Andreas Englund was featured on EK back in the fall of 2011 and as a Top 100 Artist. Englund is a guy with a good sense of humor and positive attitude, so it was an honest pleasure for Empty Kingdom to revisit him, this time for an intimate interview.
How do you come up with the situations in which to place your most featured character in?
I´ve always wanted to share my thoughts with others, either through conversation or visual media. That’s why working with communication, as an Art Director, became a natural choice for me at first. Therefore, picturing a situation in my head and then putting it into a two dimensional medium feels very natural for me. My key element is drama. I want to find situations, mostly in real life, where a small change makes a big difference. My brain always surges for new input and I’m always looking for new things that can inspire me, from movies, comic books, the Internet, commercials and of course from my own experience and in daily life. I guess it´s like anyone that comes up with ideas for a living, whether its an author or a music composer, you are always “on” and active, looking for new ideas.
Why have you chosen to incorporate the logo of The Punisher on this character?
When I made my first superhero painting I thought a lot about what his costume would look like since it’s the trademark and holds a lot of that person’s personality.
I also wanted to tell his story in a past time when society in general was more traditional, therefore making his character stand out more, like some kind of a rock star (mentally).
This is what made me go for an old school/classic look. I also wanted to paint in colors similar to an old magazine from the 60s. I wanted to make him feel familiar, like you had seen him before, but on the other hand it was important that he was a unique character with his own back story. I chose to do a mix between Superman and the Phantom with his mask but without goggles to feel his expressions better by not covering his eyes. The suit is more cyan blue and his trunks more orange than red. When it finally came to the logo I had some problems at first. I could not tell his name so it was really important that the symbol could stand on its own. It was important that the character saw himself as, or rather wanted to show others what a cool “bad ass” character he was. The skull to me was the strongest symbol, saying ”I’m death to you and I don´t fear it!”. Also, everyone knows the impact it had on the pirate’s flag, to scare the shit out of people when they came on their ships. Punisher’s big skull logo looks really cool and I was inspired by it. Mine is smaller without a nose and have more ”teeth” but I guess most skull logos tend to look similar. Most people go ”Oh look! Superman!” when they see my paintings.
Why have you chosen to focus on this character so much? Can we expect to see him in your later, future works?
After ”Strawberry jam” – my first super hero painting, I felt I wanted to let people to get to know the man behind the mask and tell his story uncensored.
One part of it is about getting old, but it’s also about human flaws and weaknesses, and I need to see that in a character to believe in him, to care about him and to be interested in him. Being a super hero is also about trying to live up to everyone’s expectations which can be quite stressful and I think many can relate to that situation. His story is far from being fully told and there are a lot of motifs not painted that will give more answers to who the character behind the mask really is.
What are your inspirations behind some of your other pieces, such as “Crawling” and “Street Games?”
I´ve always been inspired by ancient sculpture, so my earlier work was a lot about figures and the human body. They were more about aesthetic expressions than storytelling and drama.
Crawling is one of those paintings, showing more of raw nature from an aesthetic point of view.
Street Games is one of my pieces that show my passion for classic American muscle cars. My dad took me to drag racing when I was a kid and he always rolled down the window when a V8 engine sopped next to us in traffic. In Sweden, back in the 70´s, only American cars had V8 engines. Since then, I´m just fascinated by the mix of power and beauty of these cars. It´s funny that many car companies today have had such big success by reviving these old designs from the late 60´s. They are like contemporary furniture designs that never die. By painting mothers and their daughters having fun with these cars I wanted to show that these cars affect everyone in a special way. I also wanted it to look cool and for me the only way to be cool is when you´re not trying to be cool, if you know what I mean. Everything else just looks stupid.
Could you describe your interest in racehorses and cars that are seen in some of your other works?
I love horses but the reason why I paint these fantastic creatures is because of where I come from in Sweden. I come from a region in Sweden called Dalecarlia or ”Dalarna” in Swedish. (That is from where I got my nickname ”Dala” and my site is called artofdala.) Anyway, Dalecarlia is known for Sweden’s most famous symbol – the Dalecarlia horse, which is a deep orange horse made of wood. The first horses where made 150 years ago by the people in Dalecarlia who earned their living by working in the forests with their strong horses.
