Accomplished animator David Heredia has inspired countless people with his artwork, as well the stories behind his incredible pieces. A few weeks ago, members of Thornton-Donovan’s Overlook Journal staff were fortunate enough to speak with this artist, not only about his current project “Heroes of Color,” but also about his advice to aspiring young artists who are anxious to achieve their goals.
Q: “We’ve all watched videos about your own personal journey as an artist. One of the fundamental things we, as a newspaper team, have come to learn about is your diligence as a person who has great work ethic and determination. What advice do you have for people in difficult situations to push forward and achieve their goals?”
A: “Overall, regardless of the industry you are in, you are going [to] face obstacles. I look at these obstacles as a test for you to help you determine how badly you really want it. Think about how badly you want to achieve your goal. Your “why” has to be big enough; you have to think about the reason why you are heading toward being an animator, a storyteller, or a journalist. There is a fundamental reason as to why you are doing it. Any time you are faced with an obstacle, step back, observe what the obstacle is, try to figure out ways to resolve it, and if you don’t find a solution, be resourceful. Find somebody in your field who may be able to offer you some advice. Take that, learn from it, and move on. I think that in life, we’re always faced with obstacles that sometimes suck the life out of us and make us question if what we are doing is correct. But, when you go back to the reason why you want to do it, you almost always will persevere. There is a great quote that says, “Persistence overcomes resistance,” and I believe that. I believe that if you’re genuine about your craft that you will always find a way to overcome your obstacle. It’s not easy to do, but what helps me is to surround myself with other people who are just as passionate as I am or even more so. You must surround yourself with people that force you to level up. Don’t surround yourself with negative people. Surround yourself with people who will always challenge you.”
Q: “What bothers you the most about animating?”
A: “When it comes to animating, I don’t really have any issues. With the process of animation with “The Heroes of Color,” the most challenging part is the research, not the artwork or software I use for the videos, but the research prior to the storytelling. You have to be able to extend your story because not everyone will perceive it the same way that you do. They’re going to have a different opinion, and when they challenge you, you have to be able to respond respectfully and back up the story that you’ve told.”
Q: “The more we’ve looked into you and your work, the more we’ve become interested in your story and the fact that it has affected so many lives for the better. At the age of ten, you met your friend and eventual mentor, Gerald Chertavian. His experience with you inspired him to create this not for profit called Year Up. How does it feel to be the inspiration for an organization that has changed so many lives?”
A: “I’m honored and humbled to be held at the title of “you’re the inspiration behind the program,” but the credit goes to Gerald because this is the kind of person that he is. If it wasn’t me that inspired him to create this situation, it would have been somebody else. All this means is that he saw somebody that he cared for who was not given a fair chance, which is the story of so many people in the United States who have tons of talent, determination, and everything they need to succeed, except for the access and resources. Gerald built Year Up to provide these people with the skills that they need to survive. Again, I’m humbled, but I don’t see myself as this great guy who inspired this great thing. I see it as being glad that I’ve inspired you. I know Gerald personally, he’s like my brother. That’s what you do, you look out for your family.”
Q: “The animation industry, namely animation education, such as art schools etc., have had, for the longest time, an issue with diversity. This issue has made us blind to an entire other set of perspectives. What advice do you have for this new wave of artists of color, since it it can be very intimidating?”
A: “It can be very intimidating. The advice I give to any storytellers or animators who want to get into the industry is to just to it. Do not let the demographic in the industry prevent you from telling the story that you want to tell. There is nothing wrong with having pride in your culture and there is nothing wrong with celebrating the differences that we all have. As long as you’re respectful, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s only wrong when it’s hurtful, and you try to do wrong to people. “Heroes of Color” is about inclusion and the reason why I feel it is so important to tell these stories is because there is not enough of it. When somebody uses their intellect and creativity, these are things we should celebrate and honor. It can be intimidating when you walk into a room and realize you are the only person of color in this room. What do you do? Do you try to play along with what everybody else is saying and doing? Or do you stick to your principles? Trust me, you will get more respect for sticking to your principles than you would trying to blend in with everybody. I got tired of blending in with everybody because my story was being muffled. My voice was being silenced. That is the problem. The trend is that it’s easier to go along with everybody than it is to stick up for yourself because once you stick up for yourself, people have a problem with it. But, only those people who are insecure have a problem with it because your security in yourself and your culture makes other people insecure because they are not.”
Q: “Aside from creating series such as “Heroes of Color,” do you ever plan to use your art to create another kind of platform that represents the excellence of people of color? If so, what would it be?”
A: “The other platform that I’ve been using, aside from animation, is children’s books. I have a children’s book that is coming out and is being published by Scholastic in the Fall of 2019. It’s based on “Heroes of Color” and is called “Little Heroes of Color.” The characters are smaller, cuter, and the idea is one-hundred percent representation. There are African-American, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous characters, so it’s a nice mix of cultures represented in this book. Writing books is a fantastic tool. Animation is a great tool. Another platform I’ve been using is speaking. I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to schools and speak. A lot of the times, students will tell me how great it is to see me there. Without them going into deep explanation, I knew what they meant because when I was in elementary school, I didn’t see a lot of speakers of color come in. It’s hard to be prideful when you don’t see anything to be proud of. If all you see on the news is negativity of your people, then you start to believe that that is who we are. But if you start providing different platforms of opportunity for people to see, you start to get excited about things like that.”
Q: “When did you come to the realization that art and animation was the best way for you to relay the messages that you want to get across to those who view what you create?”
A: “Actually, I didn’t think that animation was a great way to do it because technically, the “Heroes of Color” series is not really animated. It’s more of what you would call whiteboard animation because you see the drawing being revealed on the screen. The characters are not moving around and talking-that’s animation. But, I knew that I wanted to get people’s attention and with the resources we have available today with the internet, I knew right away that social media would be a great tool to use to get the message out. Online, you want something quick. So, I knew that I would rather do a video. I did a project with a company called Pearson in which they contracted me to do two-hundred animated videos about teaching elementary school kids about Common-Core in Math and English. It was the first time I used my animation in education. That is what really planted the seed in my head that animation is a great tool for education. You get people engaged with the cartoon, but also you’re teaching them something. A lot of times, they won’t even realize that they’ve sat through a three-minute video and learned something.”
We are so grateful to have had the chance to speak to this amazing artist. For more information on his current project: Heroes of Color, check out its official website at www.hereosofcolor.com or follow the show at @_heroesofcolor on Instagram.