Profile of Andrew Howell, a Newcastle artist.
Andrew Howells is a Newcastle based artist who has established a reputation for creating incredibly detailed and magnificent wildlife art. This, and his ability to create striking compositions has seen his work featured within many group and solo exhibitions, as well as on the pages of wildlife and lifestyle publications such as Real Living and Australian Geographic.
Andrew has been an Artist for over twenty years and whilst he loves creating art, he also enjoys sharing his passions and skills with his students as a University Lecturer in Natural History Illustration. Andrew’s passion for drawing wildlife sparked his research into Asian Elephants and continues to see him explore and capture the many beauties of the natural world.
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You live in Newcastle, what creative inspiration does this city give you?
I’m inspired by the light and space of the Hunter, especially the coast. I love the different habitats around Newcastle. I’m lucky enough to be inspired by creative people every day in my workplace at the university.
Your art is very precise and accurate, would you call yourself a perfectionist?
I like the challenge of trying to make something look like something, but not because it has to be right or perfect, just because I enjoy the process, the technical aspect. That’s why I enjoy drawing faces; it’s a challenge.
I’m curious about how art is made, what techniques have been used. I find myself looking not at the overall artwork, but at details. I will spend ages looking at how another artist has created an eye, what brushstrokes were used. I deconstruct others’ art to see how it has been created.
What is it about African animals that captures your imagination?
From a young age you see images of animals, in children’s books and nature documentaries. I’ve always been intrigued by images of animals especially those iconic African ones, the big cats, giraffes and elephants, although most of my elephant drawings are of Asian elephants. While I was completing my PhD I spent hours and hours, just watching elephants, talking to their keepers and learning more about the elephants and their personalities, their behaviours and how they relate to each other.
It was really fascinating. I hope to capture some of that in my artworks.
What is the most challenging part about drawing animals?
The main challenge is recreating the texture of their surface, whether it be fur, hair, skin or scales.
Each texture requires the pencil to be used in a different way. Then the other challenging element is getting the form, shapes and angles right. So combining the two and getting the form and texture right are challenging.
Your compositions are striking, what do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Framing a composition. It’s almost like being a photographer, getting that right profile or balance. How you frame something tells a lot about the subject and their story.
I spent a lot of time studying an elephant and illustrated just his eye to capture my memory of his knowing look. I liked extracting that special element and focusing on the detail, so I used really tight cropping.
I also like using white space as I like working with detail and context and taking away the other environmental factors and noise around a subject. For example I have drawn an image of a young zebra on the ground, it sits lower in the frame, it’s small and surrounded by a lot of space. It’s obviously more vulnerable because it’s young and the framing helps depict that.
The framing becomes part of the storytelling so you get a sense of its size, scale and vulnerability.