A junior humanities major at Montclair State University on paper, Brian Hernandez is actually a passionate artist, and is working towards getting accepted into the university’s animation and illustration program.
Hernandez’s passion for art dates back to a young age, when he would return home from school and be greeted by a close family friend he considered an uncle. Together, they would play and draw out imaginary adventures.
“We would pull out any old notebook and just sketch things out,” Hernandez said. “I thought he was really good at drawing and I wanted to be as good as him. As a seven-year-old kid I obviously wasn’t, but I wanted to learn.”
It was then that Hernandez decided to practice drawing and illustrating, and at age 10 he would begin to take art seriously.
Hernandez refers to himself as an inconsistent artist, often drawing new pieces whenever an idea comes to mind. It might not be an ideal quality for most artists, but for Hernandez it’s all part of the process.
“My work is often very sporadic,” Hernandez said. “I don’t really set a schedule for myself. And even though it’s a little irresponsible, it is a serious effort most of the time.”
Hernandez assured that although he may not be the most timely artist, he does take his craft seriously. He spends time perfecting his work and practicing aspects of his art, like anatomy and overall composition.
Hernandez takes pride in his character artwork and his improvement in depicting the human anatomy. However, like every other famous artist in history, his artwork doesn’t just materialize from out of nowhere.
“When I start, I usually do a gesture sketch as if I’m drawing a character,” Hernandez said. “I’ll start with a back, and then the shoulders and that’s usually where I start the position. I’ll draw the head, which is usually just a sphere. It’s just these rudimentary shapes, and then I just work my way up onto details.”
These smaller details include specifics such as position of the character, the alignment of the chin, collarbones, minuscule facial features and so on. The process may be time-consuming, but Hernandez knows the end result is worth it.
As an artist in the modern world, Hernandez does not necessarily idolize the iconic artists of yesteryear. He looks up to experienced artists he finds on social media, mostly on Instagram.
“This particular person I follow, Richard Powell, does a lot of gesture sketches for figure drawing. I find him really helpful,” Hernandez said. “There are people like Andrew Mar, he’s very great. He does a lot of fantasy sketches, so a lot of his work is fictional.”
A major upside to being an artist living during the age of social media is how much easier it has become to contact professional artists and illustrators. Any artist with a social media account can now be reached with just a few clicks. Hernandez knows this firsthand, as he regularly reaches out to other artists looking for tips and constructive criticism.
“I think social media is very important because through social media I learned to talk with people like Damon Moran and Nathan Greno in order to get feedback on what I was practicing,” Hernandez said. “I just DM’d [Nathan Greno] on Instagram and he replied pretty fast. I was really impressed.”
Hernandez specializes in character art, even designing and creating his own characters with their own unique personalities. His favorite characters include one named Guillermo and another named Maia.
“[Guillermo is] a skeleton who wears a bomber jacket. He’s this really angry, hotheaded, cynical guy. He’s the projection of when I fell in love with bomber jackets,” Hernandez said. “[Maia is] this fashionista, I suppose. She’s very quiet. Those two are probably my two magnum opuses.”
In addition to giving his characters their own personalities, he speaks about them like they are actual living people helping his artwork come to life.
“I wouldn’t draw [Guillermo] in any particular scenario, but when I drew he was always in some sour mood,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez also has some future projects in mind, utilizing his love for character illustrations. He is currently planning a comic series with his hometown friend, Jeremy, based on two characters named Alex and Casey, who differ from each other but somehow make their friendship work.
“I wouldn’t say they’re polar opposites, but their social classes are a bit different,” Hernandez said. “But when they meet, they seem to synergize really well and they wind up working together and they end up going on an adventure.”
However, Hernandez says the two are still in the planning stage and nothing is definitive yet. He wants to make sure they are absolutely prepared before going forward with such a project.
Hernandez also wants to perfect his craft and intends on using his time at Montclair State to achieve that. He credited the faculty and staff in the art department as the best part of his continuing education.
“Professors at Montclair State have helped me a lot because they really know how to talk to their students,” Hernandez said. “I’ve had a lot of fun talking to professors like Michael Lee, Alyssa Fanning and my current color and light professor, Wietke Heldens.”
However, Hernandez almost didn’t enroll at Montclair State. He initially planned to enroll in product design at Kean University, but decided against it.
“I didn’t feel prepared for something like industrial design because I found out that it was more business-oriented and I’m not really a businessman,” Hernandez said.
As a result, he chose to enroll at Montclair State as a pre-major freshman and was amazed when he discovered the school’s art program. He was quickly impressed by the professors in the department, the material that is taught and how seriously the program is taken.
“They have an entire building dedicated to art. A lot of the stuff pertains to abstraction, art therapy, art education, stuff like that,” Hernandez said. “Then I found out they had the animation program and that sold me.”
To Hernandez, the future looks somewhat unclear. He imagines his career after graduation going one of two ways: getting a job as a concept artist for a company or working as a freelance artist.
Becoming a concept artist would best reflect his artistic interests at the moment, but working as a freelance artist would be an ideal fit for his sporadic work ethic. He does admit however, that his artistic and creative style could still change.
“Right now I’m not really sure if I’m settled with this style that I have right now,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully in the end I’m working consistently and maybe I can sustain a job somewhere big, but freelance work is totally fine with me as well.”
For now, Hernandez will continue to apply to the animation and illustration program, which he prioritized as his main goal. His near future will involve a lot of practice, paper and passion. Meanwhile, the distant future looks promising for Hernandez, the exemplification of the modern artist.