ANDREW HOULE

Interviewed in April of 2013
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ANDREW HOULE

Hometown: Dracut,  MA

Current town: Beverly, MA

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1.) Andrew,  tell us here at Chroma a little about where you grew up and when you were first introduced to the idea of being an ‘artist’?

I was born in Massachusetts and then after kindergarten promptly thrust all over the world with a parent in the Air Force.  My early childhood years were spent in Weisbaden, Germany where I saw just about all of Europe with eager eyes that were not quite ready to appreciate what was in front of me.  From learning to ski on the Swiss Alps to visiting the Berlin Wall,  I knew my childhood was just different for lack of a better word.  Living ‘off-base’ it was somewhat natural to feel isolated from the neighbors, the language barrier left me drawing cartoons and reading Hardy Boy mysteries most nights. Once our stationed time in Germany expired, it was then off to St. Louis, Missouri, where I would purchase my first comic book in the summer of 1989 at the age of 11.  It was a “giant-sized spectacular” issue of the Silver Surfer featuring page after page of interstellar action illustrated by Ron Lim. After that moment, the imagination of a displaced New Englander found common ground in the stories, magic and wonder of comic books.

2.) Are there any specific locations here in New England that have had a profound meaning to you and your art?  ie; Your schooling? A place of major inspiration or childhood memory?

Not so much one specific location but a sum of the parts.  Everything from the coast lines to the power lines has found its way into my work.  The full representation of all four seasons and the color it brings.  I live 20 minutes north of the Boston Garden and throwing distance from the Atlantic ocean.  Everything is within reach and at times it can be overwhelming balancing how much there is to do and just focusing on art in the studio. 

3.) Dream client? Go.

All of the covers for the DC/Vertigo titles had such an affect on me in my late teens and early twenties.  I found myself buying comics with no intention of ever reading them.  I just wanted to own the cover art. Dave McKean, Kent Williams, Rick Berry, Greg Spalenka and Jon J Muth were making this type of art for these front covers that was just unlike anything I’d seen at the time.  It changed everything for me. The fact that paintings and mixed media art were being used on the front of comic books meant there was a meeting of both worlds for me. That would be it for me, absolutely my dream client.

4.) Workplace or studio; a disaster or super organized?

Depending on the day, it’s either at one end of the spectrum or the other. Sharing a large studio with two of my closest friends, there are those days when it’s real easy to cut loose and leave the place in a state of absolute disarray. Then just as easy you have those days where you got to get your act together and clean the place up. We have ‘open studios’ several times a year so it’s a convenient way of getting all of us to pull it together and look respectable.

5.) Music while working? -   Anything your listening to now that is  pushing you or inspiring you.

 I essentially can not get anything done without music. I might as well pack up and head home if I’m without music in the studio.

Creatively everything works for me with music accompanying me. I’ve even found I have a certain musical superstition over the years.  If I’m having a very successful night working on a particular painting,  I’ll even listen to the same album on repeat like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter or something.  I’ll always have a little bit of everything on rotation from hip-hop to folk but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of The Band since Levon Helm passed. More recent stuff would be the new releases by Phosphorescent,  Jim James, Langhorne Slim, Lord Huron, & Father John Misty.  I’m also a sucker for anything with a harmonica.

6.) What medium or product is your sweet spot?? Even down to the brand name, color,  materials,  found or purchased?

As an oil painter and illustrator, time is of the essence. The faster I can work the better at times. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of various drying accelerators  for oils from traditional linseed based mediums to Liquin. A lot of mediums have the tendency to separate after you open the bottle or the viscosity can get a bit watery over time.   The one product I’ve sworn by over the years that has absolutely no odor and can sit right on my pallet is a product by Martin F. Weber called Res-N-Gel. It’s non-yellowing and has a nice consistency with an added bonus of also being dirt cheap.  Everybody wins.

7.) Who was the most important person in your life guiding your direction as an artist??

 Easily my mother,  Elaine, at the top of the list.  She was the one who supported me from the time I was using crayons all the way to oil paints.  She’s at every one of my gallery reception, open studios & every other wacky project I’ve been involved in over the years.   Usually with some sort of snack in hand for patrons to devour and encouraging words for me. As cheesy as it sounds, she always seems completely blown away by whatever  new painting or illustration I’ve been laboring over and it always gives me the reassurance and confidence that I’m doing something right.

