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An Interview with Jimmie Arroyo

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

I’ve always been a huge fan of figure drawing and I find that the talent is often underrepresented. But artists like Jimmie Arroyo show just how beautiful, clean, and detailed figure drawings can be. Softly toned with incredible detail and texture, Arroyo elegantly captures the human form in his work. He balances the techniques he uses really beautifully; shadow is built from hatching and is then accented by erasing and white pencil refinement. The combination of these techniques mimics the softness and feel of skin in a way that’s not often seen in black and gray work. Arroyo also allows his lines to go loose when they need to and he’ll often taper off the detail in or around the form to highlight certain aspects. He turns a simple representation into an interesting composition by doing things like loosening up lines to highlight certain areas or adding subtle elements to suggest some sort of narrative and that’s what really takes his work to the next level.

Arroyo is a student of the human form and his ability to capture it and focus us on the forms he was interested in is really stunning. Building up all of the aspects of the human body with just line is no easy task but this body of work shows exemplary skill in just that. I was extremely excited to chat with Arroyo and hear all about what goes into his process and building up his drawings. It’s a fascinating interview with some great insight on his work and figure drawing in general. Enjoy!

1. I always open with background, so what got you into art? Any schooling? Big inspirations? What helped shape you into the artist that you are?

I started drawing at a very young age, possibly 4. Drawing the same things every kid draws like dinosaurs and superheroes. But I really got into it, loved creating.

I don't have an academic training background, I went to art school, but it was all about art business and not much technique.

I'd say my main goal is to simply enjoy what I'm doing. I tend to struggle during the process, so when it flows, it's a great feeling.

Consistently working over the last 2 years has helped me feel better as an artist. Taking long breaks has negatively affected my work and attitude towards creating.

2. As a more specific background question, what drew you towards figure drawing? How did it develop into your primary means of making art?

I've always loved drawing figures and portraits. Not sure if I saw it as a challenge, or the satisfaction of capturing a likeness, but I can remember doing portraits when I was very young and it kept with me. I tried still lifes and landscapes, but couldn't find the same motivation.

3. Is all of your work done with a model in person? What is your model experience like? Is it collaborative or do you have a pretty solid idea of what you're after? Or does it vary?

Although I do love working from life, it's more practice for me. I make way too many mistakes to do a full piece from life. The majority of my models are people I know, so we take pictures for references. I may have some ideas for poses, but the models have freedom to play with the idea. Models do not get enough credit when it comes to figurative work. Also very grateful for the models who send me pics for references. All the models put their trust in me which I can't thank them enough for.

4. What is the drawing process like? Are you working through multiple poses until you find the perfect one to finish or do you dive right into the more detailed aspects right away?

When I suggest a pose, I'll take pics and have the model make changes as they feel. I'll move around them, suggest changes in positions, and hope to get some great references. Then I'll look them over on the computer and find the best one or combine more than one for the best result.

5. You show a tremendous amount of detail and shadow, all done through hatching. So, how do you manage the layering of lines without things getting too muddy? Do you begin by shading out the base shapes of the figure? Or do you start with the more minute details and then get more broad?

Yeah, I go from bigger shapes and then move on to details. A lot of the hatching work is done with erasing, I'll do an amount of shading and drawing, then I'll pull out the lights with erasing. I go back and forth with this until the desired effect. It's my favorite technique for stretch marks and cellulite.

6. Further, you mix in some white to assist the details in a good chunk of your work. So what do you find this adds/gives to your drawings? Is this a final touch or do you add it in as you see fit throughout the whole process?

I'll use white when working on toned paper, very rarely on watercolor paper. When working on highlights, the white helps it pop. On watercolor paper, I'll only use it if I can't erase out the highlight. I use it during the process as it helps me see darks and lights as I work.

7. You also add in some other colors or imagery into your work on some occasions. How do you decide when to add a splash of color? Is it spontaneous or do you go in knowing you're going to use it? More image based, what is the significance of the butterflies?

There are some drawings where the color is added first as a base, and other times I'll add. The majority of the time it's a spontaneous decision. I use moths more than I do butterflies, mainly because they aren't generally viewed to be as pretty as butterflies, which I don't agree with. I'm also not always looking to offend the viewer so moths and butterflies add an element of fantasy to an erotic subject.

8. Fabric is one of the primary atmospheric elements of your drawings. What significance does fabric play in your drawing process? What do you think it adds to your work?

Fabrics add texture to the drawings, although I do like a figure by itself, fabric will add darks and lights, different shapes which can flow with or against the figure.

9. Finally, when we first spoke you mentioned that you struggle to work and it never comes easy. So I'm interested in what this means, what does it take for you to start and more importantly finish a drawing? How do you find that motivation?

I do tend to struggle while I work, and I find it funny when people say "he makes it look so easy". I make so many mistakes, with measuring, scale, value, that erasers have become an essential tool when I work. I've been asked to do live demos or videos, but itll b more about erasing and cursing at myself. I talk to myself, trying to tell myself what to do, and I think it helps.

Starting is easy since I have reference photos that I'm excited about, and I do get excited about finishing when I see it come together. I draw every single day, I can be sick, tired, holiday, I make time.

10. And lastly PLUGS! Where can people find your work? Any shows/events coming up? Anything and everything you'd like to share, fire away!

I only have my work on Instagram (@jarroyoart) for now, need to get a website going and hopefully get some prints available.


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