Mr. Pinto: From cartoonist to Spanish teacher

By Mariyah Ramirez

Although Spanish teacher Miguel Pinto has been teaching for 16 years, it was never really his intention to become a teacher in the first place.

He had originally gone to art school to study visual effects. However, there wasn’t a degree for that at the time, so his school offered him a bachelors in animation instead.

“As a kid, I started reading comic books and began drawing my favorite characters from there. I loved watching cartoons, and I knew the first time I saw Jurassic Park that I wanted to do something related to special/visual effects,” Pinto said.

So, Pinto studied traditional hand-drawn animation to become a cartoonist. At the time, animation was at a very low point.

“Studios were laying people off and it was difficult to find work,” Pinto said.

He had to go back to college to study computer animation in order to find jobs in the field he wanted. 

Pinto had been drawing since he was nine years old. He taught himself how to draw and then went to art school in college.

Even when not drawing, Pinto always gravitated toward art. He worked at the L.A. County Museum of Art as the gallery guide. During the weekends, he would give tours of galleries and lead art classes for kids that were related to the art pieces they had covered that day.

One of his biggest influences is comic book artist Jim Lee.

 “I love his art style,and he was definitely a big influence growing up,” Pinto said.

In his own artwork, Pinto always starts off with a rough light drawn sketch. Then, he contours the lines of the body and draws the details like facial features and clothing on the characters.

It takes him about 10-20 minutes to stretch an original character.

He has created a group of characters that he named “Roxy’s gang.” Roxy’s gang consists of Roxy the Rhino, who is the leader of the group; Mick the Bear, who is the muscle of the group; and Tommy Dachshund, who serves as comic relief and was inspired by Pinto’s dog.

When Pinto’s wife, then girlfriend, went to school to get an elementary teaching credential, he considered the idea of going back to school and getting a credential to teach high school art.

However, his wife suggested that he could pass the Spanish credential test as well since he had received a 5 on the Spanish AP test in high school and is a fluent Spanish speaker.

“It’s funny because I remember telling my friends in high school that I would never become a teacher,” Pinto said.

Now with a career teaching Spanish and two children at home, Pinto doesn’t draw as much as he would like. But, he plans to get back into it.

He does try to incorporate art into his Spanish lessons, however. Whether it be drawing self-portraits when they’re writing essays about themselves, or creating storyboards, or even just creating drawings for poems his students write, Pinto combines his two passions in his lessons and activities.

Both Pinto and his wife, who is also an artist, work to teach their oldest daughter to draw as well.

”She loves to draw and is becoming quite an artist herself,” Pinto said.

After his dramatic change in plans, Pinto advises students to embrace change. 

“Never say never! You never know which path you will end up taking in life,” Pinto said.