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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 missed. 

Straw hat

"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."

----Roberto Parada


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