American Artist, based in, London,UK, Painting & Drawing: Gretchen Andrew
1) What Artbooks are you currently looking at ?
I read everything thinking about art. & by read I often mean listen as I listen to audiobooks while I paint. Recently for me, Hemingway's “The Garden of Eden” explored how little anyone outside the creative process gets its demands and priority and Kundera’s “Slowness” made me think about potential of the artist’s secrets, how something exists even if it is never shared. I am also reading Akademie X Lessons in Art + Life written by thirty-six contemporary artists. One fear in not going to art school is that you don’t know what you don’t know. This book calms that fear and is intensely interesting.
2) What was the last truly inspiring Artbook you saw ?
Lewis Hyde’s The Gift explains where art comes from. I also repeatedly go back to Art & Fear by Steven Pressfield. & pretty much anything by Seth Godin. These are traditional artbooks but they address why and maybe also how. The what, the result that can be put on a coffee table, is all byproduct. I like how Chuck Close says that, “Inspiration is for amateurs.” That’s a theme that all these books address, how to create with respect but not dependent on the otherly forces that control creativity and success.
3) Give us the name of your favorite overlooked or underappreciated Artist ?
In the last year I’ve gotten to know Edgeworth Johnston’s work but his interior world is still a total mystery to me. I have no idea how his drawings and paintings come to be but they pour out of him. He makes some of the most powerful and honest art I’ve ever seen. Take a look: https://edgeworthartist.wordpress.com/
4) What are your Artistic guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre/style ?
There’s a part of me that is unapologetically and non ironically mainstream.
I love Taylor Swift, Build-a-bear, fast food, hotel bars, instagram, Leonardo Dicaprio, every movie with Leonardo Dicaprio, Dan Brown, Starbucks, drinking Coors in the shower, and watching #fail videos on youtube.
5) If we came to your studio what would we see ?
In 5 months you will see a pile or rubble and in 9 months shiny new apartments. The trend of art studios through history. But for now my studio is in this odd part of East London sandwiched between the highway and the shiny new olympic park. Local pub, local coffee shop. It’s going to be tragically different in a year, but I know that when I arrived it was already tragically different from a year before. Local graffiti protests, “No one here likes the Olympics.” I love the Olympics, and so you can already see how I was part of the demographic shift that will eventually push me out. But for now you weave your way through an industrial yard into a cinder block hallway and through my door that only looks like it has been the chronic victim of breaking and entering.
There is amazing sun streaming through a 12 ft skylight which also lets in a substantial amount of water. I have 450 sq feet which I repeatedly fill with new work. Aside from my painting supplies there is a yoga mat, a jar of peanut butter with a livein spoon, and this small and terribly uncomfortable red couch made from two chair pushed together. It’s best not have any furniture that’d tempt a nap. Keeps me productive.
6) What’s the best Artbook on (Your nationalities) Art you’ve ever read ?
I don’t think the habit of defining artists by their nationalities always make sense, especially considering the fluidity and arbitrariness of borders. I recently saw Black Hawk’s ledger at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and bought the book. Black Hawk and I aren’t really the same nationality and there are all sorts of problems with me stealing elements of his work that don’t exist when I do it to Edvard Munch.
7) What subject other than Art, are you interested in ? That nevertheless informs your work ?
I imagine my brain as a cocktail party attended by the authors I have read and the artists I have seen. Some of the guests have arrived, but most of them haven’t had enough to drink yet. They sit on velvety chairs, not just the authors of books but also the characters they have brought to life. Gradually, some of them begin to talk. Their voices and brush strokes merge and become one with my artwork and my writing. By creating and sharing their art, they have made their experiences my own.
David Lynch refers to this as the deep well, the place where everything is connected. That’s often how I feel when I set out to create, like holding two random objects and I’m looking for a bridge that I know exists between them. For this reason I’m insatiable with acquiring seemingly useless information, especially through books and documentaries. I like hearing the stories of musicians, recently Keith Richard’s and I never get sick of Patti Smith’s “Just Kids.” Understanding how writers and musicians create is intensely interesting to me.
8) What was the last Artbook that made you happy ?
