No challenge is too extreme for Ryan Estrada. Since graduating from CCS, the artist has taught in Korea, volunteered after the tsunami in Koh Phi Phi (southern Thailand), hiked through the Himalayas and started up several successful businesses.
“Originally, traveling wasn't intended to be a major part of my career,” said Estrada. “As I found myself taking part in more and more incredible adventures, I started tying my two passions together (travel and art) and began making comics about these experiences.
“I've been lucky enough to build a career where I'm my own boss, and work on my own terms. I can live wherever I want in the world, take time off to travel whenever I want, and choose the projects that interest me personally.”
Over the past decade, Estrada has created several graphic novels, including Aki Alliance, The Kind and Plagued. One of Estrada’s more recent biggest hit comics, “Learn to Read Korean in 15 Minutes,” has been shared over a million times online and taught people all over the world how to read Hangul (the Korean alphabet).
“The comics that I make about serious situations simply stem from being in such situations,” Estrada explained. “As I traveled, I found myself experiencing parts of the world that many people never see, and wanted to share the experiences. Whether in comics, or videos, or stories, I share them however I think will work the best!
“With everything I do, I try hard to simply present the things I witness, rather than express my own opinions. The comics I created while I was in Thailand were simply word-for-word transcriptions of stories the victims told me… I hope my work motivates people to get out and see/experience as much as they can, whether around the world or in their own environment, so that they can have the most informed opinions possible.”
In addition to his comics and graphic novels, Estrada has translated several Korean comics for his own digital publishing company, The Whole Story, which publishes name-your-price bundles of comics and graphic novels.
“Some of the biggest names in comics have been featured on the site—it has been a huge success!” Estrada said. “I’ve been honored to hire artists like Don Hertzfeldt, Doug Tennapel, Jeffrey Brown, Ryan North and Meredith Gran among others.”
One of Estrada’s other business ventures, Cartoon Commune, provides custom comic books and comic strips on commission.
“Cartooncommune.com is providing me with all sorts of unique projects,” explained Estrada. “We’ve done everything from gift-comics starring people's secretaries as superheroes, to guest-months for popular webcomics. Over the years, I’ve been able to build up a staff of artists to work for the Commune, allowing me to meet the business’s demand while balancing my personal work.”
The seeds for Estrada’s extraordinary career began at an early age. His persistence earned him a position at The Oakland Press before graduating from high school.
“I first started applying to newspapers when I was 6 years old,” Estrada said. “I bugged the same paper until they finally hired me when I was 15. No matter what I accomplish, I'll never be prouder than I was when I got that acceptance letter.”
Through relationships Estrada developed with colleagues and instructors at CCS, he learned to refine his work and consider the impact of even the smallest details.
“The most important thing about CCS wasn't the classes, it was the people,” recalled Estrada.
“I loved being surrounded by fellow artists who weren't afraid to tell me exactly what they thought about my work."
Rather than the non-committed ‘oh, that's nice,’ while at CCS, I'd have dozens of people telling me what each stroke of the pencil, or line of dialogue meant to them, and offering useful suggestions on how to make it better.”
Between graduation and his travels overseas, Estrada worked on a number of projects, including animation for Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, computer games, and the Canadian comedy series The Super Popular Show. He has also published a book, Cartoon Coup, and created a 48- hour comic (48 pages in 48 hours), a 72-hour comic, and a 168-hour comic, which involved drawing an entire graphic novel, Ped-Xing, in one week.
“I love to get my hands on any type of artistic endeavor I can!” exclaimed Estrada. “I've dabbled in everything from putting on plays to doing voiceover work for films. I'd love to direct a movie.... or a Broadway musical. Write a novel? Who knows!
“My only goal is to improvise. At any point in my life, I want to be doing something that would surprise me if I heard that it was going to happen.”