Without The Fluff!
Hello! My name is Julio Nar, but everyone in the field just calls me Nar! :) I'm a professional freelance illustrator
of over 15 years, within the realm of comic books and non-sport trading cards (mostly).
I'm originally from Los Angeles, but I now operate in the suburbs of beautiful, sunny (and hot!!) Arizona.
I've been mostly involved with commissioned artwork as of
late, but I have enjoyed various contractual work
with 3rd party businesses, such as IDW Publishing and the
Upper Deck Company, among others.
My main focus in this business, is to create high quality, fun and exciting artwork for the fans of this medium!
A Brief Background Outside of The Grid
I grew up in Boyle Heights, for the most part of my youth (early 1980s - 2010).
I lived mostly around gang activity at the time, so it was rather difficult to find the motivation and creative inspiration to push me towards the path I'm on today. Though, I drew since I was a child, I never actually went to school for it (however, I was trained by industry professionals!).
It wasn't until I was around 18 years of age, when all this cool stuff began to gel for me.
I made a couple of good friends, who were big comicbook fans and I remember being totally blown away, by the legendary artist/creator, Todd McFarlane.
His accomplishments (especially his toys!), left a very strong impression on me.
The level of enthusiasm for comic book culture, is something I've never experienced before and it has allowed me to break free from my own creative restraints and inspired me to take this amazing journey.
With so much excitement, my goals were pretty lofty at times, but it's aiming for the stars that has brought me much luck in this field. I do not run a toy line (yet) or a top selling book (yet), but I'm very appreciative of where I am today, all things considered and I'm still here reaching out for the stars, so that's always a blessing to me. ;-]
The Unexpected Milestone of 2007
Sketch card of Thanos, with the Infinity Gauntlet. One of 200 cards
produced for Upper Deck's Marvel Masterpieces 2007, trading card set.
About 3 to 5 inked cards, were completed per day. Towards the end of the project, I began to burn out and finished only 2 cards per day. Of the 200 cards, only 18 were in full color, 46 were in grey tones and the remainder in ink.
It was early 2007. I was stressing out over
the lack of success, in breaking further into the
comic book market. There were endless of back end paid work offers and "exposure" projects out there, but getting something of a solid paying job, seemed like an impossible endeavor.
At some point in my mid 20s, I felt really defeated, I finally succumbed to the idea that I just wasn't good enough to get inside the doors.
I remember becoming very cynical of my fledgling abilities, but I couldn't afford to put the pen down and learn a new trade to survive on. I've already invested way too much time into this dream idea.
I was in complete mental disarray.
One day, a talented colleague of mine, sent me a memo, about a talent search for a sketch
card project, arranged by the Upper Deck Co.
I forgot to mention, that I have developed a great distaste for sketchcard work, ever since my last job working on a Family Guy trading card set with Inkworks, where
I must have drawn over 600 redundant sketches
(for season 1 and 2).
As hard as I tried to make each one unique and of good quality, I just wasn't able to fully implement my passion into every piece and that drove me nuts.
What sounded like a fun project, turned into a monotonous and tedious job that didn't pay much.
I swore off sketch card jobs, since then.
Back to Upper Deck, as one would imagine, the knife was twisted further into my heart, when I received this memo.
I felt like maybe this was my eternal fate.
More sketch cards!
After cursing my existence, something bopped me over the head (not literally). I looked up and it was a big blinking sign that read, "OPPORTUNITY!!". Ding! Ding! Ding!
In my previous card jobs (Robots, Family Guy), Inkworks specifically directed us, not to deviate from the show's established art direction, whereas Upper Deck's set, had no creative limitations!
Furthermore, it was a set, utilizing the ever so popular, Marvel license, that is, Marvel Masterpieces. A trading card set from the 90s, making it's return debut for the 2000s.
This was all I needed to get the gears moving again. I wondered, what would happen if I decided to introduce something that hasn't been done before, in this specific market. Something to help me steal the spotlight, even if just for a moment, to make a name for myself. That idea, was to create the most detailed and dynamic sketch cards out there. Now this would be a lot of work! Many hours to invest and sacrifice a lot of sleep, possibly even endangering my health in the process. Mind you, this was a time when sketch cards were exactly that. Sketches on cards. So this idea, had a nice ring to it. But it would come at a costly price (or lack thereof!).
