“Today, in our field, there is so much talent and recognition that we are reaching a saturation point. An artist should no longer strive only for breathtaking craftsmanship; he should, instead, try to help us live better, either by dressing the wounds that are constantly being opened by society, or by offering solutions to get us out of the mess we’re in…But it’s going to be difficult and we have a lot of work to do.” - Jean 'Moebius' Giraud

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

RADD_90 minutes

I miss my friend.

About ten years ago, five wanna-be artists packed their drafting tables, art supplies, reference and comic books, toys and knick knacks, cork boards and NERF guns, and whatever else into a small converted two car garage in Lakewood, CA. I was...am... one of those wanna-be's.

The side of the garage where I set up shop, where I left my stink, had three of those god awful, standardized drafting tables (you know which ones, right? Black or white tops - depending on how you set it up out of the box - with the metal legs? Ugh.). There was Jonard's table; to whom the garage belonged to, my table, and between the both of us sat our friend BYRON PENARANDA.

Byron or "B" (as we referred to him) was inspired. BTW, I don't know why it degraded to just the one letter. I guess there was some sort of syllable shortage in the mid to late 90's and we all suffered from it. That, or boys just have this way of simplifying each others names into the smallest grunt or sound that we can come up with and still manage to get that person's attention. I was called "Ece" - like in the word 'fleece'. To this day a select few will *still* call me that and I will still respond like a well trained dog. Jonard was called "Jun" - pronounced "jooon". If you've ever heard Filipino moms call out his name, you'd know where this came from.

I digress.

Byron was inspired. Before the semi-supposed craze of manga and anime influenced art, he was already doing it better than the guys who were out there just barely discovering it. Before I knew how to say Otomo or Shirow, like a good illustrator, he was already picking the parts he needed from those guys, trying to incorporate it into his own work , soon grew tired of it and stopped. He introduced me to "The Incal", "The Airtight Garage", "The Silver Surfer" and a painting of Iron Man that will never be surpassed, all done by the incomparable Jean "Moebius" Giraud.

He watched movies that were beyond my comprehension at the time. "M", is one that still comes to mind. Oh, and "Flash Gordon" too - but that movie has since endeared itself to my heart because of the Queen soundtrack.

But beyond all of that, Bryon was ahead of his time because he drew what he wanted to draw. If you're young and just breaking in, you may not know the weight of that statement and that's okay. You will someday... hopefully.

He wasn't rich, so the luxury of being able to just lounge around and draw pictures for the hell of it wasn't available to him. He didn't have anyone subsidize his income so that he could be so cavalier with his standard of living. I think the only time he ever illustrated for any company is when he had to. Let me say that again:


It was quite silly to think about back then. It's brilliant to me now. I've met too many inspired illustrators and artists who end up getting work, who then make it their life, and it becomes less of a passion and more like a job and well... it's just sobering and sometimes a little sad to think about.

The point is, he just drew. Sketchbooks and sketchbooks full of stuff - and once in a while, a comic book. And in all those fronts, they were uncompromising and inspired. The works you'll find in the link I've posted above is a disservice to what he's capable of. It really, really is.

We'd all sit around the garage, watching kooky movies, we'd eat food in the quantities and quality that only a younger man's constitution could take, and while I'd be in the middle of drawing some Danzig/Verotika title, Byron drew what came into his head. I wasn't equipped to tune into the phantom frequency where his inspiration came from, but what he put to paper was marvelous. It was, and still is, pretty unparalleled in my eyes. But because I couldn't see what he saw, the best I could do was to try and emulate what he did. I didn't do it well, but I tried and that's the "style" that I ended up with. And for those of you who have said that I had a pretty original look back in the day, let me be frank with you now - I DID NOT. I still don't. I steal everything from everyone, and in the specific case of the late 90's through the early part of the new decade I stole as best and as much as I could from this man.

We'd all be up until 3 A.M. or later, because that's what the deadlines dictated and that's what young guys do. We talked about art and hated on the popular guys drawing the comics of the day - I guess that's what young guys do too. But most of all, we drew. I drew for money. Byron drew because there wasn't enough room in his head for all the crazy stuff being pumped into it and he needed to put crazy on paper. With their art, the other guys in the garage kept me on my toes, but Byron's work kept me honest. "I will never be as good as this guy," I secretly thought to myself once. And that was okay. I believed then, as I do now, that everyone needs to have a White Rabbit to chase. He set the example even when I didn't know that's what he was doing. And even if I didn't have the foresight to think of the influence he would impart on me then, I can look back now and curse myself for not paying closer attention. He got it right without trying.

"...have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

That's part of a quote my friends and I were talking about a few weeks back; how we need to start incorporating that way of thinking into how we proceed with our work from here on down, how we should never hold back when we realize what we want (I'm talking to YOU - you know who you are), and to never blink at the idea of what will give you your definition of happiness and ultimately moving towards it. I think Byron had this inherently programmed into system from the beginning. He wanted to draw what inspired him. And that's what he did. Such a simple, lucky bastard.

"What if we were driving down a highway in the middle of the dessert and my car broke down? And when I got out of the car to check what was wrong, a snake suddenly bites me in the ass and poison was coursing through my system? You'd drive then, right?"

