Being Grateful Making Art
Feb 01, 2017 08:56PM
● By Dale Bruder
Queen of Hearts by Chris Andrews
Chris Andrews imagines the mythology of the southwest, the native inhabitants, immigrants and landscape on walls, canvas and signage. Mother Nature, re-imagined by Andrews as a kvinne in a flowery landscape, graces the walls of Roses and More at a busy intersection. Jurassic skeletons rendered by Andrews grace the 30-foot-high walls of the dinosaur museum on North Main Street. Both were commissioned to magnify the presence of their establishments.
An immigrant from the rust belt, Andrews was immediately drawn to the vibrancy of the southwest sunlight. His take on Indian mythology—life and spirituality are one, all is connected and respected—drew him to the region, setting him on a journey to express the energy in his art.
“Many of my paintings bring the personalities of the early southwest to the present. I was researching cowgirls from the 1800s to the 1950s, coming upon incredible stories of women like Prairie Rose Henderson, who designed and wore her own outfits. Women wore wide-brimmed hats and voluminous jodhpurs then. During the research, Jackson Sundown, of the Nez Perce tribe, kept coming up,” Andrews recalls the serendipity. “I was immediately attracted to him as a painting subject.”
Jackson Sundown currently hangs at the Casa Bella Gallery. Andrews’ fine art paintings and airbrush canvases move around Tucson galleries with uncanny regularity. “I’m always looking for good places to show my work,” he says. Space Cowboy has appeared at Solar Culture and Raices Taller Galleries in recent months.
As feted as Andrews is, his art falls victim to the churn of progress. A 25-foot wall of lush tropical jungle disappears when a new owner takes over a restaurant, and a southwest version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night erased when a building is re-purposed. “It’s a shame—it’s heartbreaking,” the artist laments. “You can only wonder what they deemed worth keeping; both murals’ versatility enhances any use those spaces could be used for.”
Tenaciously persistent in his passions, Andrews steels his heart and continues producing eye shattering art. “I love what I do, like it to be enjoyed by others,” he says. A momentum drives his pragmatic philosophy. “I never know where my work will end up or who’s going to see it, what new opportunities will show up.”
Andrews learned his lesson many years ago when he was asked to illustrate some military jet images for a slide show. One day he walked into the print shop he uses to see his art enlarged to immense posters high on the walls. “It was more than what I was told it would be used for. I’m glad I did a good job,” Andrews smiles. “I learned you have to do your best work all the time. You never know where it’s going to end up.”
He developed an air brush technique in the early ‘70s. “It was an underutilized tool, used in animation studios and car decorating. I was using spray cans to bring out effects, masking the art to control the spray,” Andrews recalls. “There was no fine art instruction—I was forced to teach myself.” His touch with the tool brings out three-dimensional qualities that make his paintings jump out of the canvas. “It took me years and years using the air brush every day until I could bring it from the background to the foreground.”
Andrews has put his artistic mark on every conceivable object. “A family commissioned me to paint their swimming pool walls—even added windows to their house to enjoy the art,” Andrews says. He describes how the project expanded, “It’s not unusual that I’m called back to add more art. Their son was in the Coast Guard and they asked me to expand the water theme with a mural on a wall behind the pool honoring his service.”
“I’m approached often when painting on a commercial wall,” Andrews shares a common artist experience. “They want a mural too, but their eyes are bigger than their budget.” Seldom turning down an opportunity, he negotiates size and detail. “My standards are to always give my best, even on a small budget. I’m grateful to be making art and that people enjoy it.”
Andrews looks into his future. “I’ve got a bunch of murals in the works, both private and business commissions. I’m planning a show of portraits of powerful women I know—women who are up against massive inner and outer forces to deal with.” Photography will be done, then rendering toward preparing about 15 paintings. “I’m calling the show ‘Bad Ass’ because these women are,” he says with a grin.
Connect with Chris Andrews at 520-325-5126 or [email protected].
Dale Bruder is a freelance writer interested in creative people, social and cultural movements and applications of ancient esoteric knowledge. Connect at 520-331-1956 or