Last year, I was introduced to the work of a really talented Canadian artist.
Her name is Andie.
And her paintings are phenomenal.
As some of you know, I spent three months living in Saskatoon with my dad and stepmom last spring while Joe and I were waiting out my immigration process.
One of the highlights of my time back in the prairies was getting to see Andie’s art, featured in a show at Gordon Snelgrove Gallery.
Andie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Saskatchewan, where she graduated in 2013 with Great Distinction. She’s not only super talented, but a really sweet, open-hearted spirit, with a vibe you just want to be around.
I’m so happy to share Andie’s work with you all, along with her insights on the creative process. (It involves hula-hooping.) I hope you enjoy!
Q + A with Andie
What inspires you, gives you the urge to paint?
I find inspiration everywhere and in everything (typical… I know). I am observing and scanning constantly. I am fascinated by nature and curious about the lives of others whether real or imagined. Have you ever had the experience when looking at a piece of wood grain or other material – where you begin to see images… faces? I spent the first few years of my life surrounded by wood paneling (I thank my parents for their exquisite interior design or lack thereof!). Through imagination I discovered an entire colony of characters all with different personalities and histories.
Nowadays, in addition to wood grains, I get lost within the spirit of different mediums as they tell me stories. Tools, paints, solvents, inks, and pastels effortlessly become my muses when they are poured and applied on canvas. The muse is the mythical power that creates art: the inspiration. The must in the artist’s studio is the spark that kindles creativity. Mediums reveal to me their secrets and arouse inspiration. Our relationship to each other, our game, our friction makes the sparks fly to light a new fire.
I also borrow a lot of ideas from other artists. What others have created astonishes me – so why not utilize what’s already there? I study images and techniques. I pick out things that I am drawn to, interpret what I appreciate from others’ techniques, and then approach my own work.
What gives me the urge to paint seems like an easy question to answer, it makes me the happiest. Creative energy flows freely and my ideas and insights become a reality, in what I like to describe as magic. I get to be 100% myself and I get to learn more about who I am every time I create. It’s a beautiful thing.
What are your creative habits?
I am always listening to music, dancing around my studio, getting in touch with myself – expressing the authentic me. In my senior year in university there was a focus on independent studies. I made it a priority to get to my studio and work every single day. I spent a great deal of time alone and discovered incredible value putting work in every day. Picasso said that inspiration exists but it has to find you working. This couldn’t be any truer for me as I grind away every day losing track of time.
What materials do you work with?
I love playing alongside a plethora of mediums and materials with a primary focus in painting, drawing and illustration. Mediums I most use are: pens, inks, coloured pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels, oil slicks, watercolour paints, acrylic paints, oil paints and a numerous solvents and other mixing mediums applied to an assortment of papers or canvas. I enjoy mixed media compositions. I also have expressed creativity through printmaking, audio/video, installation, and 3D printing.
What is your earliest memory of creating?
I like to think that creation is something that is not separate from me. Creating is something innate and has always been a part of my life. I knew from a very young age that self-expression and building things made me the happiest. My momma provided a very safe environment and encouraged artistic creation (she was very nifty herself). I entertained myself and got lost for hours building lego structures, craft making, picture drawing, watercolour painting, and drawing in the sand.
How do you start a painting?
Once in a while I will work from an image such as a portrait or some animal, but for the most part the images come from my head and the medium. I believe that through colour I can communicate in ways that I simply cannot do through words. So the first step is usually playing with whichever medium I decide in that moment and applying colour through whatever method I am feeling in that moment. The process is almost always instinctual and whole-heartedly expressive. I may accomplish a type of ‘catharsis’ by scribbling with pastels, pouring paint and allowing them to mix with different solvents, or applying thick coats of paint and then squeegeeing it off leaving only a ghost of what was there. It really seems that I am playing connect the dots between my lived experiences and whatever the medium is presenting to me at the time.
How does your mood impact your painting?
Well I know for certain that my mood is consistently enriched after a session. I know that I can reach a state of pure bliss when I get lost in creation. However, there are moments when I become judgmental about a piece I am working on and the work I do becomes much less confident or expressive and so I end up making what I consider at the time to be mistakes. I forget about the fun. I have found that when a mood like this develops I need to retire (for the time) whatever I am working on and start something with which I can be carefree, or have a dance party, or hula-hoop. It is at these times that playing is essential. Through this reconnection to the fun and playfulness of artistic creation, my mistakes become mere marks that I can learn from and build upon.
What do you find most challenging about the creative process?
