Street artist, muralist, graphic artist David Andrews (AKA At What Cost) has had an amazing year.
About how he got into art ‘Honestly I don’t know! I was always shit at art in school, and as a result I hated it. My dad was into photography, so when I had the option to take it at GCSE I thought it would be something we could do together. I always considered myself quite good at it, but it ended up being the only subject I failed. I went on to study Media & Moving Image at college and took a module on Photoshop which started my interest in graphic design. From there it was a series of lucky breaks and chance meetings which gave me quite a varied career.’
About his street art work he continued ‘I stumbled across a live painting event in Manchester and I really enjoyed it but didn’t ever think I’d be the one painting on the walls. It lived in the back of my mind until I got involved with an arts organisation in Chester where I got along particularly well with a guy called Jay Raven who was just starting out doing stencils and we did a couple of things together.’
A real turning point came for him a year later ‘I had a stall at a fair just outside Blackpool with some, looking back, very amateur pieces, but I’d taken some prints along as well. There was a couple there who were interested in my prints, asking if I’d heard of particular artists. At that point I hadn’t, but it kind of opened my eyes to the fact that these artists weren’t on a pedestal and there was a proper street art community out there.’
Strongly influenced by nature he says he is ‘constantly painting birds, butterflies and octopuses. I think it’s also quite accessible to people who aren’t necessarily into street art, which is why I’ve done a couple of nature murals in hospitals. The nature infographic mural I did in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is maybe my favourite piece of work, it’s in the cardiac & ophthalmology clinic, so I had the chance to do a load of research and come up with some facts about animal hearts and eyes along with some supporting images. Because some of their patients are visually impaired, I also included some textured medium on some of the pieces so the children could feel the work.’
His screen printing is heavily influenced by Andy Warhol ‘I love how he combines photography with big blocks of bright colour, and how that a lot of street artists are now selling limited edition screen prints.’ Last year he curated a co-headline exhibition titled AEROSOL where he wanted to produce a series of screen prints but hit a real creative block. About that he says ‘Within the space of a week I went to see a Warhol exhibition at Tate Liverpool, met up with Robin Ross in Blackpool who got me inspired to draw and paint directly onto tracing paper to make my own screen printing positives, and had a suggestion from a friend to do an Amy Winehouse print. I decided to make a series of ’27 Club’ portraits in a street art style with spray painted details all in a bright CMYK colour scheme.’
It has been a hectic year for him with some pretty sizeable commissions. He painted two corridors in Oriel Chambers (the first prefabricated building in the world) based on its iconic windows, the infographic nature mural in Alder Hey, his first geometric abstraction mural painted on wooden boards in an office block with some really interesting architecture, and a temporary Beatles mural in the centre of Liverpool celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s – hectic indeed!
As well as the AEROSOL exhibition, he has also done some abstract pieces for Liverpool Art Fair where his work was also used for some of the promotional materials. He is currently working on ‘some Japanese inspired stuff for an exhibition later in the summer where I’ll be experimenting with laser cutting and Electroluminescent Wire.‘
About his street art he says ‘At the end of last year I got to paint some birds on a big doorway of the derelict Kidderminster Courts at a paint jam, and I pushed myself out of my usual style to paint Vanellope Von Schweetz for the ‘Battle of the Arcades’ theme at Tamworth Urban Arts festival. I also took part in Leicester’s Bring The Paint festival where I painted portraits of Axel and Murray, a couple of therapy owls doing some amazing work around mental health in my local area, creating some marketing material for them and raise awareness of their worthwhile cause.’
About what is important to him about his art he says ‘I might not be able to make the world a better place, but it’s important to me that I can make the world a prettier place! Fame is at the other end of that scale. I really like seeing and hearing other people’s reactions to my work because all the non-commissioned stuff such as what I paint at festivals is the kind of thing which is mainly for me, if other people like what I do then that’s awesome. I’ll be honest that I’m a bit of a sell-out painting murals for commercial and corporate clients, but I still manage to include a lot of my own ideas in that work and there are worse ways to keep a roof over our heads.’
I was curious about his creative processes and whether it the same or different across the different platforms he works in. ‘None of my work is art, it’s just design with some very good marketing! And that’s not self-deprecating to say… A majority of my stuff is based on photographs, but there’s a lot of method to the madness as opposed to just selecting a filter on the computer, printing the layers and cutting them out.
‘If I’m doing some birds, I’ll do a simple background shape, working out where I’ll include some in-stencil fades and shades to make them a bit more realistic, then I’ll do another 1 or 2 layers where I include all the details and scribble notes regarding what colours are on there. Sometimes I can have up to 12 different colours in one layer, so little annotations and a good reference image are vital.’
‘If I’m doing some of my abstract work I go out exploring with my camera taking pictures of buildings and interesting bits of architecture. I’ll come back and review the images, seeing if they work in a square frame etc. then split the photograph into the basic shapes and elements using a set of 30 predetermined colour schemes which are based on Wes Anderson films.’
Along with painting at Upfest he has a busy schedule for the rest of the year with teaching film-making to groups of teenagers on the National Citizen Service over the summer and painting a mural up two flights of a staircase before setting off to Amsterdam for a well deserved short break but also preparing a presentation which he is taking into schools about fitting graffiti and hip hop culture into different areas of the curriculum.
You can also see some of his work at Liverpool Art Fair which runs from 5th July – 10th September at Pier Head Village in Liverpool, and his lasercut neon works will be part of another exhibition running from 11th August – 23rd September at the dot-art gallery in Queen’s Avenue, Liverpool.
And so we get to Upfest. I asked him what he was looking forward to. He said ‘I still can’t believe I’m at the same event as Buff Monster so I’m going to take his artist edition of Montana Black to sign and TapeOver do some awesome work! I’ve only ever seen Fanakapan’s stuff on Instagram so I really want to see how he works his chrome balloon magic and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a MyDogSighs piece on a wall so that will be cool. I also want to have a beer with Goopmassta!‘ He adds ‘I’m really looking forward to meeting the other artists; whether that’s catching up with ones I already know, or meeting others for the first time. Hearing some nice comments about my work from the public would be lovely, but there’s going to be so much amazing work from everyone else.’
Though at the time of writing this he hadn’t fully decided what he will be doing but he said that it will definitely include some birds and probably some flowers. ‘I’ve done 2 brand new screen prints exclusively for Upfest which I sent down to the gallery yesterday! They’re pretty unique where I’ve spray painted the bird’s colouring using stencils, then screen printed a black halftone layer over the top to give the paint some depth and shape. There are two designs; one of a kingfisher, one of a bluejay which will be available from the art sales areas throughout the festival and on the website afterwards. I’m really pleased how they turned out.’
As such a busy artist I asked him what the best piece of advice he was given when starting out. ‘The best piece of advice I was given was to get commercial representation, which means I don’t have to do a lot of the business side of things and allows me to concentrate on producing work. That being said, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my girlfriend and my family who probably believe in me more than I believe in myself.’
Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017
During the day you can see him painting at North Street Green. He did ask me to say ‘If you’re reading this, please bring me some suncream because I’m a bit ginger and very forgetful!’
You can also see some of his screenprints at the REX pop-up shop in Cabot Circus.