Happy. Odd. I’m not great at happy. For me art is about the intensity of emotion after which notions of happiness are irrelevant or overpowered by others: joy, fullness, peace, darkness, passion. I try not to spend too much time attempting to secure happiness. To do so feels just as dangerous as chasing after anything: money, power, love, fame. But there is this book on bears that I love. I found it at my gallery owner’s house in the Hollywood Hills. I spent the day lounging by the pool looking at pictures of bears. I’d say it made me happy. I don’t quite know what it is with me and bears, it was maybe a joke that got out of hand and now isn’t a joke anymore. My best-bear-friend started traveling with me when I was taking frequent buses between New York and Boston, LA and San Francisco. I realised that if one person on the Greyhound was going to have to sit next to someone else I was bound to be that person. I’m too small and not threatening enough looking to ward off potential seatmates. I started placing my bear on the seat beside me, even buckling him in. Clearly that seat was already taken and had the added effect of making me look too crazy to risk sitting next to.
9) What was the last Artbook that made you sad ?
An Artbook has never made me sad. I’m trying to remember the last time anything made me identify with that emotion. I’m struggling. I’m often enough upset, frustrated, lost, drowning, confused, disappointed. Maybe I’m being too personal with the language.
10) What kind of person were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood memories, which made you an Artist? how have you grown over the years what has changed what remained the same ?
I think now I am probably pretty similar to how I was as a young child, active, curious to the point of danger. I got lost at this somewhere in the middle but have been coming back to myself more and more lately. I think I have painting to thank for this. Growing up my dad used to take my sisters and I go to swimming at the YMCA gym. He’d fill up the car on the way home and we’d get rollos at the gas station. When I’m home in New Hampshire my dad and I still go to the gym together, although we generally don’t stop for rollos any more. Chris and I started our adventures when I was 15. We’d print mapquest directions, buy a family size container of hummus, fill a nalgene of water and pop on a bootleg cassette tape we’d already listened to 100+ times. Growing up we had about a 90 mile radius which included Boston, New Hampshire's Atlantic coastline, and the The White Mountains. These adventures haven’t changed much but have expanded to include the entire world. I’m not sure how those memories made me an artist but they certainly made me and all of it feels equally important. I mention my dad and Chris because they’d have a good idea of how I might have changed over the years. I don’t think I’m so different as my understanding of what I want is more personal. Once I became an artist I was already not doing the normal thing and it becomes easier to question things I’d unknowingly assumed about the future. We live in a world where you get rewarded for wanting the things that everyone else wants. That’s easier too. It certainly is safer. Because if you decide not to get married or buy a house or have kids and you do end up miserable, dying alone it’s because you didn’t buy into the system. But I think that’s a lie. None of the normal stuff guarantees anything. It just make it easier to blame externally and certainly has nothing to do with potential.
11) Whom do you consider your Artistic Masters? Do you believe in mastery ?
A lot of art is terrible. I’m not talking about a matter of taste. Most art is universally bad. A master knows this and can see the work without its crutches, glitter, and likeability, what Jerzy Grotowski meant when he said, “If you want to create a masterpiece, you must always avoid beautiful lies.” Sometimes I’ll finish a painting and find it impressive, but know I intentionally made it full of beautiful lies.
It’s tempting. You can go quite far with this sort of artwork. People like it. They will like it on Instagram. They may even buy it. It will feed more beautiful lies, that you are talented, that you are a great painter, that you have arrived. But you know it isn't true. You need to remind yourself that it isn't true. So you go back to the studio. You hang a postcard of Edvard Munch’s Madonna next to your latest work and you fall into the gulf between them. You dedicate yourself to drowning in that space.
Mastery isn’t just about technical skill, but that’s part of it. For painting it involves a command of surface, color, abstraction within figuration, drawing at the perfect point between tightness and looseness. I’m lucky to train with Billy Childish, a true master of oil painting. His mastery comes from love and dedication to painters we both consider THE masters: Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch. While I will confess an interest in the work of Marine Dumas Billy considers it, “Not better than what it’s trying to be (Edvard Munch).” He holds the same opinion about The Rolling Stones and Muddy Water. What he means is that while there are very few true masters it isn't worth aiming for anything less.
