Stock photograhy provided by: Thomas Prior
Esao Andrews is a painter, who works with oil on wood panels. Indeed, the creative spotlight has been crowded with artists but Mr. Andrews is a little bit different. His work blends Gothic grotesque, erotic and surrealism. Inhabiting the paintings is a gothic cast of strange creatures and mysterious females. His latest work was shown on Circa Survive’s newest album cover for their third LP Blue Sky Noise. He has appeared in Juxtapoz Magazine, Hi-Fructose, and many more. We spoke with Esao about his upbringing and what anime has made an impact on his work. That and more can be read in the interview below…
Esao, tell our readers a little bit of background about yourself, and a bit about growing up in Arizona as a Japanese student?
Esao: My dad was in the U.S. Air Force where he met my mom while stationed in Okinawa. They had my brother and sister over there, and had me in Oklahoma. We moved to Mesa, Arizona when I was around 6 months old. I was made fun of a little bit growing up, but not too much. Since I was half-Japanese and tan (from just living in Arizona) I was sometimes mistaken for Native American and even Mexican. Being half Asian/Caucasian has a certain look and I feel uncomfortable when I see other people that are half. I’m not sure why, maybe because as a little kid I was the only one and it was part of my identity at the time.
As an artist myself, I know that sometimes we create art solely to impress friends or women. In the case of making poster art for bands, do you try to impress THEM (the band) or the consumers?
Esao: Definitely both. I haven’t done too many poster’s for bands, but I’ve had the consumers and friends more in mind with my recent ones. It can be really stressful.
I know you are a fan of Hayao Miyazaki, which of his films do you think has inspired you the most, and why?
Esao: That would be Nausicaa. When I was a kid it came on HBO, dubbed in English around 1985. My parents taped it on VHS and it was absolutely my favorite cartoon. I still have it and can’t believe how butchered that American version was compared to the original. So strange to hear the different voices and new scenes. A good percentage of my visual vocabulary can be linked to that specific cartoon somehow.
You’ve been apart of a lot of exhibits and showcases, what is in store for 2011? Can we look forward to an artbook finally?
Esao: Yes, I’m am starting to put everything together for one. I’m excited about it, everyone I know seems to have a book except me.
I absolutely love the craftwork you do. The mini birdhouse in particular, is there room to create variations of the same idea? Or must they be created with a more unique mindset than traditional painting?
Esao: There is something so much more satisfying with building an object over a painting. Maybe its because I don’t do sculpture as much, but there’s all these other parts of the brain that have to work in order to make a structure fit together and be sturdy. Problem solving becomes the main part of constructing a design.
How important is it to work in your sketchbook regularly? Do you feel as an artist it is a necessary excersie in maintaining your skill?
Esao: I think that drawing is extremely important and the easiest way to keep your creativity going. A sketchbook is a great outlet for that, because its convenient to mix drawings with lists of ideas and other reference notes. I keep mine as a journal and don’t have any plans to publish the ones I’ve done in the past(at least big enough to be legible.) I keep the journal pretty honest so it’ll be nice to read back what I was thinking and going through at the time.
What do you do to unwind in Greenpoint?
Esao: I live a block away from a bar called The Pencil Factory which I’ll bring my dog late night and have a drink during the week. Also there’s this bar called Habitat which has great microbrew beer and food. They used to have figure drawing upstairs.
If I can be biased for a moment, I just want to exclaim “Dont Wake Up The Neighbors” is my favorite piece of yours. Explain your creative process for beginning a piece on wood. Does it differ much from traditional canvas?
Esao: Thanks, the original idea/sketch I had for that painting included the two houses, but they had a bridge between them with a bunch of witches drinking out of a keg in the middle of the bridge. No girl or faces in the windows. It became a different painting all together.
Almost always start with a drawing then I either find reference to help me, vice versus, or just make it all up. With the drawing I’ll scan it and reprint it out to the size of the wood. Wood is smooth and you can easily smear, dab and rub the paint on for lots of different textures. Canvas is gridded and stretches which I don’t like. I’ll prime the wood with some mixture of brown oil over gesso. I transfer the drawing using some kind of transfer paper. I usually work on the background first. Any colors that I don’t fill in solid, the brown surface is an important part of the shading of the forms in the painting. I paint really thin, so the paint usually dries in a day.
Thank you so much for giving us a few moments of your time. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in 2011! Interested in following Mr. Andrews? Follow his cookie crumb trail below: