Andrew Lewis is an internationally renowned graphic artist who fuses typography, illustration and design to create posters. His work has represented Canada in numerous international biennials in Europe, Latin America, Asia and at home in North America. Having garnered some of the highest awards in design, Lewis imparts his knowledge to students worldwide, educating them to give voice to ideas via the art form of the poster.
Hello Andrew. Welcome to my “home” of creativity. Please, introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello Maria, thank you for this interview and opportunity to share my work with you and your readers. I am an art director/graphic artist based in Victoria, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. My work is diverse from creating branding to packaging to illustrations to designing posters, which I have developed some reputation for. I work out of a 1912 Arts & Crafts style house along with my trusted sidekick “Winnie” the weiner dog!
How did you get started as a designer? What first draw your interest in visual art and design?
I always drew when I was very young, all the time drawing, drawing, drawing! I hated colouring books that you had to work with someone elses artwork. While in the first art school, by chance I was given a tour of the local newspaper and found myself talking with the art director. The following week he offered me a part time job doing small editorial illustrations and designing the fashion spreads. I saved every penny and one day bought a ticket to London England where I had family. I ended up heading to Paris and staying a while to see the galleries and soak up the culture. I was 17 years old at the time and it really opened my eyes to see all this exciting art in person instead of in an art history class falling asleep!
Someone told me that I must find my style. Do you think you have a particular style and if yes, how did you find it? Has that changed since you started?
Who told you that? I am still trying to discover who I am as a designer, a person or someone that has the opportunity to provide visual solutions to client queries. I admire Picasso in that he was always searching for new ways to communicate his ideas and feelings. I have gone through numerous phases with my illustrations, such as pastels, watercolours, scratchboard, digital etc though I never stick with one style. It boggles my mind to see a designer or illustrator that has had the same style and same kind of visual presentation for years and years. It must be great to wake up and never have to reinvent oneself, just do the same thing over and over. Not! That is simply laziness at its best, and not how I work.
Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
This is the best question I have ever had, thank you! Being in a slump can last a day, a week, a month or even a year or two. I have been there many times and the worst is the fact you are really never aware that you are in a slump until you ARE in a slump! In the last 2 years I discovered I was in a slump and realized it early this past spring and decided to make some serious changes. This revelation came while I was away in France after visiting many friends whom I admire very much. I realized I was not working at my highest capacity and relying on old tricks. Also, my roster of clients were not fulfilling me as a designer or artist, they were for the most part choking the life out of my creativity. So, over the summer I politely thanked 80% of my clients and ended our professional relationships. I retained 20% that I enjoyed working for and that respected my work. I began to draw again, rethink how I worked and started to create new works in very different styles. That brought new opportunities and new clients and I am happy to say it was the best thing for me this year.
What’s some interesting feedback you’ve received? Did it made you see your own work from another angle?
I donated a poster to a charity event recently that was raising money for a 6 year old girl that has brain cancer. The poster sold but one of the family members contacted me to buy more posters to share with her family. It seems, this poster really appealed to this little girl. The day this very nice lady arrived to my studio to pick up the poster prints she burst into tears thanking me for this design and to say how much it meant to the family. I was shocked that something I designed had such a profound effect on so many people. It was very emotional, which I am never that way with my work.
Recently you received a gold award and made all of us proud. Would you like to share your experience?
I did not go to Mexico for the Biennial last year due to a project in Vancouver and wouldn’t you know it, I was awarded the Gold Medal for a commercial poster. That night, my iPhone was going off with messages, photos etc from the awards presentation, and I was home to quietly celebrate this rare award. By chance, the Ambassador of Mexico ended up presenting me this award at the British Columbia Parliament Buildings in such an official ceremony. It was a very powerful experience and one I will always remember.
Your poster work is really truly amazing. How did you get into the poster? What is your first experience in poster design?
You are very kind to say that, thank you. While in Paris when I was 17, I wandered into a vintage poster shop that sold all the best posters from Jules Cheret, to Leonetto Cappiello. As you know, may of these posters are huge and so powerful to see in person. It was like that moment when beams of light shown down, with a chorus of Godly cherubs with trumpets and doves and angels and rainbows appeared to say that posters were in my future! Really! My first poster was for a contest to promote multiculturalism in Canada, I think I was about 12 years old. Anyhow, it was selected and was printed and I think that was when it began really.
Do you consider poster design as Art? What would you say to those who don’t believe that?
Posters ARE art. Those whom don’t believe are simply ignorant people. Yes, there are thousands of very bad posters that are posted in the city streets every day. But, I am thinking of powerful posters that mark either a historic event, a period in time that represents social change or possibly a poster that advertises a product. Many of those posters will be seen over and over again for decades to come.
What do you express via poster design? Do you believe it can spark social change?
I simply try and distill the image and idea down to its core or fundamental essence. Social change is very difficult to track or quantify. I believe the poster indeed has been part of historical, political, and cultural change just look at the amazing posters for Iran’s Green Movement. Incredible!
In your opinion, what makes a good (poster) design?
Time. I try and design posters that avoid current graphic styles/trends and even software techniques. The poster should be viable still in 10 or 20 years otherwise it is just a fashionable and dated posting.
If you could hand one of your posters to any one in person, who would it be?
Another great question! To paraphrase my friend Francois Caspar, I would hand you the poster I haven’t designed yet.
Where would you like your work to lead you? Do you have any aspirations or plans for the future?
I am working on creating my own brand. Actually that sounds bad, may I say I am working toward marketing my work instead of selling my client’s products or services. I see new graphics, paintings, wearables, whatever to be sold under my name. In the new year we are launching www.andrewlewisposters.com that will just do that, begin to sell my artwork and posters.
Tell us about your “Little Elvis”.
My pal Phil, from art school days gave me a book of cut out Elvises for Christmas and said “do something interesting with them.” So I did when I was in Paris 2 years ago and began photographing Little Elvis at the Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre. Then he just came along to all my trips abroad, even recently in Peru and Bolivia. It is also a hell of a lot of fun and students love him. They call him “Elvicito” in Latin America!
What skill do you wish you possessed?
Wish I could sing. I play the drums, a little guitar and bass but my singing always sucked!
Which artist, living or dead, would you want to collaborate with?
Picasso, but he would be an asshole. Or maybe Lautrec, but I think we would be very bad boys and drink too much Absinthe and would never get any work done. I would love to have hung out with David Hockney in the early 1970s.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
Sleeping. I love sleeping. There is nothing better than drifting in and out of dreams in the morning hours. I have very intricate, detailed, colourful and strange dreams that I retain afterwards. I wonder where some come from and recognize how my brain had concocted and art directed many of the scenes.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Read. Suck up the news. Open your eyes to the world and to new ideas. Get off your smart phone in restaurants, listen to the person you are sitting across from. Stop talking about yourself, you are not that that interesting yet. Read some more. Start drawing, it is good for your brain (science proves this). Work harder than everyone around you. “No” does not belong in your vocabulary anymore. Just be nice and finally give back to people younger than your age.
Have you published any book? Where our readers can find more about your work?
I have a theory that books kill your professional career, so I have resisted the many offers to have a book on my work. But, here are 102 posters found on this online publication called “Poster!”
Thank you Andrew for the wonderful chat.
Thank you. Some brilliant questions you challenged me with for sure!
As a great epologue I would recommend you all to Check Out this latest Video from Andrew Lewis’s studio! Andrew worked with the coolest designer in Spain, his friend Argenis Ibáñez who is a video, genius rockstar!! Crank up the volume!
Andrew Lewis Design 2013 from Argenis Ibáñez on Vimeo.