16 Andrea Kowch
"I know an idea is good when I can hardly contain myself over the thought of bringing it to life. There is no feeling quite like it. It’s like a higher power speaking through me in that moment. When an idea hits me in such a profound way, the elation I feel in that moment transcends time and space. It’s a flashing, fleeting moment, but the mark it leaves causing me to scramble about for a pencil and piece of paper so as to not lose any ounce of the “vision” is something utterly supernatural and even somewhat miraculous in its own right."
"Painting is my oxygen. Being in front of my easel is where I feel safe and complete, no matter what’s going on around me."
Andrea Kowch has been an extremely impressive emerging artist from Michigan, beginning her professional career at seventeen, winning seven Gold Keys and two Gold Medals from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and gaining gallery acceptance in both Washington DC and New York, where she's currently represented (RJD Gallery). At nineteen she won the National ARTS in the Visual Arts Award from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (now the National Young Arts Foundation). She won first place (twice) at the Art Kudos Int. Exhibition, first place in the Direct Art Magazine Int. competition, and the First Place Purchase Prize from the Northbrook Public Library Int. Exhibition. SCOPE in NY named her one of the top 100 emerging artists in the world. She has been featured in many books and magazines, including Spectrum (five times!), American Art Collector, Hi-Fructose, CMYK, and Southwest Art. She is also a professor, teaching figure drawing at the College of Creative Studies, where she graduated, summa cum laude.
Andrea Kowch grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She felt a calling to art from an early age. At seven she wanted to be able to make, "more than 100 beautiful pictures per minute!" Andrea spent her free time drawing and painting. Her favorite memories were weekend trips her family would take in the country, where she could, "escape into my little world." She says in this interview (Eclectix, 2015):
"I always loved picture books and drawing pictures as a child, telling visual stories fully set with figures, landscapes, and various other details. Every inch of the paper was filled and colored in completely, and executed with much careful thought.
"My friends would come over asking me to come out and play, and there I would be practicing my painting, learning, striving, and teaching myself how to be “as good as the masters”. I set very high standards and goals for myself from a very early age and held myself accountable to achieving them. My passion for being a great artist always came first in my life, and that passion especially took hold of me when I entered adolescence."
"In junior high school I started winning awards and was commissioned to do a portrait of the school’s namesake, Virgil I. Grissom, the US astronaut. At 13 years old, that was my first big endeavor, and as a result, I remember that painting taking over much of my life at the time. It was a very pivotal turning point in my young life and it really led me to figure out what it was I truly loved doing the most, and I took the experience very seriously.
"As I moved through my senior high school years, I continued to concentrate deeply on my art, winning multiple significant awards that kept fueling my motivation to keep working. . . . As it was then, so it still is now — I give my all to everything I do in life, and even more intensely now as an adult. It’s just my nature and who I am. I’m a perfectionist in all I do."
Andrea graduated from the College of Creative Studies through a scholarship, earning her BFA with a double major in painting illustration and art education.
'In the Distance'
Andrea presents mysteries, snapshots of stories that exist only in her head. Each dreamlike image stands on its own, but together form their own world - similar to ours, but filled with magic, fire, spirits, and danger. Andrea builds worlds with her art similar to how Stephen King does with his novels. The more of her work you witness, the more it all ties together. Andrea says in an interview with Deanna Selene (Combustus, no date):
"I loved fairy-tales as a girl, and still do. They were an escape into a romantic, mysterious, and magical world. The classic tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm were the first to charge my imagination as a child. I later discovered and fell in love with the art of Arthur Rackham and Howard Pyle, and Pyle’s written work, such as The Wonder Clock and Pepper and Salt.
"I’ve always been drawn to and intrigued by stories that are a bit twisted; the ones containing strange characters and a prevailing sense of impending danger. Perhaps that’s why my paintings often carry a similar feeling. There’s always an aspect of something unknown about to happen. The story is never fully revealed, it simply continues on, each painting serving as the next page or chapter."
Andrea talks about her art in this short interview with RJD Gallery (2013):
"There's a subtle tension that I like to create in my work that leaves things open to interpretation for viewers to attribute their own unique personal experiences to it. It's almost like characters on a stage. So, each image is a story that I just want people to delve into and explore.
"People have told me that my work contains this rare three dimensional effect, and in my compositions that's completely intentional. All the parts, I compose them carefully, so that people have that opportunity to pull up that chair to that table, sit down, and just feel everything that's going on, all the action, the wind, the air. They're all real scenes but I think where the magic actually lies in them is the dream-like quality that you get from the feeling."
Andrea mentions 'The Feast' [above] in Eclectix Magazine, "[It] was a major artistic milestone for me in particular because it marked a significant turning point in my work, my series, and my development and advancement as an artist. It was my first large-scale piece of its kind and the biggest undertaking for me on all levels at that point in my life."
'No Turning Back'
Andrea tells Eclectix Magazine, "My painting 'No Turning Back' (above, 2009) specifically symbolizes . . . where I was emotionally at the time, and will always remain one of my most personal pieces of all time. I’m always moving forward, and happiness is what I live by. But my art saved me and became more important to me than ever before during that time in my life, and it was the fierce passion that I pursued it with that carried and continues to carry me through anything. Painting is my oxygen. Being in front of my easel is where I feel safe and complete, no matter what’s going on around me."
Andrea talks about the people she paints (Eclectix, 2015):
"All of my models are people and dear friends that I know and include in my paintings on a consistent basis. My paintings began featuring one of my best childhood friends whom I’ve known since the age of 7 or 8. After a while, her younger sister began appearing in my work along with her, followed by others whom I’ve befriended later on. They are all wonderful people with very differing dispositions and personalities. They each carry a specific quality that is uniquely them, and oftentimes, that particular quality happens to be one that I also possess or resonate with on some hidden level — as if each one of them, in some way or another, is an extension of me — and that is a factor that draws me in and to them, and subsequently inspires me to include them in my scenes.