This project only offered, ahem, one dollar per card. Fair to note, that the company was expecting mere quick pencil and ink sketches. Colors was only optional. Even ink was only optional.
What I had in mind, would either really shake things up in that market, or completely bomb.
"What if this works? What if this bombs? What do I have to lose?". Nothing. So, that night, I made my decision and submitted my resume. The next day, I received the approval note.
The job called for 200 sketch cards to be completed, within a 2.5 to 3 month period. Upper Deck was oblivious of my
plans. In fact, no one knew of the cards I was hiding up my sleeve! (I finally get to use that line, ugh!)
I worked in secrecy for the most part. Every day... Morning to night.
I remember watching the entire Rocky (Stallone) saga, repeatedly, to sort of help my morale, when I felt fatigued. lol I know it sounds corny, but it actually gave me the mental energy to keep pushing forward. (Thanks Sly!)
Despite the number of pieces I had to put out, the job never felt tedious or monotonous. I was actually enjoying it!
I kept thinking about the collectors and how excited they might be, to get something really cool in their packs. I just kept pushing myself.
By the time the deadline rolled around, I felt the crash. I was ready to collapse on my table. But I was finished. 200 fully rendered cards all set to go! If this idea crashed and burned, well, I gave it everything I had, so at least I could live with that.
But, days after they made their debut to the public, my name shot to the top.. Whooa!! The mission was successful in more ways than I expected. It was an amazing experience (sometimes even a bit much) and it not only shook up the market, it also changed it! Companies would no longer accept penciled sketches and some even urged artists to produce more detailed work, just to keep up with the changes! Man..Talk about surreal! You know there were artists out there who disliked me for this. Sorry! I'm not one who enjoys being stagnant.
So that's the nutty story.
Many years have gone by and I still enjoy the success of that milestone, to this very day and I have nothing but thanks to give, to every single individual, who has supported me every step of the way. Not to mention my colleague whom sent me the memo for the job, who is also a well known and respected artist, by the name of Kate Bradley. You didn't think I'd forget, did you? Thank you! :-)
Honestly, there's a ton of people out there, whom I'd like to give thanks to and I will provide a section just for that purpose in the near future. Couldn't have done it without you!
"It ain't over, til it's over." -Rocky Balboa
It's now been a little over 10 years, since
my first milestone in 2007. So much has
changed in our world, but I'm still here and
it's many thanks to you good people, who
continue to show your support for my work.
As the years flew by, I've decided to
become sort of a recluse and focus on what
has always been most important to me.
That is, to create top notch and of course, FUN material.
There were many distractions, when I was making headlines. Some were amazing and surreal, but some were bizarre and difficult to deal with.
When people begin to understand that
there is money to be made off one's abilities,
they get tempted to cross lines they really shouldn't. It then becomes abuse.
Not only that, but you also risk becoming what you most fear or dislike. I couldn't continue on that path when deep inside, I know I'd much rather inspire positive vibes and good faith.
Normally, business affairs do not bend me, but at that time, they were so extreme and I was so inexperienced, that it was sucking me dry of all my enthusiasm for creating fun art. And it showed! (see my work in Fantastic Four Archives, by Rittenhouse. What a fiasco!).
So I made the jump from fame, into obscurity. While this decision created damaging effects to my personal business, I have little regret. I needed the time off to do some soul searching and I was happy to feel like a human being again and not like some art printing machine that could do no wrong, for people who cared very little about my health and financial well-being.
I was able to use the time away from the noise, to plan out my next set of endeavors, armed with experience, wisdom and more artistic muscle!
Practice makes perfect, after all!
The future still holds many great
possibilities and opportunities. Some of which I can create! I intend to make the best of it.
Rock on! ;-]
Thanos full color sketch card, personal commission from 2016.
After years of hard practice, I was able to push the envelop even
further, resulting in finer detailed and dynamic color applications and this is only a glimpse of even greater things to come. ;-]
If you're not familiar with "sketch cards", they are basically trading card size art boards, measuring at 2.5 x 3.5 inches, which artists would draw on, usually for a licensed or non-licensed, trading card set. :-)