“It’s never that time is it?” says Andy looking at his watch in amazement. I am equally astonished and not totally surprised as my stomach is telling me that it is well past lunch o’clock now. Our quick interview has turned into a massive and very inspiring conversation about art, inspiration, lifestyle, work, Dundee, gigs and more and I am not quite sure I can really do it justice, as my shorthand skills are non-existent and my note taking, whilst making sense at the time, is not always the best!
So yeah, Andy Baxter had a solo exhibition back in June 2012 in Freedom Hairdressing. He packed the salon walls full of his inspiring colourful paintings of figures and faces and the opening night was buzzing with people. It was a great night.
Irving, his team at Freedom Hair Experience and his family had gone to town with the opening night too. There was an amazing buffet, drinks, photographers from the Courier and Irving had even arranged for The Dundee Channel to come and interview Andy. When it comes to his exhibitions Irving is so enthusiastic about promoting the artists he has invited to exhibit. He really champions them and encourages people to shine. As a fellow creative I think Irving understands how important getting these opportunities can be for people both personally and to further their work too. It is great to have someone in Dundee who will do that for artists. He is a rare breed and a top guy!
Andy has had several other exhibitions, in West Kilbride and often exhibits in the Dundas Gallery in Edinburgh.
Andy was born in Fife and moved to Dundee when he came to study architecture at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College. He has remained this side of the water ever since.
I asked Andy what his favourite piece is. Is it one of his paintings? A watercolour? Or is it one of his sculptures? To this he quickly replied “the last bit I’ve done!” Smart answer I thought, storing it away for next time someone asks me the same thing! He tells me that the last piece he has created is his golden woman sculpture, which he sculpted from clay. Andy talks enthusiastically about his love of sculpture, about the sculpture class that he attends in Arbroath and that ultimately he would love to do a full size sculpture.
“Do you have any art heroes?” I ask. “Two” he replies “Lucian Freud and Ewan Uglow” The Lucian Freud one, he said, is probably quite an obvious one (and it is, you can definitely see elements of his influence in some of Andy’s works). Uglow, however, is an artist I have never encountered before. Andy had to write his name down for me. He is a Polish artist with an extreme attention to the most minute of details in his work. Andy described his techniques as being almost architectural, which shows his background too as he works as an architect when he is not busy painting and sculpting.
Isn’t it great how different people see the same things/ objects/ art but take something completely different from it. He talked about being in a life drawing class and how different everyone’s work is, even though there is just the one subject. How people will look at the work of others and want theirs to ‘be as good as that person’s’ meanwhile ‘that person’ may well be looking at someone else’s work wishing their s was more like that!! We all have different perspectives on one subject, isn’t that wonderful! That is definitely part of being creative we decided (as well as so much more).
We talked about experimenting with your art and why it is healthy to be pushed out of your comfort zone. Andy told me a great story about an art class that he attended a few years back that completely took everyone out of their comfort zone by getting them all to collaborate and make their marks on one big piece. People had arrived expecting to produce individual pieces in the usual manner and came away with a completely different experience. One that Andy says was very valuable to him. We discussed how it is important to experiment from time to time as an artist and how courses and meeting different people can help you to do this. Andy started going to life drawing classes five years ago has continued attending ever since. He also attends a sculpture class. I got the impression that he thoroughly enjoys the challenges they bring to him and his art. He recommended that I go to one as well, just to push myself. I think that I might just do that.
I asked Andy about his use of colour in his work. I said to him that I was curious about artists, their use of colour and mood. He said that he didn’t really think a great deal about colour when he is using it at the time in terms of mood but that he does notice the difference afterwards; that the bright colours are cheery and can lift you, even if you don’t realise it at the time. He did also point out that the creative process itself does this too as the sense of achievement and pleasure derived from finishing a piece that you are happy with is great.
I mentioned earlier that Andy Baxter is not only an artist who paints and sculpts but an architect too. He has been working as an architect in the Dundee area since 1979 and went on to be part of Nicoll Russell Studios, who are based in Broughty Ferry. He was instrumental in the designing of the Rep Theatre in Dundee, which still stands out today. Incidentally I still have a badge somewhere with the words ‘I bought a brick for the Rep’, that I got as a child. They must have been fundraising for the building at the time.
