Interview by Jessie Petrylak
Karen O’s Garden, Amanda McElroy
Who is Amanda McElroy?
That’s a tough one. Sometimes I feel grounded, to where I feel I understand myself or am okay with myself. Experiencing those times are nice, though infrequent, unless it relates to art. Most of my life I’ve felt unsure, insecure about who I am, and about people and things around me. Having a lot of questions. Wanting to look different, be different, be seen/viewed differently..have a bolder, more sociable, outgoing personality. Be well-liked. That type of thinking plus either others and/or yourself telling you that you’re not these or good things, makes one experience anxiety; sinks in all this insecurity and makes you withdraw, become more introverted. Being in my head a lot helps me come up with a lot of ideas for drawings or animations I’ve already made or that I’m going to or would like to create. It’s not so good for the whole sociable, let’s interact with other people positively kind of thing. Social things are awkward experiences, think they always will be, as well as interesting. Being an observer you often forget to participate, so working on that a little.
Which mediums do you prefer?
I love colored pencil and liquid acrylics. I am also fond of oil paint, acrylics. I love how watercolor looks, I find it tricky to manage. Liquid acrylics are close to it so getting some practice in with that. I like the different mediums for different reasons; oil paints are forgiving and taking so long to dry that they give you lots of room to play, acrylics on the other hand dry so fast they allow you to work and progress your piece quickly…switching back and forth between different mediums keeps you from getting bored with doing one thing.
Who or what do you take inspiration from?
Growing up watching a lot of cartoons and sketch comedy are a huge influence in my art. Incorporating humor or silliness is something I like to do from watching shows like Looney Toons, Kids in the Hall. Reading Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I used to hold a cassette player up to the tv when I was younger, recording the sound from some of my favorite cartoons like Beetlejuice, Count Duckula..and not watch was going on on the screen. Then later play the tape and imagine in my head what it looked like from the soundtrack I recorded. That probably helped a lot with me being in my head and liking to daydream and think up things. A lot of artists inspire me..Dali for his surrealism, Tim Burton and Stephen Gammell for a darker influence, Lori Earley and the movie my boyfriend showed me “Waking Life,” for playing with proportions and distorting things. Gris Grimly for his incredible illustrations, and his work with ink and watercolor. Everyday life inspires me. People, nature inspire me. Happy things, upsetting things. It can come from anywhere.
Pa-NI!-Ni, Amanda McElroy
What is your first memory with art?
I’ve always loved art, wanting to create it. I remember my mom would color with my sister and I in our coloring books, and I remember how beautiful it looked how my mom colored..in the lines, a nice even layer of color. I don’t know if she remembers or if I told her that. I’m not good with remembering exact ages when I experienced things. I remember telling some kids in class in early elementary school that I had drawn I think some circus animals from a sheet of paper our teacher had given us probably to color..really I had traced them. Some of them believed me, some didn’t; but for some reason the ones who believed me, their reactions helped me want to learn how to actually draw. Maybe I felt that was my way to connect with people. Think it’s still true now. I also remember getting how-to-draw books of different topics, usually animals I think, and skip past all the steps of drawing circles and ovals and squares and just looking at the final drawing, then drawing straight from looking at that. Then later started drawing my favorite cartoon characters from looking at pictures of them. Drawing from a Nutcracker book, all the mice and rats and rat king. Always loved stories and illustrations.
What is your go-to art making song?
I used to paint to different cds I had, like Florence and the Machine’s “Lungs,” The Pierces “13 Tales of Love and Revenge,” many others. Now I usually just start up Pandora to play while I work; love putting it on shuffle so I’ll hear a wide variety. Or Spotify if I want to hear a particular artist, some of my favorites being The Coathangers or just who I recently found Marian Hill…beautiful voice, fun sounds.
A Distorted Portrait of my Boyfriend Nick, Amanda McElroy
You’ve recently been transcending into different art forms, such as stuffed animal sculpture pieces. What is the relationship between that and drawing/painting, and what does this new art form offer you as an artist?
It offers me yet another medium to play around with, two if you count sewing fabric plus sometimes tie-dyeing fabric myself to get my own patterns and colors to sew. I hand sew because I haven’t yet been patient enough to learn how to use a sewing machine. So the process takes a lot longer time. I find it meditative almost though, going at a slower pace, being careful where you’re putting your stitches. It’s fun to draw a template and then make it come to life. Like making your drawings literally 3D. I saw a company online somewhere that was making stuffed animals from children’s drawings and I think that is amazing–must make them feel so special to have their drawing become something physical and huggable.
Burger Bunny, Amanda McElroy
What is your art making process?
I usually get some kind of sketch down first to figure out what I want to do. I always start a drawing or painting with graphite pencil first. For more complicated ideas I’ll brainstorm by writing notes of whatever comes to mind on the idea, then that can lead to developing the original idea further, or completely coming up with an idea I like even better that I may not have thought of without brainstorming. If I’m at work or wherever and think of something, I’ll usually write it on my hand on put it in a note on my phone to do later so I won’t forget the idea. Always gotta have music on when I draw or paint. TV I can’t do because I’ll get too distracted and end up watching it instead of making art..but I can play a movie I’ve seen a billion times like Eagle vs Shark or Spork or Dirty Girl in the background sometimes and still manage to create, only stopping to watch certain parts perhaps. Sometimes it’s hard to finish a piece in one sitting, so I often work on pieces for days or weeks off and on. It’s good to step back some and get a fresh look at the piece in a few hours or the next day or something; catch some mistakes, add to it, or decide to stop working certain areas.
