Roberto Parada, Award-Winning Illustrator and Activist, will be on campus September 26
A very special guest will be
coming to the
Academy of Art University on September 26. Roberto Parada, the award-winning illustrator
who bravely confronted a near-death experience arising from tools he was using as part of his work,
will be coming to the university to speak to students and faculty about his experiences. This
event is free for all Academy students, faculty, and alumni.
We encourage you to read Mr. Parada's own words below as he describes his amazing
experiences. This will certainly inspire you to be a part of this amazing event; meeting
someone of Mr. Parada's personal and artistic caliber is certainly a unique experience not to be
"I was born in 1969 and raised in northern New Jersey in a town called North
Arlington, which was not a scenic place but it did have a great view of the New York City skyline.
I eventually journeyed over that skyline to
Brooklyn, New York to study fine arts and illustration at Pratt
Institute. Upon graduating in 1991, I went head first into the editorial illustration market.
My early clients ranged from The National Review to Playgirl magazine. At this time I
was working in acrylics and repeatedly changed and updated my portfolio to target more portrait
illustration assignments. Things dramatically changed for me and my career with a phone call
to the great illustrator, Tim O'Brien. I felt the need to distinguish my work from what was
out there and being an oil painter himself, he gave me the confidence to make the switch to oils
instead of the water based mediums I had been working with. The work and the clients followed
once I began refining my style with oils. These clients included Esquire,
Playboy, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Time Magazine to name a few. Living in New York
at this point, I entered the fast pace and demanding
world of weeklies and monthlies and loved it.
On September 19, 2003, after feeling weak and short of breath for a few months, I
was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia (bone marrow failure)at Beth Israel North Hospital
in New York after doctors reviewed the results of my bone marrow biopsy. I had to undergo a series
a blood transfusions due to critically low blood counts. It was a real shock for me, but I
didn't have a clear understanding of my disease until I researched it and contacted the
AA&MDSIF (Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation) to get a better history of
it. I discovered I had a life threatening illness at 33 years of age. Upon the good
advice of the AA&MDSIF, I checked into Mt. Sinai Hospital to undergo ATG with cyclosporine (an
aggressive immune suppression treatment). My body never fully recovered following 2
cycles of this treatment leaving me transfusion dependent and counting on my good
fortune in the hopes that Mt. Sinai Hospital would find a generous and
willing unrelated bone marrow match on the National Marrow Donor Program list.
My only sibling, and older brother, wasn't a match. In September of 2004 an anonymous
perfectly matched donor was found on the NMDP. I was quickly admitted into Mt. Sinai's
Bone Marrow Transplantation Isolation unit and under went a grueling week of preconditioning (3
straight days of radiation treatment followed by 4 days of high dose chemotherapy) for my body to
accept the newly donated marrow. Knowing all the life threatening risks involved in a
procedure like, unrelated bone marrow transplantation, it was my only shot at survival and even a
cure. On September 30, 2004 I was transfused with my donors healthy marrow and 6 days later
the first increase in my blood counts occurred. Within 3 weeks I was making healthy blood again
without rejection and was released from the hospital to an out patient status. I
went on to overcome the difficulties, post transplantation, and returned to illustration fully
recovered and cured.
Although Benzene (found in paint thinners and many art materials) exposure was the
likely culprit for me developing Aplastic Anemia, it can't scientifically be proven.
But today it remains a consistent link in many other people who develop this disease and other life
threatening maladies. Art materials, especially The Toxic variety, need to be approached with
the utmost caution and safety. One can never know how are bodies will react to such
contamination. Today I still work in oils but this time everything in my studio is AP
Non Toxic including my paint thinner for cleaning (mineral oil).
My life in illustration now is dedicated to bringing about a greater
conscious understanding of the dangers that exist in some of the materials we work
with and still be able to create great artwork."