Andrew Brandou was raised in Michigan and later relocated to Los Angeles, California. He attended Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design where he was awarded a BFA in illustration. Andrew, who has been noted for his work on such series as ‘After Audubon’ and ‘Me, Myself & Eye’, uses symbolic references of animals to create graceful and visually consumable narratives that weave a world much like our own. This world that Andrew has manufactured through nostalgic animation-inspired characters feel innocent, charming, and often pleasing for they remind us of childhood books and cartoons that have entertained us in the past. His concepts behind his paintings and illustrations, however, incorporate more than mere entertainment. Andrew’s work often touches on sociology and human behavior along with the obsession of popularized culture. When asked about his subject matters and the importance of human social behavior, Andrew had this to say:
While many artists choose or grow into a very distinctive style, you seem to move from one style onto another going back and forth slightly altering certain visual cues and techniques. Personally, I feel that no matter how you choose to paint, the paintings always feel like “you”. Is there any series of paintings that you have worked in a particular style that you feel the most connected to? Stylistically, I’ve tried over the years to make paintings that visually telegraph a mood that reflects my interpretation of the subject matter, so I am glad you are receptive to that. For instance, when I painted about the People’s Temple, I was painting about something that occurred when I was ten years old. I was working for my young self in a way, to break down that story, to understand my reaction to it, and to speak about how I feel about it as an adult. Because of the strong impression it made on me as a child, I painted it almost as a children’s book using the iconography that a child could understand to tell a very adult story. That kind of deep connection, the thoughts, the fears, and the interests I’ve been dragging along since childhood help keep me connected to the work.
In the past, your work has represented some interesting and very notable concepts. From college kids on meth who get lost in the snow and who are ultimately found dead to illustrations inspired by the John James Audubon’s exhibition at the Autry Musuem in Los Angeles and Harajuku youth street culture. How does the concepts in your newest work exhibiting at the Flower Pepper Gallery’s ‘Ever Surreal’ differ from past ideas? The new pieces are very simple on the one hand but I think maybe more universal on the other. As I was looking for inspiration in the last year or so, I found a few long formed ideas that I could research and really get involved with – and who knows, I may go back to them. But I found myself walking more, getting back to the old hills and trails around me, and finding myself inspired there. I found myself in the presence of nature, and wanted to communicate just that. The idea that nature is a living and sentient being that we can be friends with. Of course I live in a city, and so the idea that nature is nearby can sometimes slip my mind. I just know when I am reminded of it, it is good.
What I love about your work is that it touches on subjects such as political ideologies, pop culture, and social phenomena. How important is it for you to stay informed on the various levels of sociology around the world? My teacher and mentor Everett Peck once said, “as long as you use pop culture, you’ll never run out of material.” This is true and I would also add that talking about humans is also a pretty infinite source of material. Everyone struggles and hopefully everyone has the capacity to feel ok. The story of the kids who died in the snow is sadly one everyone can relate to – it is not so much a story about meth as about confusion, frustration, and loss. While I keep informed of world events and the day to day, I try to remind myself the basic pretty universal idea – we are all here on this pale blue dot.
Andrew Brandou has exhibited in various solo shows including famed galleries such as Corey Helford in Los Angeles, California and Jonathan LeVine in New York. Brandou’s work has also been featured in group exhibitions for the Museum of Art in Laguna, California and Scope in Miami, Florida. Andrew has been credited for his long animation history on shows like The Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants, and most recently Cosmos along with contributing illustrations to record companies such as Geffen Records and Warner Brothers. To view more of Andrew’s work, visit his website at www.andrewbrandou.com.