Painter, illustrator, skateboard designer and sometimes comics artist Esao Andrews grew up in Mesa, Arizona and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York in what he claims is a drunken splendor with his dog Soybean. A frequent contributor to the Meathaus comics anthology, Esao is now
concentrating on paintings for several future gallery shows and a cover for the upcoming Graphic Classics: O. Henry. His very entertaining website can be visited at www.esao.net.
Entrevista con Esao Andrews aparecida en www.pixelsurgeon.com, y realizada por Jason Arber.
Growing up in the Arizona desert and now a part of New York City's creative community, Esao Andrews has carved himself a niche as a unique artist and painter of dark, dreamy worlds. Inhabiting the paintings is a gothic cast of strange creatures and mysterious females. We spoke with Esao about his upbringing and what impact, if any, that may have had on his surreal, blackly humorous work.
* Give us a little bit of background about yourself, where did you grow up, where you regularly beaten at school and so on...
I grew up in Mesa, Arizona. We lived on a plot of land that would end up becoming a neighborhood years down the line. When I was a baby, the landscape was just a bleating desert in all directions speckled with mobile homes and double-wide trailers. My father was in the Air Force for 26 years and retired to become a teacher on an Indian Reservation. I guess the land was cheap and it was close to an Air Force Base which we went to for medical care and to get groceries.
I love the desert. I spent most of my childhood jumping dirt mounds on my bike, collecting bugs and sun dried nudie magazines. For some reason I had an obsession with collecting the marbles inside old spray-paint cans.
* You'd be amazed of the variety, metal bearings, wooden or glass marbles, and sometimes nicely designed Pachinko balls. I even found a cat's eye marble once.
As for elementary school it wasn't too bad. Being one of the only Japanese people around contributed to a small share of name calling and the neighborhood had its bullies. There was basically one family that made up the bully population in the area, The Bedwells. There must have been 15 of them. The oldest and was pretty cool to me. His name was Bubba, no joke. There was also a mean one named Maurice. I visited my old neighborhood a few years ago and I couldn't believe when I saw Maurice still riding a BMX around. He did a double take at me as I drove by, not that he recognized me, but just looking to be tough. Keepin' it real I guess. I got into skateboarding when I was 11 which was probably the best life altering choice I ever made and basically made me who I am today.
* When did you decide that you were creative? Was there a life-defining moment or have you always been creative and are now channelling it?
I guess there was never any deciding moment to pursue art, because I think I was always interested in creating stuff. Drawing wasn't something I did exclusively. Building all sorts of props and gadgets whether out of cardboard, broken electronics or anything I could find some use of was my main pastime. When I was around 8 years old I used to have a system of pulley's to close and open my bedroom door and control the light switch from my bed. It didn't really work too well cuz I had to pull so hard to get enough momentum for the door to move. Drawing came more into play when we moved into a house for a while, most of the junk that was laying around got thrown away and the pressures of aging curbed me from making toys to play with. By high school it was set, I wanted to go to an art college.
* Do you have any formal art training?
I went to the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
* Do you make a living from your paintings or do you subsidise it with design work?
I wish I made a living on just painting, but its rough to deal with galleries and the usual 50% cut they take. At this point, illustration is still more rewarding financially then selling a painting (plus you get to keep the illustration). I got a sweet gig doing skateboard designs for Baker Skateboards. It's really anonymous work-for-hire stuff but it's a main source of income and can be fun.
* Many of your drawings and paintings feature enigmatic, almost alien-looking, young women; does this represent some kind of erotic desire on your part?
There is definitely something erotic about my subject matter. I think a lot of it has to do with the attitude of the characters themselves rather than any fetish I may have for distorted figures. It's not that I want to sleep with aliens or anything. I try to make the eroticism subtle enough for the viewer to make up their own story about what's happening in it.
* There's a bizarre mix of nightmarish surrealism teetering in balance with humour in your work. If the see-saw were to tip, would you say your work deals with a subconscious horror or strange humour?
Though a few of my paintings have been somewhat neutral on the serious/humor scale lately, I definitely enjoy putting a bit of humor in all of my work. I think it was a defense mechanism I developed a long time ago so I could pretend to everybody that I didn't take my artwork too seriously. Its gotten to the point that if I don't have a humorous element, then I feel it takes on an even greater form of cheesiness. Unfortunately its become a crutch, but I'm working on it. Been thinking about painting from life more, doing landscapes, still lifes and even building some furniture.
* Are your paintings created with real paint or are they digital?
Oil on wood.
* You live in a metropolitan area now. What kind of inspiration, if any, do you draw from your current surroundings, or is your work more internal?
As for fashion sense, hair styles and any other kind of female inspirations are inspired right from the street. But all the other surroundings are all internal. If I incorporate a setting, its usually a quaint antique look, simple, or deciduous. Which is pretty different from a condensed city or the desert where I grew up.
* What's the obsession with ballerina's feet?
I had to do an illustration for a magazine and needed some feet for reference so I asked my roommate and his girlfriend. She was a ballerina and when I saw her feet I was so amazed, I guess I never really thought about how grossly calloused they get from all the tip-toeing and that made me have sort of an obsession with them just because the ballet is so perfect a mechanical. When they got married I attended the wedding and through the course of the drunken night asked all the girls to let me take photos of their feet. I must have taken a few dozen photos, but only a few came out due to me being drunk, having a cheap camera, and it being wintertime (which made them reluctant to take off their shoes for long.)
* There seems to be the influence of John Currin in your work; who else is an influence for you?
I have the usual collection of influences: Klimt, Schiele, Mucha, Victorian/Pre-Raphaelites painters, Joe Sorren, I met the most talented bunch of friends in college and just living in NYC and they are hands down my most influential artists: James Jean, Tom Herpich, Tomer Hanuka, Patrick Smith, Autumn Whitehurst. For a while I was totally obsessed with the comic artist Al Columbia which still sometimes leaks into my drawing even now. Its funny, I never heard of John Currin until a few years ago. I have gotten comparisons and I guess the influence he has on me now is to try and not be compared with him so much. Its been good for me to keep evolving. Its not that I don't like his work, I do, it's just that I don't want people to think I've been trying to bite his style or something which isn't the case. I shouldn't worry about that kind of stuff because someday I'll grow into my own unique voice and there's no need to force it. I came across this very amazing digital artist named Ray Caesar this year. I was completely blown away. I wrote to him saying that our paintings could be from the same world but his work was light years ahead of what I was hoping to achieve aesthetically/technically in my lifetime. He said maybe we knew each other in another life or that we eat the same kind of cheese before bedtime. Who knows how things turn out the way they do and how influences, how different they may be, can produce a idea within a similar vein.
* Your site's homepage is very funny; how did that concept come about?
When I was in school, Tomer got me a job at an education kids website hired as an illustrator. They ended up teaching me flash and as it evolved I was doing short animated cartoon with little games in them. I didn't take any computer classes in college, but work was like getting payed to learn, most of my friends worked there. All I knew how to do in flash was animate and make animated buttons. So thats why the site is entirely that. When I saw vectorpark my attention to detail increased immensely. I still don't consider myself a computer guy and ask Patrick to help me out with scripting questions when I can't figure them out because he's the best action scripter around.
posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS.