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Home FEATURES Andrew Schoultz Interview

Andrew Schoultz Interview

Written by Jesse Pollock   
Monday, 27 November 2006 04:13
SF based muralist and painter has been producing amazing work for years.

With his work covering walls on streets and alleyways around San Francisco, Andrew Schoultz has been painting murals for the past several years like it was going out of style. He painted so many in fact, that I was surprised to learn that some of my favorites were painted by him years ago. Andrew has also created art and painted murals all across the country and at times outside of the US. Sometimes working alone, sometimes collaborating with other heavy hitters of the mural and art world, his early work was written about in a SF Weekly piece by Sam Chennault that is well worth the read.

That is Andrew Schoultz part one. Part two involves the ever growing number of gallery shows that have included his work. His intricate lines and imagery have won him an audience all over the country, all of whom have written gushing reviews of his work. Hopefully you get the point... I'm more than pleased to bring Andrew Shoultz to Fecal Face for some questions about OCD, blood, and the 'mural art scene'. -Jesse Pollock

What do you do and where do you do it?

I make things. I make a lot of paintings and drawings, some sculptures and whatever else comes to mind. I have been super into mixed media on paper recently. I do it here In San Francisco, the greatest city in America. I also paint murals where ever I can, when I can.

Now that the rain has started again are you still loving San Francisco? Do you have any plans to move or are you going to stick around for a bit?

I have no plans to move. I am from Milwaukee originally, so this rain doesn't really faze me. I will take rain over freezing cold snow any day. San Francisco needs the rainy season to clean all the sidewalks, streets, and alleys. People who live here or have been here know exactly what I am talking about.

I keep talking about food in my interviews but I've gotten some really great restaurant tips so far. What's your favorite restaurant in the city?

When I can afford it, The Slanted Door at the ferry building is a divine treat. I love Hanabi on lower Haight Street, and El Toro Taqueria on Valencia. I actually like eating at home though too. My wife is an excellent cook and I am not too shabby myself.

The majority of your early work was with murals and street art. When that SF Weekly piece came out, they basically heralded you as the next big start of the "mural and street art scene". However, most of the work I have been seeing of yours recently has been in galleries. Would you still consider yourself as a street artist and muralist?

I don't know if I've ever classified or labeled myself a "street artist". I have done a ton of art on the streets, but I never really have found any separation in my work on the streets versus my work in the studio. I have been drawing since like age 3 which was long before any street art happened. I definitely still have a huge interest in doing work on the streets and will hopefully be getting to that soon.

Is there a point where you would take one over the other?

I don't know. I like them both. I like to do them both at the same time. That's when some serious development has happened in the past. Working on a mural all day and then drawing or painting at night. They both can kind of fuel each other. I would like to be doing a lot more murals these days, but it is very hard to find walls and even harder to find any funding. It's hard to find good walls for murals not just location wise, but it has to be an appropriate addition to that specific environment. Sometimes in the past I have been offered walls that just didn't seem like appropriate places for murals and I didn't do them. I try to approach painting murals in a pretty responsible manor. I am always concerned with who has to look at it everyday and making the mural work with the environment so as not to be intrusive.

I've read multiple articles describing you as essentially being drawn to making art in public spaces (i.e. murals and installations). Can you speak to that point? Is this something that you agree with?

I guess I would say I am not as drawn to making art in public places, as I am drawn to the general audience of the public. I like that audience. It is the most truly diverse audience that you can address with art in America today. Your audience could literally be anyone and I like that possibility. It also eliminates the element of preaching to the choir because it would be impossible to predict who that choir would be on a consistent basis. I think this is the fact that really changes the way you go about doing art in the public space versus in the gallery. Children are also an important audience to me and are often an audience that is almost non existent in the gallery world.

A lot of your work is pretty immense and sprawling at times. Do you enjoy working large as opposed to working smaller?

I do like to work very large, but I do also like to work very small as well. The large work is definitely the most fun stuff for me to do since it's always exciting to paint something huge. Large and small are two things that also work really well together for me. I am very much into different scale in terms of sizes of things in my work. It's fun to toy with many different scales in the same piece and especially on an immense level when doing large work. I love immense imagery right next to tiny delicate imagery and I think scale works almost the same as color in that respect. Color is essentially defined by what color is next to it and I think this also works with scale too. A tiny image appears even smaller next to large image.

The Boston Center for the Arts is such a great venue for both shows and artist studios (among other things). Very few cities have a facility like that, not to mention such a sprawling, multi-faceted one. I think it's really cool that you were able to do an installation there. How did that whole thing come about?

