“There are places where I’ve done as many as two dozen different versions of roughly the same location,” Newman says. “Size, palette, shape, may all vary. I mess around and I find that very exciting.”
Andy Newman sat down with Kelsey to chat over zoom about his art, his life, and his exhibition: “Within Villages of Stone.” The conversation meandered the same way one might walk through the streets of his paintings: stopping to dwell on an interesting subject and exploring little side alleys of tangents.
When asked how he got his start in painting, Newman started back in his childhood. As a child, he tried watercolor, but grew frustrated with his inability to control the medium the way he wanted to, so he shifted his creative energy into making models. It wasn’t until he was an adult that he seriously picked up a brush again. While working as a lawyer in Washington D.C., he was bemoaning the long, never-ending hours to a coworker, who declared that he needed a hobby. She gave him a set of oil paints (his first), so he took them home and tried them out that weekend.
The first painting wasn’t perfect, of course. He had never used oils before, and he painted on what he already had: watercolor paper. He also didn’t know about gesso, the ground one lays down to keep the paints from soaking into the canvas, paper, or board, so his first oil painting still looked a bit like a watercolor. It was a painting of a corner store in Russell, Kansas (which, fun fact, is the birthplace and hometown of Bob Dole, Newman notes). There is something of Edward Hopper’s style in the painting, Newman says, who was among his favorite artists at the time. Most of his early work is heavily influenced by Hopper. He still has the painting hanging in his studio, a nice reminder of where he started. Other early influences include Monet and van Gogh, which gave him an appreciation of different qualities of light and vivid color.
Once he started experimenting more with color, he found himself drawn to the Fauvists—a group of early 20th Century painters known for their bright, undiluted use of color. Art critics of the time compared the style to that of a wild beast, a “fauve.” Newman cites Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain and Henri Matisse as his favorite Fauvist painters. Between the tight draftsmanship of Hopper and the brilliant hues of the Fauves, Newman began finding his own style.
For some time, Newman says, he became interested in painting figures, for which his primary inspirations were Lucian Feud and Celia Paul, two painters of the human figure known for their haunting, slightly uncanny portraits. Upon having children, he gradually moved away from the painting of figures, too inundated with the human figure in his everyday life.
In his abstract work, he feels most inspired by Mark Rothko, a painter of color fields, and the abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler. Moreover, he found inspiration in one of Rothko’s philosophies, that anything worth painting is worth painting over and over and over again.
This brings us back to Andy Newman’s favorite and most inspiring place: the countryside around his rural home in southeastern France, near the city of Avignon. He originally started going to France in the early 70s with a friend whose parents had a home in the same area. He’s had his own home for nearly twenty years, and when his children were young, they spent the summers there. In the last few years, the area has captivated his imagination again.
Newman likes to return to the same location, trying to always stand in a slightly different place, even if the composition is “better” from another angle. He never wants to rest on his laurels and continues to challenge himself. “There are places where I’ve done as many as two dozen different versions of roughly the same location,” Newman says. “Size, palette, shape, may all vary. I mess around and I find that very exciting.”
As for the best piece of advice he’s been given? Andy cites a quote from Samual Beckett: “‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ And that is the advice I give myself; I can’t claim that pithy language, but Beckett says it all there.”
Within Villages of Stone will be on display through February 26, 2023 with an artist reception on January 20, 5-9pm. We’ll hope to see you there!
1/20/23 Edit: Andy Newman emailed us with a photo of his first painting in oils, which we absolutely had to share!