Warning: foreach() argument must be of type array|object, string given in /mnt/phxart_staging/public_html/wp-content/themes/phoenix-art-museum/inc/template-functions.php on line 313 Jon Arvizu: In His Own Words
Jon Arvizu: In His Own Words
Aug, 04, 2020
Jon Arvizu: In His Own Words
Originally from the Mountain West, illustrator, designer, and printmaker Jon Arvizu is all about seeing a concept through from start to finish, creating visually arresting yet accessible artworks with mass appeal. His portfolio includes commercial work for companies like Netflix, Frito Lay, and Oregano’s Pizza Bistro, but Jon, who was included in Phoenix New Times’ 100 Creatives list in 2014, is increasingly passionate about supporting his community and leaving his stamp on the Phoenix Metro Area. Over the years, he’s created posters, banners, and illustrations for local spots like Short Leash Hotdogs and Modfire, and in 2014, he designed a cover for the Downtown Phoenix Directory. He and his wife, Jenn, also run High Jinks Apparel, a Scottsdale boutique that sells t-shirts, cards, patches, facemasks (!), and more.
Here’s Jon Arvizu, in his own words.
“Whether it’s posters, packaging, apparel, paintings, prints, or murals, I design things to fit their intended use. I want my artwork to be eye-catching and attractive but to also work on multiple levels the closer you get. The more you look, the more you will see.”
Jon Arvizu. Image credit: Jenn Arvizu.
PhxArt: Where did your journey as an artist begin, and how has that experience shaped your practice?
Jon Arvizu: I received my bachelor’s degree in design at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. My first formative job was at Fossil in Richardson, Texas. They are a large apparel and accessories company whose fun visual language spans the golden age of the 20th century.
That work had a huge effect on me in terms of personal growth and acceptance. Creating artwork from concept through technical completion became important to me. I like to see how things are actually made by hand and can be applied on a larger scale. At Fossil, I learned how to make things work—not only to make art but also to design it for production. Whether it’s posters, packaging, apparel, paintings, prints, or murals, I design things to fit their intended use. I want my artwork to be eye-catching and attractive but to also work on multiple levels the closer you get. The more you look, the more you will see.
PhxArt: In which media do you prefer to work?
Arvizu: I am always deeply immersed in digital art. Adobe Illustrator is my lens through which I refine and finish concepts. My personal work involves screen printing posters and small letterpress prints. Mono-silkscreen prints (large-format screen prints made with hand-cut paper stencils) are among the more unique and handmade processes I produce.
Video courtesy of the artist; Jon Arvizu, Saguaro, 2020. Screen print. Photo by Jenn Arvizu.
PhxArt: Your artwork seems to rely heavily on a saturated color palette while drawing on a few different artistic movements or styles. Can you tell us how you honed your aesthetic?
Arvizu: I like all things Americana and ephemeral from the 20th century—advertising linocuts, spot illustrations, advertising as art. I have a clean and flat graphic style from my time at Fossil and my interest in printmaking.
Screen printing requires each color to be separated onto its own “screen.” Letterpress printing is the same, requiring individual “plates” for printing multiple colors. That process lends itself to flat, punchy colors. I do enjoy a detailed portrait or drawing using soft modeling but prefer to break my subjects down to flat planes of color.
I am very drawn to bold colors. I spent 10 years producing handmade screen prints with high-quality printmaking inks that are intensely opaque. I see color and want to find the most interesting combinations.
Jon Arvizu, Tempe Arts Festival Poster, 2018. Screen print. Photo by Jenn Arvizu.
PhxArt: Who inspires and influences your work?
Arvizu: All things are influential to me. I don’t like to pinpoint my influence. I want my work to function in its environment and have the proper context.
If I had to name a few artists off the top of my head, my top three would be Frederic, Lord Leighton; J.C. Leyendecker; and Charley Harper. To me, these three represent stages of abstracting from literal representation of form. Leighton’s lush romantic portraiture is gorgeous; Leyendecker’s expressive, thick, and buttery brushstrokes are expressive; and Harper’s refinement of flat color, geometry, and minimalist abstraction is nuanced and bold at once. These artists scratch a visual itch for me and are all aspirational in their mastery of form and color.
Jon Arvizu, Take a Hike Camelback, 2018. Sticker. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: Do you feel a strong divide between your personal artistic practice and the work you create for commercial clients? How do you navigate the border between the two, however porous it might be, if there is one?
Arvizu: Yes, there is a divide. The older I get, the clearer it is. Commercial work honed my skills and ability to be flexible with challenges, absorb a certain level of feedback (for better or worse), and make positive edits and changes until my work speaks clearly. That process of revision is the most important for a clear message.
My own work is a result of that skill-building mindset and a need to feel creatively whole. I make things that are fun, thoughtful, playful, and considered. I don’t need to wait for someone else to come along and hire me to do that. Plus, my art approval process is faster!
PhxArt: What are you currently working on?
Arvizu: I’m working on a number of things right now, including an event poster for Tiki Oasis Arizona and an exhibition poster for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. I also just finished working on a new cactus and desert design for a community check-card through Arizona Federal Credit Union that gives money back to causes and groups here locally.
Jon Arvizu, Jack Skellington, 2019. Mono silk screen print. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: What’s a dream project you’d like to work on in the future?
Arvizu: I’m sad to say I just lost a bid to redesign the City of Scottsdale Monument Signage this spring. It broke my heart to come in second, and then subsequently, the project was shelved due to COVID-19. As an Arizona artist, I feel it’s important for me to be involved in the visual language of our city. It was hard to spend the time and effort to come up just short, but I plan to succeed on future projects and have an impact on the Valley in a permanent way.
PhxArt: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audiences?
Arvizu: Be local. Shop local. Have empathy. We all can use more. Support and appreciate working artists and makers in your community.
We’re curious how creatives are navigating the time of coronavirus. Jon Arvizu shares what’s giving him life as a creative during quarantine.
Arvizu: The first thing is facemasks. I operate High Jinks Apparel with my wife, Jenn, from our home studio in Scottsdale. When COVID-19 hit, everything stopped. In the vacuum of March, Jenn sat down and came up with a pattern for facemasks. From that, I have been creating custom designs and art that we print and produce entirely by hand. The drive to make wearing facemasks a more pleasant—and even fun—experience has given us a boost, kept our business moving forward, and allowed us to reinforce our ties with the community by providing donations of masks to local organizations.
Jon and Jenn Arvizu, High Jinks Apparel Desert Sugar Skull Face Mask, 2020. Textile. Courtesy of the artist.
Funny enough, home repairs are also giving me life. I just completed a masonry project using a few hundred vintage Haver blocks from my neighborhood that I’ve collected over the past 10 years. I constructed a decorative wall and added to my retaining wall. I learned techniques with block and mortar that I have appreciated in the mid-century modern architecture of my neighborhood for years. I am also refinishing the badly worn out, original oak tabletops of my 1890s Challenge Gordon Letterpress. I use the letterpress regularly to print greeting cards and other handmade items on a truly antique piece of machinery.
Finally, I’d say another inspiration has been listening to podcasts, like 99% Invisible and Hidden Brain, while I work. Those two podcasts really speak to my need for an understanding of the world around me and how the mind works.