Meet Andrew Wilson: Digital and Traditional Artist at Valve Corporation

In the spirit of giving back, and our desire to support local businesses and artists, we are doing an artist spotlight series. We will be showcasing a new artist each day for the next 31 days. Today’s artist is Andrew Wilson, a digital and traditional artist.

Andrew Wilson is an imaginary artist living in fictional city of Seattle, Washington. Both a digital and traditional artist, his works are character-focused, intensely retro, and loaded with references to cult movies, video games and pinup art.

By day Andrew works as an artist for Valve Corporation, where he is a credit to the team working on Team Fortress 2. By night, he arranges the most colorful pixels he can find into strange and interesting patterns until someone asks him to stop or he falls asleep. He spent most of the last decade working at Rockstar Games on the Midnight Club franchise and Red Dead Redemption, and maintains that RDR is one of best games in which you can ride a horse since Oregon Trail.

Question: How did you get into design, you smarmy bastard?
Andrew’s Answer: The same way everyone else does – one leg at a time.

Me, a designer? That sounds very formal, educated, and interesting. I’m a hobby artist. I like illustration and character paintings. I paint things that I like and very little else. You can’t pay me enough to work on a piece of art I don’t already have in my heart. I appreciate design and hope that I can get a good enough understanding to really go by that title.

I promote the things that I like to make the culture around them stronger. I like to think that nerd culture and these things that are rampantly promoted and popular now are because of me (and many like me) who are designing from their roots and paying tribute and homage to the things that we spent so much time enjoying.

I try to make my style unique enough to merit my time and a finish. If there’s any design to it, it’s come from the approach that I would like to offer a slightly different approach and a vocabulary of shapes and colors that may inspire others to paint what they like.

And I take very little seriously. You can’t make something look fun and twisted without being twisted and fun. Enjoy these pixels, and if you like them – hunt me down and say so to my face.

Question: Where are you from, where did you go to school?
Andrew’s Answer: I’ve learned the most about art from friends and colleagues. Wade Schin, Dan Norton, Alberton Ruiz, Ryan Benjamin, David Hong, Moby Francke. Those are guys I’ve worked with and some of them are my buddies. We’ve passed art back and forth for some time, and I can honestly say that my drive to create art would not have been as strong or deep without seeing pieces from these fellows in person.

Look up Alberto Ruiz for wacky and amazing anatomy. Moby is such a dope painter. David Hong is crazy good. You can learn so much from just looking at piece from those dudes.

Forums also helped a great deal. Going onto forums and aggressively posting was how I climbed my way from horrible pixel art to some decent paintings that I’m proud to share with peeps on the internet.

Question: What are your tools of the trade?
Andrew’s Answer: A mind and something with which to connect it to the universe.

There are so many options presently for creating art, it would be a mistake to pigeon hole yourself to any one of them – Wacom makes a damn good tablet though. Maybe if I say that loud enough they’ll sponsor me to use it. HEY WACOM, if you’re listening, I would love to try a Cintiq. If it’s awesome, I’ll never stop talking about it. Have your people call my people, k, thx.

Question: What websites do you go to for design inspiration?
Andrew’s Answer: You guys are very nicely designed. CGHub, PolyCount, Facepunch, cool spots for digital art. Reddit can surprise you (in amazing and horrible ways).

Websites are A-OK, but inspiration can come from so many other places. I get out to the city (Seattle) quite often. There are amazing shows here at galleries like the Frye, Roq La Rue (for amazing pop art), and the LTD gallery. I also love visiting Gallery 1988 in LA (or NYC when they do their C4C show) when I can but it’s a bit of a walk to go to So. Cal from North North America you know.

Galleries are so much better than in real life than in browsers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to troll tumblr and instagram, but looking on your phone or even on a really nice monitor is NOTHING compared to seeing traditional art in real life. Even a good print of a digital piece is pretty cool to see in person with a much higher resolution than you’re looking at now.

Otherwise – music is huge for me. I love chiptunes. I also love old music – you know, like the stuff Moses and Jesus used to listen to – Bach and Beethoven and whatnot. Those dudes? Ace.

Question: What is your favorite movie, band, and artist?
Andrew’s Answer: My favorite movie – that’s hard to say, but I love 80s stuff. The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth. Those are hot. Brian Froud is sooo goood with those character designs. I love animations or cartoon or stuff with creatures. Secret of Nimh – anything Don Bluth. Dragons Layer, Space Ace, etc. – great blend of cartoons and nightmares with that Bluth.

Music? I like 8bit musicians. Smiletron, Fighter X. Magnetic Fields isn’t 8 bit but Stephin Merrit is a great musician. Cocorosie.

I own and love Junko Mizuno (her pieces, not her). I wish I could afford Glenn Bar pieces.

Question: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Andrew’s Answer: If I could travel anywhere it would be to the bottom of the sea with a good submersible.

One of my dreams is to travel the sea. Think of how Nemo had it (Capn. not fish) – he had a sweet ride and musical instruments to play under the sea. I can’t see how it would be better than that.

Seeing some crazy creatures and the palette down there might be really interesting. If not, the cold loneliness seems like a cool place to do a masterpiece and then surface to drop it on the public.

Question: When you’re not designing, what do you like to do?
Andrew’s Answer: I like to spend time with people. My girlfriend is amazing, and we always have fun wandering around the galaxy together.

People are the best in person. I find that even trolls I hate on the internet are really good to share conversation with in person. I tend to gravitate towards creatives, but my idea of a good time is spending face time (actual real life Facetime) with humans. Pick a gallery, a pub, a nice stretch of pier or what have you – and have a talk with somebody. It’s enriching and a good way to recharge.

Question: If you could meet anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

Andrew’s Answer: I want to meet Arnold and drink with him. That would be awesome. Drinking with Conan? YES. I would really love that. I’d love to arm wrestle him.

The guy who wrote the music for Zelda? – Koji Kondo. Maybe.

Question: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in design?
Andrew’s Answer: Spend time with good designers and listen to feedback. Art is best when explored with a community. Forums are a good place to share work – try to find a small budding community and work on what you’re passionate about. The larger sites you can get lost in the shuffle, so the smaller ones are better for good direct communication.

I like to tell people to ape their favorite artists to learn but not to steal or be shady about it. Use them as training wheels and go from there. Studying and learning about something in great depth is important – more than just Googling and staring at some pics, diving into palettes or shapes or compositions can be really important.

Also, keep a sense of humor. I think art is too enjoyable to be taken seriously and too important to be treated as a complete joke.