By not having any plan or end result in mind I run into big decision-making speed bumps. It seems like one minute I will be working incredibly fast allowing whatever to happen… and then I hit a wall. It is fun because I do like being analytical and figuring out what is and is not working in the painting (as a whole). However, I tend to become really attached to certain areas of my work and it gets difficult to alter things that I have subconsciously deemed precious.
How important is the viewer’s reception/understanding of your work in relation to your intended meaning? What do you hope people come away with after viewing a piece?
There is no intended meaning in my current work. There are few recurring themes that appear, at least to me. I like to think that I have done my job if people, even for a moment, are able to get in touch with their inner child through my characters or images. This is not to say that my work is necessarily “childish”, however. I often pack some fairly “grown-up” images and references into my work. Sexuality and social norms are never far from my mind.
The process of creating is as important to me as the end result. In my artist statements at gallery showings I stress that each piece is an invitation for viewers to create their own stories. My hope is simply that I spur some imaginations and spread a little bit of playfulness and joy to my audience.
What is the most freeing piece of advice or breakthrough you’ve had on your creative path?
I believe creativity, like most endeavours, improves the more you do it. A breakthrough for me has been to return to my studio every day. Artists and creative minds alike must learn to foster and channel their creative appetites with positive working habits. To wait around for the right time, place or feeling is detrimental to productivity and creativity. I consider it a breakthrough to realize that creativity is not separate from me, it is internally present and requires constant cultivation.
What’s your suggestion for people who have a yearning to paint or draw, but feel blocked or have a hard time getting started?
Firstly, I sympathize with these people. Most artists go through this and I too have fallen into that slump. Minds can become clouded, muddied, and discouraged easily. My advice: force efforts to continue despite this mental block and try to be creative. I don’t mean creative as in marketable or necessarily aesthetically pleasing, but creative as in the act of creation.
I took away great value pressing onwards through these blocks. I realized that not only was I able to play and make work but also it allowed for me to mature and produce better work. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I remember to play and create any time I start to become judgmental or feel any sort of block. Try to let go of the idea that artistic passion is something separate from you. Please know that creativity is a part of you and is always ready for expression (no matter what).
What artists or paintings have most inspired or influenced you creatively?
Wow, well this could seriously go on forever and I feel like it is impossible for me to answer. I am a sponge and I am continuously absorbing everything I see. Here is my point form list of things I have taken away from some visual artists (and there are many MANY more…):
Egon Schiele – taught me that by using descriptive lines I can bring out the personality of figures rather than just their appearance.
Jean-Michel Basquiat - taught me about the effective use of dichotomies. He showed me playfulness and deep skill in doodling (Doodling in the highest regards of course)
Paul McCarthy – soooo beautifully grotesque… I mean butt plugs as fine art? Genius.
Cindy Sherman – girl has got it going on. I love versed she is in sexuality, class, and gender roles.
Takashi Murakami - His work is “Superflat” a term he coined himself meaning it is both a historical theory of visual compression and cultural mash of high and low cultures. His work brings me joy and so amusement – so vibrant… so fantastic.
Lucien Freud (later Jenny Saville) – showed me how to use brushwork in a very painterly way.
Matisse – proved that painting could be a joyous thing. He believed in challenging himself and experimentation.
George Condo – his work is ubiquitous and has plenty of blurred lines between oppositions. He has created his own language through his works.
Yayoi Kusama – repetition, repetition, repetition. I become fixated on certain shapes and patterns that I repeat them throughout many different works.
Gustav Klimpt - portraiture, pattern, colour, balance, perfection.
Alex Grey – an amazing visionary artist who has hugged my soul, danced in celebration of creativity and taking me on a journey far away from this realm.
Vladimir Kush, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Josephine Wall – strange creatures… dreamscapes. These artists have engrained in me to trust instincts and allow my unconscious to express itself.
Andie’s work has been featured in several art collective events and solo shows, and is currently being shown in her first post-university solo exhibition at Saskatoon’s Green Ark Collected Home. Her collection will be there (with select pieces available for purchase) until the end of April.
You can contact Andie and view more of her paintings on her site, Andie Nicole. She has original works for sale and prints coming soon. (I have a feeling I might need to treat myself to one for our apartment!)
I’m endlessly fascinated by how people create, what inspires them, and what they discover and learn along the way. Andie, thank you for bringing us into your beautifully artistic world.
ps. Other Q + A Interview posts. Including Travel Photographer Peter DeMarco, author Eve Joseph, and Stars keyboardist Chris Seligman