It came about pretty simple. My friend Caleb Neelon, who is an excellent writer, wrote a proposal for a show there because he was particularly psyched on the large space. The director of The BCA, Laura Donaldson, liked his proposal apparently and gave us the whole space pretty much to do what we wanted. This was definitely different from most of their past exhibitions. Laura was semi-familiar with our work but really put a lot of trust in us and gave us freedom. I really have to give it up for her on that because it's really awesome when curators and galleries have faith in the artists they are working with. Sometimes curators and galleries are very controlling and want to know every detail of what's going to happen. In my case - most of the time I don't even know, which can make it difficult. When I do installations and murals I like to keep the element of spontaneity alive, otherwise it can get boring and predictable. I hate formulas and I don't want to eliminate or ignore any good ideas that come along during the process. Of course I always have general ideas. We had some ideas for the Boston show, but pretty much went in there with no plan or maybe a 'half-plan' at best. We also had a lot of time to install. We installed for almost two weeks, going for 12 to 15 hours a day. A really great young artist named Brian Wilmont had his work in the project room and you should check him out if you get a chance. All and all I think the show turned out really good.

Elephants, towers, medieval imagery... How did you decide upon some of the re-occurring themes in your work?

A lot of the reoccurring themes have to do with the fact that I am drawn to story telling (In a non-definitive way). In stories, characters re-occur and build themselves. I like the idea of developing a character or image. Painting and drawing something over and over again seems like a very natural way to develop something. Undoubtedly, if you paint the same thing hundreds of times, it is naturally only going to get better and better and development can't help but happen. Repetition also stems from being involved in graffiti for the last half of my life. Writing the same word over and over, and slowly it changes, and finds a meaning. Some of the imagery I have been using as of late is sort influenced by a cross section between 15th century German map making, and Indian miniature painting from around that same time period. Most of the purpose behind these two art movements was for conquering new frontiers, telling stories of war, spirituality, belief systems, and also for the recording of history of those time periods. I am trying to form a parallel with this time period but sort of contemporize it, and address the same subjects that they were addressing but in a present day sense. There is something interesting about using this type of imagery that was based on older times of war and conflict, to talk about the present day mess that the US is in. This war is insane, and I can't help but vocalize this in my work. You know the saying "If you don't know history, it will repeat itself" (or something like that)? It sure seems like in history the pursuit of greed and power has been a re-occurring theme. The only thing that has really changed is technology and convenience.

It seems like traveling in your life has taken you to a lot of interesting locales.. Can you talk about making art in places like Indonesia? (In comparison to the US, I guess.)

I don't even know where to start with this one. I could go on and on for hours. I feel very fortunate to have gotten to go so many places to do art. For the most part it is always awesome to travel places with a purpose, versus being a tourist. People react a lot differently to you and I think there is a lot more acceptance and respect given up. Going to Indonesia and participating in the project 'Samasama/You're welcome' was a life changing experience. It definitely has had a profound effect on who I am today and the art I make, but it all seems like a big dream to me at this point. In 2003 myself and five other artists from San Francisco went to Jogjakarta, Indonesia for two months painting murals and working with an artist collective there called Apotik Komik. After we went there, we brought four of the artists from Apotik Komik here to San Francisco for two months to paint murals and have an exhibition. The Indonesian group had some similar aesthetic interests as compared to the American artists, but definitely approached things in a way different way. The thing you have to take into consideration when talking about public art in Indonesia, is that they have only had freedom of their public space since 1998, which was when the over throw of Suharto's regime happened. Before '98 it was very risky to be doing anything in the public space, let alone painting a wall. Apotik Komik was out there doing it even before '98 and for this they became quite famous across Indonesia. When we were there it was 2003, and quite honestly it still was a far step for most of Indonesian society to see walls being painted in the public spaces - let alone by a white person. So it was definitely an intense experience. It's crazy to have a lot of pre-conceived notions about places and then actually go there and see them first hand and realize how wrong your pre-conceptions were. It was an amazing project, and I still keep in contact with some of the friends I made over there. They are amazing people and I feel so lucky to have met them. There is actually a nice book about the project available through Intersection for the Arts for about twenty bucks.

Would you ever live anywhere else?

No I don't think I would have any interest in taking up permanent residence anywhere else although I am looking forward to potentially traveling to Sao Paulo, and Copenhagen in 2007. I wouldn't mind staying some places for a couple of months, but I love SF. I feel lucky to live here and even more fortunate to have met so many great San Francisco people.

What's the typical time frame for a piece (murals included)?

There is no real time frame for the pieces or murals that I do. They are done when they are done. Most of the time has to do with a deadline. I could literally go on forever with murals and installations, so sometimes having a deadline makes it be done. It's good sometimes to be forced to be done with something.

What kind of music do you listen to while you're working (if any)?

