Jun 7, 2013

Visual Artist Interview: Connie Andrews


Connie Andrews creates beautiful oil and pastel paintings in her home studio in Central Illinois. I met Connie through my sister and have worked with her on the cover of a still-to-come therapy book. Along with being an incredible indie artist, she’s a lovely person. I’m honored to have her here at Elucidations.

LK: Hi Connie, let’s start with something fun. What is your favorite color and what is it that draws you, so to speak?

CA: My favorite color changes from time to time. I would have said dusty pink a few months ago. Why? It is a rich color, not too bright and garish yet not too child like pink either. It feels fancier to me somehow. But right now, I believe my favorite color would be a deep maroonish cherry red. It is still in the same color family as the dusty pink, just much deeper. I am also creating a wax sculpture now and the wax I am using is about the color I described.

LK: I always find it interesting how favorite colors change with age and life events. Speaking of changes, I have to ask, since you transitioned from auto upholstery to reporting to becoming a full time artist, how did you decide to take that leap away from a traditional paycheck to working for yourself?

CA: Let’s see, I owned my auto upholstery business and my reporter job was freelance, so actually I have been pretty much self employed all along. I have had some side jobs along the way to supplement my income as an artist, though.  One day, while cleaning and organizing another self employed friend’s house, I had a revelation. I realized that I was helping her further her career by doing her mundane, time consuming tasks that almost anyone could do. While I was making a little money, I was not doing anything to help my career thrive. I decided right then and there that I needed to do something different with my time to make ends meet.


LK: What are the benefits and drawbacks of being a self-employed artist? Are you finding it worthwhile?

CA: The benefits to being a self employed artist are many.  I am, for the most part, able to make my own schedule. If my muse decides to keep me up until 4am painting, then I am able to do that without having to worry about going through a 9-5 workday. Most of the time, I am available for my daughter. I am able to attend most of her school functions and  be with her on her summer vacation, winter and spring breaks, days off of school and after school.

I get quite a few commissions and for the most part, people hire me to create a piece of art for someone as a gift. I love meeting new people and being able to be part of their special occasions, in a background sort of way. 

Another huge benefit is that I am doing what I love, what I feel I was born to do. Paint, create, make feelings and ideas into 2 or 3 dimensional pieces of art that others can see or touch.

There are some drawbacks though. Lack of money can be one of them. Many people think that artists, being the caring people that they are,  should give their work away at auctions or volunteer their skills to help others. I feel like my skills are something I have worked hard at perfecting for many years. I know many mechanics, carpenters, and other professionals who are very skilled and wouldn't dream of asking them to perform their services for free. Why do people ask professional artists on a regular basis to "donate" their work or time?

The economy has also hit many artists. Art is, to many, a luxury, and therefore, sales are usually minimal when times are tough.

One of the other drawbacks is that when doing commission pieces, which so far is what has kept me going, I am trying to bring someone else’s ideas into being which sometimes can be difficult.  It is definitely a challenge to keep a balance between pleasing the customer and pleasing my own muse.

LK: I’m glad you mentioned the free expectations with art, since that’s also a big issue with writers. My thought is the same as yours. Artists work as hard as anyone at their craft. Why give it away free? I think it devalues what we do when we agree to that, but it can be tough to compete when so many do.
What reactions do you tend to get when someone asks what you do?

CA:  Most people are pretty curious when they hear that I am a full time visual artist. When my only studio was based in my home, I would get the reaction that conveyed they didn’t think I was a professional.  Being a resident artist at a studio outside my home seems to validate my reputation as a serious artist. 

There are so many people who say, “Wow, I can’t even draw a straight line without a ruler” to which I usually think “me neither.” I will probably always use rulers.

LK: I think I’d like to see the reaction when you say you can’t! It’s funny, and a little sad, that working at home gives that connotation, isn’t it?

Recently, you were called upon to to do courtroom sketches. Can you tell us about that?