8.) Looking at your work I see tell tale signs of a realist painter's brush blending into the energy of a comic artist's theme, or is it the other way around? A comic artists brush working out a realist theme? Do you separate the two? and if so what came first?

I’ve separated the two in the past, with my fine art work on one side the room and my comic book work on the other. It’s not something I gave a lot of thought to until recently actually.  I’ve always found myself shifting from working on a couple landscapes or figure studies, to then putting that work aside for several months as I bury my nose into whatever  comic book pages I’m trying to finish. I guess it feels natural to me to always try and switch gears artwise. I’m definitely weird in that sense, but the last year I’ve really been making an effort to approach my comic book illustrations with the same aesthetic as my fine art work.  I guess I just realized there was no reason to separate the two anymore and I’ve been really happy with the results.  Some of the hurdles in merging the two were largely based on being an oil painter.  It’s not the most realistic medium to be using when it comes to comics and that’s something I continue to find solutions for as I move forward.

9.) Most underrated artist out there right now ready to take over the world.

I would have to say my close friend, musician and songwriter;  Ben Patterson.  He’s put together a new band ‘Brothers Rye’ quite possibly just so I’ll finally stop harassing him for new music.  Ben writes the type of songs you want to sing with your friends, around a campfire, at the top of your lungs with complete disregard. His music makes me want to call a friend I haven’t seen in years or pack the car up and get out of town for the weekend,  heading in any direction.  Track his music down, you won’t be disappointed. (ie; Blythe Hollow & Brother’s Rye)

10.)  Through your day job you have access to all the best art supplies. Do you think better supplies make for better art? Or skill, technique, and talent trump sable hair brushes?

Great question,  having the superior tools and surfaces to work with can absolutely give any artist an advantage. ..but in no way can it replace talent and hardwork. Time and time again I work with parents buying for their kids in college or just a wealthy retiree looking to start an art career or hobby later in life. A lot of times they demand the most expensive and highest quality paints & brushes without knowing a single thing about what they are purchasing. It's their money, but often to anyone who is just starting out,  it’s a much safer approach to work with student quality materials first. Make all your mistakes and learn from them with affordable products that won’t break the bank.  

11.). Your work seems to have a specific palette. A palette that places your work all in the same world. Can you talk about that?

My palette in many ways is inspired from one person, George Gabin. He was an instructor of mine at Montserrat College of Art who would later become someone I considered a friend. He taught me to always find a 'local color'. To start with an under painting, in my case burnt sienna, and build on top of it. If your painting gets off track and you find yourself a bit lost, you can always wipe away where you are and make a fresh start with a properly laid down under painting. He taught me that sometimes less is more with the colors you choose to start with on your palette. That by creating with less you can avoid what he always referred to as ‘fugitive colors’ finding their way into your work. 

    So admittedly my work tends to carry a common warmth throughout every genre and subject matter. I want that under painting to bleed through and glow.  It’s a fingerprint for me, and I suppose a continuation of a teacher still teaching.  I’m sure Georges’ salary was mostly based around him instructing students how to paint, but I know something as simple as painting lessons instilled structure,  guidance and a long list of other qualities money can’t buy. Thank you again Mr. Gabin.

12.) You have a BFA in Illustration, but a fine arts aesthetic? To you what's the difference between illustration & fine arts (if any)?

Tough question, the golden rule to a successful illustration is, "Does it tell the story?". The piece needs to fulfill the requirements of the client, whether it be for an editorial spot or movie poster.  In fine art, a successful work of art is generally pretty subjective.  For me, I strive to make any illustration double as an image that can stand by itself. Once its been printed or used for its intended purpose, I always hope my work can hold up over time to speak to future viewers  as purely a painting rather than a completed commission or job. 

13.) Restoration Hardware or Bed Bath & Beyond?

Hmmm. I don't think I've bought anything from either place in years, but if I had some money to burn I think I'd go Restoration Hardware.  They got all sorts of awesome stuff I don’t really need, or may ever use, but still totally want. 

  For a handful of years I've found myself becoming a Lowe's guy. It’s a hardware store, but they have just about everything under the sun and tend to be pretty affordable.**