Artist Highlight: Arturo Torres
Common Desk wouldn’t be Common Desk without art. Local artists contribute to the overall feel of our space in big ways, and we love getting to showcase their talent to our communities and the outside world.
The second artist we’re highlighting in this new blog series has also been with Common Desk since the beginning. He’s a living testament to what happens when you fight adversity, defy the odds, take a leap of faith, and pursue your biggest dream. He’s a Dallas illustrator, drawer, and painter. He’s a New York Times Bestseller and a previous Common Desk staff member. He’s an inspiration to us all. He’s Arturo Torres.
Arturo started doing art as a way to escape the violence that was going on inside of his house growing up. His dad was an alcoholic and was abusive towards his mom. So Arturo would draw comics and use them as an escape from the scary reality around him. He would draw Spiderman saving him, his mom, and his brothers, and his dad was always the villain.
That’s how I learned art– through all of the negativity surrounding me, I learned how to draw.”
Arturo has always been a comic book fanatic. He would read comic books growing up, and if he disliked the way one would end, he’d just draw a new ending for it. And instead of doing homework, he would use those 70 page spiral school journals for drawings. His sketches were a big hit with the ladies in pre-K; Arturo would trade drawings of Mickey Mouse for extra nap time.
As a result of the violence in his home, Arturo originally used drawing as a tool, a stress reliever, and a way to communicate with the childhood counselor he had growing up. He realized early on that his art makes other people happy, and that happiness in turn makes him happy.
Once I discovered that art made people happy, I realized I wanted to pursue it.
It wasn’t until high school that Arturo met someone who was actually doing art for a living, and this artist was known as C-Kirk. Arturo was a junior in high school, and he boldly asked C-Kirk to do an art show with him. Despite Arturo’s unqualification, C-Kirk didn’t completely disregard his request; he asked to see Arturo’s work, so Arturo sent it through his MySpace account (#neverforget). The artist looked at it, and then nicely said that Arturo needed to work on a formal portfolio.
So for an entire year, Arturo worked on developing a portfolio. He didn’t contact the artist once throughout the year, and then he came back to him after his high school graduation and said, “Here. I’m ready.” C-Kirk told Arturo that he wasn’t ready for an art show with him per se, but he recommended that Arturo start with ArtLoveMagic, which ended up being a huge influence on his artistic development and introduced him to significant Dallas artists and influencers.
Julio, Common Desk’s Operations Manager, has been friends with Arturo for a long time, and through the early stages of Arturo’s career, he would introduce Arturo to strangers as “Arturo the Future Famous Artist” (and he was right). Arturo sold his first major painting for $100, and he and Julio splurged thinking they had made it. The event where Arturo sold this piece was also the event where he met Joonbug, the first artist we highlighted in this series. Joonbug was selling Fresh Kaufee t-shirts, and his friend Topic was playing his music. Arturo was impressed by Topic’s music, so he went over to Joonbug just to learn how he could support Topic. Neither of them knew that this first interaction would lead to a close friendship and countless opportunities for artistic collaboration.
Joonbug was actually the person who taught Arturo how to use Adobe Illustrator. He had it on his computer but had no idea how to approach it (if you’ve ever encountered design softwares, then you’ll understand the intimidation of the Adobe suite). So Arturo showed Joonbug painting techniques, and in return, Joonbug showed Arturo Illustrator techniques.
I spent 2012-2014 meeting people, hanging out, and building relationships with as many people as I possibly could to help me grow as an individual mentally and spiritually. Eventually I used all of those relationships to help me once I started pursuing art professionally. And here I am.
So we mentioned in the first paragraph that Arturo used to be a Common Desk staffer. Arturo came to Common Desk through our previous General Manager and now CEO of CreateGate, Merrick (the story of how Arturo and Joonbug met Merrick is told here). Merrick eventually told Nick Clark, our Founder and CEO, about the ArtLoveMagic event she had been to, which led to her mentioning Arturo and Joonbug’s work. Nick invited them into Common Desk for collaboration, and the rest was history.
