Spotlight on Alberto Ruiz

 "I still believe women are the only subject I can never get tired of drawing." asserts Alberto Ruiz, publisher, ex-New Yorker, current midwesterner, husband, father and an amazing illustrator. Naturally, Babe Lab had to pick his brain.

Babe Lab : Hey, Alberto. What's up?

Alberto Ruiz : Nuts'n'Honey. (My genitals are very important to me.  I love them.)

BL : Understandable.  Let's delve back a bit.  What early memory of women cemented them as your favorite subject matter?

AR : I was raised entirely by women.  There were no male figures in any of the homes I lived in as a child. Women were all I saw, and pretty much all I care about, artistically and otherwise.

BL : So being around women from a young age didn't instantly demystify them for you? Seeing their hair up in curlers...fighting for the bathroom....

AR : No, quite the contrary, and this is perhaps the key to my fixation with those "trivial", seemingly unimportant and, for the most part, overlooked (read : "purposely ignored") womanly traits.  I wrote a few years back that my admiration for the female of our species went from thinking of them as supernatural beings as a child, to unadulterated infatuation as an adolescent.  I basically grew to love all those things that most people (including women themselves) find unappealing, such as that third roll of fat you're not supposed to depict.  

BL :  Well, that sort of leads neatly into our next question. The artist who spends enough time with the model has a lot of time to pick apart broad and nuanced aspects. Which of both have you fetishized, and why?

AR : I don't spend a lot of time with any one model in particular. While it's true that I have developed certain mannerisms, I do make an effort to not follow formulas and to not develop fetishes, something I may not always be successful at doing, but at least that is my intent. I have no fetishes that I am aware of.  If I catch myself "liking" some type of woman or body part over another, I do a 180. There isn't much fun in drawing the exact body type every time. There are poses or body types that are more fun or interesting to draw than others, but if I'm pressed to choose between broad and nuance, it would have to be the latter.

BL : So you don't obsess about the gaps between toes or eyelashes or little fatty creases at the belly? No recurring fixations? You've clearly found beauty in the hand.

AR : Yeah, sure I have.  I just don't see those things as fetishes, though. For instance, I also obsess about the clumps of hair and other less glamorous elements such as elbows and the back of the knees, but I believe I obsess about all parts of the body at various times.

BL :  What's the difference between the nude and the erotic nude?

AR : The way i see it, there is no difference.  I am aware that non-artists do not agree with my views on this subject, but I happen to believe that a naked human (overwhelmingly moreso a woman than a man) is in itself a sensuous, erotic being.  These labels were employed to differentiate academic nudes from sexually suggestive content. The label "erotic", nowadays, is slapped almost exclusively on ugly, cheap smut.

BL : It would appear that, on some of your drawings, your instrument never leaves the page. What's up with that?

AR : The motivation is to allow the brain to loop and join elements in an almost subconscious and effortless way; not much different than when we write in "print" really fast. Since the brain has no time to depict each element in detail, it's left with no choice but to distill the entire figure at once using a natural "shorthand" which, in turn, produces a pretty unique piece and (I'm convinced) it helps you to think about, see and draw the figure as a whole rather than a collection of parts.

BL : What's the worst way an artist can mess up a girl drawing, and how is this remedied?

AR : Perhaps the worst and most common is excessive lines. Easily fixable by using less lines.

BL : Are you speaking of the notorious "hairy line" as opposed to the direct stroke, or when people "age" faces by electing to draw every crease they see?  It seems like economy is important to you.

AR : Hmmm. I'd say the ragged stroke is the most common offense (even among "pros").  A 'dirty' brush line (and for that matter, pencil or pen lines) can be beautiful and can add character to a drawing. The "aging faces" issue is usually reserved for younger and less experienced artists. Economy is important to me.  That's how I teach myself how to draw.

BL : What can you say about the portrayal of personality...the elusive "soul" of a drawing? What do you think that is and how do you go about capturing it, consciously or unconsciously?

AR : I am not joking when I say this: I am not at all concerned with portraying personality and least of all capturing the elusive "soul" of a drawing. I had such nightmares at the beginning attempting to infuse personality and character into the drawings that I gave up on that futile quest, almost immediately after I began.  Nothing ever is about content when it comes to my drawings.  I want to learn how to draw first and foremost.  I'll worry about capturing expression and emotion when I feel competent enough to draw convincingly enough.

BL :  Nevertheless, your drawings do possess that "zip" of liveliness. Perhaps you can speak to how, in the pursuit of better drawing, more of a woman's authenticity peeks through...?

AR : I think you nailed it.  There is no way for that not to happen when you are constantly and earnestly looking to improve the quality of your drawings via relentless practice and keen observation.

BL : Artists live from one little revelation to the next. What's a recent revelation of yours?

AR : The more I distort, the closer I get to the real thing.  The real thing being that ideal picture in my head.  It would be helpful to know that the picture in my head keeps changing with each new little revelation.

BL : You're excellent at draw-through. Can you extol the benefits of this?

AR : Drawing through the figure is the best teaching tool a self taught artist could ever have. The benefits are many but the one I appreciate the most is that it keeps my proportions and the relative distance between the many landmarks in check. Particularly when I go off on a distortion binge.

BL : You're responsible for most of the killer graphic design work in the Brandstudio Press books, as well as your latest imprint, Trinquette Publishing.  What from that field helps your drawing, and what from drawing helps your graphic design?

AR : In my case, it has only worked one way.  My figure drawing is a byproduct of my work as a graphic designer, more precisely as a logo designer. It started that way for sure and with time it has become what it is today, a hybrid of sorts.  Perhaps my graphic design has gained elasticity and an overall sense of urgency due to my figure drawing but design was always very organic for me.  Drawing, however, was not as linear and geometric as it is today, and that I owe entirely to graphic design. I think of myself as a graphic designer first and as an artist second.  ...Or third.

BL : Last question, and we'll get out of your hair.  What's the best way to ask someone to model for you?

AR : I use bribery. I offer one of the original sketches as compensation.

BL : Like printing your own money.  It was very cool of you to chat with us, Alberto.

AR : Thanks, I enjoyed it.

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