Andrew Myers is a renown painter and sculpture from Laguna Beach, California. His works have been published within the LA Times’ Coastline Pilot, OC Register’s Laguna New Post, H Magazine, and NBC San Diego’s spread on The Port of San Diego Sculpture Show. Myers placed 1st Sculpture at the annual Sausalito Arts Festival and 2nd in Sculptural Pursuit Magazine’s National Sculpture Competition. Sculptural Pursuit Magazine then also featured Andrew’s pieces with a 6 page spread in the July 2008 edition.
We had the great opportunity to talk with Andrew Myers over the phone recently, and reach deep down into his emotional connection to sculpture.
TJ BTS: How’s life in Southern California treating you Andrew?
Andrew Myers – Well, I just had a kid about ten weeks ago. So, things are definitely changing.
TJ – Congratulations!
Andrew Myers – Thank you, thank you.
Andrew Myers – So far, yes.
TJ – I’m sure you’re happy about that. Especially with a new baby in the mix.
Andrew Myers – Yep, exactly. But, I’ve been doing this for ten years…so I have definitely seen my fair share of ups and downs. The ups are awesome.
TJ – How old were you when you moved from Germany to Real Cuidad, Spain?
Andrew Myers – Six months old.
TJ – Oh wow. So then you don’t remember much of Germany?
Andrew Myers – Ya know, I’ve been back there a few times because I have family that still lives there…but most of my memories of Europe are from Spain.
TJ – How long did you live in Cuidad Real, Spain?
Andrew Myers – Until I moved to Seattle with family at 16.
TJ – Do you think you would have been as drawn to sculpture, if you had not lived in Cuidad Real?
Andrew Myers – Probably not.
TJ – Yea, there’s not much sculpture in Seattle is there?
Andrew Myers – No, not really. If there is, it’s modern sculpture…which I’m still struggling to understand.
There’s something about being in Spain as a kid, being in a plaza and looking up to this sculpture of a massive horse with someone riding it in bronze. You have no clue how it’s made, and I have always been fascinated how something like that was put together.
TJ – So then is the sculpture within Cuidad Real the main reason behind your work with bronze?
Andrew Myers – Yea, partially because of my upbringing in Spain. We took a lot of tours with the school through the big museums, and my love for art started in Spain I guess. Then I lost it in high school, and I never really took “art classes” per say.
After high school, I moved to California with no real direction in life. I had no job and needed to figure out something to do, so I ended up attending the art school here in Laguna Beach and began studying sculpture.
TJ – At that point, it was called the Art Institute of Southern California correct?
Andrew Myers – Yea.
TJ – Did you consider any other art schools on the west coast?
Andrew Myers – No, ya know it happened so fast. I was driving past the school one day down the canyon in Laguna, and I went inside to find a bunch of people sculpting. The new semester was starting in five days, so I applied on the spot and got in. It was really fast.
TJ – Were you expecting the school to award you with a scholarship?
Andrew Myers – No. I wasn’t even really expecting to get in. They asked me to do a bunch of drawings, and I had never really done any drawings before. I kind of figured it out on my own and did the work. I was really proud of them, but still wasn’t sure if I was going to get in.
TJ – That’s very impressive to have landed both acceptance and a scholarship with no previous formal art training on sketching alone.
TJ – What about your artwork speaks most to your European upbringing?
Andrew Myers – It was the idea of doing art. My bronze sculpture doesn’t really resemble Spanish sculpture at all. The only thing that would be consistent with Spanish sculpture, is the fact that I still do figurative work. Figurative sculpture is predominate in Spain.
I tried to take sculpture to a whole new level, making it more modern and narrative. During school I had checked out some Bernini and Michaelangelo sculptures, and realized I would never be “that” good. I didn’t want to pursue the perfect figure my whole life, because, even if it was the “perfect figure”, I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see. So I let the pressure go, and decided I didn’t have to create the perfect figure, but I did need to create something meaningful and visually enticing.
TJ – Do you use any music for inspiration?
Andrew Myers – I do! Actually, before becoming an artist, I wanted to become a musician. Music is something I never had the chance to pursue because of my late start as an artist, but I am still constantly listening to it.
My ideas are definitely inspired by music.
TJ – Do you have any personal favorite musical artists at the moment?
Andrew Myers – Let’s see. I’ve been listening to The xx a lot. I don’t know if you’ve heard them.
TJ – I haven’t actually, but I will now. Haha.
Andrew Myers – Yeah, The xx. Their pretty cool. Ummm, hold on one sec.
(To wife: What else do we listen to here?)
Oh yeah, a lot of Moby. We love Moby. Umm, we also listen to Belle & Sebastian, and occasionally I’ll put on Simon & Garfunkle. It’s a wide range of music, but different music inspires me in different ways.
TJ – As it should. Simon & Garfunkle are one of my personal favorites.
Andrew Myers – Yea, I’ve loved them forever. I have all of their albums. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Belle & Sebastian.
TJ – I have heard of them, but have not heard them.
Andrew Myers – Ok, yea they’re awesome. They’ve got cool lyrics. Kind of like Simon & Garfunkle, but really cool beats along with the great vocals.
