwork to be kind of professional until, maybe, the last two years. As I said before, I’ve been doing illustration work since 2016, when I was 20-21, although the more meaningful work opportunities I got have appeared from 2019 onwards. I’ve always been very fond of traditional art, however, the increasing importance of the Internet and digital tools in the visual arts made me take that step forward and begin to introduce digital techniques in my artwork. Coinciding with the start of my job as an editorial illustrator in 2019 and due to the requirements of the projects, I committed to adding digital drawing and painting to my daily work routine.

How did you develop a fondness for artwork?

In my humble opinion, the background and environment in which I grew were crucial. Since childhood, I’ve been a quite reserved and introverted boy. I was fortunate to have two older nerdy brothers who stockpiled lots of mangas and Marvel comics, in addition to Dungeons & Dragons illustrated games and books, and a ton of collectible cards from Magic: The Gathering with beautifully painted pictures. During the afternoons, I would lock myself in my room and spend hours and hours reading the comics and admiring the awesome artwork. It wasn’t uncommon for me to imagine all kinds of surreal and fantastic situations influenced by the stories I read and the images I observed. I wanted to bring those scenes to life and the best way I could do it was by drawing and painting them. Now, in my adult years, watching animation series and movies, reading comics and graphic novels is a routine in my life that helps me to take visual references for my artwork, to inspire new ideas, or to develop my art style.

Did you study artwork? If yes, then from where?

My first approach for studying art was some oil painting extracurricular classes at a local art workshop when I was 10-12 years old. I finished a Higher Education Course on Illustration at the School of Arts José Nogué in Jaén in 2019.

From where did you learn this?

I learned the bare-bones of art and drawing in my illustration classes: the principles of light, shape, use of color, narrative, symbolism, several popular techniques, the different approaches according to the illustration genre, etc. Nevertheless, I can honestly say the greatest improvement in my artwork quality was achieved on my own through self-learning and countless hours of practice and internet tutorials.

Why did you choose digital artwork as a profession?

Well, the truth is that I don’t mind the means to create artwork, whether it be traditional or digital. I’ve concluded that I want to be a professional artist, as either a children’s book illustrator, a graphic novel / comic book illustrator, or even as a concept artist. Those would be the specializations that resonate the most with me. Nowadays, it’s undeniable the level of comfort and reliability that art and design software can give to me, hence it is and will be a huge part of my work.

Who are your biggest influences?

This is a very difficult question for me because, as an illustration, artists, I’m constantly searching for a new artist to inspire me. Many painters, European and American comic artists, mangakas, or illustrators influence my work.

If I have to choose a few, I’d say that one of my biggest sources of creative inspiration is the manga artist Kentaro Miura, creator of the popular and acclaimed manga Berserk. Since the first volume of the manga I bought, I fell in love with his intricate and detailed art style. The highly realistic way in which he draws the anatomy and the body shapes, giving a vivid sense of volume, resembles accurately the style of American superhero comics. He demonstrates a masterful grip of perspective, which is perfectly shown in some big scope scenes of mass battles and panoramic cityscapes. On top of all this, I’m a fan of the sinister and dark atmosphere and imagery he’s able to display along with the panels.

Another of my biggest influences is the french comic artist Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius. When I discovered him researching a comic essay I was inevitably fascinated by the surreal universe he created. He’s considered one of the greatest exponents of the European and sci-fi comic. His easiness to design and invent incredible dream worlds, his use of smooth and soft linework, the lively colors, etc. were characteristics I desired to provide my artwork with.

Lastly, one artist who marked me when I found about him was the Czech painter, illustrator, and graphic artist Alphonse Mucha. He became the most prominent figure of the Art Nouveau and was a prolific illustrator in the early years of the XX century. In an age where mass-produced goods started to be available to the majority of the population and the arts where gradually devaluated, taking a more commercial route, Mucha fought to bring beauty and sophistication to craftmanship and decorative art. He made art and illustration available to everyone and that’s a great reminder of the goal I can achieve as an illustrator.

How do you become a successful artist?

I think it’s very pretentious to consider myself a successful artist right now. I’m proud of the steps I’ve taken and the outcome of my hard work. Currently, I’m beginning to make a living out of art but I believe the path ahead of me to become the professional I want will be longer than the road behind me.

What makes you a good illustrator and different from others?

In my role as a children’s book illustrator, I try to convey positive and educational messages through simple and scenes in which the narrative and its plot points are easy to catch. I play mainly with a small range of saturated and apply a very figurative and naturalistic style of drawing that allows me to add more technical complexity to the representation of the characters, animals, landscapes, or objects. I always mix it with some kind of exaggeration of the facial and body features to make it more recognizable and appealing to the children.

What does your artwork represent?

Apart from my children’s illustrations, I have a great variety of illustrations about different genres and themes: from concept art to comic-style illustrations, portraits, fashion illustrations, realistic landscapes/cityscapes, or photomontages. My favorite and more usual artworks are ink or pencil fan arts of famous characters and creatures from series, movies, videogames, anime, or comics. I tend to represent them in a more realistic style with complex and detailed linework.

What does your art mean to you?

Selfishly and intimately, my art is like a creative therapy in which I disconnect from the mundane, boring, and harsh aspects of life and immerse myself in a world of possibilities in which I bring my vision to reality with absolute freedom. From a more disinterested and general perspective, my art is a method whereby I share my ideas, stories, emotions, or feelings with people, trying to provide them with a message to embrace, a concept or idea to think about, or simply an original experience to be present and enjoy it without any worries.

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