It was great hearing about all the projects that Andy has been involved in over the years, especially as I know most of them as they are local. The projects include The Mercantile Bar, Dundee (when it was first designed), Cafe American (which used to be in Union Street, Dundee), Club One in Forfar, SPACE dance studios in Dundee, the dance school in the Rep, Clarks on Lindsay Street, Dundee, The Foundry in Perth, The wonderful Byre Theatre in St Andrews and Morrisons Gold Beer Co in Strirling. He was also heavily involved in the re-design of Fat Sams and Fat Sams LIVE, which led us on to chat about his VIP area design, the white floor that he wanted to look like carpet, the lighting, the balcony viewing area and then onto bands and gigs. We went slightly off-piste talking about music and gigs but in all reality it wasn’t really too much off the rails as music plays a big role in his creativity too. His last gig incidentally was Broken Teacher, a collaboration between noise punk trio, Ultimate Thrush and Glasgow’s all analogue house duo, Silk Cut. who played last year at the Botanical Gardens.
Andy told me all about a previous project down in Leicester Square, London. He designed a massive screen that was about six stories high by about three wide and named it the GMI (Global Multimedia Interface). It sounded incredible as work by digital artists would be displayed on it and headphones that were given out to people so that they could listen to the accompanying soundtrack compiled by Capitol FM). Genius. Apparently Chris Evans used to link in with this when he was doing his TV show TFI Friday (great show if you’ve not seen it). How cool is that!
One of his latest projects is his involvement with the Kelpies in Falkirk. He has been highly involved with the designing of the visitor centre there and the opening night sounded incredible. There were pyrotechnics by Form Z, there were figures walking about in the dark covered in tiny led bulbs and little creative flourishes everywhere, right down to little inspirational words written all the way along the path.
Andy was also a tutor in interior design some years ago, which he told me he really enjoyed. He said that he felt that it allowed the creative process to be much freer as his students were encouraged to think outside the box with their work. A lot of interesting concepts came from these times by sounds of things!
Outside of his painting, sculpture and architecture Andy told me that as well as enjoying going to concerts he likes being outdoors and travelling about. He likes to see new things, take photos and go on city breaks. He also enjoys being around his family.
We sit chatting away about creativity, inspiration and what makes him tick as an artist when I remember that I haven’t asked him the three questions!! These are not my three questions but the three questions that Irving has been asking everyone. These are three very short questions but boy do they stop you in your tracks and make you think! He asked me if I could include them in the interviews with people, so here we are.
Question One: What is creativity? Question Two: How do you use it? Question Three: Describe it in three words.
I asked Andy and he laughed. He had already, like myself, been asked these tricky little questions last time he had been in the Freedom salon and thankfully (thought it was just me) they had stopped him in his tracks too.
Here are his answers:
Creativity is making something from nothing, like starting with a blank sheet of paper. It is also about getting pleasure from creating something.
Creativity is used in everything you do, from how you dress to your day to day work.
The three words that Andy would use to describe creativity are: Whatever that word is that means both happiness and content, satisfaction and imagination.
I enjoyed getting the chance to sit down with Andy and talk to him about his art and him as an artist (even though he still claims not to be one!). He really came across as thoroughly enjoying the creative journeys that his work has taken him down, and certainly has the stories to match! What an interesting and inspiring afternoon it has been.
P.s. DID YOU KNOW?
That Andy designed the original Freedom logo for Irving? Well now you do!
This is it. There is a whole story about the ideas behind this logo too that you must ask Irving about next time you are in the salon getting your hair cut. There was a lot of thought put into it.
As with everything connected with Irving and Freedom Hair Experience, things are kept fresh and ever evolving. He recently asked me to take this original design and re-imagine it. We had a lot of chat about it, it’s origins, that it should have a sketched, rawer feel to it and finally went through a whole heap of drawings I did for him. Finally we decided to go with the first idea (always the way isn’t it) and make the logo much freer looking.
It was quite a challenge for me to re-design work already done by Andy, as my comfort zone is generally to work from scratch. However, I feel now that it has been a collaboration of sorts between three people, Irving’s ideas teamed with the drawings done by Andy and myself, which is really great and I am really delighted to have been asked to do it.
Here it is.. I hope Andy likes it too!