12) Which Artists have had the most impact on you as an Artist ? Is there a particular Art Work that made you want to be an Artist ? Please upload an image to justify your statement ?
We were in the middle of 22 hours of daylight when sister and I, jet lagged and disappointedly not buzzed on Iceland’s stupidly expensive near-beer, went to The National Gallery of Iceland’s exhibition of Edvard Munch Woodblock Prints. You should, like Ben Lerner in Leaving Atocha Station, be suspicious of anyone claiming to have a “profound experience of art.” I won’t argue if you accuse me of retroactively self mythologizing. At the time I was totally on track, had graduated from a top university with honors, had signed a job offer at Google. Two years later I’d quit my job and taken up illegal occupation in a 70 sq ft windowless art studio asking the internet, “How do you paint?” I don’t think everyone knows how to open themselves in a way where art can do this, fuck up your life. I’m not even sure I recommend it. It leaves open all sorts pathways into the soul and you lose the ability to keep out the darkness. Maybe there’s some cliche about also letting in the light, but in my experience rarely is it balanced like that. I feel at home with it but the sort of thing art let’s in isn’t productive in terms of neo liberalism. So you end up in this place where you can’t shut it down but you still have to live in a world set up to worship other things: money, family, security, power, community. So this value system you grew up with and still live with takes a beating. & all this tension and subtle guilt comes from people who were in my life before the so called “profound experience of art.” I wonder, am I just using art as an excuse to be selfish? Am I a terrible friend? A lapsed member of community? I don’t always know.
Edvard Munch’s “On the Waves Of Love”
13) What gear do you use, and how does your gear, support your Artistic vision. How would you describe your Artistic Work flow what software, hardware, storage, & materials and processes do you use ?
Dry pigment, gloves, linseed oil, wearable cameras (Google Glass), white chalk, coffee, sunlight, Virtual Reality, muller, audio books, photoshop, brushes, travel, instagram, beer, charcoal, raw umber acrylic paint, printers, bounce balls, youtube, body, time.
14) Do you have any regrets with regards to your Art especially when starting out. What would you do differently ?
Growing up I wasted a lot of time trying to fit in instead of trying to understand my difference. I regret that. I’m not one for making teleological sense of my life. Just because I’m glad about where I am today does not mean that everything leading up to now was essential. I don’t care to say, “Well if I hadn't make this mistake/ “wrong turn” then I wouldn't have ended up here.” Very Avett Brothers “All My Mistakes.” This makes sense but simply isn’t honest. It’s too linear, and I don’t find God and the universe to work that way. I often I feel like I am playing catch up with myself, moving through a backlog of ideas, paintings, and self realizations that were dammed up while I was not an artist, not being myself. I regret every time I waste time and regret making people feel like they are wasting my time. There are a lot of social functions I should just not have attended for this dual reason. I’m perpetually learning how to interact with all sorts of people and I rarely do it perfectly. I live in a world of my own construction. It is productive and healthy for me, but it doesn't leave a lot of room. I’m still learning how to deal with that.
15) In your genre style of work, what are the challenges/opportunities to your business. How do you envision yourself 5 years from now ?
I love James P Carse concept of Infinite Games which, “...do not have a knowable beginning or ending. They are played with the goal of continuing play... continues play, for the sake of play. If the game is approaching resolution because of the rules of play, the rules must be changed to allow continued play. The rules exist to ensure the game is infinite.”So my art isn’t a business or a practice or a vocation as much as it is an infinite game. There are and will likely always be visa, financial, and relational challenges but five years from now I want to still be playing. My mentor constantly reminds me, “You can have anything thing you want, except everything.” A lot hangs on that, determining.
16) In your Artist’s Imagination, how do you perceive India. What painting/Drawings would you like to make of Her ?
I have these two great friends, Kaye and Adi. They have a deep understanding and value for art, family. and hospitality. I have no idea of that’s relevant to India as a whole but they were an important part of my feeling at home in Los Angeles. I’ve since falling in love with LA, something that is almost illegal if you are from San Francisco and Boston. But my first few trips there it was an uncomfortable place. I owe a lot to Kaye and Adi for helping my soul make that transition.