Getting to go to various cons, I get to meet a lot of people. Before I started to do cons and even get into this business I got to meet Javier Cruz Winnik. At the time he was selling his first book called “A Reason to Smile.” We had spoken brief conversation and I ended up with a cool Storm Trooper piece he had done. Fast forward later and he has a lot of success with two books and a third on the way. If anyone can say one thing about Javier, he is genuinely a nice person. He cares about his fans and truly loves the world he has created. He always there to give me advice and is defiantly a student of his craft.
First Javier, I want to thank you for taking the time out and doing this interview.
I’m glad to be here, thanks for having me!
For our readers, please give them a brief introduction.
I started my career as a fan art artist and used that experience to learn how to create my own stories. I have since gone on to self-publish 3 books in the “A Reason to Smile!” series and have sold over 2,500 copies.
So what inspired you to become an artist?
I always loved to draw the cartoons. I would watch them on VHS. One year a camp councelor told us that he loved his job. He said that we should all find careers we loved so that they would feel less like work and more like fun. I realized then that I wanted to be an artist and worked towards making that happen from then on.
You have successfully completed two kickstarters so far for your books titled “A Reason to Smile” . Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for the story?
I’ve always wanted to be a comic artist and realized too late that I was too inexperienced to do it. I decided to start doing my own books and that that experience would either help me get hired or help me keep making my own stories. I worked in a school as well and realized there were many
issues, many topics, and stories that were never touched, so I decided to address them myself in my stories. Now I get to tell stories about Puerto Rican’s in Pop Culture in a positive light, allowing us to be role models instead of being the butt of jokes or the bad guy/scapegoats.
What is your creative process? How do you get around creative blocks?
I generally watch movies or listen to music as I create and focus on entertainment that helps keep me energized. From there I just put pencil to paper, or start typing away and use the experiences I’ve had in the public, or with my favorite fandom, and use those experiences to direct what I spend my time creating. When I get blocks, I just keep going until I finally find my rhythm or my direction and then I go with that flow.
For an artist who is struggling, what tips would you give them to perfect their craft?
Drawing from life can address so many issues we have as artists. I’ve learned that the best animators, the best abstractors are masters at drawing from life so they are able to then make changes to that reality that make sense. As I was coming up, I constantly was being told to work on my anatomy, so I’ll save you some time. Work on your anatomy. You also have cell phones that allow you to find a reference and take pictures of yourself and others in order to get the right angle or the right pose. There are so many resources available to us now, so it is about finding your method to draw correctly, and how you draw correctly will determine your style and your skill.
You have done a lot of mash up and fan art pieces, what characters have been your favorites to draw?
I use to draw Spiderman once a year in order to practice dynamic posing and drawing great backgrounds that are abound in NYC. Now I have no favorite to draw other than my own characters, if I have to choose a specific character. Otherwise, i just love drawing fun characters doing fun things.
A Reason to Smile is coming out with a third book. Congratulations on that by the way. Can you tell our readers about the third book?
Thank you very much for the love! The 3rd book will be a bit of a departure of how I’ve done the series. I made it like a traditional children’s book, but as always I have to add my own twist. I painted the backgrounds and did traditional comic/cartoon style characters, inking and digitally coloring the foreground. This book takes place 5 years before our present time and sees Luiza making friends for the first time in a park. Being active and outside of the house allows for this to happen and helps to show that being open to being active can bring fun and friendship into your life.
What is the future for the Reason to Smile franchise?
As I mentioned, I am changing how I am publishing the series. I will be doing 3 styles of books. Children’s books in the form of board books, chapter books which depict Luiza’s life during day school, and traditional floppy comics and trade paper backs for stories Luiza has outside of day school. I am currently in the process of writing the first chapter book of my career, and am 2 chapters in. After that is done, I will then start writing the comics I have outlined for the series. I have 12 issues outlined so I have my work cut out for me… In the meanwhile, I have 4 strips written for a web comic, so I can never say that I am bored, as I will have something available for me to do for the next 2 to 4 years.
What are some of your dream projects that you would love to work on?
I’ve always wanted to work on X-Men or Spider-Man as I have loved those properties since I was a child. What would be absolutely amazing for me is if I could draw a cover for a Legion of Superheroes comic or even a graphic novel about their exploits as that was one of the very first comics I’ve ever read.
Network is the key in any industry, what advice do you have about this aspect of the business?
Sadly I don’t, as I am terrible at networking. The one thing I can say is be open to being at events and trying to ask people what they do and so forth. Networking is all about creating and starting conversations and making connections with people. Companies want to hire people they like and can feel comfortable working with, so doing what you can to have good conversations with others is key.
If you were paid right now by the respective studio of any character. Be it DC, Marvel etc. To recreate a character of your choice from scratch. What character would you pick?
I really loved Bone after reading the series during my time as an Assistant Teacher, so I would love to tell a new story based on those guys. Creating the mashups that I have has also allowed me the opportunity to be extremely creative so bringing characters together who never are seen together would be pretty fun as well. I would love to do a Thing/Spiderman story or an Avatar Aang series where he is older and we get to see what he is like as an adult.
Aside from A Reason to Smile, are there any other future projects that your looking to tackle?
I have so many stories that I want to tell for the “A Reason to Smile!” Series that that is where I am focused. I really want to see this series be picked up by a major publisher, and eventually see the show turned into an animated series on Netflix or Cartoon Network. “A Reason to Smile!” is a lifestyle story so it is a series that can sustain stories for as long as we have problems within the world.
Javier, it’s always a pleasure speaking to you when ever we get together brotha. Can you let our readers know where we can find you on the world wide web.
Its always nice to see you bro, as I am glad to see you have continued to pursue your dream and desire to be an artist! For me, you can find me on most social media site’s. I am on IG and Tumblr under @thelearningcurv, on Twitter as @thalearningcurv, and on facebook as thecurv. You can also find my books at www.etsy.com/shop/thelearningcurv !