Artist Jimmie Arroyo is arguably a contemporary artist with an Old Master's soul. Channeling some of his most substantial artistic inspiration from the masters of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, Arroyo updates their determined draftsmanship with his modern sense of design, resulting in a body of work that is both complex and compelling. Arroyo graciously took the time to participate in our "Contemporary Charcoals" interview series, which is the feature of this week's installment. In this interview, Arroyo shares a bit about his inspirations and influences along with some fantastic examples of his work.
For more on Arroyo, please visit his website.
Nitram Charcoal (NC): What is the last art show that you saw? What did you take from it?
Jimmie Arroyo (JA): I was very lucky to catch "Van Dyck; The Anatomy of Portraiture" at the Frick, and "Unfinished" at the Met Breuer on the same day. Not too long before that, I was able to see "Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print" in Chicago. I’ve become a recent fan of Van Dyck. I admire the way he would work realistically but also very abstractly at the same time. Seeing his work up close makes you realize how loosely he applied his paint, but his works nevertheless maintain a highly detailed quality. The "Unfinished" show gave insight as to how the artist worked, through studies and compositions that were never taken to completion. I’m always fascinated by witnessing the artist's process.
NC: What is your favorite collection to visit? What collection/museum in on your visit wish list?
JA: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been my favorite museum for many years. When I visit, I try to see as much as possible, but sometimes I will concentrate on a specific area for the day: 19th and 20th Century, for example, or European, American, or on a special temporary exhibition. The visit may depend on my mood, if I want to view more colorful pieces, realistic, painterly, or figurative, or a particular style that day. I would have to say The Hermitage in St. Petersburg would be at the top of my wish list simply because of its size, collection and history.
NC: In your opinion, what sets charcoal apart from other artistic media?
JA: I enjoy the versatility of charcoal, it can be used in many different ways. It comes in the form of pencils, sticks, powders; it can brushed on, rubbed, washed on, erased; it can render thin or thick lines, light to dark. It’s also ready to use when you are, easy to carry around, and just very enjoyable to work with.
NC: What is one thing you cannot live without in the studio?
JA: Good lighting. I work in a small space in my apartment and I mostly rely on a ‘daylight’ easel lamp. It’s not perfect, but it has to do for now. I mostly work at night so north light wouldn’t be an option for me, but I used to work with a set of fluorescent bulbs that worked well. Hopefully I can work with something similar in the future.
NC: What is the strangest response you've ever received for a piece?
JA: During a show in NYC last May, after walking around looking at my work, a woman came up to me and said that the work left her with a feeling of sadness. I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond – I couldn’t tell if I was insulted or complimented. Another time, I received a reaction to my work that really moved me. Someone had sent me a direct message on Instagram saying “There is a certain emotion in your imagery that makes me feel a little less alone...truly incredible!” Having someone connect to my work on that level was an amazing feeling.
NC: If you could buy any one work of art, what would it be, and why?
JA: Soon after the birth of my daughter in 1998, I had almost completely stopped producing any art. In April 2003, I went to see the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Metropolitan, and that same night I started drawing again. One piece that stood out was actually a copy of da Vinci's The Battle of Anghiari by Peter Paul Rubens. I wouldn’t consider it my favorite piece of art, but it had a big influence on my return to artistic production.
NC: What inspires you in the studio?
JA: The first thing that inspires me is the challenge of turning the idea that’s evolving in my head into something real. I am thrilled by the beginning of the process, when it is just my initial idea and a blank canvas before me, and I am spurred on by wondering if it will work, if I will be satisfied when I’m done, and if it will touch someone else. Then I fall for the process of turning my idea into a reality. This phase can move quickly and smoothly; other times it can be tedious and stressful. Reaching the end also causes excitement as a reward and the beginning for a new idea to come to life.
NC: Outside of charcoal, what is a medium with which you'd like to experiment?
JA: I would love to do more painting in oils. I’ve done a few pieces, and although I’ve gotten decent feedback, I don’t feel very confident with it. I want it to feel right, that I have a certain amount of control over it and consistency. I do believe with more experience, I can become more comfortable with oils. I would love to enjoy everything I do, regardless of medium, and have the viewer enjoy it also.