Gilt and Envy is the collection of Dunedin-based painter and illustrator Andy McCready. Andy’s distinctive pieces pop up in exhibitions around New Zealand, including at several shows at Pixel Ink Gallery in Wellington and most recently at joint exhibition Belligerence and Bubblegum in Dunedin, at which sponsorship from a hair salon gave her the chance to bring the girls in her paintings to life (you might recognise Nellie and Elza, the twins from New Zealand’s Next Top Model, below).
What do you make?
I draw and paint pictures (mostly of quirky pretty girls with big crazy hair that I wish I had) that I then get professionally photographed and sell them as limited edition giclee prints.
How did you get into your craft?
I’ve always loved drawing, painting and making things, and as a kid was usually faffing about with some little creative project rather than running round outside. Art was my favourite subject at school, and I continued with it on and off while at university, but it wasn’t until I was working full-time that I found I really needed something else to sustain me so cranked up the productivity a few notches.
I fell in love with the idea of producing giclee prints after I bought a print by (incredibly awesome) American artist John John Jesse and realised that this method allowed you to create reproductions that were true to the original artwork, while at the same time offering an option that was more accessible and affordable for people. I still sell my original paintings (through Gallery de Novo in Dunedin), but I like having the cheaper version available too.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Yes and no – I have a Masters in Art History and Theory and a Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts, which have probably informed my work in all those sneaky and subliminal ways that such things do, but I don’t feel that they gave me much of a practical training for the kind of art I make.
After six years of studying Art History and Theory, I was dismayed to discover that when I went to art school specifically to develop my drawing and painting skills, the emphasis was really on the theory, and they seemed to want to steer us away from material-based practice. I don’t think my own style was really liberated until I started to discover more alternative, illustration-based work and realised that this was what I was passionate about – give me Audrey Kawasaki or Natalia Fabia over conceptual art any day.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Cheapo acrylic paint in testpots, pencil, spraypaint… and screeds of vintage wallpaper! Now and again I’ll use canvas if someone has given me one and I don’t want it to go to waste, but I much prefer painting on MDF board that I prepare and shape myself, then cover with wallpaper. My working process is one of piecing together, rearranging and composing fragments like a jigsaw.
When it comes time to buy art supplies, I head to the hardware store and get quite DIY on it – I enjoy filing and sanding down the board, and gluing and clamping the separate pieces together as much as creating the image itself. I’ve also done some paintings on 7 inch records – I love the small scale and circular format, although stylistically they are not too far removed from my paintings on board.
The girls I depict are usually either made up, or loosely based on a photograph, but altered so much that they end up looking nothing like the original person in the photograph. This year I’m hoping to do some pictures of my friends though, so it will be a different kind of challenge trying to retain a likeness as well.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I think that art should be judged primarily with the eye, and that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a piece based purely on visual appeal or aesthetics. Basically, I can get my artwank on if I have to, but am happier just making works that people don’t have to struggle with conceptually – if someone thinks ‘Gee, that looks pretty rad and I want it hanging on my wall’, then my job is done. I try to make art that is sincere but not self-important, and which has an element of whimsy and humour.
What inspires you?
The usual suspects – punk rock, pretty girls, lowbrow art, junk shops, libraries, old wallpaper, lyrics, clothing, Surrealism… Unfortunately ideas always seem to strike during those mundane tasks like doing the dishes or while walking to work, so I should really start keeping a notebook with me.
Describe your workspace:
Not ideal at the moment, I’d love to have my own studio some day but right now it’s little more than a cluttered mess on my bedroom floor – a seething mass of Resene test pots, Tasman Bitter cans and paintbrushes I’ve ruined by being too lazy to clean them properly. I’m quite attached to my painting rug though – an old manky brown mat which I can wipe my brushes on, spill paint on and generally treat badly without ruining the carpet below. I’m sure I would have lost many flat bonds over the years without it. I also have a wonderful set of plan drawers that I bought off Trademe for a ridiculously low price, so I do at least have a way of storing prints safely and keeping them off the hazard of a bedroom floor.
What are you currently listening to?
Right now, on heavy rotation, the line-up is Mudhoney, Bad Religion, Neil Young and Devil’s Brigade… I can’t paint without music on, silence feels too stifling, like I’m in an exam and am going to be graded on the outcome.
Recommend an album:
The Goblin Church at Seacliff by Skaface Claw – this band is made up of many of my favourite people in the world, and they also just happen to make the best songs in the world.
Your favourite childhood book?
Garth Pig and the Icecream Lady and the Mog books, and then when I could read myself it was Roald Dahl all the way… I was extremely lucky as a kid – particularly a nerdy one! – that my Dad was a primary school teacher and in charge of his school library, so I would get to read all the new purchases over the holidays before they were catalogued.
What are you reading now?
Gai-Jin, the third book in the James Clavell series that starts with Shogun… They’re awesomely brutal and possibly even a bit educational – I seem to have picked up a few words of Japanese along the way.
A favourite quote:
It’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do.
Maybe hero is not the right word exactly, but the person whose work I most admire and would love to meet is British author Martin Millar… I own all his books – which until recently was quite a feat because they were out of print and really hard to find – and he’s one of those special authors who you are compelled to rant about and recommend to everyone you know, but at the same time want to jealously guard and keep as your own little secret… I really love the way his writing betrays his genuine affection for those little pockets of society that function outside of the mainstream – if you’ve got no money, a broken heart, an unsuccessful punk band but a positive outlook, then chances are you’re a character in a Martin Millar book and you just don’t know it yet.
Do you have any pets?
A black cat with an abundance of personality called Ferret who I’ve become foster mum to because my friend wasn’t allowed pets at her new flat. He sleeps on my feet and keeps them warm at night, although has been known to bite my toes. I aspire to being a cat lady later in life.
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?
Grey – it’s not as intense and moody as black, but still goes well with most other colours, and is enigmatic yet understated.
Check out more of Andy’s work in her Felt shop, Gilt and Envy, and look out for her latest paintings in an upcoming group exhibition at Gallery de Novo in April, as part of the iD Dunedin Fashion Week.