Chicks Dig Beards, Amanda McElroy
Did you or are you currently enrolled in art school? Do you believe it is necessary to succeed in the art world?
I always took an art class every year in school because I loved it so much, although I drew at home or in free time already. I graduated from UNCC in 2002 with a Bachelor in Art, concentration in Illustration. I do not think you need to go to school for art to succeed in the art world. It also depends on how you measure success. To create interesting things, creative drawings or paintings or sculptures, like anything you have to first have an interest in it. A passion for it. That is what creates successful pieces of art I believe..especially if it touches someone or makes them feel something. When someone really respects what you do or thinks what you made is dope and says “here’s why…” , that’s amazing. Feels incredible to connect. Being not so sociable I feel has prevented me from getting out there with my art. I’m stepping out more now, and have been motivated by some awesome people who dig my art and encourage me to get it out there. So on a success level of selling pieces, I’m not the most knowledgeable on that. I sold a painting, “The Saddest Girl To Ever Hold A Martini,” recently in a group show at at gallery in Charlotte, NC called Art Twenty Two. Someone digging your art also keeps you going, knowing what you’re doing is meaning something to someone else. That’s pretty cool.
What color is your favorite to work with?
I’ve always loved yellow ochre. Yellow and shades of it have been a favorite color of mine since I was little. Liquid acrylics have beautiful, enticing colors to play with–some glittery looking, others bright, they flow so nicely..I love using those. No color is really off limits.
…But First, Let me Take a Selfie, Amanda McElroy
What are some of your favorite visual artists?
Lori Earley paints hauntingly beautiful pieces, female figures with elongated necks and proportions with incredible detail and gorgeous backgrounds. I love Gris Grimly’s style..his ink and watercolor, his detailed lines and dark humor. Tara MacPherson, Alex Pardee, a graffiti art duo from Germany called Herakut, Audrey Kawasaki are other favorites…so many more.
Blinkin! Fix your Boobs!, Amanda McElroy
How does your art reflect you? What do you hope it reflects to others?
My emotions–and I have a lot–are a main inspiration for drawing or painting ideas. My art reflects how I feel or have felt in different times or situations, I hope it reflects that so it will connect with others who may have felt that way. I take a lot of care into when I make a piece of art specifically for someone. And when it’s touched them or made them laugh, (I try to put my humor of what I think is funny into several pieces), that really feels good. It reflects my voice I believe, since I don’t speak as often as I think. Guess you have to have an outlet somewhere.
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you in the studio? What’s the best?
I guess the only thing thus far, knock on wood, that I’ve experienced as bad in the studio is when I or someone has accidentally spilled something on what I was working on, or me smearing paint by accident where I didn’t mean to. The best thing is when I’ve finished a piece, that always feels good, or making what Bob Ross called a “happy accident” and finding oh hey, I like what I did accidentally better right there..let’s go with that…
The Saddest Girl to Ever Hold a Martini, Amanda McElroy
How do you budget being an artist?
When I worked at Binders art store they gave us an amazing employee discount, so that helped a lot. Plus people, family or friends, giving you art supplies to use for birthdays or Christmas or just because, and also giving art materials to others feels good. Trying to use everything you have in the most efficient way. It would be nice I think to be able to support myself on just my art but as I’m new at marketing oneself and the whole getting out there and selling process, I have a full-time job for income and I make art in my free time, and that paycheck allows for me to buy new supplies when needed.
You Make Me Smile, Amanda McElroy
What are your plans for your future art and future self?
My plans for art are to keep getting out there, going to different meetup groups to paint and create with other artists, try and get my art into different galleries to be seen..I’m still working on all that. As far as my future self, I hope to progress positively as an artist and a person. Everyone has their unique challenges and dealing with oneself can sometimes be scary and hard and upsetting and uplifting and surprising and… a lot of things rolled up in there. Moving forward sounds like a good idea, which provides it’s own challenges as well but life is messy and finding your way through it as best as possible is I guess the only thing I can do or hope to accomplish to feel successful in that way. I like to think I’ll turn into this awesome person one day but I forget you have to make small and steady, consistent changes to turn into something or someone better. So as long as progress is being made and things are moving up, I think that sounds good and at least in the right direction. And to keep making as many ideas as I can think of come to life.
Jack White and Alison Mosshart of The Dead Weather, Amanda McElroy
Where can we follow you or purchase your art?
On Instagram: @in13pieces
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/artworkbyalm There’s also a “shop now” button on there that leads to my Etsy shop.
I have a Twitter that I think is @in13pieces as well..though I usually send tweets there through Instagram.
On Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/in13pieces
Etsy is where anyone can purchase my art directly, there’s my hand sewn stuffed animal bunnies in there now available to buy. I will change out the art I sell on there from time to time. Or if someone wants to purchase a particular piece that isn’t currently in my Etsy shop, they can always send me a message on my Facebook art page or personal page.