I listen to lots of NPR and BBC when I am working and generally listen to an eclectic mix of stuff. Recently, I have been listening to such bands as Neurosis, Funeral Diner, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, Kayo Dot, Ghosts and Vodka, Don Caballero, Angel Hair, and Mastodon to name a few. My favorite type of stuff definitely leans toward heavier angular stuff like metal, hardcore and a lot of Chicago bands from the mid 90's. We are lucky here in the Bay Area because there are such great local bands here. Some of the bands playing around SF currently that are just awesome and worth while to check out would have to be King City, Django Obscura, The Enablers, Gypsy, Monuments to Masses and Funeral Diner just to name a few. Django Obscura is so amazing. They play Django Reinhart compositions and the lead guitar player is mind blowing. Seriously one of the best guitar players I have ever seen. One of my favorite things to do is see live music. I used to be out at shows a lot more though in the past, although right now I have just been too busy.

Do you think music plays an important part in the creation of art (yours or general)? Can you play anything?

Music does play a very important role fore me in making my work. A lot of times I literally have theme songs for different pieces when I am making them. Generally most of the art I make is along a similar vibe to the music I am listening too at that time. I wish I could play an instrument. I tried to play the guitar for a brief stint, but it didn't really workout, but then again I didn't really fully commit to it. I have always had sort of a one track mind. I tend to dedicate everything to that one thing I am trying to do. Other things like skateboarding and art, have always seemed to take precedence over playing an instrument. I have a lot of respect for people who can play instruments and make music though.

When I look at one of your pieces, I feel my OCD start acting up and it makes me appreciate it on a whole different level. How does it feel to have OCD people everywhere become fans of yours?

Yeah I definitely qualify as an OCD person. It's funny because people who are OCD really can't help themselves. A couple years back I was trying to take a lot more of a minimal approach to my work, and it just didn't feel right to me. Now, I just recognize it as being a part of who I am and instead of trying to push it away, I choose to just embrace it and push it forward. It's funny though, I am very Obsessive compulsive about my work but when it comes to having a clean studio or stuff like that, it no longer really holds up. If other people who have those kind of tendencies are psyched on my work, then that's cool. I definitely look at and appreciate things from both sides of that fence.

For some reason when I look at a lot of your pieces, I see things that remind me of blood. I don't know if anything in those pieces is actually supposed to be blood, but I end up taking that from it more often than not. Is that just me or is that represented in the work?

Blood Huh? That's interesting. I think that's the first time I have heard that. In all honesty, I try to keep my work pretty open and non-definitive. There are specific things I am addressing and talking about for sure, but I would not eliminate the viewer's ability to draw other conclusions then what I am talking about or what I intended. I am not really that hung up on intent with art work. I think it becomes alienating to the viewer and in many cases, does not allow them to form their own opinions and conclusions. Right now I have been focusing more on trying to have a general feeling to a piece versus having a narrative. A lot of my work is addressing the subject of war, so seeing blood in my work is not actually far off at all.

A lot of your murals tend to be collaborations. Is that something at you enjoy? Does it make things more challenging?

Collaborations are fun. It's always fun painting with people. Some of the collaborations I have done have turned out great and some were disasters. My favorite ones were the ones that I did with Aaron Noble. I also really liked the installation that I did wit Chris Natrop last year at the Headlands Center for Arts. It really turned out great. I definitely don't enter into them as lightly anymore. It's a situation where you really have to trust the artist that you're working with. It's seems to me that a collaboration works best when each artist can be distinctly represented in the piece, without overbearing or competing. It should all work together to make a picture that is interesting.

Anyone or anything you are really excited about right now?

I am excited about my upcoming solo show at Taylor De Cordoba Gallery in LA that's opening on December 2nd and I'm feel really good about it. I am also excited about the upcoming release of my book that's due out toward the end of December. It will be available through Park Life on Clement Street. On a totally other note that doesn't have to do with art.. There is a series of shows and exhibitions coming up next year at Intersection for the Arts that will be focusing on the Industrial Prison complex. I was there last week, and it was really both exciting and inspiring to meet this lawyer named Charles Carbone. He is a prisoner rights activist who mostly works for prisoners serving life sentences or on death row. Basically he works for people and on a subject that has been easily swept under the rug by most of society. I was not totally uninformed about the industrial prison complex by any means, but hearing first hand about it in such detailed terms was really alarming and eye opening to say the least. It kind of made my stomach hurt. It is always so humbling to meet people like Charles, who are doing such selfless work in a community that very few are doing. Indeed many of these people are criminals who did horrible crimes, but that doesn't mean they should be denied basic human rights and treated like rats. Being an artist can easily become a very self involved activity. I think it's very important as an artist to be socially conscious and aware of what's going on in the world to some extent and try to participate in it on some level. It's very powerful to find ways to be active in the community with art, music or whatever it is that you do. It takes you out of the realm of yourself and challenges your comfort level with what is normal.

You can see more of Andrew's work at his website: www.andrewschoultz.com

Also check out Andrew's upcoming show at Taylor De Cordoba Gallery in LA on December 2nd and his new book set for release sometime soon.


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