After seven weeks in hotel accommodation, Andrew is glad to be back in the Library — to pop his stuff in a locker and ‘get rolling’.
Last year Andrew established a space for himself on one of the wide wooden tables in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room. He arrived each morning with a portfolio, drawing pads of various sizes and a pencil case filled with Uni-Ball fineliner pens. We watched as he began to mark the paper, patiently working thousands of layered dots into areas of shade. Over weeks, the pattern grew into an A2-size rendering of a high-end overnight bag. It looked solid enough to lift from the page.
Downstairs on Lower Ground 2, where the overhead light is strong and consistent, is where Andrew does his black pen work. There he can spread out and turn the larger paper without disturbing others. He might sit with an arts book from the Critics’ Picks collection and use it to help him find the language to define his art. Upstairs on the verandah, where spaces fill up early, he works on smaller colour works in the daylight. In the little confine that he’s set for himself, Andrew is aware of the books and people around him. ‘You’ve got to have that respect’, he says of working in the Library.
Andrew has always loved libraries. As a blond-haired kid, he travelled the east coast with his dad who worked on the roads, getting to know the libraries along the way — South West Rocks, Port Macquarie, all the way up to Cairns. He was always a big reader. Libraries were places where he could draw, too. He traced from the books in the school library, not to cheat as some people presumed, but to learn about line.
He drew his mum and dad’s faces, simple things, the kid next to him in class. He loved Albrecht Dürer. When the Star Wars and Alien movies came out in the late 70s, Andrew went from drawing natural things to tanks, spaceships, robots and submachine guns. It suited his meticulous approach, but gradually he realised that he no longer wanted to draw dreadful things and he lost interest in his laborious style. It wasn’t until 2013 that he resumed drawing.
Andrew describes himself as ‘living displaced’, for now. He talks of the importance of discipline in getting by. It’s a word he mentions a lot and it expresses itself in his drawing. His art has evolved from pencil work through a dense, Mexican style during which he began to focus on flowers and the way he could make them look three-dimensional. Then one day he saw a bus advertisement for activewear, which featured Australian photorealist artist CJ Hendry drawing large-scale flowers with a Uni-Ball pen. He knew he wanted to try something similar.
‘I knew it would be big and I knew it would be intense.’ Inspired by the store windows he passes, Andrew is practising and perfecting his layered dot style on a series of bags. He’s just finished 85 hours on a Chanel-inspired padded leather handbag and is already marking up the page for the next one. His aim is to make some money and gain some recognition.
Life is beautiful, just like the bags and the flowers, but ‘there is an unfathomable side to it too,’ he says. That’s what Andrew works to express in his art. ‘I draw this style because it’s hard, that’s why I dodged it for so long. I got lazy, always looking for a way out. But there’s no way out.’ He knows that art, like life, is a battle with self. ‘If you layer too much, it smudges. If you think too much, it gets heavy. I can draw myself into a hole, but I can draw myself out too.’ It’s work that takes practice and persistence.
The Library has a quiet and concentrated energy that has helped him make enormous leaps with his work. He’s pleased now for the longer hours, for ‘big hour days’ of drawing into the evening. ‘It’s part of me now. I’ve done ok to end up here with good health. It’s a good find.’
Mathilde de Hauteclocque
Library Assistant, Information & Access