"F*ck that. I'd carry you on my back first and run to the closest town before I drive a car! I will NEVER drive a car in L.A!"

That's part of an actual conversation Byron and I had back in the day, just outside the garage door, as Byron took one of his many smoke breaks. Keep in mind, he was smoking a lot back then and considering I was 70 lbs. heavier, I either think he or I would've died first before he and his deficient lungs would get near any town in hopes of rescue from a poisonous snakebite in the ass.

Byron is married now. He's got a beautiful, charming wife who he was relentless in going after when he realized how badly he loved her. They have new baby. And I'm laughing as I type this because I think in life there are certain inevitabilities. Death, Taxes and because Byron lives in L.A. he has to drive. But at least he doesn't smoke anymore. He's won much more than he's lost and it's because, like he's done with his art, he did what inspired him. He's Sinatra all over.

So to him, I dedicate this post. Because even after he learned to drive, even before we lost contact - for a good long while, I don't think "B" ever stopped carrying me on his back.

Thanks, man. I really appreciate it.


gavada said...

Oh my, gawd! That is one of the most badass pieces I've seen you do and everything I see you do is bad (as in rad or to the bone). I love your work and I'm not worthy.

ryan cody said...

Excellent story Eric, your writing is just as fun to discover as whatever new sketch you have up. I love how you covered the Surfer's junk and gave him toes.

GHGraphics said...

Inspiring read man. Thankyou for sharing this story. It's hard to do what you like when your peers judge everything you do. It's hard not to be a people pleaser in the art community. You're right, Byron did get it right. He kept the child like wonder that we all had when we were 10 years old and we would stay up past our bedtime and draw whatever the hell we thought was awesome regardless of whatever other people thought. Thanks again, this story has inspired me.

Oh and awesome pic, always a fan :)

jason s said...

Great post, and great art.

Greg said...

Great read, Eric. Very inspiring story and perfect timing. I needed this. Thanks!

The Silver Surfer pic is absolutely killer, btw. Everything you've been pumping out is, actually.

Also looking forward to listening to the next Sidebar from NYCC.

Brian said...

Love the perspective on the Silver Surfer and Galactus piece.

As for the story, thanks for sharing. Good advice for any path you take in life.

Brian Lue Sang said...

Wonderful bit of your life there, Eric. Thanks for sharing that and this beautiful piece.

Tom said...

Incredible Sufer piece, wow. Nice post too, valuable thoughts/advice. Thanks for sharing.

marco's blog said...

great piece and great story, it's nice to hear that someone who inspires so many is still pushing himself to be better.
as a side note, i remember being inspired for the first time in high school when a friend of mine (chris casteneda) gave me a wolverine sketch his cousin eric did. that was the first time i remember being awed....the second time was when jonard brought some eric canete sketches to class at long beach city. since you've started the blog i get to be inspired on a semi daily basis.

Pierre said...


Lenny said...

YOU sir, inspire us. It's just as important to see our affect on others as it is to see their affect on us.
Keep doing what you do.

Chrispy said...

I guess i could say inspiring, i guess i could say thank you, and i guess i could say this is a dope piece, but i think saying you are a white rabbit.

Not only in your art, but most importantly in your humility, your passion, and capacity to serve others in your words, actions, and kind gestures.

So while art is dope and important, the greatest character design that you've done is in who you are as a person, thanks Eric, or if i may, "Ece", lol,


j_ay said...

Thanks for sharing that story.
*Killer* Surfer piece.

Mimi Cortazar said...

Norrin Radd look's great :)
great art man :)

Nexxorcist said...

this is great man. story and art

DAN-VAN-COOL said...

By the Time I got to the bottom I was so in to the story of you and your friends, relating it to my own gang & thinking about the weight of the advise in there. I had forgot about the awesome Surfer Image above. I had to check it out again. :)

I Checked out the Podcast on sidebar nation while I was at work spitting up shots. It was the Q&A Panel with Pablo.
Ive been trying digging deep trying to get my own style going on (to put it simply). The story you told about the one creator asking the crowd..."Raise your hand if you draw like this guy". I've been needing to hear hard stories like that. As well as the stories you told about missing deadlines. Those are far more valuble to me than the misconceptions of glory and being some badass rockstar artist.
I owe you a debt of gratitude for putting yourself out there with your own experiences for those searching the the realizations that come with the biz that so few talk about.
All the Best Eric

RAWLS said...

Nice words and sketch my friend!

geoff_ said...

Damn man. Now you've gone and made me all nostalgic. Those were fun times. Not to make it sound like he's not with us anymore, but.... I miss him too.

Keron said...

Brilliant work as usual mate. I'm so honored by your awesome gesture in NY and I'm addicted to the gift. Thanks for keeping your head down and pushing.

Mimi Cortazar said...


Mayan said...

That had to be one of the most heart stopping posts I have EVER read. I couldn't wait to get to the bottom, because honestly, I thought something bad had happened to B. If it wasn't for Jonard letting me into your world for a short period of time I never would have been exposed to such a collective of inspirational minds. And to second the impact that one person can have on someones life, I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for Byron's inspiration. Byron lit the spark that got me off my ass. I'll never be able to properly thank him.