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Interview with artist Andrew Brandou

It is my great honor and pleasure to present another fantastically talented and intelligent artist, Andrew Brandou.

JackDirt: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Andrew Brandou: I’m originally from michigan, and came to california to attend otis/parsons art institute. I worked at the paper moon card company as a kind of jack of all trades while in school, then switched over to animation when i graduated. I worked on dozens of animation projects , from the simpsons to spongebob, in various art capacities. since 2002 i have been concentrating solely on my fine art career, though I do still do freelance illustration for magazines and small animation projects.

JD: Do you have any formal art background?
AB: I have a degree in illustration from Otis, and I have studied in London as well, through a program run by michigan state university.

JD: When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?

AB: I’ve been copying the comic pages of the newspaper since before gradeschool. while I had always felt I wanted to be an artist, it wasn’t until I started at otis that I really understood that artwork was my primary purpose.

JD: What are your inspirations?

AB: I find myself inspired by nature more and more. whether its walking the trails of griffith park, or just observing hummingbirds out my window, i’m pretty much always finding something to draw from. on the other hand, i’m inspired by man-made systems of control and their corruption. finally, i find a lot of inspiration in southern california. from the pop culture history, to the architecture, to the flora and fauna, its all great.

JD: Your paintings are reminiscent of a Richard Scary book gone horribly awry. Do you consider Richard Scary’s work to be an influence on your own?

AB: Oh sure, obviously. His work for golden books in the 40’s is just about the best there is. his anthropomorphic animals are astounding for their expressions as well as their attention to detail. when he portrays a chipmunk, it will be striped and patterned naturalistically. when a rabbit has paintings on a wall they will be of carrots or heads of lettuce.

Early in my career I played with manipulating not only his images but the images of many children’s book illustrators. his work grew on me the most, and is constantly among my reference materials.

JD: Your gallery features an abundance of several different paintings. Do you ever get tired of painting or is it a passion for you?

AB: If I get tired of painting, its only so far as a specific style. I’ll go back in forth between the more technical paintings and the more childlike paintings and it keeps me flowing. A lot of my shows involve research, which I really enjoy, and thats also a good rest from the mindset of painting. that said, I draw pretty much everyday, and even involve my circle of friends in drawing games every chance I get.

JD: What medium do you prefer?

AB: I switch between watercolors and cel vinyl, and I use gouache a lot too. I guess that implies I like water-based mediums in general. oil is something i’m interested in, but haven’t had time to really experiment with enough.

JD: Can you describe your process?

AB: Most of my work is research based. I generally look at a show as a chance to tell a story, and spend months of intensive study. (That usually supplements my general interest of years) then i do sketches, sometimes 2 to 3 times as many as i need, in thumbnail. then i choose say, 40 or so for a show of 30 pieces, which i clean up to about 5×7. i scan those, blow them up in photoshop, and adjust to fit the scale i want. i print the show at kinkos, and work on all the paintings simultaneously. for my last 3 shows i’ve had assistants/friends who help with gold leafing, flat colors, etc, in an assembly-line process.

JD: Your After Audobon series is incredible. Aside from displaying great technical ability you capture surreal and bizarre moments. Can you explain what this series is about and where you got the idea for it?

AB: The after audubon series was directly influenced by the street fashion magazine/book fruits, and an exhibition of audubon’s work at the autry museum here in los angeles. i had been looking for a vehicle to express my love of old and new, of the ultra hip and the nostalgic. audubon’s work reflected an intensity that reverberated in the harajuku to me.

JD: In your work you detail several occult references, such as the unicursal hexagram. What is the message you are trying to convey to the viewer with this?

AB: As always, the intent is to be a gateway for people. I try to use something like the hexagram pretty specifically, as not to violate anyone’s sensibilities, while at the same time tweaking it to fit the theme of the work. In the painting “hexagram” for instance, the animals carry the symbols of the tarot, march under the evergreen, and have laid the hexagram to symbolically represent themselves reclaiming their space in nature, acting as agents of change.

JD: Do you have any personal involvement with the occult, any experiences you could share?

AB: I have studied the occult in general for years. in the broadest sense, where the occult is “secret knowledge” of any kind, i feel like it is the great motivator of my work. personally, I have been influenced by Crowley, more for his systems of day to day life than his more ornate ritual. that said, when i was recently down on my luck and needing a bit of cash, it was one of his relatives who “randomly” contacted and commissioned me to paint. I don’t think that was an accident.

JD: What is your favorite piece and why?

AB: My favorite is a piece called central park. it is based on a photograph taken of an armed cop chasing a young man across a field in central park. that image was with me since gradeschool, and it scared and excited me. When I finally figured out how to reverse it, giving the young man a psychedelic trail that flows from him and captures the cop, I was delighted. The image is iconic, like a t-shirt, but just heavy enough to reach people. it was also my girlfriends favorite, before I met her, and is the only piece of mine we own.

JD: Many people are put off by your childish characters and can often feel uncomfortable looking at them. Is this your intention or is it just happenstance?

AB: Hopefully, it’s not so much the characters as what they are reflecting. I’m not so much trying to make people uncomfortable as trying to open dialogue. Discomfort can bring that about.

JD: You have some reoccurring characters, the sniper bunny, a police officer, looking at your paintings it is almost like reading a book. Do you feel you have any connection or affinity with these characters? Do they represent a part of you?

AB: I have affinity for some of the characters, sure. the bunny is the everyman, and the bunny is usually the protagonist. on the other hand, the riot cop is faceless and brutal. he can represent a police state or a bureaucracy. its a part of me, sure, but its also a part of culture in general.

JD: Do you have any advice for would be artists?

AB: I don’t know. Everyone has a method, and mine is pretty specific to me. In my artistic life, I found it was super helpful to pick my favorite artist, the one I couldn’t do without, and stop looking at his work all together. A year of so later, I went back to check his stuff out and had a new understanding of it. I could see how they affected my work, and how i had been caught up in them.

JD: Any upcoming shows, products, or books you’d like to promote?

AB: I’ll be in london w/ dr. romanelli nov. 22 at dpmhi. I’m working on a book project w/ 9mm out of san francisco. and there’s always my site, Howdy Pardner for fun.

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