Animator shares experiences about pursuing a career in art


Jorge R. Gutiérrez speaks to students about his experiences working as an animator, and how they can pursue a career in art. Photo credit: Saba Nia/Chronicle

Saba Nia

Animator, painter and director Jorge R. Gutiérrez spoke to Drawing and Painting I students about his experience navigating the entertainment industry while remaining true to his background Wednesday. He also advised students about how they can make a career out of their artistic passions.

Gutiérrez, who directed the Golden Globe-nominated “The Book of Life,” shared the struggles of creating projects that allowed him to showcase his Mexican heritage.

Gutiérrez grew up in Mexico, and crossed the border daily from ages 9 to 18 to attend his American school before moving permanently to the U.S. for college. His multicultural upbringing inspired his art, but Gutiérrez said that studios often turned him down in the beginning of his career because they considered his work too focused on Latin culture.

Gutiérrez said his perseverance and sincerity made his work eventually accepted. He refused to let outside pressure shift his works’ focus but maintained friendly relationships with the companies that rejected him.

“In the hard times, I need to make work that resonates and feeds that need I have to showcase where I’m from more than I need stability,” Gutiérrez said. “I know it’s a crazy thing to say but looking back on my career, any success I’ve had has been because of my culture. I can’t turn away from it.”

Students said they appreciated his honest anecdotes about the obstacles he faced and that Gutiérrez’s presentation inspired them.

“I came out of [the speech] with just inspiration as an artist knowing that you can keep your style and your influences and cultural influence and still be successful today as an artist,” Katie Mumford ’20 said.

Visual arts teacher Alyssa Sherwood, who met Gutiérrez in the Experimental Animation program at the California Institute of the Arts, said she approached him to come speak to her students about being a professional artist.

“He loves drawing, and so I think that it’s really important just also to know that you can make a career out of drawing and painting,” Sherwood said. “And that’s what I wanted my students to experience. You can make a career out of making your art.”

Gutiérrez said he plans on making more projects inspired by his upbringing in the future, including a new installment in “The Lego Movie” franchise and a possible project about living on the Mexican-American border.

“I think it’s up to creators like me to showcase different cultures and to showcase different things because kids are still making up their minds about the world,” Gutiérrez said. “And I think it’s a huge responsibility for us to inform them that there are people who are very different than you, that look differently than you, that have different faiths than you, but they’re just like you.”