TJ – Well, add another artist to the list of listening for the week. Haha. What brought you to the idea of using screws as a medium?
Andrew Myers – Ya know, my mind is blurry as to when I exactly decided to do that. What I recall is being at a friend’s studio, and I spend a lot of time with a small group of artist friends here in California. We’re always bouncing ideas off of each other, and trying to come up with the “next big thing.”
I remember being at a friend’s studio, playing with some screws, and at the time I was working on a project for a church. I was doing a whole set of bronze reliefs depicting St. Catherine’s life. I had never really done any work with relief before, and the school didn’t teach it. Relief work is actually one of the toughest forms of sculpture there is, if done properly.
After completing all of these reliefs, I thought, “If I can do these in clay, there should be something else do relief in.” So, I remembered the screws and thought about it for a while. About a year later, it hit me that if I were to create a grid, I could fill the whole panel with screws. It’s kind of like negative and positive sculpting at the same time, just by screwing and unscrewing. It was a really interesting process.
The first one took about 6 months, and I had no idea what to expect. The original intention was just to create a relief, only with the screws. When I finished that part, it was cool, but not was I was looking for exactly. It reminded me of that toy you push your hand into with the pins.
So, once I had a 3-D visual, I thought, “Well, if I can paint just the screw heads, so you can still see the screws from the side for a modern feel, the depth should make it move as you walk around it and still be very poppy.” I was super surprised with it when I finished painting it, and it was actually the first time I had really surprised myself.
TJ – Are the people in your screw pieces from your personal life, or just random photos?
Andrew Myers – Yes. For the last ten years, I have only been using friends and family as models. Reason being, I had quit my jobs right out of school to pursue art, and couldn’t afford a model. So, my artist friends and my family would come to sit and stand for me in order to accomplish what I needed to do.
Then I realized down the road, I got to spend time with these people in a very awkward situation and really started enjoying it.
Andrew Myers – Ya know, I do. Prime example, I don’t know if you’ve seen one of the sculptures called “Recycling Tears”. That’s a friend of mine who sat for me, and he was going through a divorce. He was devastated. He kept coming over to my house, and he couldn’t help but cry a lot. So, one day, he got fed up and said, “I’m done crying. That was my last tear.” About four hours later, he was back at my house crying again.
I thought we needed to bottle this energy and do a sculpture about recycling tears. Ya know, when you think you have nothing left you find yourself recycling tears. So, he was sitting for me, and this is a really good friend, and I had asked him to really think about it and let his facial expression loose. He actually started crying in front of me, and it’s very hard to ignore someone crying when you’re trying to work. It made for a very crazy experience, but I definitely got the emotion I was looking for. We got through the awkwardness, and we’re good.
TJ – It’s really difficult to imagine a good friend breaking down in front of you, and having to use it for work.
Andrew Myers – Yea it was interesting, for sure.
TJ – Is there a reason you use phone book pages as the backgrounds for these pieces?
Andrew Myers – It started out as a bet with my old roommate from school. We were having a few beers one night, and I made a comment about wanting to include everyone in my work. He said it was impossible, and I said “Watch me.” So, the next day I did a big collage using only phone book pages.
TJ – Haha.
Andrew Myers – There were a few different reasons I kept using them. It’s really fun to find the name of a client within the phone book pages years after they’ve already bought it, and the graphic lines of the phone book listings create a very subtle background. One that’s still graphic enough to be interesting.
TJ – Yea, I like how it doesn’t take away from the focus.
Andrew Myers – Yea, it’s been something I’ve been using for a long time, so I continue to use it for that neutral background type thing.
TJ – What’s your favorite aspect of human form? What do you attempt to feature most?
Andrew Myers – I love hands. The gesture the hand can create is similar to what a whole body can do. However, I haven’t really been doing too many sculptures of hands lately. The hands, the movement of the body and definitely the facial expression are the key areas for me.
Andrew Myers – No, I was experiencing blocks before its’ creation.
TJ – Haha.
Andrew Myers – I had gotten burnt out because I was doing so much bronze work, and really reaching down deep for so much emotion. Ya know, it’s something most people avoid for their whole lives, and it was actually getting very draining for me. So, for a while I stopped doing sculpture and started painting, but I got tired of that too.
“Idea Roadblock” again came from a conversation with a friend. I don’t know if you’ve seen the books that are blocking him from moving forward?
TJ – Their meaning was actually my next question for you.
Andrew Myers – Oh good. The book on top is entitled “Self Doubt.” The reason being, I feel if I doubt myself, I will never create…period. I wanted to make a strong point for other artists, and myself, that I need to get passed that and continue pursuing. The sculpture is about pursuing the idea, not necessarily grabbing it. It’s kind of like the donkey with the carrot. It keeps you moving through life, and keeps you going in a direction. Not that you’re ever going to reach the perfect idea, but the direction is what matters.
The books stop the flow of things. They also signify how I stopped looking at other artists’ work years ago, and stopped attending so many shows. The influence is amazing. Even if you’ve just looked at another artist’s work, and aren’t even trying to copy it, it will really come out in your own work if you’ve liked it. So, I’ve really tried to stay away from books, literature and everything else, and just experience life with my own feelings and emotions.
