Artist Interviews 2023
By Johnny Otto
Andy, you started off as a musician playing with The Animal Five and Canary Islands, but, after 20 years, made the transition to become a painter. Is music still an important part of your process when painting or how does it fit into your life now?
It’s not often that I pick up the guitar anymore and if I do, I don’t play my own compositions. I don’t feel that need anymore. I do think painting and composing music are closely related and provide the same creative outlet. However, music is very present when I paint. I use it for different moments. Often I don’t even dare to start painting if I don’t have music that pushes me. In that way, it was easier before when I drank, because then I dared to do anything. No limits. But at the same time, I was unable to stop myself and that could often sabotage the painting. The best for me is when I can find the same flow but in a way where I can turn it off when I need to.
I feel a bit like I got a second life with art. When I was from around 15 to 30, music was very exciting, with so much to discover, both old and new. But then I lost something. The curiosity for the music, maybe? So when art came in it was like a whole new world opened up.
Do you have formal training as a painter or who or what has inspired you or taught you your methods?
I am self-taught. When I was a teenager, I would often sit and draw in my room, mainly comics. I didn’t put in an effort at school which meant that I could not get into any schools after high school. Then I managed to get into an art/design program. But I didn’t take that very seriously either! However, I found some guys to start a band with. That was how music became my main thing.
I would say that my interest in painting probably began when I saw Jackson Pollock's work. I felt that it had the same rebellious expression as in my musical interest. When I got older it was Cy Twombly who really took me by storm. His work felt smarter but it inspired the same feeling as Pollock’s.
I am very emotionally driven when I paint and often don’t know exactly what I'm doing. It often happens that when a painting is finished and I stand and look at it that I don’t remember how I did things. I usually have an idea, a basis to start from, but I do know they will never end up as I imagined.
Sometimes I get inspired by other artists but I have learned that it can be dangerous to look too much at others. Recently I was very inspired by another artist and thought I wanted to add something similar to what he did in my paintings. It ended in disaster, haha! It was a couple of months when I felt that I had lost it completely and could no longer paint. At the same time, it also built up a kind of desperation and anger that made me find my way back (sending you a picture of the latest painting that came after this). I think you have your own expression and you must stick to it, partly to be honest in your work but also to be able to create good art.
Your work seems to be a cross section of the Earth? An examination of nature and roots. What is it you are trying to express?
My series "Today will pass”, which I am working on now, and maybe always will work on, came from me standing in my kitchen one morning. This was shortly after I had been in rehab for my alcohol abuse. I was anxious and felt panic that I could not drink anything to alleviate it. The next day felt better and I began to learn something that many others have learned. Life goes up and down, you have good and bad days, time heals all wounds as they say.
I wanted to paint something that expressed this and for me it became through nature and geology. But I'm not a nature goblin, I'm inspired by everything in my everyday life.
Are there artists you like to collaborate with? Why?
No. For me painting is something I do for myself and by myself.
Where are you based now and how did you end up there?
I live in Malmo, Sweden where I grew up. For me, there has always been a band that I played with that I could not leave. Now the situation is different, so who knows, maybe at some point I will buy a house in Tuscany, eat grapes and paint all day:)
You have admitted openly that you had an alcohol problem. How did you conquer that and what would you like to share with other people dealing with similar issues?
I loved what alcohol did for me, from the first time I tried it. I have had a lot of fun with it over the years. But it also caused a lot of shit for me, especially during the later years. Playing in a band and touring is perfect if you love to get drunk. When I started a family, I found it difficult to keep that world separate from family life. I could not cope with the struggle and it ended with me checking into a rehab center.
Those five weeks were magical and I will never forget them. An important memory for me was taking a walk in the woods with music in my headphones and wondering what I needed to change in my life to make it work. I decided then and there to quit the band and start taking my painting seriously. I would also start exercising more and taking care of myself.
Today I’ve been sober for five years. I exercise 5-6 times a week, have run five marathons and I go to bed on time. Often my best ideas come when I'm out on a long-distance run.
I think it's hard to advise someone else how to manage an alcohol problem. For me, the reason I have managed to stay away from alcohol is painting, a consistent exercise routine, but also my brilliant wife, who has supported me all the way. I feel like I had lost something along the way that I have now managed to find again.
But painting is tough. When I played in a band, there were five of us sharing the burden of creating. Now I'm alone and when creativity goes bad it's terrible. But the reward is great when it starts to flow.
What is in the near future for you? Any shows?
I have a few things on the horizon, but it’s still to early to talk about. Hopefully this article will lead to more interest and more things happening :)
How do you view AI Generated art? Can it ever replace the human experience, and emotion? The turmoil of being an artist?
I'm sure AI art can be fantastic, but as soon as someone says it wasn't made by a human, I completely lose interest. It is the human behind it that makes it exciting. It’s important to me that the art is emotionally driven.