CA: An artist friend contacted me because she had heard that a TV station out of Springfield  was looking for someone to be a sketch artist for the Christopher Harris trial. He was accused of killing 5 people in Beason, Illinois. It was a gruesome trial, but probably one of the most interesting jobs I have done yet. I absolutely loved the challenge of trying to capture the moment in the courtroom. I was there for the whole opening day with my pastels and paper. The day went by super fast. I was told by many people that they were surprised that the people I drew actually looked like the people in the courtroom. I thought that the whole idea was to capture a likeness and show what the scene inside the courtroom looked like. . I guess the reason it was such an exciting job was because it felt like there was a story unfolding before my eyes, and I was able to do one of  the things I love to do the most in this world, draw and paint.  I hope that I get hired to do more courtroom sketching.  I can picture myself doing that on a regular basis.

LK:  The painting on your website home page, My Father’s Hands, is so touching and evokes love and respect as well as telling a story. In fact, I love every piece in your Hands series. How did that come about?

CA: Thank you. This is one of my favorite pieces. It holds a spot very dear in my heart. “My Father’s Hands” is the painting that started my hand series. My father, who retired from the Marines after 24 years, had very strong hands that had been through two wars. Yet he was able to use those same hands to do the delicate work required for these tiny dollhouse furniture pieces. I took pictures of him working with these pieces one summer in early June. I am glad I didn’t put off taking the photos. We had no idea that in about a years time he would be gone. I finished this piece just in time. I was able to show him the finished painting the day he died.

LK: Now I love it even more. That’s just wonderful. And I could go on and on about the military and gentle hands, but I won’t do there here. So, what are your favorite activities outside art?

CA:  I absolutely love to sing. I was hired last year as the song leader at Union Church in Brimfield. They asked me to direct the choir at Christmas and I discovered that I love doing that as well. 

LK: Very nice! I see you’ve done other book covers as well. Is that something you’d like to do more?

CA: Yes, I would like to do more book covers. I enjoy working with the writers/publishers to design a cover that will help to sell the book. It is also very satisfying to see my artwork in print.

LK: (Hoping my indie writer friends will give that a thought!) To bring more of the arts into this, do you listen to music as you paint? If so, what genre(s)?

CA: When I am by myself or won’t disturb anyone, I listen to music that I can sing to: Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Bon Jovi, Faith Hill, Evanescence, Ray LaMontagne. If I am at my public studio, then I usually listen to music without words, like new age, instrumental or classical, so the temptation to sing at the top of my lungs is removed.


LK: I promised this would be short, so I’ll leave off with one last question. Are there other indie artists in any field you’d like to recommend?

CA: I have so many artist friends that I don’t want to leave any out. The building I have my studio in, Studios on Sheridan [in Peoria IL], has 12-15 artists.  There is one woman by the name of Jill Goforth, that you, as a publisher, might be interested in since she creates art from books, using the pages and sometimes the spine to form things other than books.

There is also a women by the name of Jessica Ball, that has a business that seems to be the new trend. It’s called the Art Garage. People can show up for an hour or two and for a minimal fee, create a work of art or craft item with her supplies and guidance.

My studio partner, Gloris Young, has been searching for her visual voice for awhile and has possibly found it now in what she calls Pop Art Pets, funky, wildly colored, yet with realistically portrayed eyes.

There is Rebecca Draland-Doyle who is a very dear old friend of mine. Rebecca is a very dedicated artist who paints beautiful abstract pieces.

The list goes on and on, Billie Howd, Myra Branch, Steve Boyd, all accomplished visual artists.

If you are interested in musicians, Winston Dunbar writes music and plays in a few bands in the area. He has written some wonderful pieces that deserve more recognition.

LK: Connie, thanks so much for your time. I know you have a website at ConnieAndrews.com. Are there other links you’d like to leave?

CA: My Facebook page has lately been the place I keep most up to date. It is www.facebook.com/connie.andrews.560

One last thing, if you go to my website, there is a tab where you can sign up for my newsletter. Thank you Loraine

LK: My pleasure! Thanks again for talking with us!