I had a conversation with Andres Amador and his partner Ember De Quincy recently over lunch in San Francisco. I’ve known Andres for years and have been excited to see his work grow in size and complexity. His popularity skyrocketed recently when his work went viral – he’s got 194,000 likes on Facebook now! He is best known for his large scale sand art, but he does other forms of land art, puts on workshops, does commercial work, marriage proposals, and team-building activities. He refers to himself as an “Earthscape Artist.” He’s got some great insights into art and what it takes to keep creating. Enjoy! – Alexander Warnow, Springboard Workshops Founder
On going viral:
Andres: Since that thing went viral it’s been non stop work. It’s strange how that actually took hold – I’ve had some big interviews and I’ve been in some prominent situations and for all of them, I’ve seen a surge after each. I was on CNN, I was on the Discovery Channel and Yahoo news and when I did my first proposal that got caught by 7×7 and then it got on Yahoo News and that went across the nation and that sparked a little bit of interest. This article that came out was nothing special but it had this link bait quality to it so you’re compelled to open it and that’s the fundamental difference. So you open the link and there’s a bunch of cool stuff there. It was a combination of how it was presented but there was a depth behind it. Because I’d been doing that art for ten years. And there’s so much content there, so many different styles, something for everyone. Beneath it all there’s an energy going through that people are connecting to, resonating with. And they want to send it off to other people.
On inspiration and play:
Andres: I do it because it’s so much fun to do it, even when there’s drudgery. That summarizes my exploration in general; this has been my message recently. It has to do with this aspect of light: what has my light shining? And how can I tend to that? I’ve had to make conscious decisions. I had to give myself permission, many years ago – after I left this corporate job I had some money and I was just getting into synthesizers and I got this $1500 synthesizer. Biggest purchase I ever made – even since – but there was nothing I was going to do with it. I wasn’t going to be a musician. It was just for me to play with. And I had to tell myself it’s worth investing in my happiness, the joyful exploration, feeding the spirit. And since then whenever I’m drawn to a thing I do it; I spend time in it. My previous life I would have said that’s a waste of time; now I see that it’s a valuable. There is no waste of time if it’s enlivening your spirit. If it’s giving you energy to do more of it it’s fucking awesome. Most jobs sap your energy and you want to do less of it. When the beach thing occurred to me, there was no fetters. It was just running into this thing and just giving it all my attention. I NEVER envisioned it would go anywhere. How could it? What would I envision? I never thought I could make money off it. That’s been a recurrent thread through my life, and the work that I’ve done. It’s motivating me to do it. Not that I’m forcing myself to do it.
On integrity, and turning down jobs:
Ember: There’s really been tests. Not long after the viral thing happened we were feeling flooded. We came to the realization that we were trying to find a way to say “Yes” to everything, and that was stressful. There was one particular job and every time we talked about it I just felt stress. When I looked further, I realized this one was for the money. There’s nothing else intriguing in it. So we talked about turning it down, which was hard, because it’s good paying for what it is. That led to a much bigger discussion about what our guiding principles should be and a big one was: not saying yes to a project for the money. And you get tested – how much money could you be offered?! And it’s tricky, the more that gets offered it becomes easier to search for reasons why it might be feeding you. Maybe it’s kind of a stretch. If it’s 5 years from now and that money is not thought about anymore, how do you feel about that being part of the story you share?
Andres: It’s a real grey area that we’re figuring out. Every job is different. I’ve done commercial work. It’s easy to get pushed over into the areas you thought you wouldn’t do. I just did something for Barefoot Wines. I did a bottle and a bunch of bubbles. It was very cool; I enjoyed doing it. But I’m doing a specific product representation. I don’t know; I’m not against consuming, or getting paid, or selling. I’m not against wine! Here’s one of my guidelines: there must be a focus on art. The message can’t be “you need to have this thing in order to feel complete.” I want to share an uplifting message, and not one that leaves you feeling lacking. Because that’s the downside of commercialism.
On considering himself a visionary artist – or not:
Andres: I don’t feel I’ve been fully received by the visionary community. It almost feels like it’s too cool on some level. I’ve put feelers out and I’ve never gotten “we love what you do; come share.” But I was highly influenced by Alex Grey’s “The Mission of Art” this past winter and it motivated me to allow myself to go in the direction of being more explicit with a message. The last couple pieces we’ve done we’ve encoded messages in them. Making it explicit in the title, and saying somewhere what we’ve done. The message is really simple right now. Do you follow Ester Hicks? She channels an entity named Abraham. Her essential message is “Be Happy.” And when you’re in the happy state – which I would call The Light – it’s a direct manifestation of the positive energy moving through you. That can only come naturally, you can’t force it. Everything else falls in line when you focus on what has your spirit shining.
On failing big and putting his balls out:
Andres: I can see the place where to fail big means that you’ve tried big and if you don’t try big then you’re not really pushing what’s possible. And on some level I haven’t really pushed what’s possible. What I would need would be a big commission – but there’s no artistry there. If I were to propose a project and really get this together – like covering the San Francisco coast line. Get a massive dig, get tons of people to come out from the city, all on Ocean Beach, and then do a flyover of the whole thing. I don’t see how that could fail miserably and if it did fail it’s not my failure. Actually, on a certain level, I’ve been playing it safe with the art. And I think that the next level with my art is when I’m doing it by feeling, in the moment, while I’m there, based on what I know the overview to look like. Now I’m just going to do modern art: swirls here, a thing there, and just put my balls out! “Will you accept this? It doesn’t look like anything. Can you accept this?” And see how that’s received. What I do right now, I have an idea ahead of time and I go and execute. But that’s the next step right there, and when I feel that it feels edgy.
When asked to describe himself in three words:
Andres: Me, three words? <Laughter>
Parting advice for budding creative folk:
Andres: “Let the light within guide you.” It can be so corny but the joyful exploration is what it’s all about, and if that’s occurring somewhere that’s going to give the juice. Everything good comes from that!
Learn more about Andres: www.andresamadorarts.com
Ready to see your creative project to completion? Enroll in a Springboard Workshop! www.springboardworkshops.com