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vol 4 - issue 06 (feb 2002) :: untapped
UNTAPPED TALENT: ANDY CLARKSON
interview by cans mckenzey

MOST ILLUSTRATORS HAVE TO HAUL ASS TO MAKE A LIVING OFF OF THEIR ARTWORK. THIS MONTH'S UNTAPPED TALENT IS HAULING THAT ASS AND STILL FINDING TIME FOR HIS JOB, WIFE, NEWSPAPER-EATING CHILDREN AND DEEP-FRIED HOT DOGS. TUNE IN AS CANS MCKENZEY, OUR LADY WITH THE YAMS, GETS THE SCOOP FROM ANDY CLARKSON.

cans: Do you think your wife would mind if I did this interview sitting on your lap?

Andy: Actually, she’d prefer it that way. She told me she wanted you sitting on my lap because it's much more natural, just like the way we talk. She'll charge you though.

c: So, tell us a little about your illustrations.

A: Well, with every piece I'm trying to get better; whether that means it's an issue of technique, or whether it's a question of trying to convey something that is conceptually more interesting or eye catching. Also, I try to leave out unnecessary information, so there's not too much going on in one image. There are some surreal images that have a very intense descriptive aspect to them. Sometimes I do a painting because it feels right, but later I'll go back to it and understand better what my frame of mind was when I was working on it. I try not to put too much of a formula on it. I tried to do that in the past and it killed my creative process. I sit at my desk trying to work on something or come up with something interesting, but that just defeats the purpose. If I just loosen up about it, do an image that is striking to me and develop it to where it's an interesting image to those who see it, then it progresses every time.

c: Are the majority of your pieces commissioned or just ideas you've come up with on your own?

A: Well, most of my work is both. Some of the pieces are contest entries and I have a more specific idea of what they need to be. I have a few black and white pieces that were done for a particular story for a contest I took part in. The rest of my work is images where I'm just trying to get out something that interests me. Something I'm going to love doing from start to finish.

c: Tell me about the image of the man with the two bricks hanging over his hands.

A: I had an image of this guy in my head. Initially it was his full body character, but through the sketching process I realized I didn't like the second half of him, so I got rid of it. I didn't feel it had to be there. I went with the main image of the guy with the bricks over his hands and then tried to develop the background elements to have a certain mood to them.

c: What mediums do you use for your pieces?

A: Most of them start with a tight value study underneath; I render the hell out of it and make sure the detail is there. I want to have the information there so I'm not constantly looking at a reference. I find if I do the value study first, I can ignore the reference and just paint with acrylics on top of what I've already done. It seems like I'm doubling the effort, but for my own approach it takes less time because I'm not slaving over every single stroke.

c: How long does it take you to do one painting?

A: About a month. If I could work on it all day, it would probably cut down to half of a month. Given everyone's schedule, I work when I can.

c: How do you juggle your art with your family and a full-time job?

A: At the beginning of the week I figure out what I have to get done and what I want to do. It seems like there's no way I'm going to be able to do it, especially if I'm trying to meet a deadline for a job, a contest or for myself. I go to work and do what I have to do there. It's very important to me to be able to come home and spend a lot of time with my two sons and my wife. Of course, it's never as much as I’d like, but I try to fit in time where I can. My wife will go to bed, and I'll paint. I love her to death because she doesn't get on me too much about it, but I haven't gone to bed with her at the same time in months. When everyone is asleep I'll paint for two or three hours a night.

c: Would you rather be showing in galleries or concentrate more on your commercial career?

A: I wouldn't say I would rather do one more than the other. I want to be an illustrator. I want to be able to make a living doing this because I love doing it. But on the other hand I also want to make more personal art. I know some artists do it; where they have a successful illustration career and they exhibit some of their work in galleries when they can. I understand you can't have that much success right off the bat in either one, but there is no reason the two can't coexist. It's definitely a goal I have.

c: What is your earliest memory of making art?

A: Good memory or bad memory?

c: Whichever you'd like to talk about. Like, for example, I remember my parents letting me draw on the walls.

A: And you still do?

c: Yeah. In my roommate’s room every morning.

A: In elementary school, I remember trying to draw from comic book pages. I specifically remember a kid who had a drawing that one of the teachers kept because it was a good drawing. He was known as the "school artist". I remember seeing the drawing the teacher kept and aspiring to draw like that. I found where he got his reference from and I spent one summer dedicating all my free time trying to draw as well as this kid.

c: Competitive, are you?

A: Totally. I tend to be really competitive with things I pride myself on. If I take an interest in it, I do it to the best of my ability.

c: So, in elementary school, you wanted to be better than that other kid.

A: Yeah, I wanted to kick his ass. It wasn’t even that I wanted to draw better than him. I just wanted to be at that level. I wasn't trying to bump him, by any means, because I had respect for the kid.

c: Do you remember his name?