I saw potential from the beginning of being introduced to Common Desk.
Nick watched Arturo work throughout the space for a while, and the business finally got to a point where Nick was able to hire him. Both Common Desk and Arturo’s art career ended up growing more rapidly than expected, so Arturo passed his job along to his best friend Julio, because he couldn’t think of anyone more fitting for it. Over two years later and Julio is still crushing his position as our Operations Manager!
After leaving his position at Common Desk, Arturo decided to take his career and go all in. This decision was made just before Arturo was given an opportunity that would help his artistic career soar to places he never could’ve imagined.
This opportunity came in the form of an email from Shea Serrano. Serrano created the idea for The Rap Year Book, but he had waited until the last minute to find an artist to illustrate the entire book. He stumbled upon a flyer that Arturo had made for a local artist, and he posted it on his Twitter account asking if anyone knew who illustrated it. Several people saw it and mentioned Arturo. Serrano emailed Arturo and was being nonchalant about his introduction, but Arturo looked him up and realized he was the guy who made the Rap Coloring Book and the offer that he made was an incredible one. Arturo created over 300 illustrations in just a few short months for the book, and before he knew it, The Rap Year Book was published, eventually landing Arturo the title of New York Times Bestseller.
The book was a best-seller for 7 months (crazy, right?). It’s on its 7th printing, and it’s in at least 6 different languages. The book is located in just about any bookstore, from Barnes and Noble to Urban Outfitters. It’s got the sticker validating its best-seller status, so look for it the next time you’re in a bookstore or UO.
Never in his wildest dreams could Arturo have imagined that he would become a New York Times Bestseller.
Arturo and Shea have been working together a lot since the book was published. The two have done so well that people have asked to see more work and donate money towards their art. They created a newsletter, and they regularly send out drawings to stay connected with their audience and to keep their art fresh.
Every now and then they’ll add a donation button to the newsletter simply because people continuously ask for it, and most of the money donated is directly given to a charity that Arturo’s heart is passionate for. Since Arturo and his family experienced domestic violence in the home, he spent time as a child in a shelter for abused women and children called Genesis, and that was the first charity that they ever donated to. “It’s always been a dream of mine to give back to Genesis.”
Arturo’s mother recently passed away, and all that Arturo wanted was for his mom to be buried next to his grandmother, who his mother didn’t get to see for 26 years, in Mexico. Because of the cost of travel on top of the costs for a funeral, the odds definitely seemed like they were against his mother’s request.
But within 15 minutes of sending out a special newsletter, they had raised $8-9k. 15 minutes. All given through one simple newsletter. Shea messaged Arturo to look at what was going on on Twitter. In 5 minutes, he had received $3k. And by the end of the 15 minutes, that amount had more than doubled. All Arturo could do was sit and cry. All of the money was given for his mom by complete strangers. His mom’s dream was to be buried next to her mother, and that dream happened because of people giving from the goodness of their hearts.
Even through something so incredibly tough, it was amazing how much people showed love. It makes drawing worth it. These drawings are silly, but they inspire people and help people on their bad days. I’ll have people send me silly drawings that aren’t very good, but people will tell me that I inspired them to start drawing again. It’s helping someone out there, and that’s just super worth it. There’s no way I’m going to stop doing what I’m doing when I know that it can help others. That’s what I want to do, help as many people as I possibly can.
So what’s on the horizon for Arturo?
He’s in the process of working on his second book, and he has always dreamt of creating his own comic book. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, check out his website, or subscribe to his newsletter to stay in the know about what he’s working on.
Arturo has found success because he decided to take a leap of faith and pursue his dream. For anyone who’s thinking of doing the same, here is his advice:
Jump. But know that when you jump, you’re not going to have a parachute. You’re going to get cuts and scrapes. But those scrapes and scars heal, and they make you stronger, and eventually it’s all worth it. I make a living doodling, and it’s all from making that jump. Dope things happen to you when you’re dope to other people.