"At this point, I work with five different female models and one male, all dear friends at this point, and we always have the best, memorable, fun times dressing and acting out my ideas in the photo-shoots. When I come up with an idea, I pretty much immediately know who will be starring in the scene, based upon how he or she “fits” within it for me, both visually, emotionally, and so on. Physically, I am drawn to faces and figures, which, like their personalities, also trigger an emotional response within me. This happens very naturally, and strikes out of nowhere. My models possess a natural beauty and realness that starts from within and radiates out through their physical form — classical features that emanate a timelessness, which is very important in my work, as my subject matter overrides any specific time period. They are classic and modern at the same time, and are my beloved “cast” that I have the joy and privilege of knowing and working with. The fact that they will all live on and be known for generations through my paintings makes my heart smile, as they are all people who I care for and appreciate having in my life."
'In My Mind'
Andrea tells Selene about recurring motifs:
"Autumn is my favorite season. The scents in the air, changing landscapes, colors, mood of the sky, air of ominous foreshadowing… It’s when the earth begins to truly bare its soul. It’s when I can feel the bones, core, and essence of nature. There is also a cozy and mysterious quality that inspires me to turn inward and relish solitude and explore deeper feelings. The heavy, rolling clouds spark moods in me which translate into the work. A beautiful sense of melancholy and nostalgia permeates everything as the natural world prepares to surrender itself over to winter. All of those things are very poignant, and speak to my soul in many profound ways.
"Wind, to me, is always indicative of change. The windswept hair of the figures reveals the underlying currents of emotion changing and surging through their inner, psychological worlds, while their outer visage remains still and controlled. Movement and transformation are heavily implied by the presence of wind in my work. There is also a liberating quality to wind that I find freeing in many ways. It’s an elemental force of nature that can move things forward or spiral things out of control. I’ve had whirlwind experiences in my life of both the good and bad sort, so I view the power of wind as a spiritual force in many ways, as well. There’s no telling in which direction the wind will ultimately ever blow."
Andrea tells about her more recent projects (Eclectix, 2015):
"I am currently working on new paintings that continue to expand upon the themes already present in my work, documenting my own evolution and personal discoveries as a “student of life”. I continue to gain inspiration from life experiences and the world and people around me through my personal lens. My work is always an ongoing exploration of nature and the human condition.
"I am especially excited to begin my new phase of work, which is comprising of compositions and subject matter that cover new ground and mark new turning points for me — such as the introduction and inclusion of the male form now, shifting a bit from the all-feminine point of view that has defined my work to date. It’s a new direction that I am thrilled to dive into and watch unfold, and it’s inspired by some of the changes taking place in my own life at this time. I am opening up to discovering and observing much more closely than before, how the yin and yang energies are always at work in our lives both literally and figuratively. There is a feminine and masculine side to all things, apart from the obvious, and the ways in which these energies complement and enhance once another, is something that has sparked my interest and attention as of late, and thus is the path I am following and exploring at the moment. The presence of more masculine objects and technology may also begin showing themselves as a result, serving as further emblems of this dynamic. I’m staying open to the influences of the various forms of stimuli currently around me, and allowing my instincts to guide me towards new concepts and approaches to my themes and subject matter."
'Rural Sisters II'
Andrea mentions several artists who inspire her (RJD Gallery, 2013), "A lot of the old masters of the Renaissance, and also the American masters Wyeth, Hopper, all of those are large influences on my work."
Andrea tells Eclectix Magazine that she relates most to Andrew Wyeth, but would also love to chat with Georgia O'Keeffe. She goes on to list other inspirations:
"So many things — farms, trees, weather, rural landscapes, abandoned farm houses and barns, history, emotions, feelings, experiences, memories, longings, mystery, melancholic beauty, nature, spirit, wisdom, insight, a sense of magic within the commonplace, long drives, visiting museums, long walks in nature, wide, open spaces, my fascination with the human psyche, love, deep soul connections I feel with special people in my life, Americana — all the stuff that the American Midwest is made of.
"I find that the desolate, expansive landscapes of rural America, particularly the Midwest, parallel the human condition in many profound ways. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and it will always be an integral part of me. It evokes and emphasizes the essence and haunting beauty that is solitude. I learn more and more each day that not everything is meant to be understood nor should be, and thus I strive to ensure that much of the meaning behind my paintings remains fluid and open to interpretation. But before I even come to realize many of the “deeper” concepts that are at work in my paintings, I know internally that the initial spark for my “visions” is Michigan. It’s where I was born and is the land my heart will always call “home”. It’s the catalyst for my imaginary musings."
One of Andrea's all-time favorite paintings is Da Vinci's portrait of Ginevra de Benci:
She says, "To me it personifies everything I seek to achieve in painting regarding human flesh, form, and the magnetic, ambiguous air of mystery that surrounds the enigmatic sitter."
Andrea says she loves teaching (Eclectix, 2015):
"The decision to accept a teaching position on top of my already busy career was made out of my need to give back in some significant way. Training and imparting my advice and knowledge to students on behalf of helping them realize and discover their true creative strengths and artistic paths is extremely rewarding.
"One of the moments I savor most about teaching, I’ve found, is when I take a brief step back from instructing and just observe the students working. Music plays, the figure model is seated up on the platform, and each student is engrossed in their drawing, pencils and pieces of charcoal moving every which way, and their minds and spirits completely entwined as their focused eyes and hands work feverishly in unison to grasp, understand, and express everything that is before them. The room becomes one big bubble of harmonious, creative energy and it’s fascinating to behold."
'In Silence Known'
'Her Thoughts Hum'
'Chasing the Moon'