TJ – Speaking of words in your works, my favorite series of your charcoal paintings is “My Struggle With God.” Each of these pieces is labeled with a human emotion. Are “Wait”, “Confusion”, “Silence”, “Shame”, “Doubt”, “Voices” and “Fear” in a specific order?
Andrew Myers – No. There’s no specific order for those. I did that series because, first of all, I grew up as a missionary kid. I’ve been taught things my whole life which I needed to figure out for myself, and really experience who God is on my own without all of the bullshit that comes with Christianity.
The reason why I chose to do seven, is because seven is repeated within the Bible constantly. I just wanted to do seven emotions I felt were impeding me from seeing what God really was in my life.
Andrew Myers – Absolutely. A lot of my work back-in-the-day was very confessional. Once again, that became very draining for me, and is another reason why I started using other people.
TJ – Yea, I remember reading another article that stated you “leave a piece of yourself with every finished work.”
Andrew Myers – Yea I do, and that was another piece I did called “Portrait of an Artist” where the pieces are coming out of the face. Because it came from me, and came from nothing, I feel that it definitely captures a piece of me.
TJ – Do you ever regret leaving any of those “pieces” behind?
Andrew Myers – It’s been very easy for me to let go of pieces, because I realized that it allows me to keep moving on financially, and that is always the biggest struggle. As long as I have the memory of creating it, and sometimes forgetting a piece allows me to see it again for the first time, I have no problem getting rid of everything.
TJ – That state of mind speaks well for your future creative process. We were talking before about how you became burned out working with bronze so much. Did that frustration have anything to do with the creation of your “Life’s Deconstruction” series?
Andrew Myers – Deconstruction is a whole different story actually. I had created what I thought was my first “real” piece of art in school. It was just a simple portrait, and I had one copy in wax. I dropped it and watched as it shattered all over the floor.
So, I was completely devastated because I was young and thought this was going to be the coolest portrait ever. Then I picked up the pieces and realized how cool the broken parts were. After that, I asked everyone who sat for a portrait with me to think of a “breaking point” in their life.
Now, once the portrait is in wax, I ask the model to break however they feel necessary. Some people throw it, some people drop it, some people hit it, etc… The whole concept behind this is everyone has gone through a “breaking moment” in their life, and how much more interesting you become once you pick up the pieces and compose yourself. Even if there are pieces missing.
TJ – Do you find that your models really connect with that concept once they are finished destroying their own bust?
Andrew Myers – Oh yea. I’ve had people cry or get really angry while they do it. There’s a bit of a ritual that takes place when we talk about their “breaking moment.” We sit down, have a glass of wine, I ask them to really think about it and we put on some music to wait until they feel ready to get up and do it. Again, it’s extremely awkward.
TJ – When did you begin adding the 24 karat gold leaf to the deconstruction method?
Andrew Myers – I think I did that in 2008?
TJ – Is that a difficult process to master?
Andrew Myers – No, not on the scale I’m working with. If you were to do a chapel, then yes it would be extremely hard to do.
TJ – Which of your pieces is your own personal favorite?
Andrew Myers – That’s a tough question. If I had to own one of my pieces, I think I’d own the screw portrait with the glasses. That one is my favorite by far. I might want to keep that one. As for sculpture, probably “Leap of Faith.” It was my first dive into narrative work.
TJ – I do love the concept of that sculpture. How even though there is this “face” you put on, your mind can be constantly somewhere else.
TJ – Do you plan on doing anymore charcoal work in the future?
Andrew Myers – I do. My thing as of now, is that I get really bored trying to complete a series of anything. I’m always bouncing around between trying to develop something new and trying to finish commissions. Charcoal is kind of my instant gratification. I do a lot of sketch work in charcoal. The sculpture and screw pieces just take so long, they become labor. So, charcoal is something I can pick up and have a blast with. Although, I’m not really sure what I am doing next.
Andrew Myers – In charcoal, no.
TJ – Fair enough. Is there anything else you have in the works right now? Haha.
Andrew Myers – Umm, there is but I can’t say. Eventually, I am going to produce a brand new series along the lines of the screws, but in a completely different medium. One thing I guess you could say, is that I am going to do life-sized standing figures in screws. So a full body sculpture, front and back, which will be really interesting. Again, it’s an experiment, so I have no idea what it’s going to end up looking like. But, I can kind of see some of it, so I think it’s going to be pretty neat.
TJ – That sounds like a really serious undertaking.
Andrew Myers – Yes, it is definitely going to be serious. We’re talking about 10,000 screws for the big portraits, and I think one of these life-sized sculptures is going to need closer to 50,000.
TJ – Wow, that’s a lot of work.
Andrew Myers – Yea, it’s a crazy amount of work. Once again, I’m not doing it for the financial aspect, because the screw pieces actually make me the least money out of everything I do. So, it’s going to be a labor of love.
TJ – Well, that’s how the best art is created right?
Andrew Myers – Exactly.
TJ – Thank you for interviewing with us Andrew. We wish you and you’re family all the best.