Be an Illustrator and See the World

by Brian Lorti | April 18, 2019
Retired First Class Illustrator-Draftsman John Bodie is completing a Digital Arts Professional Certificate, his second certificate program at Sessions College. A lifelong artist, John followed his father’s footsteps into the Navy with the goal of serving as Illustrator-Draftsman in a role that combined his creativity, his desire to serve, and his love of life/travel.  He has seen everything from Photoshop 2.5 to 20.0.4, but has found his online classes at Sessions “an awakening” for his art skills. Most importantly, he has never stopped creating. 

Q: John, you come from a family of artists. Tell us how art influenced your career and educational goals.

As a young boy I wanted to be just like my dad. He was my hero. To me he was the coolest. He was a big guy, like John Wayne. I grew up loving the same things he loved: westerns, jokes, comedy (The Muppets Show was our fave on TV) and art. He was also an Illustrator in the Air Force. He moonlighted as a Sign Painter and carried on with this great love until his passing. He was of course a loving and caring husband to our mom and great father to my two sisters and two brothers. As a Technical Sergeant, Illustrator, in the US Air Force, I remember he did not love it toward his retirement after 20 years. But he loved the Navy, as he was a Merchant Mariner, before he joined the Air Force. He steered our attention on that path by telling us great stories, as dads of that day would tell their sons and daughters.

My dad was a draftsman as well and would come home periodically with a big roll of scrap blueprint drawings so that we could use the reverse side. We all would get excited and go to my little brother’s bunk room which was bigger and had a large round table. Using a big Christmas tin of crayons, pencils, and sometime markers, we would fill the reverse sides of the paper. We probably filled every big page, daily! Dad even had those funny blue and red leaded pencils editors used in the day. All five of us drew, colored, and painted for hours. We played outside most of the time but this was our get together time.

At nine I wanted to join the Navy to be cool like Dad and sail the seven seas. I wanted to be a Navy SEAL, F-14 Tomcat Pilot, or an Illustrator-Draftsman. The Navy let me become a logistics person. Dad passed, and so, for 10 years or so I became an Aviation Storekeeper (AK) until the last moment before time disqualification, I gathered an art portfolio, got my qualifications done and signed off, and applied to the annual board of senior Illustrators to become an Navy Illustrator-Draftsman (DM). There was very few in the Navy with fewer than 140 total Navy wide, from Master-Chief, all the way down to seaman. I made it and the dream became a reality. Now was time to make up for lost time. My wife, Mom and brothers and sisters were happy for me. I just hoped my Dad would be.

My first duty station as a new DM was at the Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet, Graphics shop where I learned from a group of senior Illustrators and hit the ground running. I’ve never been so happy in my life. I am grateful to all those who have taken the time to show me the things I needed to finally become a professional Illustrator-Draftsman. I ate and slept in my new job, absorbing as much as I could, never hiding from challenges. I even made it to First Class Petty Officer the next year, but that would be my last promotion as it was a challenge at the time to make Chief Petty Officer. But, like my father, it was the love of the job, not the pay, that was the reward. So, for 10 years of my last Navy life I had an awesome responsibility. I learned many skills on my own and taught others under my supervision as well. It only makes sense to pass it along. Since retirement, I have been working with the Army here in my hometown for the past 15 years.

Q. You have been involved in Graphic Design for a long time now. How has the field changed since your days as an Illustrator-Draftsman in the Navy?

My first glimpse of this field was when in 1993 I applied for a part-time job as an Artist-Illustrator for the Marketing Department at Naval Station Guam. I was on active duty in a Helicopter Squadron as an Aviation Storekeeper (AK). This is when I was exposed to a Macintosh with Aldus PageMaker. (A prelude to Adobe Pagemaker, itself a prelude to Adobe InDesign!) I didn’t get to play much with it but I saw how cool it was to know what a graphics computer looked and felt like. (Black and white, tiny screen, but that’s OK).

Jump forward to Hawaii in 1995, and I was working in Adobe Photoshop 2.5. No layers! However, we had Photoshop 3.0 on the computer that no one noticed until one day it was pointed out to us. Some said “Why aren’t you using 3.0?” We were like, why? It has layers! What’s layers? Then the real designing began! Layers, what a concept! Were photo retouching with one layer. Erasing, painting, one undo. Now fast forward to today. Photoshop 20.0.4? Content aware tools? Smart Objects? This is only getting better and better.

Q: Why did you choose to pursue an education at Sessions?

At first I enrolled to just use my GI Bill before it expired, as I had lost already half of it! So I rushed. However, enrolling at Sessions turned into a wide awakening of sort as I thought I would breeze through my classes, but this stuff made me work! It got me on my toes in which it made me a student like when I was young. The program helped fill in so many holes or answered questions that I had in the back of my mind that I didn’t even know I had. It has increased my direction and focused me on new refreshing things that maybe all of you already had, but not me.

It feels great. I thought I knew a lot, now I know better. There is ALWAYS someone 10 times better than you. However, there is no stopping you from getting there too! With perseverance and the right attitude, you can get to your dreams. Then start new ones! My dreams start with taking care of my wife and kids. Now it’s staying around long enough to take care of my three grandkids too!

Q: What is your favorite class so far in your program? What new skills have you developed?

Photoshop is my go to program EVERYDAY in my life, at work and at home. Illustrator is my favorite as I love vector art and it inspires me to use it often. I did have so much fun in stuff I had never had a chance to get into and that is with Premier and AfterEffects. So far my favorite teachers are from the Illustrator, Photoshop, and Color Theory classes. I was so far behind in Color Theory it was not even funny! Something I thought I knew, but not really! So, that was a shocker to me! (LOL).

Q: As a Navy veteran, you travelled across the world. What is the favorite place you travelled to, and how have your life experiences shaped your outlook on creativity?

When traveling the world, getting to know the folks in different countries, I can’t but feel that we should not be separated. Everyone in the world is just like us in so many ways. We all have the same things in common. I wished I could eventually meet everyone! If you have a chance to get out there, do it now while you can. It will broaden your mind and soul. It let you experience things that you cannot get on the internet or books or by stories alone.

The Navy took me everywhere. Yes there is bad, but there is more good. Knowing the bad just makes you less naïve and more in tuned to what life is really about. This helps me in everyday life as well as everyday work and graphic arts in some cases. I love all kinds of creativity and there are so many new things out there waiting to be explored. Not to mention the talent that is all around us on this tiny planet.

Q: What advice and tips for success can you give to those seeking to pursue an online education?

Get into Art. Explore what is fun, even if it won’t be your thing. Don’t be shy. Never be shy. Join something that gets you past that. It will hold you back. Get going now when you are young and your life in the future will thank you for that. (But hey, you can start late like me! Not too late I say!)

Find a mentor and never settle. Always get the underlying basic skills down pat, as any holes can burden you and you won’t even notice. Get into a groove and don’t be shy to jump in and out of it. Fine tune your skills, especially traditional art skills, then utilize the big box of crayons called Adobe CC or whatever tools you can get a hold of and never stop creating! While you’re at it, help someone along the way. Our journey is together! I look forward to meeting you and seeing your designs.

Click here to learn more about Vocational Certificate programs at Sessions College. To learn more about applying GI Bill education benefits, visit our Military Students pages or our GI Bill information page.  


Brian Lorti is our Military Student Advisor. An Army veteran and lifelong learner recognized for his volunteer work, Brian uses his IT background to fix all manner of things.