Yep…pick up your brush or whatever else you use to create artwork and let the good times roll…while keeping your eye peeled for the next step in promoting yourself. So says the creator of an 8 foot long mural of Jimi Hendrix. Read on for more from Andy Housham.
Current Residence: Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. UK
Areas of Focus: Pop Art and Portraits
I understand, Andy, that you used to work at factory. What was it that made you go after your dreams to become an artist?
Having worked for nearly 12 years in my job with redundancy looming, I took the bold step to embrace my passion for art and take it up full time. I suppose to some it would be daunting, but I am pretty determined when I do get an idea in my head to do something. I also had a lot of support from my family and still do. Also, through social networking sites I get lots of encouragement… which continues to spur me on.
How did your experience of work and education, up until this point, shape the style of your work?
I have always been artistically minded, so art at school was probably my favourite lesson. As a result I got good grades in it. I did have the chance to go to art college but because I was already in a job and earning pretty good money at the time I decided not to pursue that. So really my artistic style came from other sources.
My creativeness came from my maternal grandparents – my granddad enjoyed woodcarving and pyrography and my grandma
( in her younger days) did spinning, weaving and knitting. I enjoyed seeing that people could produce things and be creative. But the pop art style probably came about because of my love of rock music and seeing really cool art on album covers. In my teen years Derek Riggs’ covers for the Iron Maiden albums fascinated me and also inspired me to believe I could create something that cool and iconic myself.
Your first piece of public art was at the Riverside Festival in Gainsborough where you exhibited an 8ft mural of Jimi Hendrix drawn in pastels. How did this give you your confidence to go on and make more pieces? How did it inspire you to do your own solo display?
The mural was created throughout the day as passers-by looked on. It felt at the time a bit like jumping in at the deep end, as I’d never done anything like that before. Even so, it ended up been a lot of fun and a very positive thing to do because I was getting instant feedback from the public. This also led to a commission for another mural – this time it was on the walls of a 1940s themed café at Canberra Antiques Centre, Hemswell. It’s a huge WWII aerial dogfight scene. So after those my confidence was at a high and I knew it was a positive step forward to hold my own solo exhibition.
Your solo exhibition “Screen Stars” looked predominantly at the area of the movies and more directly at the genre of Sci-Fi. What is it about this particular genre that appeals to you?
This genre has always been a favourite of mine, since childhood. In the 1970s I was crazy about Dr Who and Star Wars and always had my head in a Marvel comic. One of my favourite books is “Dune” by Frank Herbert. I must have read it a dozen times and I used to let my imagination run wild as I imagined these huge fantasy landscapes like a Rodney Mathews futuristic pictures. So for me, to put art and sci-fi together just felt like the natural thing to do.
Arguably your most recognized piece was featured in both “Pop Goes the Easel” and “No More Heroes” and is “Coca-Cobain”. For people who have not seen this piece could you describe what it is? And also the process behind making it?
This came about because I wanted to combine 2 things – a modern music icon and the 60s pop art style. I chose Kurt Cobain because he was like the ‘poster boy’ for the grunge generation, and the 90s equivalent of say Jimi Hendrix in the 60s and Sid Vicious in the 70s. He was seen as a figurehead for a whole new musical genre. Being a fan of Nirvana myself I took on board the whole story of Kurt and his band. I incorporated them into the piece, adding a punk rock element to it – because Nirvana were very punk rock and the whole grunge scene in Seattle was like London in the 70s. I chose to put the altered Coca-Cola logo on the picture to signify a brand. Although they started off as an Indie band, Nirvana ended up one of the most famous bands on the planet at the time. This troubled Cobain. So underneath all the logos and paint on the picture is the collage – the story of Nirvana – which to me means don’t just look at what you see on the surface (of a person or picture); look through the layers at the true story… the real person.
What was the inspiration for making this piece?
That really was my inspiration for that piece because I felt Kurt was a bit misunderstood. He was tagged with the “Rock Star” or “Junkie” label when really his music was his life and his way of truly expressing himself. What I didn’t want to do though was create a memorial or a sad piece. That is why I included the “Coke” logo as a slightly tongue-in-cheek thing.
The image is obviously in a Pop Art style, what is it about this style that really appeals to you?
I started delving into the pop art style a few years ago and it inspires and excites me because of the use of instantly recognizable images – Marilyn, Elvis, Coca-Cola, cans of soup – these signify things that are all around us every day in magazines, newspapers. Advertising is everywhere – everyone is a consumer.
I was drawn to the bright primary colours used, especially in Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book art. Another thing that stood out for me was Jamie Reid’s icon punk images of the 70s. As an artist I felt the desire to take this genre and do my interpretation of it. New ideas come to me all the time and then I just have to put a new spin on the idea of pop art.
You say yourself that artists such as Warhol and Sir Peter Blake profoundly influence you. What is it about their work that is so engaging to you?
Andy Warhol and Sir Peter Blake influenced me initially because, as mentioned earlier, I saw LP covers as instant art and two of the most iconic album covers of the 60s and maybe of all time featured the work of those two giants of the art world. Warhol’s ‘banana’ cover for the Velvet Underground and Peter Blake’s ‘Sgt Pepper’ cover for The Beatles really stand out for me. I still have this ambition to one day make a piece of art for an album cover as well known as these, or the Led Zeppelin III cover by Zacron – who I met at his studio while on holiday in 2005. He also proved to be an inspiration.
Have you got any future exhibitions or any new pieces of work coming up?
I am in the early stages of preparation of a new, as yet untitled exhibition. I intend to explore the more theatrical side of pop and rock music – the bright costumes, face paints and alter egos of the performers. I like the bright lights and special effects at a rock concert. I have seen Alice Cooper and Kiss and both of these have a lot of theatre in their shows. They also take on a whole new persona when they put on the face paints and costumes. I also intend to throw some new ideas into my work.
What would you say to any upcoming artists who wanted to become successful as an artist?
I would say to any up and coming artists looking to be successful in art to go for it. In the age of the Internet, now is an exciting time to be an artist and get your work out there. Social networking sites are also good for artists because you are always getting feedback and encouragement. Also be focused and canny with your self-promotion. The art world can be a big daunting place, but there are always other artists to help you along with advice. Keep yourself open to all opportunities – they can come from anywhere or anyone and can be an important step up the ladder. Don’t be disheartened when things don’t go quite to plan either because everything happens for a reason. Most importantly, have fun – and it will shine through in your art.