Javier Winnik, '96 was kind enough recently to answer some questions about his life now and the ways it's been influenced by his time under the mountain. A freelance illustrator, Winnik works on wide-ranging subjects with a flair and originality that can only come with time and a deep self-understanding.
Read his complete interview here:
Please describe what you do and how you got interested in it.
I always enjoyed watching cartoons as a child and would draw those that I enjoyed the most, even using legos to try and recreate the characters I loved. I ended up at a summer camp with the Boys Club of New York where we did academics before noon and athletics afterwards. An English teacher told us how he enjoyed his job and that when we get older, we will have to find jobs and it’d be best to find a job we loved. I realized I loved drawing and wanted to be an artist.
I currently am a freelance illustrator doing sketch cards of the Marvel Comics character, Thor, for Upper Deck, which will coincide with the Thor Movie. I will be doing more character cards after this assignment is done of Marvel characters, as well as illustrating a children’s book I have written. I do custom commissions for people as well as exhibit prints of my artwork at comic book conventions around the country. I will be attending Baltimore Comic Con in September and the New York Comic Con in October where I will debut my children’s book.
As a commercial artist attending college in a fine artist program, I fought to maintain my direction while learning from what was taught. I ended up being the only underclassman to get an Honorable Mention Award (only awarded to upperclassmen) for a 4x4 seated nude I drew in charcoal. The very next year I received the Best in Show award for a 11x17 painted still life of art supplies called “Hide & Seek”.
Most recently I was commissioned to create an illustration of a joke. A couple contacted me about a character they created, a giraffe named Sticks, who had gotten in trouble with the mob. He was in hiding in Norway, among sheep in sheep’s clothing, so naturally the piece is called “Sticks on the Lamb”.
Could tell us a little bit about how you came to Berkshire?
I was fortunate enough to gain a scholarship from the Boys Club of New York to attend Berkshire and started there as a Junior. I was 16, and I was extremely excited about being there because I was told of the animation options that the school was teaching. Berkshire had recently acquired the same software that was used on Toy Story and Jurrassic Park and since I drew a lot of comic book characters, I wanted to try my hand at it. I was also excited about the athletic opportunities.
What was your first impression of the school and the people in it?
I loved the fact that the school wasn’t on a flat surface, seeing Memorial Hall at the top of the hill overlooking the Dell, and how spread out everything was was a beautiful thing for me to see. The students and teachers were very welcoming and friendly, and took an interest in who I was, which was nice.
Can you tell us about your friends?
I made a variety of friends, some who played sports, some who were more academic, and some who were very creative and into their own designs. The great thing I remember about my experience at Berkshire is that I was able to meet and hang out with students from all over campus and into all sorts of things, and part of that was due to the staff. I remember going to their apartments in the dorms for parties and they helped to introduce us to each other and become familiarized which was great for ice breaking.
What’s the biggest thing that you learned while you were here that’s been useful in your adult life?
I think my persistence and determination are rooted in my experience at Berkshire. There was a point where I was trying out for the varsity Basketball team and due to my inexperience, I wasn’t able to make the team. I ended up doing well on JV being the first male student to receive the Athlete of the Week Award, and it helped me to push forward in ways I never would have had I not gone through that experience. Now, regardless of the circumstances and options, I fight harder and push further regardless of my fears or inabilities.
Was there one teacher/advisor/coach who you feel really helped you through?
I can’t say I had one adult who helped me through anything more than the rest because they all helped me tremendously. Mr. Hertz was my advisor my Senior year and I will always remember how gruff and stern he was, but it was out of love and desire to see you excel, which was great to have in your corner.
What’s your favorite place to visit when you come back to campus? Why?
I always love being in Benson Commons since it was always a relaxed atmosphere; I also loved the gym, where I always wanted to spend my time playing basketball. Walking through the Dell always brings back memories of energy and fun spring afternoons, and being in Allen Theater always emotes a sense of grandeur.
What’s it like to come back for Pro Vita and teach current students?
I was honored to be able to come back and impart some knowledge to the students. The best part was seeing how interested they were to hear and see new things, and what surprised me the most was that I was there in the first place. When I was a student, I don’t remember having this opportunity. The fact that there were opportunities for children’s book writing and comic book creation is a huge step in a good direction. The students today are so fortunate and blessed to have so many opportunities at their fingertips!
Do you have any advice for current art students, hoping to be artists when they get older?
When I grew up, there were so many limits on things. You were told, you can do this; you can’t do that; this isn’t possible, and those were my options as I understood them. Students today are only limited to their own desires, creativity and understanding. Do not be afraid to do or try something different, new, or difficult. The more challenges you create or overcome, the better you become. The more you experience, the more you learn about yourself and what you do and don’t want to do. As I started out wanting to do comics, I now find myself wanting to do design work for animation. As I once wanted to draw Spider-man for a living, I find I may want to be a teacher through my art and only do children’s books. Even at 35, I am still learning and growing as an artist, and as a man. It never stops. Life doesn’t end with high school, college, or whatever place you find yourself in. Continue to search for answers and continue to question what you know, and strive for more.
If you’d like to follow my career as an artist, feel free to visit my websites at http://www.thecurv.com, and http://www.facebook.com/