Interview #19
Felipe Echevarria
by Daryle Dickens

Felipe Echevarria has evolved from a comic artist to a fine artist. He trained with comic book legend Joe Kubert at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and hit the ground running from there. These days Felipe is working hard to bring the comic art and the fine art together in the form of graphic novels. Felipe was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to sit down for a conversation.

ZAF622: You went to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art?

Yes, I suffered there for three years in very intense training. About 60 to 70 hours a week of drawing. Joe's philosophy was the more you draw the better you get. The idea is you go to school for 3 years and you come out a professional. And you donít spend time after school floundering around trying to become a professional. So it is an intense curriculum. People from other schools were astounded by how much homework we had at times. I did not expect to survive it, but I did and I came out okay.

ZAF: Did you meet his son while you are there? (Adam Kubert)

I actually had Adam as a teacher. He is really good, and now he is one of the top professionals in comics.

ZAF: Were you a comic book fan before that?

I always enjoyed reading comics. I grew up on Donald Duck, Archie, and that kind of stuff. I later got into the more superhero, more interesting stuff. I ultimately found out I like the hard-core realistic things that Joe Kubert was doing. And that he is still doing today.  Something I can relate to, something that seems like it could happen. And some of the stuff he portrayed actually did happen. Fax From Sarajevo for example. That stuff really did happen, he just made a comic strip out of it.

ZAF: Talk a bit about your background.

I have a comic art background, but from there it grew into a fine art background, and ultimately I began to merge the two. I have a graphic novel in progress, which has graphic novel art format and fine art painting inside of it. I had a serious chronic illness for 16 years, that sort of pushed me into a direction that's different than the average artist. I feel the universe is telling me not to do average mainstream art. Like landscapes and still life. It pushed me to really hear something deeper, and I want to combine metaphysics and spiritual thought into fine art and graphic novels. That is the direction I am heading. I just got a new Loveland studio that will create a space for me that I need to work. I want to show people through graphic novel art and fine art, what great spiritual thinkers have always thought for a millennium.

ZAF: Do you do art full time?

I haven't for the last 10 years, I used to. I was an illustrator, I had an agent and everything. Then I had that illness which took most of my time and I was married and also have a wonderful daughter. But I'm about to start full-time, and I'm really excited.

ZAF: Will your new studio enable that?

Yes it is actually in the location where the Loveland Art Academy is on 12th St. It is a street with a row of artist on it, so I'll be in an artist community. Hopefully I'll be doing some teaching out there as well.

ZAF: Where can people find your art?

Right now, the best places are my websites.

ZAF: Do you write your graphic novels as well as illustrate them?

Well, there was a time when someone else would write and I would be the artist. But they don't write what I wanted to. I'm probably halfway done with my life, so I want to do what I want to do and I want to do it now, no messing around. I have spent 17 years waiting for this moment. It is time I can start putting the stuff into form.

ZAF: How big are the novels?

I have a 120 page one in the works. Then I have another one that is about the same length, and they are all painted. I wrote those and now I'm working on the painting. I also have another series in the works. A collection of short stories that will be primarily black-and-white and will showcase my different styles for black-and-white.

ZAF: What medium do you use for the graphic novels?

Mostly watercolor. But it is a different technique than what most water color artists use. It is on very smooth paper. It has a very soft finish. The paint just sits on the paper and I can wipe it out. So not only do I paint on it, I can scrub out the paint to make it look more like an oil painting.

ZAF: When do you expect the graphic novel to be out?

I am hoping by the end of 2008. That is my plan.

ZAF: What would be your advice for getting art done?

Stream line your life in such a way that the priorities stand out the most and let everything else fall away. Delegate as much as you can. Really try and figure out the core thing to you in the right here and now. What would you do if you only had six months to live or a year to live? Or a day? That will get you thinking about what is most critical. Stop watching tv, stop thinking about entertainment all the time, buckle down and focus.

ZAF: Is everyone creative?

Yes. To support myself in the lean times I worked as a layout technician in the micro electronics business. Iíd lay out the circuitry in the little microchips. Back in the early 80s my Aunt brought me out to San Jose so I could learn how to do it because you can make a ton of money doing this kind of work, 75 or 80 bucks an hour. I used to be down on the engineers because they have no creativity. But one guy told me about trying to design this circuit and he was stuck but one morning in the shower it popped into his head. And right then I knew creativity was everywhere. It does not have to be visual. Steve Jobs and people like that have that left brain kind of creativity.

To check out more of Felipeís work click here and also here.

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