Illustrator’s Roller-Coaster Ride Becomes the Viewer’s Peaceful Landing

Fian Arroyo poses with a few creature comforts.
Portrait by Audrey Goforth

Fian Arroyo is a big-time illustrator with a client roster that includes Scholastic, Boy Scouts of America, Miller Lite, US News and World Report, The Los Angeles Times, skateboard-apparel company Osiris, and Disney. But although his commercial work is digital, his first love is illustrations executed by hand.

When did you become an illustrator?

As soon as I could hold a pencil, around age two. I made my first buck selling a drawing when I was about four.

What informs your fantasy work?

My dad was in the Army, so I lived lots of different places when I was growing up. Constantly moving and meeting new people, you have to be culturally flexible. You see the world differently and are exposed to how others see it. That influences how I creatively interpret the world.

Did one place have a particularly strong influence?

The Japanese sense of design and color had a big impact. In Japan I was exposed to illustrated Japanese children’s fable books, with folklore trolls and fantasy creatures. 

Stealing Beauty From Strange Angels

You moved to North Carolina after living a long time in Miami, right? 

Yes, and Miami has so much ethnic and cultural diversity that moving here was kind of a culture shock for my kids.

How did moving to Asheville affect your art?

The awesome art scene here helped inspire a return to my roots.

Which roots?

I wanted to go back to the pre-digital work I had not been doing since 1993. Five years ago I got back into watercolor and ink. I love line work, pen and ink. It’s my therapy. 

Your illustrations are saturated with color and detail.

I spend about a week on each piece, and sometimes do all-nighters. It’s always a roller-coaster ride.

LEFT: The Calling; RIGHT: A Tiny Distraction

Why?

I erase all the time when I’m drawing. But watercolors are very unforgiving. It’s a little terrifying once you start the ink work and layering of colors. There’s the ugly phase where I can’t see it coming together. With every drawing I do, there’s a point where I want to take it out in the driveway and run it over with my car.

So why do you keep doing it?

It’s a passion play. Each piece is an adventure, and I know it’s going to come out okay in the end. 

But what fuels that passion?

I can’t explain what drives me; its almost a spiritual thing. I feel joy. I hope that comes out in my work. When people tell me that my art brings them joy, that makes me happy. If I can bring a moment of happiness to someone’s life, that is such a great reward. It almost makes me tear up to think about it.

LEFT: Angels Of Our Better Nature; RIGHT: Eye for an Eye

Fian Arroyo is represented at Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., woolworthwalk.com) and at Kress Emporium (19 Patton Ave., thekressemporium.com) in downtown Asheville; and in Weaverville at Miya Gallery (20 North Main St., miyagallery.com) and Eluvium Brewing Company (11 Florida Ave., eluviumbrewing.com). The artist is exhibiting at Eluvium Brewing for the Weaverville Art Safari Fall Studio Tour (November 3-4, 10am-5pm, weavervilleartsafari.com), and has a one-man show scheduled at Woolworth Walk in May 2019. For more information, see fian.com, call 305-790-6244, or check the artist out on Facebook (Fian Arroyo Illustration) and on Instagram: @fian_arroyo. 

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