New Jersey artist Paul Andress delights and invokes a raw and captivating energy in his abstract paintings. The mysterious, haunting or cutely unique monsters, eyes and faces peer out and gleam into your soul with their colorful and chaotic presence.
In this chat Paul dishes out tidbits about his art, influences, history and about the metal and punk bands he’s been in.
When did you first get into painting/creating art?
It’s something I always did since I can remember. Most kids seem to draw, but a lot of people stop early in life.
Did you take any formal lessons?
The only formal training has been in Graphic Design for a brief time. Other than that I’m mainly self taught.
Who or what are some of your past and present inspirations and influences?
Well growing up it was mainly album covers, comic strips. I grew up very Catholic so a lot of that imagery was definitely influential. Punk and Metal flyers, zines, band demos were definitely an influence as a teenager. The more current years Street art has really influenced me, although I’m not a “street artist”, also movies and cinematography. Of course I also like the typical heavy hitters such as Philip Guston, Jackson Pollock, Basquiat, Marc Chagall.
What is your basic process in creating your art? How spontaneous are you exactly? Do you have a glimpse in your mind first, or do you just create on the spot?
It’s pretty much all spontaneous. I will sometimes have a certain color scheme or energy that I want to project, or loose ideas, but it’s rare that I sketch beforehand. That can change though, I should probably switch things up in the future.
Where do you see the monsters, creatures, faces in your art originating from?
They are hosts for expressing energy and feelings. I can start using flowers or landscapes and it would be similar.
What are some of the emotions you feel the creatures/monsters/faces share with us humans?
They share all of the same emotions…when they aren’t watching us.
What is happening in your mind when you create one of your paintings?
I really try to get as far out of the way as possible. If I think too much it looks stiff and contrived to me. I really want the art to have this organic, raw and alive feel to it. I like dirty art and I’m also attracted to it more than things that are too slick or perfectly drafted.
What median do you typically use?
I use mostly Acrylic as a base, and add other mediums like oil pastel, collage, charcoal, pens, markers, whatever is around or will be appropriate at the moment.
Have you seen a progression or change in your art over the years?
Yes I started off more illustrative, but now it’s much more abstract, dirtier, and loose. I still keep an illustrative element.
Does an artistic gene run in your family?
Yes, but I didn’t know until I was older that my father even drew. One day I found old Disney drawings he did that were perfect, and I also found out he was the art director for his high school yearbook. My mother can draw as well, and my cousin is a comic book Illustrator. But like I said, my parents never brought it up for some reason, but they were very supportive of me being creative.
Where have you exhibited your work?
Mostly around New Jersey, NYC area. Maxwell’s in Hoboken, LITM and AHP (art house productions in Jersey City, NJ) Toy Tokyo Gallery in NYC, Gallery U in Montclair, NJ.
What have been some of your favorite pieces and why?
That’s hard because I’m rarely satisfied with any of it, lol. I can give you a different answer Everytime.
Does your family have any favorites?
Yes, there is an old painting I did, hanging on the bedroom wall of a floating girl that’s kind of Tim Burton esq. It seems to be a permanent fixture in our house.
Being a musician also, does music fuel your work?
Yes because the two worlds intertwine, especially in underground music culture where bands are also creating their own artwork, etc. I pretty much approach painting the same way I write or play music.
Since the early 90s I played guitar and vox in a noise rock/ math rock/ band called Mothman which put out some singles on Troubleman Records and Rocket Science records, played the whole basement indie show scene and around NYC/NJ. That turned into The Nolan Gate and had a bit more of a metal edge to it. Over the years we played with tons of amazing bands like Unsane, Fu Manchu, Kylesa, Coheed and Cambria, Don Cabellero, Rye Coalition, Dhalia Seed (Darin from Dhalia Seed played drums for Mothman and the Nolan Gate). The band hasn’t been active in a few years though, but I just formed a new band with a few friends called PARIIAH. It’s a no frills raw sounding band kind of like a mix of Celtic frost, Venom and punk rock. That has members from Millhouse, Das Oath, Devoid of Faith, Change Order. We are hoping to release a rehearsal recording on cassette and also go in the recording studio when this pandemic allows us to.
When you’re painting do you listen to music? If so, what bands?
I don’t normally listen to music while I’m painting, which is strange. The last bands I remember listening to while painting are TORCHE and ENTOMBED.
Do you think your environment has an impact on the kind/style of art you make?
Growing up in Northern New Jersey has to have an impact. Maybe giving it a more abrasive quality? I’m not sure.
If you could showcase your art anywhere you wanted, where would be the ideal spot?
I don’t have a specific spot, but Montreal would be great. Also Berlin. Detroit seems to have a good energy going there.
Has COVID-19 affected your work/process/creating at all?
Well, it has definitely helped keep me occupied and sane. A friend just told me that my recent paintings have been more brutal looking, but the world is insane right now so it doesn’t surprise me. I have been working very small scale lately, which might reflect a natural focus to be practical in these times.
Any exciting plans/exhibits/projects coming up?
No shows at the moment, but I will be making new paintings, as well as some silk screen shirts to sell on Big Cartel or something. Possibly have an actual online gallery for selling artwork.