I have a confession: probably one of my largest influences for becoming an artist is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m talking the total package: comic, film, and cartoon.
When I was about 9 and living in Puerto Rico, my brother and I were totally obsessed. We wandered around chanting the theme song ( “Heroes in a half shell – turtle power!” ), and I usually wanted to be Donatello. Plus, DUDE, they’re named after ARTISTS, how cool is that??!
The Turtles were like regular teenage boys; they loved pizza and skateboards and spoke like true Cali surf boys with sayings such as “Dude!” and “Cowabunga!”. Their master was a giant rat named Splinter, and their arch-nemesis was a creepy guy named Shredder.
Like most kids, I spent my allowance money on comics: Archie, Betty & Veronica, Cracked, MAD Magazine, Ralph Snart Adventures, and, of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
One day, while laying on the floor of a laundromat as my dad did laundry, I was studying one of my TNMT comics and copying the art. I was really struggling with this drawing, because I was trying to copy the sewer lid in the street scene. I kept drawing it over and over, but it remained a simple circle:
Holy crap! I had just taught myself the correct perspective of the sewer lid! It was a total AHA! moment, and I still remember it to this day.
Later, the TMNT film came out. Oh. My. God. My brother and I flipped out. A live-action movie? Our VHS cassette surely almost melted from repeated watching.
There was one scene in particular that really caught my attention: as the Turtles and April O’Neil hide in a woodland farmhouse while Raphael recuperates from an attack (this sentence sounds absolutely ridiculous), she sketches a couple of the Turtles in color pencil.
April is shown sketching this Donatello drawing, which is superimposed over the real scene.
And again, with a drawing of Leonardo. You can see where Leo’s leg has been repositioned.
WHOOOAAAAAAA…..My 9-year-old mind was blown. I remember thinking, I wanna DO THAT. I want to draw, just like that!
And I did. I drew a lot. I drew characters from the Looney Tunes, I drew the Little Mermaid, and yeah, I drew Taz, like a thousand times. Once, a classmate asked me to draw a bunch of Taz fliers for their student campaign promotion. I had drawn the dude so many times that I could draw from memory, and I whipped those fliers out like I was a copy machine (which….uh…would have been easier).
And I drew the Turtles. Because nothing perfects an artist’s hand-eye coordination better than obsessively copying your favorite characters.
So, thanks, TNMT.