Portrait of an Artist: Andrew Briggs
Hot flashes of pink splash through many of Andrew Briggs' pop-art paintings.
His style is pointedly loud, experimental, and impulsive, featuring pop culture stars, endangered animals, architecture, trees, bridges, and other “cool bits and pieces”.
“You just gotta throw in as much neon as possible,” he half-jokingly explains of his process. “I’m inspired by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. I take what they do and give it a twist.”
Briggs channels a refreshing optimism and carefree attitude that transfers into his art. While many artists begrudge the unique challenges of the Vancouver art market, Briggs is consistently seeking out opportunities and trying out new angles, whether they be related to the direction of his career or style of his works.
An afternoon well spent to Briggs involves digging through the Vancouver archives, seeking photos of now-dilapidated buildings or old neon street signs.
“I can spend hours and hours there,” he reflects. “Architecture is a big influence.”
Influential, too, is comic-book culture—Briggs' first painting was of Calvin and Hobbes, and his all-time favourite is a grand “Heath Ledger Joker” from the Batman series—as well as the causes he contributes to, including the World Wildlife Fund and the SharkFund. “I have a major fascination with sharks, bears and other local wildlife.”
Born to medical professionals in Vancouver, Briggs was the first in his immediate family to pursue a career in the arts, a career that's evolved in form but has generally included captivating canvases, Plexiglas, and silkscreening, often of distorted—yet familiar—images.
After high school, he worked in restaurants, and considered carpentry, but ultimately moved to Comox to join the first cohort of Emily Carr students on Vancouver Island. There, he experimented with diverse painting styles, techniques, and canvases (at first, he painted largely on such found objects as doors and couches).
His graduating project, a large Plexiglas work, led him towards similar creative work in the restaurant industry and a year after graduating, in 2009, he started a creative art company called AB Custom Designs.
While Briggs lives in Vancouver today, he recently completed a masters in Guelph in landscape architecture; during this time, he got a taste of the East Coast art market. To his surprise, in Toronto high school students would line up at his trade show booth to buy up all the small-scale original works he had available. On a trip south to New York, a gallery representative picked up his entire collection, and then proceeded to resell it at a record rate.
Vancouver's notoriously challenging art market hasn't brought Briggs down, and he's always appreciative of the feedback he's received from his West Coast peers—“the 'wows' and the 'I can't stop looking at this' are always amazing to hear.”