Contemporary artist Andy Wilx is a gifted illustrator, printmaker and storyteller. His work is characterised by intricate iridescent patterns and enchanting characterful animals. 

You’ve been described as a story teller – do you tell stories with your prints?

I hope so. I like my work to set a scene, introduces characters and suggest a narrative. I want the viewer to ask questions; why is this bear in a boat? Where has he come from, where is he going? What’s with the fish? I don’t have the answers, there’s no beginning, middle or end in my head. I leave that up to the viewer to create the narrative, that’s the fun of art.

Inspired by children’s literature, how do you think your prints speak to adults?

I think all good children’s illustration should speak to adults. Take Sir John Tenniel and his magical illustrations of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ or the inspiring work of Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. Their illustrations have maturity and the characters have personality that we can all identify with, there’s no dumbing down. I hope I can achieve that.

What interests you about the relationship between man and nature?

I enjoy putting animals into a human context, the juxtapose of a seagull in your living room or a bear sailing in a boat, but that’s not to anthropomorphise them. I also love the relationship children have with animals, there’s an initial wary respect but once that confidence barrier is broken there’s an instant honest and real friendship. I hope my work reflects a friendship like that.

Would you describe your work as environmentalist?

It’s obvious that we’re encroaching upon and devastating our planet and the homes of those who can’t speak-up for themselves. It’s not a conscious thing but I always consider the animal in my pictures to be the hero and the towering city skyline in the background to be the villain. So yes in a way I guess I do.

What’s your favourite animal?

The urban fox. They have all the attributes that inspire me. They thrive out of place, they have heaps of character and if, on an evening drive, you happen to see one dart across the road in front of you it’s like watching a single scene from another story. Where did he come from and where is he going?

What made you become an artist? The lack of creativity in my previous life as a graphic designer.

How did you get started? I’ve always illustrated but it was a short screen-printing course I was given as a 40th birthday present that inspired me to give up my job and become a fulltime artist. I simply fell in love with the process of printing and the results I achieved.

How do you approach the actual making of your work? I draw all my pictures by hand, sometimes using a pen, sometimes using a Wacom Tablet on my computer. Whichever it is they are all hand draw. The drawings are then transferred onto acetate, each colour being a separate page. That acetate is then exposed onto a silk screen using a photo emulsion to create the negative, one screen for each colour. All this is done in my basement and washed down in the garden. Then I apply each colour in turn. I only use water-based ink, which I mix myself using either silver, for cold colours, or gold, for warm colours, as a base. This gives all my work an iridescent effect.

What’s your medium? Screen Printing is my medium of choice at the moment, it suites my graphic style. But I plan to start producing some paintings next year.

What would you say are the main themes you pursue? I think there are two themes that come across, character and narrative. My bird prints are more character studies. The birds are set to wallpaper patterns suggesting they’re inside and not out where they should be, but it’s the character of that bird I’m interested in. On the other hand my bear prints set a scene and introduce a character then asks the viewer to conjure a narrative.

Black Diamond Bear By Andy Wilx

Black Diamond Bear By Andy Wilx

How do you choose your subjects? I don’t choose my subjects as much as I start to sketch and something comes out. More often than not I’ll draw something that wont make it to print because, as an ex graphic designer I can’t help but consider the marketable value of an image, I have to make a living, but I’ll always finish the drawing.

Where do you find inspiration? Really I’ve got no idea.

Which of your works are you most proud of? On my studio wall I have a drawing of a Dalek that I did when I was six years old. That’s the one I show people when they visit. It’s quite good.

Do you care whether people like your work? I understand that everyone has different taste so no not really. What’s more important is to create work that people don’t ignore. There’s nothing worse than someone walking past your work and not even registering it’s there. I don’t mind if they don’t like it as long as they’ve stopped and considered it. Anyway, when someone really like’s your work that’s worth a hundred that don’t.

What memorable responses have you had to your work? Recently I’ve been delivering my large framed prints to people’s houses and it’s amazing when you realise that it’s going to take pride-of-place in someone’s front room or in their kitchen.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? Spend as much time as you can with other artists. It’s so important to share ideas and keep learning from others.

What have you sacrificed for your art? I’ve given up nothing of value. The new iPhone maybe. It’s all thanks to the unwavering support of my wife, Julia, that I’m able to do this. Maybe she’s better placed to answer that question.

Do you suffer for your art? I cut the top of my finger off the other day trimming paper. It hurt.

Is there an art form you don’t relate to? I don’t get those clusters of little clay figures you see in crafty galleries. They remind me of the 1932 Tod Browning film ‘Freaks’. Do people really put them in their homes? That said I loved Antony Gormley’s ‘Field’.

A Fox And A Bird By Andy Wilx

A Fox And A Bird By Andy Wilx

Which artists do you most admire? Stanley Donwood, Damien Hirst, Tara McPherson, Ray Caesar to name only four.

What work of art would you most like to own? I was going to buy a print by Ray Caesar called ‘Golden Words’ but didn’t and I hear Damien Hirst bought it. So I think I’m going to sneak into his gallery and steal it.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing? If I weren’t an artist I would be set up in a tent somewhere in Africa or Antarctica or on a boat in an ocean or deep beneath it, wherever I was I would be studying some kind of animal.

Describe an average day in the life of Andy Wilx... Kids, drawing, printing and wine in no particular order.

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