September 15, 2016

An Interview with Jon Arvizu


Jon Arvizu is a local artist, designer, and screen printer. He was kind enough to let us intervene on his busy schedule to ask him some questions. In this interview, Jon talks to us about his interest in midcentury modern architecture, why he loves silk-screen printing, and what he appreciates about Phoenix, as an artist.

Monomyth Studio: Could you tell us a bit about your background? When/How did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Jon Arvizu: As long as I can remember, art has been at the top of my mind. Certainly by 3rd grade I was heavily into drawing and making things. I’ve never been the best, most talented, or top of my class. Dealing with adversity has always pushed me toward improving, learning new skills, and getting better.

MS: A lot of your work draws from midcentury modern architecture, pop art, and Southwest/West Coast culture. What about these aesthetics interest you?

JA: Mid-century design is part of our shared experience living in the southwestern US, so it’s something I can relate to. In Phoenix, we don’t have a long history of architectural styles to draw inspiration from, and this is something unique to the area. Postwar architecture has solid roots functionality and clarity of purpose; I’ve always admired those qualities and aspire to implement that character into my own work. In addition, beautiful sunsets, a laid-back lifestyle, and a unique environment give us so much beauty to draw from. Inspiration is all around us.

Jon Arvizu Sarmiento

MS: What do you love about the process of silk-screen printing? How did you get into it?

JA: I always wanted to try it as a student, but never got the opportunity in school through classes or workshops. So as an adult, I sought out an education in the basic workings of the medium. I achieved creating a few small format prints in my studio with a very basic setup. I separated the art into screens and had a local print shop help me with the materials. Those test prints had varying levels of success but were not as exciting as I hoped the process could be.

When a friend turned me on to a Mono-screen printing workshop at the Mesa Arts Center, it led to a whole different approach to screen printing. Combining elements of the mono-printing technique and the immediacy of mixing inks with handmade stencils, it allowed me to craft a unique style and produce art in a way I found exciting and inspiring. 

Contract work is my bread and butter, it pays the bills and sometimes provides me enjoyment. I have learned over the years that client projects are not the same as making art for myself. I WANT to make prints, I have a NEED to make them. It’s very satisfying for me to complete a design that works for me. As an artist, it keeps me going: complete a design that makes me happy, and move on to the next thing.

Jon Arvizu screen print

MS: What artists have had the most significant influence on your work? Why?

JA: No artists in particular, I love the fine arts and art history. I also love graphic art and design and try to incorporate all media and influences into my work as I see fit.

MS: Could you tell us a bit about Trapdoor Studio? How did it come to fruition?

JA: I worked at corporate and in-house graphic design jobs out of school with varying degrees of success for my first several years out of school. I learned a lot about what I like, and more importantly, what I don’t like. In 2002, I left my last corporate job and started freelancing with design firms and ad agencies to make my way.

I’ve always told myself, “I’ll work on my own until it doesn’t pay the bills.” Plenty of ups and downs come with owning a business, but throughout the last 14 years, I’ve managed to carve out a career doing what I enjoy. Over time the “career” has expanded to passion projects, extended education, risking, failing, and applying that knowledge to help make a living. The efforts I’ve made over time have allowed me to express myself as a creative and an individual.


MS:  How do you negotiate time between personal projects and work you do for clients?

JA: Making my own schedule helps a lot. I write DAILY checklists: projects to deliver to clients, passion projects, skill-building, experimenting, production design, paperwork, self-promotion. There is no clear path or standard rules to follow. If I’m inspired to finish a project, I allow that to take priority over everything else.

I set reasonable deadlines with clients as much as possible and that allows for more flexibility in working creatively. There are always exceptions, but creativity isn’t a science, so allowing proper time for multiple takes on a project is key. 


MS: What’s it like being an artist and business owner, and also a dad? How do these parts of your life overlap?

JA: All things are inter-related. I have young children, so I love being able to share art with my kids at home and at school. Art Masterpiece projects at their elementary school is a great way to interact with all the kids and impart some practical arts education on a personal level. As a family, we work on art projects together for their birthdays, holidays, and encourage them to experiment and get their hands dirty.

It goes without saying that young families are VERY time consuming. There is never enough time, but taking care of family, work, and my health are top priorities at the moment. I occasionally come up for air and spend time with friends to balance myself out. Just keep chipping away at life as best I can.

MS: What’s it like being an artist in Phoenix? What does this community have to offer?

JA: I have always been independent and driven to create, so I don’t ask a lot of the community. I would say being an artist in Arizona is challenging: there’s no correct path to walk for creative or financial success.

Many people here don’t have experience viewing art as a valuable resource for building culture and community. The art scene is historically underdeveloped, but there are MANY individuals making great strides toward bridging the divide. I am inspired by the efforts and growth of our community in the past 15 years, feel privileged to have created a place for myself, and enjoy some recognition as a creative talent. 



Illustrator, Designer and versatile Artist Jon Arvizu has been professionally involved in the graphic and fine art industry for over 17 years. His illustrations and design work have been featured a variety of publications and has worked with a myriad of clients including Netflix, Popular Science Magazine, Red Robin, Frito Lay, Quaker, Oreganos and The National Football League.


Jon’s handmade serigraphs and fine art prints are available online at and through a handful of local retail partners in the Phoenix area.


Jon has recently collaborated with his talented wife Jenn to create a line of thoughtfully designed graphic t-shirts and accessories for thoughtfully designed people.Take one illustrator, add one witty project manager, toss in two spirited minis… and you’ve got a whole bunch of certified boisterous fun.