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Interpreting Old Masters with Acrylics

‘My paintings begin as a dialogue with an image from art history – a painting by an Old Master that may then be rearranged or used as a starting point from which to playfully but reverently deviate.’ Iain Andrews 
 
   
   The Temptation of St Anthony by Iain Andrews
(After Flaubert)
 - acrylic on canvas
Iain Andrews is a professional painter who has enjoyed recent success with a nomination for the Northern Art Prize 2013 and winning the Marmite Painting Prize in 2011. In the ten years since leaving art school, Iain has gathered accolades, featured in the art press and exhibits frequently. With a style that is original and instantly recognisable, Iain Andrews’ paintings are steeped in art history, tradition and mythology. Traditionally an oil painter, Andrews now chooses Winsor & Newton Artists’ Acrylic as his medium and this change has given a new perspective to his work and to his painting practice.
 
Iain’s art studies began with a BA in Fine Art followed by an MA in Painting at Aberystwyth School of Art, University College of Wales. He went on to complete Post Graduate Diploma in Art Psychotherapy at Sheffield University. After achieving success as a winner or finalist in various UK art prizes Andrews was also selected by Saatchi as one of 12 emerging artists featured in BBC 2's 'School of Saatchi' series in 2010. 

Iain’s paintings are not based on direct observation of the outside world but rather on pre-existing paintings and texts, an example would be The temptation of St Anthony (after Flaubert). Iain recognises there is a potential problem of the painting becoming diluted or too far removed from its source. Iain’s themes are also based on Faery Tales with narratives of transformation, oral greed, deprivation and Eucatastrophe.

   
 The Patterns of Faerie Tales by Iain Andrews
 (Ink on card)
 
Oil colour was an ideal medium for Iain’s vivid paintings but more recently he decided to base his studio in the same place as his family’s living area and for practical reasons he began to paint with acrylic. 

“In my experience, once you impose constrictions and boundaries, whether wilfully or reluctantly, your practice has to adapt and change in order to negotiate these limitations. The decision to move to acrylic, whilst not something that I would have considered before, forced me to find new ways of working. Painting with acrylics introduced a spontaneity and urgency to the images. As I was able to work much faster and overpaint areas within days rather than waiting weeks for paint to dry.
 
The usefulness of acrylic here is that I can mix it up quite thickly, a bit like whipped cream, with lots of Winsor & Newton glazing and texture mediums, making it pool and produce raised areas and thick impasto streaks. Once the paint has dried, usually within 3 or 4 days, I work over these with washes.
 
People will often confuse my paintings for oils, since I use a lot of varnish over the top of the paint and I'm happy with this confusion and often try to exploit it. The benefits of Artists’ Acrylic Colour are the intensity of the colour which is important as I don’t want the colour to dilute when I mix it with various mediums. The range also carries a wide spectrum of colours that helpfully don't shift once they are dry. 
 
   
   St Soutine by Iain Andrews (acrylic on canvas)
Working with acrylics has offered me another novelty, from time to time, I have found that it’s possible to peel off layers of the paint once it is dry from the surface of my palette and sometimes these are like unexpected gifts that can be used somewhere in the images.”
 
When painting, Iain does not work with a specific colour palette as he tries to disrupt habits whenever he notices them forming. Any palette used becomes specific to each painting but he is frequently drawn to Potter’s Pink and Cerulean Blue, often using it for the sky - 'its a bit softer than phthalocyanine, and I often use it as the base and then put a wash over it.' His work requires the use of many acrylic mediums including Glazing Medium, Flow ImproverSlow Drying Medium and varnishes

Iain’s brush choice is equally varied, ranging from calligraphy brushes, sign painters brushes to house painting brushes, rollers and palette knives. Another technique includes sanding down areas of paint to get a smooth surface, something that acrylic lends itself to well due to the quicker drying time. 

Aside from his painting practice Iain also works as an Art Psychotherapist with adolescents with a range of problems such as eating disorders and self-harm; this has an unanticipated influence on his style. He sees his work as a psychotherapist rather in the way that a landscape painter might take a walk in the hills, there is a reality about the day to day experience of this work that cannot be attained second hand and this hopefully makes its way onto the canvas and gives his work a believability. Iain has focused on making the work the best that it can be and to this end meets for tutorials on a regular basis with established artists whose work he admires.

   
 Tiepolo's Stepmother by Iain Andrews (acrylic on 
canvas)
 
He describes his work best himself - “My paintings begin as a dialogue with an image from art history – a painting by an Old Master that may then be rearranged or used as a starting point from which to playfully but reverently deviate. My recent work is concerned with the struggle to capture the relationship between the spiritual and the sensual, apparent opposites that are expressed through the conflict of high narrative themes and sensuous painterly marks.” 

“It is vital that pictures are not sedatives, but are capable of evoking sensation and awakening feelings. I hope to frustrate the process of recognition through treading a path that plays between the borders of figuration and abstraction, and thus slow down the viewer by creating a space for sensation to emerge. I want my works to be sensuously addictive, worldly and material, yet also to have a sense of contemplative silence akin to a religious icon.”
 
Iain is currently developing a drawing project, similar to the piece that he showed in the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2011 that involves the viewer being able to move areas of the drawing around. He’s also developing smaller paintings based on imaginary museum exhibits. Future projects include shows at the Atkinson Gallery and Man & Eve in 2013. Iain will also be a judge on the the Marmite Painting Prize panel.