A: His name was Twon. I can picture his face. Last I heard he was an architect.

c: Are you going to try to be an architect now?

A: Yes. I have to beat Twon. (laughing) No, it's not an obsession. It was just a desire to draw like that.

c: Other than Twon, are there any other artists, alive or dead, that inspire you?

A: I've noticed that I like Rembrandt a lot, but it doesn't necessarily show in my work.

c: Well then, are you sure you like him?

A: I swear he's in there somewhere. I really like Rembrandt.

c: The toothpaste?

A: Absolutely. And my teeth are whiter because of it. I'm also a big fan of John Palencar. (Tyler, Andy’s seven-year-old son, enters the room.)

Tyler: Daddy, I want to play chess.

A: I know, Tyler. We'll pick that up tomorrow. You know tonight has been crazy.

T: OK.

A: That’s Tyler. He learned how to play chess last weekend and has already beat me twice. I didn't let him either. That's the sad thing. Can we change the subject?

c: Sure. Do you think dogs have lips?

A: Oh, of course.

c: We always ask that question. It's kind of our “claim to fame” question, so stop looking at me like that.

A: What's the general consensus?

c: It seems that most people agree that they do. I once called a veterinarian and he said yes. They’re called mandibles.

A: Dogs have mandibles, then.

c: So tell me, does Tyler ever draw on any of your paintings?

A: Well, he did once a long time ago but it wasn't anything major.

c: Did you smack him?

A: No, I put him in the cage for a week. (laughs)

c: Sweet!

A: Actually, he understands that this is dad’s space.

c: Do you think he'll want to draw someday?

A: He seems interested and open-minded about it. He seems to like anything creative; whether it's building with Legos or working with construction paper. You know, normal kid things.

c: Tell me a little about this award you won.

A: Well, it’s an award from an illustration contest I entered right after I graduated. I was very adamant about finding contests out there because I knew it was a major way to promote yourself. If you can enter contests, and make some progress, you can put it on your resume. It says a lot about your artwork. I found a black and white illustration contest on the Internet. They send you a story in the mail, you read it and then come up with an illustration for it in whatever medium, as long as it's black and white. So, they sent me a story, I did the illustration for it and sent it back. About nine months later I went to LA for the ceremony. It's actually a cool thing, because whether or not you win, you still get to go out there for a week. You get to meet top-notch illustrators, and attend some workshops. I was lucky enough to get the grand prize. So far that has been the major highlight of my illustration career. It was very cool. It was a very formal event situation where I had to dress up in a tuxedo. They picked us up at our hotel in a limo and drove us there and interviewed us. They literally treated us like movie stars. I understand that this was to promote their contest and their book, but they had a red carpet coming out of the limo up to the building, with a TV crew and everything.

c: Was Joan Rivers there?

A: She was. She was commenting on everyone's wardrobe. Yeah, we had to do a little interview before we entered the building, which was the most intimidating thing. But when I actually got the award I had to get up in front of everyone and give a little acceptance speech.

c: What was the award called?

A: It was the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Award. Three of my pieces were printed in a book.

c: What do you think you would be doing if you weren't making art?

A: Working at Champs still, busing tables. I loved that job.

c: Is that sarcasm?

A: Mixed with sincerity.

c: Hey, Tyler. Do you ever tell your daddy that his art is stupid?

T: No. He'd ground me for that.

A: In all honesty I'll show him a painting in progress and ask him about it.

T: Yeah. Last time he was painting a scary picture and there was something in his coat, and no one else figured it out. It was bubbles.

A: Yep. He was right. He was the only one who got it.

c: Like Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls?

A: No. Just bubbles. Hey, Tyler, want to take this and look at it? (Andy gives Tyler a copy of tastes like chicken.)

T: Yes. (Tyler takes the paper and begins to eat it.)

c: Um, Andy. Would you like me to take him to McDonald's? Is he hungry?

A: Yeah. (laughs)

c: Is that good, Tyler? Does it taste like chicken?

T: Yes. It tastes like chicken!

c: Andy, what do you like more: flame-broiled or fried?

A: Fried. The more unhealthy it is, the better. Ever have a fried hot dog?

c: No.

A: Yeah, you actually deep-fry it like french fries. I had one at a bowling alley and it was delicious.

c: At a bowling alley? That’s disgusting.

T: What?

A: Fried hot dogs, Tyler. Remember?

T: Oh, yummy!

c: Do you think your child needs to be put on Ritalin?

A: Yes. Twice a day. (laughing)

c: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: Having a more stable illustration career.

c: What about stripping?

A: I would never give that up.

c: Any last thoughts? Here’s a hint: this is when you say something nice about me.

A: We need a lot more time for that.

SEE MORE OF ANDY'S WORK IN L. RON HUBBARD PRESENTS WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOLUME XVII.


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