The horse was very important and considered a family member. The small wooden horses where carved out from small pieces of wood and used as toys for the children to play with. Still today these horses are hand made in a small village in Dalecarlia and sold all over the world. The special flower pattern that the horses are painted with is called ”curbits”. I wanted to explore this old culture heritage and give it new life in a new context. Instead of painting the wooden horse, I gave the horse life and put it in a more dramatic situation. The dress that the man who rides the horse has on is an old national costume that people wore in the 19th century. Today some people still use that costume when celebrating Midsummer (the longest day in the year).
Why have you chosen oil paint as your main medium?
At first I used watercolor as a medium. Then my sister, who, back then studied art, showed me how to work with oil paint and I was stuck. I feel much more free with oil than when I´m working with watercolor and it gives me the freedom of painting bigger motifs. I also think it gives my superhero paintings an extra dimension when they are made in oil. There is an interesting drama that appears between the modern motif that normally would be seen in a comic book and how it appears on a canvas painted in oil.
How are you able to convey both an understated and over-the-top dramatic sense of humor into your works?
I try to find a situation that in itself is funny. I think there are funny moments happening all the time depending on how you look at them. A good example is black humor, where the characters are quite tragic and far from laughing, but very funny to watch. I look for situations that are recognizable and have a feel that they could actually happen. As long as you can identify yourself with the situation and the situation is funny, then you don´t have to exaggerate it, but rather tone it down I think. I try to get a ”snap shot”/documentary feel to it, like someone else was there and captured the moment with a camera, to make it look and feel believable.
What drew you to this humoristic philosophy on life?
You cannot choose what happens to you in life, but you can choose how to react to it. For me that is the key of being happy. It´s not something you can get for money or from someone else – It comes from within you. I have a wonderful life compared to most people living on this planet and I think it is my duty to make the most out of it. Of course bad things happen, but 99 out of 100 times it is small stuff that you can handle. I decided I didn´t want to experience a ”near death experience” to be positive about things in life. I thought I could learn that way of thinking if I just put my mind to it and so far I think it´s going pretty well.
What was a specific time in your life when seeing the humor in something kept you grounded?
I can´t really say that there has been a certain period when humor kept me on the right track. For me it’s more about trying to being humorous all the time, in my everyday life. Especially when you’re in a relationship, everything gets SO much easier if you can joke about it. Especially all those small but boring things that need to be done everyday… As you might have guessed I’m not very fond of people with a negative attitude or people who take themselves too seriously. They can really make me upset and they are sadly immune to humor…
Who are some of your favorite artists? Have they inspired you in any way that can be seen in your artwork?
I think a lot of my influences come from movies and photography and surely a lot from the advertising business. I like Helmot Newton and the attitude he captures. When it comes to other artists, I love Banksy for his idea driven art. Always with a comment or message to tell. Very communicative. I like Edward Hopper a lot and I think that can be seen in my paintings.
How do you feel about your development and growth as an artist?
Working with communication as an Art Director gave me the tools to understand and analyze what makes people connect. To share insights and thoughts, experience, and humor.
It gave me the tools from where I built my foundation as an artist and it is also what pushes me forward to new ideas and new projects. For me it has always been two careers living in symbiosis – being an Art Director and an artist – with the common theme of storytelling and communicating. I now feel confident as an artist to explore new ideas without losing my trademark. I will probably keep painting some concepts, but I do have some new ones that I want try out in a not too far future.
Where have you studied art and who have been some of your most influential teachers?
My dad was my first and only teacher. I got my talent from him and he got it from his father. My father is an architect and my grandfather was a carpenter. Both very creative and skilled with their hands. I have been paining all my life but I never thought I would become a painter. Therefore, I never studied art full time. I´ve taken some courses, but I feel I learned more by watching art from the old masters, reading a lot, and of course, painting a lot. My studies have mainly been focusing on how to create good ideas because for me, the idea is what drives me.